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My own private faction bias

Matthew Rossi

There's a lot of talk about faction bias in the game among the designers and even in terms of the playerbase. Some realms have heavy faction representation issues; some players would never, ever play a member of the opposite faction; and so on.

Around this time last year, I transferred my main (a character who had been Alliance since his creation) to the Horde to raid with a guild that ended up being an excellent home for me and a great place to raid. I stayed with that guild up until we'd completed heroic Dragon Soul, but recently I transferred to a new guild. And one of the biggest reasons I moved back had nothing to do with either guild (both are fine guilds) or the people in them. My Horde guild was full of people I enjoyed raiding with, cracking wise, doing old content, even making occasional forays into PvP. No, in addition to feeling burned out and needing to raid less, the main reason I transferred back was related to the faction concept in WoW.

Frankly, I wish WoW didn't have factions -- at least, not the big Horde/Alliance split. Because it's made my game playing experience less fun over the years.

Friends who are foes

I've been playing for a while, and I've played both factions for years now. I have Horde friends and Alliance friends. My Real ID (and now Battletag) friends list is absolutely festooned with players from both sides of the factional street.

One of the things it's forced me to do is to have at least two characters at max level for each faction, so I have someone who can run with my friends. It tends to be warriors, because I can set them up with the same talents and keybinds and approximate the same basic play (even if, because of gear issues, I can't guarantee the same performance). Even when I switched my main, I still had another Horde and another Alliance warrior at 85, and I've done my best to be geared enough for Raid Finder and heroic HoT dungeons on both. That's in addition to my Dragon Soul raiding main.

Now, you can argue that I chose to do that, and you're right. I chose to do that because I like my friends. I want to do runs with them. I enjoy dungeons with people I know and can crack wise with, that I know will accept it if I choose to pull like a madman or go arms for a day. The social aspect of MMOs should reward friendship, but the faction wall penalizes it.

While my main was Horde, I couldn't group with my wife or any of our friends from the BC era on the character who had the best tanking gear. Now that I'm Alliance again, I can't tank for my Horde friends. (Well, I can, but on a character whose tank gear is significantly inferior, and even having that option was purely due to hours of work I had to put in to level and gear yet another warrior.)

I accept that this is part and parcel of the Warcraft setting and World of Warcraft. I personally wish it were not so, but I accept it. What made me unable to stay Horde was a combination of not being able to group with my wife on my main, which had significance to us (the two of us have done this game together for seven years), and the Horde leveling/questing experience.

Firebombing a sick child's house

I personally really hated playing Horde on my main. I never had the problem playing any of my Horde alts, but in part, that's probably due to having leveled them before Cataclysm. As long as I avoided Forsaken quest givers, I was golden. I could always tell myself that there was no way my tauren could know what the Forsaken were up to.

But in Cataclysm, when I rolled a tauren paladin, I was presented with a great many quest chains I found completely unacceptable for a fresh-faced young Sunwalker to participate in. Defending strip mining operations in Azshara, stepping over the corpses of night elves in their own forest in order to take a quest chain to go south and blow up a druid school, seeing the Warchief summarily execute his own general for following his orders -- and having no option but to either complete these quests or just avoid them. My paladin only got past 80 because I stopped questing entirely and did nothing but dungeons for 50 levels.

The experience colored everything I did on my main. Every time I had to talk to Garrosh, I wanted to stab him through the guts. It didn't help that as a tauren, the dude killed Cairne. I know all about Magatha, but it's still hard to justify standing in the same room with the guy after that. I generally found the Horde under Hellscream to be willfully forgetful of the hard lessons of the Second and Third War and wanting nothing more than to repeat the whole Kill everyone and take all their stuff mentality that blew up Draenor and stranded them on an alien planet. Figures like Varok Saurfang (who made me like playing an orc) were shoved to the background to allow the new story to unfold.

The issue isn't that it's a bad story to tell. The issue is that I don't want to be one of the guys with my boot crushing the face of night elf children in Ashenvale. I don't want to be the guy killing people and raising their corpses from the dead to kill their own families in Silverpine and Hillsbrad.

Heck, we didn't even burn the corpses when we took Silverwind Refuge. We just left them lying on the ground where they fell and set up shop on top of their bodies.

The Tone Shift: A bit more than I bargained for

That's not who I was when I played my other Horde characters, and it's not who I want to be now. What kept me Horde were the awesome people I played the game with and the cool tauren lore. I loved being a tauren, which is why I still have a tauren warrior at level 85 now. But I can't imagine playing one regularly in the Horde we have. It just creeps me out.

I accept that this is entirely subjective, that many players greatly enjoy playing the Horde, that there are good and valid reasons for doing so. I don't mean to imply that my feelings are universal. But they're significant enough to me to force me in the end to go back to the Alliance.

And part of that is the idea that there's supposed to be a sense of gray areas, that neither faction should come off as the good guys here. The problem with that is the passivity of the Alliance versus the aggressive activity of the Horde. It's very hard for me to justify the Horde's actions as morally ambiguous.

Even when the Alliance does something like attack Camp Taurajo, you can point to many, many actions on the Horde side (that I took part in as a Horde player) that make the attack on a hunting camp look simply pathetic in comparison. The Horde was already engaged in massive military action on both continents. It's not like we needed Camp T. to stiffen our spines. It's like a bully who beats the living heck out of someone, complaining that they managed to get a punch in. I don't want to play a bully.

So that's my faction bias. I really liked the Horde a lot better before I actually had to play as one.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm has destroyed Azeroth as we know it; nothing is the same! In WoW Insider's Guide to Cataclysm, you can find out everything you need to know about WoW's third expansion, from leveling up a new goblin or worgen to breaking news and strategies on endgame play.

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