With the release of World of Warcraft: Cataclysm only a few weeks away, Blizzard has begun rolling out the different phases of a world event that will culminate in what they’re calling the Shattering: In character, the dragon Deathwing will rend the world asunder, and out of character, they’ll change the game world to reflect the changes coming in the new expansion.
One of the characteristics of this world event is the appearance of a insidious doomsday cult in response to the strange natural phenomenon going on elsewhere. Last night a new phase of quests went live, revealing that the cult situation has gotten so bad that leaders in two major cities (one Alliance and one Horde) have decided that anyone looking to get through the gates must be searched for cultist propaganda.
If you’re like us and have been watching certain online communities grow more agitated about rights to privacy, or if you’ve simply been following (with or without trepidation) the reaction to the implementation of backscatter X-ray scanners in US Airports and a pat down designed to discourage people from opting out through humiliation… well, this seems awfully apropo.
(If you’re a WoW player and you haven’t done the quest yet, you might want to skip the rest until you’ve done it, if you don’t want to know how it goes.)
Players are asked in the first task of the quest line to travel to the gates of the city and search five citizens themselves. Citizen NPCs wait en masse outside the gates, prevented from entering by a line of armored guards. They periodically complain about the delay as the soldiers periodically ask them to calm down. When interacting with them, your character simply says “I’m going to search you, citizen,” and then does. Some of them protest. Some of them are given the all clear and enter the city. Others are arrested immediately for the possession of “cultist literature” or cultist clothing.
It wouldn’t be the first time that Blizzard has asked it’s players to do something morally queasy (you know, aside from the obvious stuff, like killing). When Wrath of the Lich King launched, many players were upset to find that there was a relatively vital (but not mandatory) quest where in order to proceed you were required to torture a man with a cattle prod. The quest giver tells you that as a member of his organization he is restrained from such “extreme” actions, but he feels free to look the other way as you, an independent adventurer, do the dirty work for them.
It also wouldn’t be the first time Blizzard has dabbled in modeling moments in civilized society when fear and suspicion get the better of us. The world event that heralded the last expansion was a full blown virus outbreak, where victims eventually rose from the dead as plague-ridden zombies.
We should mention that this in game event should not be considered to be completely motivated by current events. Blizzard tested out it’s Cataclysm events on the patch test realm in September, so it’s been in the cards for a while. Then again, so has the implementation of backscatter scanners in US airports, which was announced by the TSA in March. Whether or not the quest was meant to refer specifically to airport security measures in the US, it certainly takes on a different context now.