Faction pride

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Faction pride is the sentiment of pride or patriotism toward one of the playable factions: the Alliance and the Horde. Faction pride can lead to friendly rivalries, expressions of patriotic feeling, and on occasion more aggressive conflicts between players, such as on forums. Faction pride is often expressed in the battle-cry of each faction - "For the Alliance!" or "For the Horde!". Faction pride and a healthy rivalry between the Alliance and the Horde was one of the earliest design goals for World of Warcraft[1], and Blizzard has often encouraged faction pride through events and activities such as the Mists of Pandaria launch events.[2][3]

Faction pride may for some be seen as an enjoyable part of playing World of Warcraft; an entertaining but non-serious form of participation; an important element of roleplaying, especially on PvP realms; a way of strengthening player pride, engagement and identification with their characters and the game in general; a natural part of competitive play, especially in battlegrounds and world PvP; or an opportunity for aggression and inappropriate behavior comparable to fan violence. Many of the arguments for and against faction pride are similar to those regarding taking pride in one's nation, home town or favored sports team. Faction pride can similarly be seen to share many of the advantages and disadvantages of these behaviors.

Commentary

Faction pride is a behavior frequently exhibited by those with strong feelings of loyalty to their faction, whether because of lore, the experience of having played that faction for a long time, perceptions (accurate or inaccurate) of differences between the players of each faction, or simply because that faction is their "side". Dislike of the opposite faction may be increased by negative experiences in PvP, especially world PvP, where players may be repeatedly ganked or otherwise feel victimized by players of the opposite faction. Similarly, battlegrounds continually pitch players against those of the opposite faction, and such repeated conflict can quickly foster a sense of dislike toward the opposite faction and its races. PvP experiences may also cause players to bond with their own faction, sharing their victories and losses with their faction teammates, and becoming accustomed to working with and fighting alongside the other races of their faction. Faction pride may be far more prevalent on PvP realms, where players frequently clash in world PvP, and may also have a larger proportion of players dedicated to PvP in general.

Some players will assert that the players of the opposite faction are somehow inferior to their own, whether due to lack of skill or to bad behavior such as repeated ganking and emote spamming. However, while individual realm populations do vary, this perception is largely attributable to the bias of experience; players in PvP will frequently find themselves defeated and mistreated by those of the opposite faction, and this is considered by many to be equally present in both factions. In addition, players do not generally have the opportunity to witness the behavior of their own faction from the perspective of the opposition, and are arguably less likely to remember indecent behavior when it is not directed at themselves or their faction.

Separation between factions is significantly increased by numerous in-game measures designed to separate Alliance and Horde players, and engender a sense of factional identity.[1] Characters can only talk, group, and create guilds with players from their own faction. Although the introduction of systems such as Real ID and BattleTags has made it possible for friends to send messages to each other regardless of faction, communication between factions is still largely prevented.

Because of this, one common venue for cross-faction conflict is forum posts, where patriotic players may at times good-naturedly insult the other faction's honor, and at others may become embroiled in bitter arguments. Insulting or demonizing faction-specific characters or races (or indeed an entire faction) is a common form of trolling on some forums.

Faction pride is greatly encouraged through storyline and questing experiences. Numerous NPCs express varying degrees of animosity, disrespect and hatred toward the opposite faction; numerous quests involve fighting the opposing faction's NPCs and participating in attacks and missions against the opposite faction; and players will spend most of their time in faction-specific locations, surrounded by faction-specific iconography. However, many NPCs are found to be more open-minded about the opposing faction. Additionally, there are areas and towns where faction difference is put aside, and sanctuaries such as Shattrath where cross-faction violence is entirely prevented. There are numerous examples of cross-faction friendships between NPCs in-game, and organizations such as the Cenarion Circle and the Earthen Ring involve members of both factions, working together for a greater good. This can be considered to provide players with an alternative attitude toward faction conflict.

There are also numerous examples of characters who, while loyal to their faction, exhibit behaviour that will likely be considered immoral or detestable. These characters' behavior may be considered intentionally abhorrent, such as encouraging atrocities or resorting to demonic methods to ensure their faction's victory. It could be argued that these characters are designed to encourage players to question their loyalties, and how far they are willing to go in support of their faction.

A special example of this would be Garrosh Hellscream, who quickly earned the dislike of many Horde players after being installed as the Horde warchief in Cataclysm. Determined to conquer the whole of Azeroth in the name of the Horde, Garrosh is willing to do whatever it takes to triumph, including the use of dark and unthinkable magics. While a successful military leader, Garrosh's overly aggressive attitude toward the Alliance and boundless ambition for conquest may prompt Horde players to question their loyalties, and what price they are willing to pay in order to triumph over the Alliance. As the other leaders of the Horde begin to turn against him, Garrosh has been confirmed as the final boss in Mists of Pandaria, with the expansion's climax featuring a raid on Orgrimmar that will end his reign as warchief.[4]

Faction icons are featured prominently throughout the game, encouraging a strong sense of identification with the character's faction. These icons have gained substantial popularity among fans, and can be found on a variety of merchandise items, such as clothing, keychains, mouse-mats and even cell phone cases.

Although presumably rare, instances of real life conflict due to faction pride have been reported.[5] These incidents can be considered comparable to those common between supporters of opposing sports teams, although presumably far less serious and frequent.

Blizzard and faction pride

Blizzard have often encouraged faction pride in players. As stated by Lead Quest Designer Dave Kosak:

One of our earliest design goals with World of Warcraft was to ensure a healthy rivalry between the Alliance and the Horde. Cross-faction communication was banned outright, even where it made little or no sense in the lore. Entire realms are dedicated to PvP. Battlegrounds and quest hubs feature prominent Alliance and Horde iconography. We want to foster a sense of factional pride, a real identity with your brothers and sisters in arms.
We want players to be proud of their faction, even at the expense of personal dignity.[1]

Faction pride in its more positive forms has often been encouraged by Blizzard, such as at the Mists of Pandaria digital launch events, where players around the world were encouraged to shout their faction's battle-cry in unison, in "the largest "For the Horde!" and "For the Alliance!" yell the world has ever seen"[2]. Other activities, such as asking players to submit images of themselves featuring the icon of their chosen faction, have also been promoted by Blizzard.[3][6]

Blizzard's efforts to encourage faction pride have at times been controversial. The 2011 Blizzcon featured a closing concert by Elite Tauren Chieftain that involved expressions of anti-Alliance sentiment (including numerous profanities) which many fans found offensive.[5] Numerous threads were created on the topic on the official forums, sparking further controversy and debate. Both Mike Morhaime and Elite Tauren Chieftain subsequently released apologies.[7][8]

Blizzard's implementation of this design in-game can be considered to have several sound motivations, strengthening players' attachment to their characters, increasing playing pleasure, strengthening ties within communities, and motivating players to compete in PvP. The promotion of such sentiment is common in the world of sports, as well as to varying degrees in some towns, cities and nations.

Favoritism

Blizzard has often been accused by players of faction favoritism, most often toward the Horde,[9][10] and the issue is a frequent matter of debate on the official forums. This perspective is often the result of players feeling dissatisfied with their faction's story lines, or the fate of some of the faction's key characters. Blizzard maintain that they remain neutral, but that the fortunes of each faction will continue to rise and fall as storylines develop, guaranteeing "unfair and inequitable treatment of both factions for now and in the foreseeable future."[1]

See also

References