I’d think that World of Warcraft would be the last place to look for commentary on social justice issues, but I’ve run into a few quests the past couple of days that bring up a number of issues.
First up is the quest, “Art of Persuasion.” In it, the player is asked to “interrogate” a prisoner, since the quest-giver is forbidden from such things by his faction. There’s no question what the player is being asked to do when given an item that will cause extreme pain, but no damage. There is also no way to progress the quest line without doing this quest, nor are there ways to complete it without torturing a prisoner. (For the record, while there’s a lot I’ve done in video games, this quest was way over the line, and I dropped it.)
What’s really over the line for me is that a player can keep poking the prisoner, after information is supposedly received (or so the write-ups on the quest say). That, and players can get other “neural needles” for free from another NPC in the same area. Yet another instance of the Milgram experiments.
Supporters of the quest will point out that it’s no different from the TV show, “24,” and the Death Knight opening quest sequence. One, the show “24″ isn’t accurate in that torture rarely gives accurate information. People will say whatever the hell they think the torturers want to get them to quit. Secondly, in the Death Knight opening quests, the person the player needs to get information from is fighting back the entire time. Plus, the Death Knights in that quest line are supposed to be evil and under the thrall of the Lich King. My gnome warlock who happened upon that quest is supposed to be one of the good guys, and fully in control of herself.
If this quest is supposed to be a critique of the Bush/Cheney policy of “special interrogations,” it fails. There’s no way to finish the quest without playing along, for one.
But the Netherwing Drake quests in the Outland more than make up for the torture quest. In them, the player happens upon the Netherwing Drake flight in one of the Outland areas and eventually winds up helping free them from slavery in a nuanced fable about human trafficking. The entire quest line walks the player through earning their trust, to infiltrating the faction imprisoning them, working with others trying to free the drakes, and finally breaking the fel Orcs’ domination of them.
Never mind that the end of that quest line is one of the coolest ever. It’s not every day that you fly off into the sunset on the back of a huge dragon.