Where Is the Line: Brutality in Patch 5.4

Kor'kron orc has two women on chains fighting for sport.  Screenshot courtesy of @snack_road.

Kor’kron orc has two women on chains fighting for sport.
Screenshot courtesy of @snack_road.

A couple of days ago, I happened to be skimming Twitter (isn ‘t this how most of my blog posts start nowadays) and caught a tweet from Snack about something he saw in Siege of Orgrimmar LFR. It was the screenshot posted above, captioned with, “I’m probably gonna be thinking about this screenshot way too hard the next few days.” It struck me the same way, despite the fact that I had never even been to this part of SoO yet. I hate reporting on things I haven’t personally witnessed, just so I can get my own handle on context and whatnot but this is so far and away one of the worst things I could have possibly heard about in the new raid.

Until a guildmate linked me this: Theramore Citizen.

Some further investigation from Tzufit revealed not only Theramore Citizens (all women, apparently) hung up on poles, but Darkspear Defenders as well, all of them stabbed or stuck with arrows.

A Theramore woman is lashed and stabbed to a pole in Orgrimmar.

Screenshot courtesy of Tzufit.


A Darkspear troll woman is lashed and stabbed to a pole in Orgrimmar

Screenshot courtesy of Tzufit.

All of these screenshots, despite being in a video game about war, are still really unsettling. Not only are all of them women (though the shackled fighters can randomly be men, too) but the level of violence and naked brutality here is way too much. Not only is there a scary level of historical real-world precedent for these things (making shackled slaves fight eachother, hello?!) but it openly feels too real to be immersive in a video game. It makes me wonder where Blizzard thinks the line is in “realistic violence” in order to make the point that, yes, Garrosh is a horrible person.

The game thus far has tried very hard to make us hate Garrosh but in ways that tend to make me feel bad about myself, as a woman. He’s never really been a mustache-twirling villain but just straight up an abusive tyrant. He slaughters his own people in the dead of night and hangs them from the walls on fire (this is also present in the SoO raid). He calls women “bitches” and orders hits on other Horde dignitaries. And now somehow, manages to retcon the plight of the Theramore survivors and leaves their corpses strewn around their holding cages, lashing some of their women to posts with weapons sticking out of their corpses and making them fight for sport. The fact that a Darkspear is included for extra “flavor” is particularly egregious but makes slightly more “sense” than all the refugees from Theramore, who were supposedly safely passed to Gadgetzan. Did some goblins double-cross the Alliance and send a fleet of them to Orgrimmar to be tortured and killed? What is going on here? Seeing these poor people being used for sport, maimed and killed is stomach-turning.

WoW has always had some level of atrocity. I get this. This is a war, but this has gone several shades too far (as it has in the past, even) into senseless, unsettling territory.  The game has done this in a couple places in the past, and it’s always rung really wrongly to me. We’re already storming the gates of Ogrimmar to take down Garrosh, but why did we need to see this? Why did we need to replicate some of the violence that actual real people have suffered in real life, as part of being prisoners of war or slavery?  Why is it only women hanging from the poles? This doesn’t make me feel like a hero, it just makes me feel sick to be playing the game.



8 Responses

  1. I did notice the impaled prisoners and felt surprised, and also felt they were unnecessary, as well as jarring from a lore perspective. Garrosh’s troops captured Theramore citizens and kept them imprisoned all this time? I can maybe buy this, weirder / more secret things have happened. But after all this time, now you just kill them and pin them to a wall? Why? It’s stupid.

    If they were Darkspear rebels it would at least make sense, as a “this is what happens when you rise against us” message. But since they were Theramore citizens, I didn’t get a “Oh, that’s what this means” feeling, instead just a “well this is gratuitous and unnecessary” frown.

    There are more dead people later on – warlock trainers, entering the Cleft of Shadow, hanging from chains from the ceiling. (I should add they aren’t “hanging” like from a noose, but it looks like the chains have been looped around their waist – it’s not really detailed but they weren’t hung to death) I believe it’s both male and female trainers. And I’ve seen screenshots (though I don’t know from where now) of goblins being tied to archery targets.

