WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

December 9, 2008 -

Is it okay to torture prisoners at Guantanamo Bay?

Is it okay to torture an emotionless animated character in The Torture Game?

Is it okay to carry out a World of Warcraft quest that requires the player to torture a prisoner?

boingboing reports on the controversy generated by one Richard Bartle, himself the inventor of the MUD genre. It seems that Bartle recently came across a mission in WoW's Wrath of the Lich King expansion that gave him pause:

Basically, you have to take some kind of cow poke and zap a prisoner until he talks.

I'm not at all happy with this. I was expecting for there to be some way to tell the guy who gave you the quest that no, actually I don't want to torture a prisoner, but there didn't seem to be any way to do that. Worse, the quest is part of a chain you need to complete to gain access to the Nexus, which is the first instance you encounter (if you start on the west of the continent, as I did). So, either you play along and zap the guy, or you don't get to go to the Nexus.

I did zap him, pretty well in disbelief — I thought that surely the quest-giver would step in and stop it at some point? It didn't happen, though. Unless there's some kind of awful consequence further down the line, it would seem that Blizzard's designers are OK with breaking the Geneva convention.

GP: Kotaku reports that the quest at issue is The Art of Persuasion. The in-game instructions for the quest are as follows:

It is fortunate you're here, <race>.

You see, the Kirin Tor code of conduct frowns upon our taking certain 'extreme' measures - even in desperate times such as these. You, however, as an outsider, are not bound by such restrictions and could take any steps necessary in the retrieval of information.

Do what you must. We need to know where Lady Evanor is being held at once! I'll just busy myself organizing these shelves here. Oh, and here, perhaps you'll find this old thing [torture device] useful....


Comments

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

so all the people who are saying a truth drug would be better are deluded, truth drugs are not completely harmless and leave the person they're used on feeling the same way as if they had been tortured (minus the wounds inflicted ofc) as the information was removed from them without their consent, they were helpless to stop the person who gave them the drug from extracting the information, with torture they give the information to stop the pain, with truth drugs they cannot stop themselves

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Being that I did that quest line over a month ago I'm having trouble remembering, is that quest part of the quest line that ends inside Nexus? I could see if you wanted to finish that quest line how this could be an issue. If not, plenty of people skip over quests all the time, you could just as easily abandon the quest and go on your way.

My second thing is that you can get summoned to the Nexus via the summoning stone. The gryphon point is only another not even 15 second ride up the hill, so I don't understand why this is an issue. I completely skipped this questline on accident because I got summoned to the Nexus before I ever got to that area.
 

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

After reading most of the comments here, and realizing that the quest is not actually mandatory, and that Blizzard, as they have stated, put the quest in there as a test, I'm very intruiged and appreciative of what Blizzard is doing with their game now.

I've gotten a greater emotional response out of the quests in Lich King than i really have out of anything I've played in World of Warcraft before.   People have mentioned the D.E.H.T.A. quests, which are increibly fanatic,, pro-animal quests.  I've chosen not to follow the line, because I've let my character refuse to believe that Nesingwary (The target of this group) has gone power hungry and corrupt.  As a hunter player, I guess I'd come to care about and appreciate Nesingwary, since he'd made an appearance in vannilla WoW and the last Expansion.

Considering all the tracking that Blizzard is doing (now more transparent than ever), I get a feeling that the content of the quest lines you do and don't complete will have some bearing on how you're perceived later in this expansion's storyline.

And even then, I still get a personal satisfaction from making a morally informed decision in this game that so easily becomes about loot and stat numbers.

 

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

let's just hope this guy never plays a death knight.

 

one of the first quests, that you literally have to do or you can't make your death knight properly is take two weapons called "keleseth's persuaders" and use them to beat on scarlets until they tell you their secret, even if it involves killing them.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Makes me wonder what he'd say in Dragonblight when a Tuskarr asks you to snathc Wolvar pups from their mothers.

