The World of Warcraft (WoW) graphics and animations continually amaze me. No matter how often I’ve been to an area, if I linger just a moment I’ll notice a detail or effect I haven’t seen before. Sometimes suddenly in the midst of a quest, an object’s exquisite detail or an animation’s cleverness rivets me – until I’m attacked. Yes, the world of Azeroth is a dangerous place, yet overall there’s something serene about it, sometimes even sublime, especially on the new continent of Pandaria – new, that is, to the warring Horde and Alliance factions but not, of course, to the Pandarens. It’s the wisdom of the peace-loving, beer-brewing Pandarens that I wish to ponder.
A Pandaren quest-giver might greet a player by asking, “What wisdom do you seek?” and send her off by saying, “The world is your teacher,” or by offering this good advice: “Keep your eyes and heart open.” Pandarens will frequently say, “Slow down,” which I find quite humorous when my quest is to heal them in the midst of battle. Overall though, I think it’s good advice, especially when a Pandaren adds, “Life is to be savored.” (Look here for other NPC [non-player character] sayings.)
Perhaps my favorite Pandaren saying, given at times after completing a quest, is “May your deeds live on in story.” Pandarens, like humans, are story-telling animals. They value stories so highly that they set aside one floor of Mogu’Shan Palace, called the Seat of Knowledge, for the library and archeological artifacts of a group of scholars known as Lorewalkers. Lorewalkers are keepers of stories that inform Pandaren history and wisdom. Players can become lorewalkers, too, by collecting stories from scrolls spread across Pandaria. When players collect a set of stories on a particular theme, perhaps about a Pandaren hero or a hostile tribe, they receive another story on a scroll that Lorewalker Cho reenacts on a stage in the library. A number of stories are parables that provide a lesson or make us think, and most all of them are in some way about fighting (a list of all 12 reenacted stories can be found near the bottom of this link).
We WoW players have much to learn from the Pandarens, who rarely tire of teaching us, even at their most irritable. For example, we might be told, “There are better ways to get my attention” or “Perhaps you should get a hobby.” But the most important lesson, in my view, is the Pandaren call to reflect on what’s worth fighting for. One Pandaren saying hints at an answer: “Family. Friends. Food. These are what matter most.” Yet this doesn’t answer the larger question of why people choose to fight when other options are available, or why people like me, in the context of video games, enjoy fighting, people who otherwise promote peace in their rhetoric and lives.
I want to spend more time thinking about why I (and others) enjoy virtual fighting – because it seems so out of character for me, a vegetarian and wannabe pacifist in my everyday life. I want to think more seriously about Pandaren wisdom and lore regarding “why we fight.” But, to quote Scarlett O’Hara, “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.” Meanwhile, back to the game ;^).