Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Symbolism of World of Warcraft

On the one hand World of Warcraft, like any other MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), is a bottomless abyss of a time-vortex that is designed to keep players hooked, on the other hand though if you can see through the obvious ways to keep you playing continuously - people who study game-design get classes in psychology that focus on getting people as addicted as possible: leveling up characters, releasing new gear and rewards periodically, (daily) quests, weekly rewards for dungeons and raids, professions to level, 'farming' for gold, achievements, etc and sombunall MMORPG players are genuinely addicted - it's wonderful fantasy with rich storytelling and symbolism inspired by many different mythologies.

 The elements:
The elements of water, earth, air and fire are represented in many ways. In the last expansion Cataclysm the elements received their own zones and instances as well.

Earth: Deepholm aka Deephome aka The Elemental Earth Plane.
  Therazane, the Earth Mother. Seemingly inspired by the Venus of Willendorf.

Water: Vash'jir
The Sunken City of Vashj'ir is located in a complete underwater zone, a heavy nod to Atlantis. Azshara, once the proud capitol of the Night Elves was submerged after her visor's arrogant experiments with magic unleashed the demons of the Burning Legion, exploding the Well of Eternity which submerged the city and was the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.

"The water spirits were called undines. These beings were thought to be larger and more graceful than the earth spirits, with beautiful bodies and lascivious minds." Jan Fries' Visual Magick

The Naga - Serpent People of Vashj'ir

Fire: the Firelands & Mount Hyjal

Air: Uldum & Vortex Pinnacle

Deathwing: the former Earth Aspect who went mad through "whispers of the Old Gods".
As anyone might go mad by being taken over by the primitive and/or darker aspects of their consciousness or ancient invoked gods without proper banishing or such.
His minions are part of a deranged cult called the Hour of Twilight who walked around major cities in "end is nigh" mode
High Priestess Azil and 99 (3x33) cult followers kneeling in front of her.

Before the Dragon that went mad through the Old Gods, the Lich King was the main villain:
The Lich King was sent to Azeroth through the Great Dark Beyond, landing in Northrend where the ice that encased him formed into the shape of a throne, The Frozen Throne. Here, he would begin the formation of the Undead Scourge and in the process weaken the world in preparation for the Burning Legion. This new army would not fall victim to the petty infighting that had caused the orcs to fail in conquering Azeroth earlier. Sent to watch over him were the dreadlords, led by Tichondrius himself. Within the Frozen Throne, the Lich King experimented with his psychic powers and enslaved the local indigenous life forms. The plague of undeath that came from the Frozen Throne transformed each of them into his undead servants. Thus, using his psychic and necromantic powers, he was able to conquer much of Northrend. As he devoured more and more souls, he only grew in power as the individual undead under his control gave him "much needed nourishment". (Some conspiracy theorists believe the Cabal that run the world have sealed a demonic pact and have to offer a steady supply of death to feed their masters.)

Before the Lich King, the Burning Legion, an army of demons led by the fallen Titan Sargeras.
One of his Generals, Archimonde performs an act of destructive magick:
The Dark Portal, a portal between Azeroth and Outland through which the Burning Legion tried to invade Azeroth again:

One of the Burning Legions Champions (or is he): Illidan Stormrage:
Illidan sacrificed his reputation and his life to infiltrate the Burning Legion in order to save his people. I like to equate him with Aleister Crowley who sacrificed his reputation and did tons of good for humanity too (like liberating and inspiring tons of new great inspirers), just like the Dark Knight. Telling symbolism: When he infiltrated the Burning Legion, his 'master' burnt out his eyes and gave him Magical Sight instead. Illidan in the end was banished by his people because he drank from the Well of Eternity and through pouring 3 vials into a lake in Mount Hyjal started a new Well of Eternity which the people feared. In some vague way this could be some kind of reference to Crowley's Boleskine House antics at Loch Ness.

