Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday of Warcraft: Pop-Culture Edition

This week I am putting What the?! Wednesday on hold. We're doing Wednesday of Warcraft! My top 5 pop-culture references in the game, plus some honorable mentions.

Feel free to skip this well-written but wordy intro and just dive into the list. I won't be offended. Well, not much. But then again, how will I know unless you tell me? It's not like I'm gonna quiz you. But I might... Sooooo, maybe you should read the intro.

I'll be honest with you...

I have not Googled to see if I'm beating a dead horse (what a ghastly figure of speech, right? I move it be retired in favor of "beating a dead rapist," 'cause can you really beat a rapist too much?). So, having not Googled, I am unaware of any other articles out there in the Interwebs which have already covered the material. However, given the age of the game and the pop-culture saturation within the game world, I am all but positive that someone else, or many someone elses, have already done an ample job.

But here's the thing, I feel like writing about it. So, if you've read it before, well, too bad. Read it again. You might learn something, ya slacker.

When I first set eyes on Azeroth, the virtual world which has since pilfered a great many days of my real life, I was awestruck. It was another world, a world where I was no longer a boring retail-working, fast-food eating James, but Orc-slaying, tiger-riding Melchizidek - Night Elf Hunter. 

In Azeroth I could lose myself, leaving behind everything in my boring life as I worked my way through the zones and levels of my exciting fictional life, leaving a wake of slain monsters and bandits in my path. But it wasn't long before some things from my boring life began to make cameos in my cooler life. I ran into Hollywood socialites and Food Network stars; 80's icons and characters from video games of the past. But the World of Warcraft didn't beat me over the head with those things. It was just enough to make me smile and remember how much I actually do enjoy and value my boring life, because without it I would have no idea what these references are!

Following is a sampling of the pop-culture references I have come across in World of Warcraft. It's obviously not an exhaustive list, and it's certainly not in any specific order. So check it out and leave a comment with your favorite! 

  1. Point Break
    We'll start with a quick one, and one which is close to mi corazon. In the Cataclysm end-game raid, Dragon Soul, there's an encounter on an airship called the Skyfire with the boss Warmaster Blackhorn. There's skydiving (like in Point Break!). There's Patrick Swayze (Sky Captain Swayze). There's Keanu Reeves (Ka'anu Reevs). There's the Wyrmstalker's Headguard, which I think I'm still transmogged to... But that's not a reference to Point Break. It's just a pretty cool looking hunter helmet.
  2. The Ring (Ringu)
    In the city of Dalaran there is an inaccessible well. It's covered by a grate that cannot be opened by any means in the universe, not even the Pirate's Crowbar (apparently the only crowbar in Azeroth). But, if you're an engineer and if you have the item, Wormhole Generator: Northrend, every once in a while when you use the device a new area - The Underground - will be available. The Underground is actually just one small section of the underground area of Dalaran, specifically, a well, as mentioned previously. In that well is a female Forsaken (undead) by the name of Kay Toogie.

    Listen up, the name is the key, in case an undead girl with black hair at the bottom of a sealed well wasn't enough for you. You may have noticed that Kay Toogie is an unusual name. So unusual that it almost sounds like whoever named her was trying to use her name as a hint. Track with me.

    The American movie The Ring is based on a Japanese film named Ringu, which I am told is not a second-rate spaghetti sauce brand. Ringu is, in turn, based on a Japanese novel by the same name. As it turns out, the Japanese have more than just Ringu. They also have a teen-pop band named Puffy AmiYumi. You may know them from when they did the theme song for the excellent Teen Titans cartoon, but they had another song on the show named, K2G. Sound familiar? Just sound it out and then say Kay Toogie. See, K2G sounds just like Kay Toogie. Actually, vice versa...

    So, yes - Samara can follow you ANYWHERE.

    If you haven't seen The Ring, I apologize for any spoilers, but come on, I gave you like 12 years to get caught up!
  3. Link from The Legend of Zelda
    Interestingly, Link's name in Japan is Rinku... (see above)

    In Azeroth's original Jurassic Park, Un'Goro Crater, there used to be a Gnomish questgiver in a green tunic and cowl, named Linken, who carried a sword, shield, and boomerang. He gave a quest chain which, if completed, would score your character some nifty stuff that you'd use for a week and then put in your bank, where it will stay till the end of the World... of Warcraft. And the reason you will never sell it or trash it is because it once belonged to a little elfy, Peter-Pan-looking dude who saved the world a few times. Sentimental value beats bank slot conversation every time. Now, those quests are no longer available, but Linken is still in the game, and is sometimes a helper on daily quests in Mount Hyjal.

    The now-retired quest chain would allow your character to obtain Linken's Boomerang, as well as your choice between Linken's Sword of Mastery, (a clear reference to Link's Master Sword), or an off-hand item called Spirit of Aquementus, which is a reference to a recurring boss in the Legend of Zelda game series.

    If you're interested in all of the references to Zelda within the quest chain check out the comments thread on the quest here.
  4. X-Files
    Two of my all-time favorite television characters have been immortalized... again. I guess being characters in a hit television series that lasted for nine seasons and inspired a new generation of paranormal pop-culture (including my upcoming web comic, Investigators) has already immortalized them. Nonetheless, Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully have been given their place in the Warcraft canon as Agent Skully and Deathguard Molder, two Forsaken NPC's, (although Skully is disguised as a human).

    Incidentally, the phrase "trust no one" is in both of their greeting scripts. Any X-Files fan is aware of this phrase's importance in the series.
  5. Ace Ventura Pet Detective
    I just love that movie... and the second one - "And you must be... the Monopoly guy!" Anyway, the detective himself may be absent from Azeroth, but his nemesis from the first film, Ray Finkle/Lois Einhorn is not. In Upper Blackrock Spire there's a Gnomish NPC named Finkle Einhorn, but you won't meet him until you skin The Beast, in whose stomach Finkle has been trapped, after being eaten of course, because the only other way to get in there is... well... let's not speak of such things.
Well, there are my top five pop-culture references, but here are some honorable mentions: The television chefs, Mario Batali (Bario Matalli), Bobby Flay (Robby Flay), and Gordon Ramsay (Gordon Tramsay); Mr. T. (Night Elf Mohawk - a reference to his hilarious World of Warcraft commercials that can be found here and here); and the late, great Harold Ramis (Harold Raims), as well as his character from Ghostbusters, Egon Spengler (Egan), and of course the Ghostbusters' blaster from their proton pack (Egan's Blaster).

Lastly, Harold Ramis isn't the only dearly departed celebrity the WoW devs have paid tribute to. Robin Williams, who we all know died recently (and tragically) has already been introduced into World of Warcraft in three forms, although currently only in beta. He's a genie in one version named simply Robin, which is obviously referencing his role as Genie in Aladdin. In a second incarnation he's Robin The Entertainer and is a nod to his role in Mrs. Doubtfire. His third appearance is that of a second Robin The Entertainer, which strongly resembles Mork from Ork, which was an alien character he played on the old TV show Mork and Mindy (for those of you too young to have seen the show).

I would've included Robin Williams in the main list, but I haven't encountered him yet, and the list was supposed to be things I've already encountered, and I figured it would be a good finisher.

So, what's your favorite pop-culture reference in WoW? For a pretty extensive list (you will scroll and scroll and scroll) head over to Wowpedia and check out their article here.

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