That quest madem e feel like ah uge douche.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Someone else who noticed that about that quest. I had an interesting conversation in my guild after I remarked on how disturbing that quest is in a way.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Bah, it's like violent video games. You have to take them with a grain of salt. I mean, look at one of the first ever Death Knight quests. You have to "free" and then kill one of the Unworthy Initiates, in cold blood. You have no reason to kill him. But you do anyway, if you want to progress through the storyline arc (and subsequently get your gear).

So basically, you have a choice. Either kill/torture two people in cold blood or play Grand Theft Auto IV and kill everyone in town in cold blood with a taxi. Your choice.

-- Joshua Smellie

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

How attached can you possibly be to a virtual character you've never met before? I'm assuming you never meet the to-be-tortured person before the quest, correct me if I''m wrong, I don't play Wow.

I could see myself having trouble or feeling unease in torturing a character that has a lot of fleshed out backstory or has a really deep character I can get attached to.

But a random NPC I've never met before, then sure why not, kill the thing. The fact that it's a war and he has valuable information I need to finish the quest is a good enough reason for me to torture pixels.

I don't see why he got so qualmed about it. If you're honestly concerned about the ethics of this then you're thinking about it too much or you've grown way to detached (sp?) from the game.

So err in conclusion, lighten up and have some golly old fun.

It's like what I tell people who think I'm pure evil for laughing at dead baby jokes.

"No babies were harmed in the making or telling of these jokes. Well ok a few, but they weren't that important."

(If I'm in front of other people who like the jokes I'd then go on to explain the number of babies that were experimented on to see just what happens when *insert horrible, nasty thing here* happens to them. For more accurate jokes of course (plus a few extra purely for sadistic kicks)).

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

The thing is the game apparently itself mentions a 'code of conduct' that cannot be broken by the quest giver. But that the player (race) can break this code of conduct because he (or she) is an outsider. As someone else mentions torturing people do not help much; people will at some point tell you anything just to make the pain stop. Or tell you what they think you want to hear - even if they lie to you. And the information you retrieve is false. And that's why this quest is just poorly designed, I find.

Blizzard could of course have designed this quest to make people bad about a certain situation at a certain military base on a certain island - or just designed this quest around a jack bauer type thing. Certain indications, such as the *i'll just re-arrange these shelves* could be an indication that Blizzard tried to make a political statement well hidden within the game.

The interesting thing here seems also to be that ordinary people can be trained to torture people; Danish TV did in the 1970's the Milgram experiment. (the one where people of Authority convinced people to give other people electro-shocks when they didn't answer correctly) The point being that 90% or so of the ordinary people did what the Authority figure encouraged them to do; they did give the person the electro-shocks. (it was an actor, so don't worry...)

Like Bioware's Mass Effect, Blizzard could be asking this question: "how much is you willing to sacrifice?" --- to gain (quicker)access to the Nexus?' and maybe this question, too: "Are you, the pc/player willing to sacrifice even your own moral standards?"

And normally in Role Playing Games, there are different ways of solving quests, in this quest the choices could be like killing the quest giver, asking for money or just saying 'no'.

 

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

He couldn't bring himself to do what? Click his mouse to advance the story? Does he stop reading when he gets to bad parts of books, turn of the evening news when they report on violence, or walk out of a movie theater doing violent parts? Those would make good news stories, too!

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

I think you guys are being a bit harsh on the guy. He just wanted an alternative to tourturing, and if one of the choice is to not do it and never progress through the game, that's stupid. I think he might want the TOR MMO bioware's making where you might be able to make that choice of taking a stand for your values, rather than doing the quests you are given brainlessly without an objection.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

And as has been already established by more knowledgable people than him or you, you can quite happily ignore the quest, or abandon the quest and it will have no impact one way or the other in your game progression. Abandoning it does not block access to the NExus, and general consensus is that the reward is crappy.