Documentary: Aleister Crowley - The Other Loch Ness Monster

The next Expansion will focus on Eastern Themes, the new class will be the Monk, and the new race the Pandaran, a laid back yin-yang brewmastering windwalking mistweaving Panda-bear!

Some class-specific symbolism
The warlock: A warlock controls several demons and can also turn into one through Metamorphosis. A warlock who wants to train new spells in the city of Stormwind, has to go to the basement of the tavern the Slaughtered Lamb to find his warlock masters.

The mage can spec either Frost (with a Water Elemental), Fire or Arcane (playing with the very fabric of time and space.) Mages and warlocks obviously use Staves, Wands, Athames, Grimoires, Magic Lamps and more!
Druids are able to shapeshift into Bears, Panthers, Owlkin/Moonkin, Trees, Jaguar or Stag (soon), Sealion or Orca (soon) and Birds. They control the element of Air (Hurricane and Typhoon), and nature energy.

A druid's Hurricane, like many other spells, is cast by placing a Magic Triangle within a Circle reticule on the floor:

Shaman use Totems of each Element and can shapeshift into a Ghost Wolf. Some noteable spells: Healing Rain, Lightning Bolt, Earthquake, summon Spirit Wolves, Earth & Fire Elemental.

A priest uses holy spells, Chakra and becomes a Guardian Spirit for a while after dying. They can heal through the talent trees Holy or Discipline, but they can also become Shadow Priests with the ability Vampiric Embrace.
Paladins are knights of the holy light, who wield holy power. Some of their spells are Consecration which emits a holy energy on the floor, or Divine Shield which is similar to the Energy Cocoon of Reiki practitioners.
A warrior in WOW uses Berserker Rage. From Jan Fries' Visual Magick: In times of war, some Fylgia would overwhelm and possess their human friends. 'Going beserk' refers to the old and honourable custom of being possessed bya Fylgia in fighting rage. In such trance-states, ordinary human consciousness would be flooded in a tide of beasdy rage and violence, leaving no space for the squeaky little ego to doubt, despair or flee. Berserkers (meaning 'in bear skins') were famed for their wildness, their 'inhuman' reflexes and their ability to endure severe wounds without noticing them.

Another excerpt of Jan Fries' Visual Magick: In the philosophy of the Greeks, starting with Empedocles (c.500-430 BCE), the world was considered as a blend of the four elements earth, water, fire and air. Quite naturally these elements had their spirits. Earth spirits were known as dwarves, gnomes, earth people and sometimes as giants. These beings were said to be the sentience of the earth, the consciousness of heavy, strong, formed and fertile matter. Some even considered the quartz crystals to be dwarves; the word 'quartz' comes from querch, which is a form of 'zwerch' or 'zwerg' meaning 'dwarf.  (Image: An Earthen Dwarf.)
The Vrykul are heavily influenced by Norse mythology.
Of course there are tons of different types of dragons in world of warcraft too.
Professions in WOW include Scribes who make Glyphs. Enchanters that can charge equipment and weapons with power. Jewelcrafters who can cut citrines and other gems. Alchemists who make potions. Tailors who make flying carpets, etc.

The old and current glyph systems.

The Symbol of the Kirin Tor.
The magocrats in WOW formed the Kirin Tor as a specialized sect that was charged with cataloging and researching every spell, artifact, and magic item known to mankind at the time. The Kirin Tor became Dalaran's (a floating city) ruling power. The Kirin Tor’s headquarters was the Violet Citadel, an impressive building so named for its stone walls which gave off a faint violet light. The ruling council, six members in all, met in the Chamber of the Air, a room with no visible walls — the gray stone floor with its central diamond symbol stood beneath an open sky that shifted and changed rapidly, as if the time sped past within the chamber.

So that's just a short overview of some of the Symbolism of World of Warcraft! I'll leave you with the infamous & hilarious South Park episode: Make love, not Warcraft.

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