My take on WoW torture quests

Richard Bartle blogged a while back about a WoW quest where the player has to torture an NPC, and how it upset him. Which raised a lot of (sad) comments from all over, so he had to reply in public.

Richard, I agree with you. The quest is sad, and I don’t think it fits in WoW very well. Sadder thing is, there’s more similar content in WotLK and some of it is ever worse.

Here’s a quest where the player is asked to experiment with a disease agent on a prisoner. Here’s another torture quest (during which you see prisoners to be tortured, and can’t free them). Here’s my personal favorite: a quest where the player is ordered to kill citizens captured by the enemy, as a punishment for being captured. The prisoners are in cages so they can’t escape and you’re supposed to shoot them in cold blood.

What’s Blizzard trying to teach people who play WoW? The comments in Wowhead make me feel a bit better, which range from “I hate Blizzard for doing these cruel quests” to “This quest killed me a little on the inside”.

I don’t think it’s going to happen, but what I’d love to see happen at Bliz is:

1) Have a discussion with the copywriters who wrote these quests, and talk about why the quests where done the way they were done. And if you have the guts, state this in public.

2) Allow for alternating storylines where you can complete a quest without doing this disturbing stuff.

What makes this discussion especially interesting is that WoW has PEGI rating of 11+ in Finland, and 12+ elsewhere. I doubt this would stay if someone actually told PEGI about these quests. And this goes to show how PEGI is broken.

Update: PEGI lists WotLK as 12+. I sent them a query about whether they think torture scenes are appropriate for 12 year olds, and got a quick reply:

“We have examined the game World of Warcraft: Wrath of the Lich King and according to the PEGI system this game has been rated 12+ because of the depictions of non-realistic looking violence towards human-like or animal-like characters. Also in he scenes/ quest you describe the violence visualized is still non-realistic.”

I guess this begs a question on what is actually realistic, and what isn’t. PEGI’s interpretation seems to be that since you can opt to play a non-human character and there’s no blood, the scene is non-realistic. I’m slightly confused – I guess Reservoir Dogs torture scene was non-realistic as well, since the violence wasn’t actually visualized at all.

Update 2: PEGI’s questionnaire that’s aimed to make rating games easier states the following are indicators that a game should be rated 18+:

  • Depictions of gross violence, which includes torture, dismemberment, sadism and horrific depictions of death or injury towards human-like or animal-like characters.
  • Depictions of violence towards vulnerable or defenceless human-like characters

The explanation for the former suggest the torture should be somewhat graphic to count, and the latter is indicated to have merit on it’s own, be the violence graphic or not.

I guess my opinion on this is that it’s fine to have the scenes in WoW, but I don’t think the game’s content is suitable for the 12+ rating it’s been given. WotLK should have PEGI rating of 16+.

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