    These felt less shocking than the impaled people though – I guess because they seemed less brutal? The dead trainers are dead, but you can’t see how they died. They’re simply dead bodies, which we’ve seen countless times in the game. And the goblins are still alive, so while their situation is horrible, it ends up looking more comical, like something out of Looney Tunes. (Plus, they’re still alive so potentially can be saved.)

    I wonder if this all was meant to evoke memories of older war days, mostly regarding the Old Horde. I mean, prisoners being forced to fight is like the first thing we know about Thrall. If there was some context for that orc holding the slaves’ chains, that he had to do the same thing as a prisoner in the internment camps, that would make it no less awful but would at least give it some MEANING – instead, it just comes across as distasteful heavy-handed “look how bad the True Horde are! NO SERIOUSLY LOOK AT THIS.”

  2. Yeah, I have to agree. The warlocks being set on fire was a screenshot I got from Tzufit but the post was image heavy so I avoided it but the entire scene seems contextually empty and more just really heavy violence for the sake of it.

    And also where did they get those Theramore refugees. Seriously!

  3. I’ll have to keep an eye out next time through SoO — I’d noticed the impaled Darkspear troll just to the right as you enter the city, but it was my first time through and I’m a lousy raider, so most of my time was spent looking at people’s explanatory text and scrambling to keep up rather than watching the scenery.

    If the city is indeed strewn with an all-female cast of corpses, that’s pretty problematic, yeah. Worth remembering, though, is that dangling corpses in general isn’t new for Blizzard — old-style Forsaken towns occasionally had dangling, bleeding bodies used as decoration way back in the original game. Tarren Mill had one directly over the doorway to the church that served as a quest hub. It was so far damaged as to be pretty gender-neutral, though, if I remember it right.

    So it’s not the first time Blizzard has used mutilated bodies to demonstrate a society’s brutality. (There are also the impaled dragons in the ogre-controlled parts of Outland’s Blade’s Edge Mountains, though those are somewhat less jarring because they aren’t humanoid).

  4. Why is the gender of a dead body important? If the bodies were exclusively male ones nobody would complain, so why is it such an issue having two dead ladies on spikes?

    We have raided the citadel of a king who raised the dead to fight for him. In the halls of reflection Falric and Marwyn says that the lich king hasn’t spared anyone. Not even children. This also replicates atrocities that people have suffered in real life, but nobody cares because skeletons don’t have genders?

    I don’t really see the reasoning behind your argument. Sure, you can get offended by it, but why do you get offended by it? Death is all over the place in WoW. Heck, most races don’t even have female models. Is that discriminatory towards men? That we exclusively kill male ogres? Why aren’t there any female ones for me to kill?

    Why are all zandalari trolls male? Surely that’s sexist!

    • @clatterbox
      I’m sorry that you seem incapable of understanding how people in the real world bring their perceptions with them into a game of fantasy.
      I’m sorry you don’t understand, or care to understand, that even if women are treated as equals to men in a video game’s lore (haha), its largely negated by the fact that such is not the case in real life.

      I’m sorry that you think the Lich King is a good comparison for your argument. Arthas did horrific things, but 1. He didn’t seem to care either way about the gender of his victims and 2. Damn near none of the gory details were given much screen time compared to Garrosh “Watch your clever mouth, Bitch” Hellscream’s “ugly for the sake of being ugly” depictions of torture and death upon beings he considers “less than” his race. Nevermind that the majority of Arthas’ crimes were as a dead guy raising dead people from the dead to make more dead people, as opposed to Orc Hitler doing really fucking awful things that have actually happened and still happen in the really real world.

