Friday, September 17, 2010

More Poetry in WoW

(Disclaimer: For whatever reason, whenever I post the paragraphs aren't separating well, so it looks like one huge paragraph. Be patient, I'll try to fix it but I don't know how).

One of the defining features of JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels is the poetry that he masterfully weaves into the story. The Hobbits are all too fond of rhymes and riddles, but there are other examples of how the language itself is poetry, consider the scene when Frodo visited Lothlorien:

"It seemed to him that he had stepped through a high window that looked on a vanished world. A light was upon it for which his language had no name. All that he saw was shapely, but the shapes seemed at once clear cut, as if they had been first conceived and drawn at the uncovering of his eyes, and ancient as if they had endured for ever. He saw no colour but those he knew, gold and white and blue and green, but they were fresh and poignant, as if he had at that moment first perceived them and made for them names new and wonderful. In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lorien there was no stain."
-The Fellowship of the Ring, p. 365

To me this is a greater example of pure poetry then any contrived rhyme of "roses are red, etc". What it does is allow the reader to be swept up in the moment from the perspective of [Frodo], and experience the wonder of seeing most beautiful scenery our eyes have ever beheld.

Then there is the more common style of poetry as well, such as these lovely examples from the same book:

"Home is behind, the world ahead,
and there are many paths to tread.
Through shadows to the edge of night,
until the stars are all alight.
Then world behind and home ahead,
we'll wander back to home and to bed.
Mist and twilight, cloud and shade,
Away shall fade! Away shall fade!
Fire and lamp, and meat and bread.
And then to bed! And then to bed!"
"The shadow lies upon his tomb,
In Moria, in Khazad-dum.
But still the sunken stars appear,
In dark and windless Mirrormere;
There lies his crown in water deep,
Till Durin wakes again from sleep."
We may either forget or not know that Tolkien was an award winning poet, not just one of the most beloved story tellers of the 20th century. We are all aware of the influences that he had on our world of game playing and fantasy, but that's not the topic I wish to address. I wonder, sometimes, given Tolkien's influence on just about everything that came after him, why there is little to no poetry in games, particularly WoW.
Now please, as I have not played every game in the world I certainly cannot say that no games incorporate poetry, so if there are examples out there I would love to hear of them. I would also like to make clear that I do not wish for WoW to incorporate Tolkien poetry, I realize that if I want access to that I could play LOTR Online (I actually don't know if there's much poetry in that game), read the books or watch the movies. I also am well aware that the name of the game I enjoy the most is World of WAR-Craft. I just wanted to get the obvious out of the way to spare me the agony of having it pointed out to me in any comment.
In any good fantasy story, I believe that there must be great characters, an easy to follow and engaging plot, and significant conflict. Added to these are the details of the story, in both the characters and the world they live in. The more meaningful the world, the more important are those characters to the survival of all that's good in that world. To me, a world without virtue, without beauty, without love and culture isn't really a world worth saving. If I am a "hero" dropped into a world of pure evil and told that I needed to bring my manifest destiny to the miserable creatures of that world, the destiny of light and life and good and courage, blah, blah, blah, I'm going to look up and say to the one dropping me off, "No thanks, I think I'll let this world destroy itself, there is nothing good here but me, and if I leave no loss to the world, it's already destroyed."
I just can't seem to generate a desire to save something if I'm the only good thing in it. To that end, I look around Azeroth and I see that, according to my character, there is much worth saving, much that was good before, or worthwhile, and that through my efforts that worth can be secured for the future generations. When Deathwing comes he'll do much damage to the world, and why do we care? Because there are things that we value here, whether it's culture, people, etc., Horde or Alliance, there are things we wish to protect or restore to their former peaceful state.
I know this is WARCraft, but we don't war solely because we wish to shed blood. Sure, politics churn the war machine, disagreements add fuel to that fire, and it's people who do things that are considered 'evil' that unite us in our war efforts, but to what end? To continue to war even after we have defeated all the evil that has risen in the world? I understand that there will always be a hatred between Horde and Alliance, but even those parties have joined forces to defeat common enemies.
So, in this fantasy world, in Azeroth, I wonder sometimes that I do not see more of the things I'm fighting to save. I play mainly Alliance, so am I fighting so that my farmers can farm in peace? So that the tailor may weave with endless supply of wool? I want to be fighting for more culture, for writers and artists and musicians, people that are being phased out of our real world for math and science (btw, I am SOOOOOO pro math & science). Schools drop their arts programs when there's a shortage of money, but it's always been my belief that the arts are what makes our world beautiful. So I wish it was more in Azeroth, that there would simply be a deeper culture to save and to protect.
Writers (poets included) have been the source of great controversy in our world because they discuss issues in times and ways that allow for societal introspection without resorting to one-liners and cheap shots (like politicians). Uncle Tom's Cabin, Nineteen Eighty Four, Les Miserables, The Scarlet Letter, and many, many, many others. Where are these wonders in Azeroth? I'm freakin' dying over and over and over to help these Westfall farmers rid themselves of evil beasts and machines (which is fine and all). I'm clearing the forests of Duskwood of the 'bad' Worgen, in hopes that maybe someday these homesteads may be returned to their rightful owners. I'm fighting the scourge in Northrend and doing battle with the Lich King himself to save all lands from death and decay. I'm at War with the Horde on principle alone, they're just so darn ugly, and we know that ugly people need to be killed.
I am the first to admit that I don't know the entire story of Azeroth, I'm not familiar with enough of the lore to make definitive statements, all I speak of is from my own experiences. And what I experience is that there are not a lot of musicians or writers or poets in Azeroth. In real life I fight for their cause in many ways, I wouldn't mind having some artists to fight for in Azeroth as well.
Please, I am open to correction and education on this topic, I'm also open to peotry, if you so desire. The more the merrier.

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