Blizzard even came right out and said they included it pretty much solely as a social experiment to see who would or wouldn;t follow it through to completion.

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Oh I see what you did there. Did you really have to insult me or him? I don't play WoW, and that's why I said "IF".

If you could abandon the quest and it will have no impact then that's cool, I just read from the article itself and it seemed like you had no choice but to do it to progress through the game. Not everyone knows every nook and cranny of WoW so why don't you stop being an asshole and think anyone who doesn't know this as a dumbass. Not everyone can know everything about one game.  

Just from a game design convention, I said IF (keyword: IF) it made you do this quest to progress through the game, then that is stupid.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

I didn't realize it was an insult to state that your knowledge of WoW is lacking when you yourself admit that you don't play it :P  I musta missed the part where he insults you...

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Boo-*******-hoo.

Libertarian Republican from Mesa Arizona: MySpace http://profile.myspace.com/32118614 Facebook http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1441642492&ref=name

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

In D&D Online there's a quest where you're hired by one church to SLAUGHTER innocent members of another church.

i ran it exactly once, found the whole concept distasteful, and never ran it again.  you don't have to do any of the quests, but there were plenty of people who just never read what you were actually doing and were surprised to find out what they'd been "duped" into doing.

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Maybe this is exactly the kind of statement they wanted to make. It is easy to ignore or condone what the is being done in Gitmo, pretty much for the same reasons. However, the concept of passing the buck on the torture is pure sophistry. The person asking is still the one having the person tortured, even if he doesn't hold the cattle prod himself. His honor is still sullied, his code broken. It is as if you pushed a bowling ball out the window onto his head, then claimed that you weren't responsible, the law of gravity killed him.

In short, the game is fine, the logic flawed, the conversation it sparked is golden.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

WoW proves that sometimes torture is necessary, just like 24.  

Let this nancy live in his fantasy world.  

http://www.eliteownage.com/nice

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

There is a right time and place for everything.  That saying is very true.  Absolutely everything has a time and place, even torture.  Sometimes it is needed, most of the time though it isn't.  Plus, it isn't like the US doesn't torture people anymore, they just don't torture them in the outline ways you are not allowed to, haha.  Rape and child molestation are the 2 things that have no time or place.  Everything else in the world does.

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

But what if the rape is torture!

The Honest Game - http://www.thehonestgame.org

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

"BTW this isn't the only torture quest in WoW. I remember a few quests where I had to beat up on a person until they talked."

Yup. Remember "A New Plague" in Brill, available at Level 6 for Horde? Human experimentation on a prisoner of war for purposes of developing a bioweapons program to unleash WMD's on the Alliance and Scourge...

Second, and last, shameless, pimp for our GC editorial.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

The first expansion was Burning Crusade not Scarlet Crusade :)  fix it quick!

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

YOWCH!!!

Fixed.

Thanks, Zel

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

No problem, i liked the article though it was very well thought out and written.

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

BTW this isn't the only torture quest in WoW. I remember a few quests where I had to beat up on a person until they talked. How is this any different instead of taking them to 10 hitpoints of their life you poke him with a cattle prod. Frankly if this upsets you enough to rant and rave maybe you should stop playing WoW period.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Of course we're talking about a guy who has built his life around multi-user dungeons, thats his whole claim to fame, so of course he's gonna play whatever the popular MMO is and nit-pick about stupid crap on his journal(i hate the world blog so you'll have to excuse me if i refrain from using that word in context). I played MUD back in 1996, really was not that great but it was a first of it's time. Meh, i just think he should be ignored personally. I read his post on the comments from the original article and I suppose its hard for him not to come across as a stuck-up egotistical retard when he's trying to defend himself but after reading his response the guy has 'loser' oozing from the post.

Fact is if he's gonna post something like that, he should expect this kind of response, we're talking about the net here... :P

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Here here!

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I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Well, you don't get attention from just ignoring something...

