Xenophobia vs. Fantasy

I used to play a lot of World of Warcraft, back in my Gamer days (as millions of people did). And I’ve always read a lot of Fantasy, including classic High Fantasy (i.e. Tolkien-esque) with Dwarves, Elves, Dragons, and so on. Lord of the Rings; you’ve seen the movies.

One thing that’s always struck me as a little odd, both in video games and literature. In all of these formats, we have lots of intelligent species, living in the same settings, on the same planets. In the case of Warcraft, it is literally hundreds of intelligent species, all sharing the same world and striving and competing for land area, resources, dominance.

In World of Warcraft, these species are at war (at least a cool, ongoing-skirmish sort of war), grouped into Factions. Alliance and Horde, specifically, but just two generally large groups of five major species, and another hundred unaligned individual species.

In Tolkien-esque High Fantasy, it’s generally a Dark Lord of some sort controlling one power sphere (Orcs, Trolls, etc.), and the Humans, Elves, Dwarves and Others in a second power group. Surprise, they don’t like each other very much. Generally a huge battle takes place, the Dark Lord loses and everyone goes home.

But I look around at America, and I just don’t see this kind of outcome as particularly likely. We are one species, and we separate ourselves into nations and races and cultures. We rattle our swords at each other until somebody starts something. Our border is closed, immigrants must asked us nicely to be included pretty please (or risk being criminals). We just can’t get along, at all. And that’s just within a single species, other Humans.

Given that level of Xenophobia the Homo Sapiens constantly displays, I would expect a world of several hundred separate species to be at War every single day, a bloody and full-on genocidal war of extinction, until only a single species remained. As we would expect evolutionary imperative to direct, right Mr. Darwin?

Or is every other race less paranoid and less frightened of Others, and more accepting of cultural differences than we are? If that is the case, we can expect Humans to be wiped out by the combined might of every other species combined, right? They’d group up to protect themselves from us, in self defense?

A lot of high fantasy just doesn’t work on this basis; it soft-sells the likely Nastiness of the conflicts. Even the Dark Lord is less dangerous, in general terms, than those nasty and aggressive humans and their little elf buddies. (Why would Elves have any reason to tolerate us, anyway? We’re the rude and low-class neighbors, scum on the boots.)

Where I would expect bloody, full-on, non-stop attrition war of genocide to be taking place, we’re picking up our Nerf-bat swords and playing by the rules. Humans are never portrayed a tenth as rotten in Fantasy lit as humans are, demonstrably.

And all of those other races, even the “mean” old Orcs and Trolls, play by the rules too (except when they have a Dark Lord to stir things up for a while).

The problem is only multiplied by the sheer number of species contestants in a Warcraft-style setting. All of those murlocs and furbolgs and what have you…the more species you put into competition for supremacy, the more likely an outbreak of the Final War becomes, right?

Thank goodness that game designers exhibit a little restraint, because internecine warfare probably wouldn’t be a very fun game to play. At least not for very long.

There’s probably something important we should learn from that.

RecDave Seal

Today is a free writing day. Write at least four-hundred words, and once you start typing, don’t stop. No self-editing, no trash-talking, and no second guessing: just go. Bonus points if you tackle an idea you’ve been playing with but think is too silly to post about.

 

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