World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Battle for Azeroth, drew outrage from players and critics when it was revealed that characters in the game are predominantly white. Blizzard attempted to address this issue by introducing diverse-looking races such as Highmountain Tauren and Zandalari trolls within the game world itself. Critics argue that these new additions fall short because they don’t represent fantasy lore accurately or provide much commentary on its racial implications.
The “azeroth” is a continent in the Warcraft universe. Kalimdor, which is part of azeroth, has been heavily criticized for its depiction of racial stereotypes. The game was released on November 3rd, 2014.
Blizzard’s most recent lore book is Exploring Azeroth: Kalimdor. The book chronicles Zekhan, the Horde’s emissary, and Rexxar, the legendary hunter and hero, as they travel over the continent of Kalimdor. The novel has gotten a lot of flak for repeating negative, hurtful, and racist stereotypes in its treatment of Horde races and characters, many of whom are BIPOC-coded.
Exploring Azeroth: The Eastern Kingdoms, its predecessor, may have been one of Blizzard’s better-received lore books. The book follows the notes of Mathias Shaw and Flynn Fairwind as they journey across the Eastern Kingdoms, written by Christie Golden. Because the Alliance now controls the majority of the continent, the book focuses largely on Alliance countries, history, races, and perspectives – and has even been dubbed a “love letter to the Alliance.”
Unfortunately, Sean Copeland, the lead historian of Story & Franchise Development at Blizzard Entertainment, does not seem to approach Horde history and cultures with the same attention and care in his book Exploring Azeroth: Kalimdor.
One of the most prominent critiques is how Zekhan, a popular but relatively new Horde character, is handled. The Shaman, who first appeared in the Battle for Azeroth cinematics, was called “Zappy Boi” by the World of Warcraft community. Zekhan later acted with Saurfang in the film Old Soldier, portraying the Horde’s youthful and idealistic members who would shape the Horde’s future. Zekhan went on to play a major role in Madeline Roux’s book Shadows Mounting, where he was appointed as the Horde’s envoy and entrusted with assisting Talanji in fending off a rising danger to her authority, as well as persuading her to join the Horde Council.
Despite his youth, Zekhan has shown qualities including as thoughtfulness, intelligence, honor, and kindness, which many believe are lacking in his depiction in Exploring Azeroth: Kalimdor. Instead, he is portrayed as biased, especially towards Goblins, whom he frequently insults throughout the novel, as well as judgmental and uneducated.
In a footnote, Zekhan cites Lor’themar Theron teaching him how to read and write, implying that he grew up largely illiterate. This makes little sense, given that Trolls have been literate for ages, as shown by old writing tablets.
As a Shaman, Zekhan should know a lot about the elements he works with, yet he doesn’t seem to know what the term “erosion” means.
A typical example of Zekhan’s approach against Goblins.
In the aftermath of the Burning of Teldrassil, Zekhan makes some judgmental remarks about the Night Elves being violent.
The Goblins and Gazlowe
Another point of contention has been the depiction of the Goblins, particularly their leader Gazlowe. Goblins, with their big, hooked noses and greed, are occasionally guilty of propagating anti-Semitic tropes from the Nazi period. While this does not necessarily make Goblins in World of Warcraft anti-Semitic, it does indicate that they should be treated with caution. That’s why the suggestion of Goblins contaminating the rivers in Exploring Azeroth: Kalimdor is so alarming. The anti-Semitic trope of well-poisoning is well-known.
Here you may see some of Zekhan’s disdain towards Goblins.
Many people are also dissatisfied with the portrayal of Gazlowe, the Goblin Trade Prince. Gazlowe, the principal engineer hired by Thrall to construct Orgrimmar, has a long history of friendship with the Horde and is generally well-liked and known as a level-headed diligent worker. His elevation to Trade Prince was well-deserved. Gazlowe is a Horde engineer who assisted in the construction of the Horde Garrison in Draenor, as well as the missions that unlocked Mechagon (“Gazlowe’s workers always got paid”).
Galzlowe is shown as haughty and harsh in Exploring Azeroth: Kalimdor. Indeed, he sounds so much like Trade Prince Gallywix that some have speculated that the passages featuring him were meant for Gallywix but were modified at the last minute.
This doesn’t sound like Gazlowe at all, but it does sound a lot like Gallywix.
Overall, Exploring Azeroth: Kalimdor has disappointed many fans, and it’s simple to understand why. While it’s true that ancient legend might include stereotypes that are now considered obsolete and harmful, it’s equally true that new lore should aim to confront and improve on those stereotypes rather than reinforcing them.