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

I love how he complains about torturing one person from one group of people...

When in the same zone, there are quests to work for a PETA like group to slaughter hunters for killing animals.

Or, to accept jobs for the hunters to kill the members of the PETA like group.

Or any of the numerous other quests that require you to murder living people, including humans. For that matter, even the STARTING ZONE for orcs and trolls requires you to kill humans.

I just don't understand why he's all upset over one torture quest, where half the game leading up to this is about killing people.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

That's one of the reasons why I say he's being ridiculous.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

I sincerely think that he's crossed the line from reality into fantasy and maybe needs to take a little break.  WoW is a story.  I think that his comparisons of this quest to that of pedophelia are a clear indication of his inability to see the difference between reality and fantasy.

Elvyra

www.WanderingGoblin.com

 

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Sorry, but... what a whiny bitch.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

This guy's just being ridiculous. Seriously. And I have a feeling he wouldn't be doing so if torture hadn't become such a hot-button issue as of late.

If you don't like something, just don't play it. There's a lot of things in particular games I don't like, but do I seek/get attention from some journalists or something about such complaints? Nope.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

 Seeing as torture is not an effective way of getting true information, i think the quest should be re-written so that torturing the guy sends to a completely wrong destination... when you arrive, you find a gnome in a big round poked-dotted hat that tells you "i'm sorry adventurer, but our princess is in another castle"... all just to mess with people...

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

This problem I have with that is, it's too much of a political statement.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

It would be a political statement because shows like 24 have told us that torture is effective even though it isn't.  It would be accurate to have the character give wrong info though. 

And if it was a political statement, is that wrong?

 

http://www.popularculturegaming.com

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

"Not an effective way"? Have you even played the game? The info the character gives after being tortured is 100% accurate.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

He's talking about in real life.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Complaining about a quest where you poke a guy with a cattle prod among tons of quests full of killing countless harmless animals(got to love Hemet Nesingwary quests =P) and mobs just sitting there minding thier own buisness, is just stupid. Also, last time i checked, there is an option to not take a quest at all when offered. use it.

And honestly, from a lore/story aspect, when you think about the entire goal of going to Northrend, to take on the Litch king/arthas, you realize your character is so bent on achiving this goal, they are willing to become the very thing they are trying to kill. Just like a certain prince we all know and love/hate.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

"And honestly, from a lore/story aspect, when you think about the entire goal of going to Northrend, to take on the Litch king/arthas, you realize your character is so bent on achiving this goal, they are willing to become the very thing they are trying to kill. Just like a certain prince we all know and love/hate."

Couldn't agree more. As much as I love Bartle, I think he really missed both the moral question and the design issues here.

Check out our editorial on the controversy at GameCulture here.

 

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

What a beautifully written masterpiece of an argument.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

A very enjoyable bitch-slap to an idiot who should have thought before he blogged.

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I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

-------------------------------------------------- I LIKE the fence. I get 2 groups to laugh at then.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Let's see, someone who has no problem with massive ratios of "People I kill":"How often I die", but gets all bent out of shape over tourture. I didn't know John McCain played WOW.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Ok. Kind of a cheap shot at McCain, he did spend his time as a P.O.W, so I understand why he'd have an issue with torture.

 

Praetorian

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

I would visualize him trying to figure the game out, but I'm afraid I just may actually die from laughing so hard.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

this is the gayest thing ever

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Every time I see a WoW article, it makes me want to watch the WoW SouthPark episode...

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Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

There is a [Make Love Not Warcraft] achievement, where you /hug a dead horde (if your alliance) or a dead alliance (if your horde) before they release.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Yeah, me too. That was a great episode. They should make another where they play Wrath of the Lich King.

Re: WoW Lich King Quest Sparks Torture Controversy

Every time I see someone get the [The Cake Is Not A Lie!] achievement in WoW I wanna listen to 'still alive' :P

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