The other side of the light

So I guess you all have seen the tagline up there, the Other Side of the Light.

WoWScrnShot_030812_200510But what does it mean, you wonder (I hope). After all, it is a blog written from the perspective of a race that’s hardly known for shadows. Draenei that is. There’s a simple reaason really. even the Light has a darker side. Or at least an unlit side. Think of it the backside of, well, paper. Think of it as string theory (if it helps).

For as long as I can remember I’ve always found the complicated character more entertaining than the rigid, one dimensional zealot (something I’ve encountered here and there when people try to characterise “Good” characters). I’ve been a roleplayer (pen and paper) since I was 15 years old. That’s almost 30 years of imaginary worlds. Of countless characters. Of billions emotions. It was a lot easier in the beginning I might add; like most roleplayers I spent a few years killing things. Then the emotional stuff crept in, most of all the dualism. Somewhere in the vicinity of aged 20 my characters became more alive.

No more stereotypes. “Living” humans, or orcs, or whatever I was. Perhaps it says something about me but most of my “living” characters evolved into “neutral good” or “neutral evil”. Two-faced, if you like; not exactly upstanding citizens but flawed in their own ways.

Just like we all are.

It’s possible I would feel more at home – and break less lore rules! – as a blood elf but here I am, oen of the “good girls”. The blood elves are interesting in their own right, for sure. They’re not for me though. I played Horde for a year more or less. Like many others who was new to World of Warcraft I found the underdogs more charming, more entertaining. More violent. My first character was, of course, an orc warrior. Ahem.

I’ve often wondered why I didn’t feel the same kind of identity as Horde, as I do with Alliance. It’s all mushy emotional stuff, you know. Just how do you identify with a virtual faction made up of pixels?

It’s the feeling of it all. That sense of belonging. The ever so tiny rush of joy, or pride, or strength, or whatever you feel when you either see Orgrimmar, or Stormwind, or the Exodar for the first time. The community helps but for an introvert (mostly) solo-player as myself other people are not as important as the immersion factor. The simplest way to describe it is: When I rolled my first draenei and woke up in that crashed life pod – I felt at home.

Curious, that. I guess it comes down to this:

  • Visual appearance
  • Setting and immersion
  • New surroundings and mysteries

Don’t forget the music: When you hear it, you’ll understand what it means. (Those of you who don’t listen to the ingame music miss out on something absolutely epic.)

Before I explain what _the Other Side of the Light_ actually means in terms of “storytelling” I’d like to explain why I ended up as a draenei. It’s a bit weird, to be honest.

My first “epic” moment in World of Warcraft was when I saw Orgrimmar for the first time (pre-Cataclysm; all clay huts and sharpened kodo bones). The Horde certainly has the primitive going for them: The music of Orgrimmar did welcome me with a sense of strength, of power. Here I was, a lowly troll warrior (I never made it to Orgrimmar on my orc) and I see those walls. I hear those horns and drums …

the feeling faded. Faster than I thought it would. But something happened. The rugged orc dialect, the phony west indian accent of the trolls, the highbrow sarcasm of blood elves, the hoarse voices of Forsaken – it just … turned me off. One day, I had a warlock level 71 then, horde wasn’t “fun” anymore. After a short foray into night elf territory with a hunter who made it to level 68, I switched servers completely. I hoped it would invigorate the fun feeling – and you know, it did!

The visual appearance of the draenei was probably the most important reason I rolled my first draenei. That ass. Yeah, I’m a horrible person but really – a lot of people usually choose their playable race based on looks. Humans looked boring, night elves still look a bit weird. I don’t “get it” with dwarves and gnomes are too short.

I named her Shuanna, a paladin – a class I had never played before, curious about their self healing (a big deal then; I sucked and still do as warrior and really needed “teh healz”). I was a bit bored with ranged classes too so paladin seemed a good choice. the cinematic intro looked good but I didn’t “get it”, that feeling. Until the calm … soothing … homely feeling. The soundtrack:

It was so different!

Coming from the violent, primal rythm of the Horde to … the ambience. The calm. I became increasingly curious about the lore surrounding the draenei . Once I understood a bit more about them other than their tails and imposing cleavage (or barrelshaped males) I kind of sensed the soul of them: Sorrow, the never faltering knowledge that they will prevail – even if they’re hunted across the Universe. How could you not love poeple like that?

The feeling of belonging to something bigger than life itself was even more powerful when I saw Stormwind for the first time (I never made it to Stormwind on my night elf hunter so this was all new to me). This:

It was like coming from a concert with Pink Floyd and on the way home stumble over a marching band playing Wagner.

That’s why I’m Alliance. I’m too good to be evil but too evil to be good.

That’s why my poor Exodar sisters are a bit … strange. They’re likely the only neutral good draenei in existence (or so I like to believe). They’re flawed, scarred. They have a past, the have issues. They’re human(oid). Should I adhere strictly to the lore I doubt neither of them would exist. They’re not very nice. They can be, but they choose not to.

They have to be. Almost 30 years of experience with flawed characters has taught me the richness of people with problems and nightmares. Given the draeneis background it’s easy to fall into the Mary Sue-trap; always perfect, never bad. for my own sake – it helps my immersion – I need people that’s just as bad as they need. From the means justifies the end-character of Shuanna to the impulsive and daredeviless Zavannah. Or the slightly crazy Sharenne. Or, you know, the “lovesick” mage, Cahanna (well, actually she’s more interested in physical love but hey! Draenei babies got to come from somewhere).

None of them are shining examples of the draenei race. I imagine a lot of highly educated and aristocrathic vindicators tries their best not to think about … “That family”. Besides, it’s more fun to write about people who don’t follow the rules (unless they have to).

They are the Other Side of the Light.

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