      I’m sorry you haven’t bothered to notice the talk about how character models for women are often times an after thought if they’re even shown at all, and how this is offensive.
      I’m sorry that you form sentences like: “Is that discriminatory towards men? That we exclusively kill male ogres? Why aren’t there any female ones for me to kill?” without a hint of irony. (spoiler alert! NO, YOU FUCKING DOLT, IT’S NOT ONLY OFFENSIVE TO MEN TO BE THE ONLY ONES PORTRAYED OF AN ENTIRE RACE/CULTURE. GOD DAMN.)

      I’m also sorry that you don’t understand video games are an escape for many people and its usually for the best to not drag real life horrors into that escape place. Sure, its Warcraft and people die in it and bad things happen, but guess what? The presentation of those acts is important and is something the devs should really think through and get various opinions on before patching it live.

  5. I was shocked when I first went to Black Temple and got to Illidan’s harem, when I raided back in BC. There you basically slaughter whole groups of unarmed female Blood Elves as you make your way to Illidan. I was kind of mad about it at the time, and still am I guess.
    Perhaps I’m more inured to it these days, because I haven’t noticed any of this ugly stuff in Orgrimmar the last few weeks. Gosh.

  6. Wait a second, what the fecksticks, I thought everyone in Theramore was supposed to have been giant-ripoff-from-Metroid-lol-facepalm turned to dust?

    I’m annoyed as hell with the treatment of women in WoW lately. I’m really sorry to all the people trying so hard to make silk purses out of sow’s ears in re: Jaina, but the treatment of her isn’t feminist and never will be. They went and had her “love interest” call her WORSE THAN ARTHAS in the novel, and as a result of that and the fact that Blizzard portrays her as incapable of judgement or stability sans Kalec, fandom is quite vehement about saying Varian’s racist rage was okay (peep his declaration of war in Undercity during Wrath), but Jaina’s was not. the only difference is that Jaina went all OOC and tried to tsunami things.

    I mean–for crying out loud, some of us do remember Treelos in Terokkar, Blizzard. With how inconsistent you’ve been with Jaina, you’re starting to make it look like she’s ended up like him, i.e. off the deep end, round the twist, et cetera.

    Anyhow. Garrosh wasn’t sexist until Cataclysm, and much as Rades likes to think the best of CDev in re: ‘clever bitch’–I’m sorry, m’boy, but the fanboys decided to side with Garrosh, decided Sylvanas WAS a bitch, and then Sylvanas got reduced to Snidely Whiplash to make Garrosh look cooler for cataclysm…which all went down the drain in MoP! And no, Rades m’dear, there was no development or reason for this. Dave Kosak doesn’t know the character, and it’s plain that neither he nor you’ve played WC3 or TFT lately, or taken a good look at who that character WAS. She’s not a woobie, but she’s not a stock cackling betch either and frankly I really RESENT you pontificationg to Arolaide and others about how we need to wait and seeeee about all of this Sylvanas business. We are not going to see, Rades. Do you understand this, now? will you be listening to women, now? XP You are such a GUY sometimes. I like you, but jesus.

    This business is just the latest of a long, long, long tradition of women being trashed to either make a point, be edgy, or pump up the men in WoW. Wolfheart made a mess of Maiev and insulted the entire Night Elven populace. Blizzard didn’t know what to do with a matriarchal race at all. Tyrande suddenly has no patience, swinging wildly from Knaak’s lotus blossom geisha to an impulsive teenager! Jaina is possibly bughouse nuts from arcane irradiation! Sylvanas is a stereotype! Vereesa needed to be ~tamed~ by Rhonin and is hopeless without him, and atop that some wiseacre slipped in a line where she gets snippy and gross at a Sunreaver trying to remove his belongings from a bank, thereby making a callback to a certain German regime…

    (And I will not even start on how Christie Golden cribbed imagery from 9/11 to make Theramore horrible in her damn novel. That’s another can of worms.)

    This isn’t cute. This isn’t okay or meaningless. This doesn’t happen in a vacuum. This isn’t something that never happens IRL. A buttload of casualties of war ARE women, kiddies. I play this game as an escape, MoP took the escapism out of my game and peed grimdark all over my floor.

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