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The Queue: Ethics in the age of Azeroth


Welcome back to The Queue, the daily Q&A column in which the WoW Insider team answers your questions about the World of Warcraft. Adam Holisky (@adamholisky) will be your host today.

Good questions today! Let's dive in, shall we?

Kertomos asked:

Reading some comments below I had this question come into my mind. What is our pick on morality in Azeroth? Or in any fictional world for that matter, that doesn't present you with a clear set of the moral values (also, in Azeroth the societies are many and different). Is it legitimate to project our own values in the fictional world? Is it expected of us to project our values in the fictional world?


I love this question. I'm a big reader of philosophy, and find ethics compelling from the standpoint of modern interactions with the power structures that are set up around society. I love me some Foucault (this drives Matt Rossi mad, by the way... Madness and Uncivilized.) (That's a joke, by the way, because one of Foucault''s marque works is called Madness and Civilization. You probably don't find this funny, and you're probably right. I'll just continue answering the question now.)

There are two ways to look at virtual worlds and ethics, both potentially compelling in their own right. First, you can look at it as a reflection of our own moral understanding and their applications therein. We, as a society, have a shared understanding that murder is wrong -- so we don't kill each other unnecessarily. When someone breaks that rule, we punish them. Applying this to Azeroth (or any game), we can say that murder is wrong and we should punish those people that murder in-game. We use the game, in this sense, as an exploration of our own moral compass, not deviating from the norm.

The second way, and more controversial, is to look at the game and explore the different aspects of morality, both bad and good. Continuing with the murder example, to truly understand how bad it is to kill, one could argue that you must experience the act of killing and being killed. Otherwise how else will you empirically know what morals really mean? Granted this dives into the epistemology, but let's leave that at the wayside for now. To understand evil, you must become evil -- if we take this tautology and run with it, then we can say that playing in support of an "evil" character like Garrosh lets us experience holistically the entire moral compass.

So how do we take morality in Azeroth? Either way it's an exploration of what our societal morals are. We can either choose to observe and stay within our framework of "do only good" as we all try to do in reality, or move outside of the framework into the desert of the hyperreal and experience morality from the "do bad and good" observational standpoint. In this hyper-real virtual simulation where there is no consequences for your actions, it's why we have internet trolls and evil characters like Garrosh.

Which you choose to accept is up to you. Personally I think it's compelling to experience both sides of the coin.

Nh asked:

Just got a Beta invite that will allow me in on Friday. Do you think they've opened it up to a much larger pool of people?

They're sending out new waves once a week it seems like. Expect it to continue for the foreseeable future.

Rick asked:

I was having a conversation about the "no flying" allowed today and was wondering do you think without flying they could create a visually better expansion? And if so would you prefer better looking expansions over flying?

I don't think so -- flying just makes Blizzard finish models and the environment better. When the designers and artists can plan for needing to create a roof over buildings, they can do so easily enough. If anything it encourages a more complete world, which I think from a philosophical perspective leads to a better experience.
Have questions about the World of Warcraft? The WoW Insider crew is here with The Queue, our daily Q&A column. Leave your questions in the comments, and we'll do our best to answer 'em!

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