Friday, December 11, 2009

Tickled Pink: Pop Culture References

Warcraft certainly has it deeper side but one thing that makes the game enchanting is that it has moments that make one laugh out loud. There are lots of “in-jokes” in the game and sly pop culture references. Which one has left you feeling Tickled Pink?


Oh! It’s so hard to chose! Certainly the most recent example of this happened just last week. I was working on the Wrathgate quest line minding my own business when I arrive at the quest to kill Thel'zan the Duskbringer. I almost failed the quest I was laughing so hard after reading the lich was none other than “Father Inigo Montoy”. The Princess Bride happens to be one of my favorite movies and I have in fact quoted Inigo Montoya in a post here at PPI. Discongruency is an aspect of humor and this irrelevancy in the middle of what is a sober quest chain was priceless.

Another one that I liked was Lord Serpentis who proclaims that he is the serpent king and he can do anything. I’m dating myself here but I have actually visited the grave of Jim Morrison. Can you imagine that Elnia was once huge fan of The Doors. That should make you laugh. “If you give this man a ride/sweet family will die/killer on the road.” I sing that sometimes when I am grinding mobs.

Sometimes I do wonder though if all the humor in the game is intentional. There is a quest that rogues get to start lockpicking at level ten. There is a paragraph in the text that reads, “The Hidden Circle has values. We value valuables. Can ye understand?” Even now typing that brings tears to me eyes. I’m not sure I do understand, actually. Isn’t valuing valuables what makes values valuable? Or is it that valuable values cause rogues to have valuable values? I don’t know. But in homage to that line I have come to define an ethicist as one who values values.

Yes, I do think the sense of humor in Warcraft is under appreciated. It’s easy to take the game too seriously and get caught up in the search for epics and gold and forget to laugh when the laughing is good. Laugh, and the world laughs with you; cry and you will cry with all the other raiders complaining about Blizzard making the game too easy.


My favourite pop culture references are definitely the ones I find on my own, stumbling upon them by accident.

For instance I remember how I smiled when I noticed that The Ocular, a thing you are supposed to destroy in the quest “It’s All fun and Games”, looked very similar to the eye of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings movie.

But unfortunately I don’t see much of those things without anyone pointing them out to me, since I seem to be playing WoW wearing an eye bindle, as I pointed out in a post from October 2008. At that point I had finally recognized Jhordy Lapforge and Scooty, and was quite enthusiastic about it, being a hopeless Star Trek fan. And I still love them.

It was the finding of the excellent Wowwiki list that opened my eyes to other references, such as Scooby Doo’s collar appearing in the form of Alterac Valley Marks and the Pink Floyd quotations in The Triage quest at Theramore. And in the post I pointed out how stupid I felt for not noticing it by myself.

The only explanation I have is that I often suffer from tunnel vision, being too focused on my game play to pay much attention to the details. Probably I’m also rushing the content a little too quickly, often trying to get things done efficiently rather than enjoying the ride. Which is isn’t a good thing, but that’s how I play the game.

I thought I could as well go back to the list and check out what jokes and references I’ve missed in WotLK. And I didn’t get disappointed. Of course there was a ton of new ones, including some more Star Trek love.

There’s Sailor Picardo and Sailor Philips, deckhands of the Kraken, likely to be references to actors Robert Picardo and Ethan Philips, who played the characters of The Doctor and Neelix on Star Trek: Voyager.

In Borean Tundra, there are some evil gnomes, acting like the Borg: "We are Mechagnome...resistance is futile" "You will be assimilated or eliminated."

And in Grizzly Hills, Datalore Smallsphere associates to Data and his twin android Lore.

While I’m still on the topic of TV series, I can’t but approve of the presence of Agent Skully and Deathguard Molder, from X-files, an old favourite of mine.

In Blizzcast 12, the interviewed developers briefly touched upon the topic of the pop culture references and the humour in the game. Tom said that that they have a whole bunch of class clowns working at Blizzard, so that it “inevitably finds its way through”.

Those class clowns however, aren’t only up-to-date with popular games, rock music and movies. They also occasionally show that they have a broader education. For instance there is the quest Horn of the Ancient Mariner , referring to the 18th century poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge. Of course you COULD argue that the Blizzard staff rather have listened to the Iron Maiden version of it, but I prefer to think they didn’t.

And then you have Drottinn Hrothgar, with the same name as character in the epic poem Beowulf. The Old Gnome and the Sea achievement refers to a short story by Ernest Hemingway and Parts for the Job contains a Fresh Pound of Flesh, associating to The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare.

Whenever I see one of those notches to players who don’t only consume pop culture, but also read classical works, I feel Tickled Pink. It clearly shows that WoW is aiming for a very broad and diverse audience.


Stabs said...

"Sometimes I do wonder though if all the humor in the game is intentional"

I'm sure almost all of it is. I remember reading in 2005 that the game included 20,000 pop culture references.

It's a uniquely Blizzard feature and superbly done.

It's part of the reason why after WoW similar games often feel kind of flat.

Rhii said...

In the mechagnome quests in Borean Tundra you get to borrow Dr. Who's sonic screwdriver for a quest.


Rhii said...

Correction: it's an ULTRAsonic screwdriver.

But I'm still gonna faint.

I <3 The Doctor.

Tesh said...

I'm decidedly a fan of the more literary allusions. (Hemet Nesingwary makes me smile.) The Haris Piltons I can do without.

Still, I much prefer this sort of sly wink to the larger body of entertainment than yet another poop joke.

