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Why are there moral choices in WoW?

Anne Stickney

Most quests in WoW are fairly straightforward in intent. Go kill a bunch of birds and gather meat. Go kill the pesky vermin that are messing with our crops. Go get that book from that guy in the next town over. But then there is the occasional quest that takes us outside the usual gather, kill and fetch arena of standard questing -- the ones that asks our characters to make a choice.

Do we kill the harpy matron, or do we let her go? How do we persuade Tyrus Blackhorn to help us? Are we really so gung-ho about interrogation that we'll gleefully do so to get information out of the Scarlet Onslaught? Or if we're asked to torture someone in the name of the Kirin Tor? Do we really want to let Thalen Songweaver go ... or would we rather leave him rot in Theramore's prison?

These types of quests don't pop up terribly often, which prompts the question; just what are these moral choices for, exactly?

The Godmother over at ALT:ernative brought this up in a recent post and suggested perhaps those moral choice quests aren't as randomly arbitrary as they seem, suggesting Blizzard is perhaps keeping track of the choices that players make in order to gather data to use for future quest content. This is actually a fascinating idea, regardless of whether or not it's correct. If we as players react strongly one way or another to a moral choice, choosing one path hands down over the other, then that would suggest the alternative path isn't one that would be embraced as an actual quest in game.

And The Godmother brings up one of the strongest moral choices we have to make in Mists as an example. In the midst of all of those charming Tillers quests, there's one in which Gina Mudclaw asks for your assistance collecting debts from the residents of Halfhill. While you're off collecting the debts, you can choose to pay off a debt for an NPC, or you can threaten them into paying. Which brings us to the only pandaren in Mists that I absolutely cannot stand -- Spicemaster Jin Jao.

Pandaren are by and large pleasant to talk to, even if some like the Shado-Pan can be prickly at times. But Spicemaster Jin Jao gives me the creeps with his thinly-veiled suggestions regarding Gina. And without fail, every time I came across this quest and had to choose between paying off or threatening the guy, I'd choose threaten. Every single time. I have no idea if he and Gina are actually pretty good buddies, or if maybe Gina has perhaps given him the wrong idea. There could be a totally rational explanation for how he speaks. But because he comes off as creepy, I will happily continue threatening him.

Why are there moral choices in WoW
The Godmother thinks right along the same lines regarding Jin Jao, and I know several friends and fellow players who do exactly the same thing. But what does that say about us, as players? What does it say about the quest, or the NPC? Is Jin Jao a test to see how we react to certain kinds of quest dialogue? Or is the whole quest itself designed to test whether or not players would be more comfortable paying gold for a quest, or doing something that might be considered morally objectionable?

In the case of Thalen Songweaver -- what happens if we simply decide not to let him go and leave him to rot in Theramore? At the moment, there aren't any consequences for that decision, although he threatens that the Sunreavers won't be pleased if you decide not to let him go. In truth, the moral decision doesn't have any effect on the outcome of the scenario ... so why was that choice given to begin with?

The Godmother's blog post is a pretty fascinating read, and it definitely brings up more questions than it answers. What do you think of the moral choices in game? Should we have more of these moral quandaries to puzzle out? Should they play a larger part? Should these moral choices actually have consequences we have to deal with after we've made them? And why do you think they are in the game to begin with?

Mists of Pandaria is here! The level cap has been raised to 90, many players have returned to Azeroth, and pet battles are taking the world by storm. Keep an eye out for all of the latest news, and check out our comprehensive guide to Mists of Pandaria for everything you'll ever need to know.

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