Busket said...

Wait a sec, Datalore Smallsphere is a reference to characters played by Jonathan Ke Quan in Goonies/Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Data and Shortround respectively).

Isn't it?!?

G-Rebel said...

My wife always wanted to marry McGyver growing up. She got me instead because frankly I'm that much sexier.

But good 'ol McGoyver is busy building a plane in the Fjord; but he hasn't finished because he can't find his pocket-knife, a plastic bottle cap and some chewing gum.

Carra said...

I hope they got it from Iron Maiden as that would mean they have good music taste ;)

I remember having my first walk at the gnome area in Blade's Edge. The whole place is a brilliant satire of Paul Verhoevens Starship Troopers which is one of my all-time favorite movies. They even have a fully scripted attack by bugs every few minutes. And the line "Come on, you [sons of bitches/apes]! Do you wanta live forever? " could of course also come from Heinleins book.

And it's fun to get a reference. How many people are going to know the name of Beowulf? Not many and if you do get it it will make you feel special!

Pangoria Fallstar said...

Not to mention the insane amount of HP Lovecraft references.

You can't have Old Gods without Lovecraft.

Stabs said...

I think the thing I liked most were the valley girl jokes female blood elves make. If you /silly on a female blood elf you get these hilarious dumb blond jokes. I won't spoil them, go try it out if you haven't heard them :-)

Staffan said...

The Horde innkeeper in Thrallmar is named Floyd Pinkus. In the area, sometimes the in-game music changes to "Shine on you crazy diamond".

The bank tellers in Stormwind are named John, Newton, and Olivia Burnside.

The Arathi Basin battlemasters in Shattrath are named Adam Eternum (Alliance) and Keldor the Lost (Horde). These are references to He-Man and Skeletor.

Of course, you have the four turtles in some sort of magic spill in Dalaran, surrounding a far higher-level rat.

Most recently, there's Bronjahm, the Godfather of Souls, who drops things like Papa's Brand New Bag. The music playing in the Forge of Souls is also rather reminiscent of James Brown's work.

Jaedia said...

The cultists in Icecrown seem to worship a giant creepy bunny head, akin to that of Frank in Donnie Darko.

Also loved the Wayne's World reference in the Zangarmarsh quest "she will be mine, oh yes, she will be mine" Nothing Says Lovin' Like A Big Stinger ;)

Anonymous said...

you all have picked your favorite pop culture moments, albeit some specific american ones, after your complete rant out on the inclusion of mr. t mohawk grenades in game... i thought those kinds of things didnt belong "in your game"

Carrie said...

The totally useless Power Converter that you get from Blade's Edge as a quest reward from playing with the transporter things. <3 Star Wars.

Shauly Pore in Netherstorm, in the "Eco Dome"


Steven said...

I think some of my favorites have been the Firefly references from the gnome engineer named Kaylee (K. Lee Smallfry) in Zangermarsh and the poison vendor in Grizzly Hills named Saffron Reynolds...

And of course the who Indiana Jones Spoof in Grizzly Hills...

Skarlarth and Company

Shikyrie said...

There are a TON of Star Trek references in WoW, you just have to know where to look. One of the biggest and most glaring references, which a lot of people surprisingly miss, is Terrokar Forest, and Shattrath City (Terok Nor/DS9.~ look at the layout for Shatt if you don't believe me). Another is the "incarnations of Dax" walking around in the Exodar.

Shikyrie said...

@ Busket:
Datalore Smallsphere could also be a reference to Data and Lore (the Soong androids played by Brent Spiner in Star Trek:Next Generation.)

Larísa said...

@Stabs: That much! Wow! The Wowwiki list covers a fracture of it.

@Rhii: awww. I never watched Dr Who to be honest, but nice that it’s included.

@Tesh: yep. Hemet Nesingwary has CLASS.

@Busket: hm… I would actually go for the Startrek one. But I don’t know for sure without asking a developer.

@G-Rebel: I missed that one. Thanks for pointing it out.

@Carra: Yep. It’s nice when you figure them out by yourself.

Fallstar: oh yeah! I’m a fan of Lovecraft. But I stil haven’t encountered the Color out of Space, one of my favourite short stories by him. Anyone seen it?

@Staffan: About Floyd Pinkus: Really??? I never knew, but then I haven’t played horde, so why would I?

@Jaedia & Steven: More references, thank you!

: it might look contradictive, but I think it’s a huge difference just naming someone and to introduce hand grenades in the game.

@Carrie: Aww… I liked Star Wars, but never noticed that. Probably I’ve seen the movies too few times.

: haha, I’ve never heard that suggestion. Shattrath having the same for as Enterprise. Coincidence or reference, I don’t know.

ithilyn said...

Without question for me: the named mob Ambassador So-in-so in Shadowmoon Valley, who puts up a pally bubble named "Diplomatic Immunity" (a reference to Lethal Weapon 2). Sooo funny.

Shikyrie said...

Actually Shattrath is set up with the same ring layout as the space station Deep Space Nine (the Cardassian name of the station being Terok Nor.) it was mentioned somewhere back in BC, I just forget where it was.

Foxpaw said...

I love all the pop culture references, and here's one that I didn't know about until yesterday. I carpool to work with a friend, and on the way home we were listening to her ipod, which started playing a Depeche Mode song I hadn't heard before. The chorus of the song has the line "Everything counts in large amounts".

That's the name of one of the quests Kum'isha the Collector in the Blasted Lands gives out.