I started playing World of Warcraft casually in January 2005. Having spent hundreds of hours with my Paladin in Diablo II, I was left with little choice: If I wanted to continue playing as plate-wearing holy-roller, I had to side with the Alliance.
It wasn't a difficult decision. The Horde were aesthetically unrelatable. Alternately Creature Features and C.O.W.-Boys of Moo Mesa, they simply weren't fun to look at - so they became the enemy. Tepid low-level forays into the Barrens begot Tarren Mill turf wars begot hitting the level cap and spending hours on end staring at my lifeless corpse as it was defiled by another Horde player character, spamming the /spit macro or, classier still, sitting on my face.
I'm not Horde. Neither are my friends, for that matter. So who are Horde? Were they the vile, basement-dwelling mouth-breathers I'd accused them of being during my numerous, expletive laden mental rants? Did playing as such unsightly characters have an averse effect on the player base? What kind of person could relate to a character with open wounds?
I decided to ask.
"I've always been drawn to the underdog," says Jumwa, Troll Shaman and guild leader of the Moon Guard realm's Burning Tusk Tribe. Often considered the last real haven for roleplayers, a stroll around Moon Guard's rendition of Silvermoon City quickly clues you into the incredibly strong, friendly roleplaying environment that lured Jumwa and his compatriots to the realm. His choice of faction was in part due to his chosen race's inspiring back-story. "The Trolls and Orcs really drew me in when I first started playing," he says. "Something about the unassuming, impoverished or downtrodden rising up and accomplishing great things - or failing in the process - always grabs me."
"That, and Trolls are tall," Jumwa adds. "I like tall characters."
Jumwa is correct: Not only are Trolls tall, but they're most certainly underdogs. In Warcraft's mythology, Trolls were forced from their homeland by the burgeoning Night Elves before Kalimdor was torn asunder, spreading the various tribes across the world's two great landmasses. It's a story as American as it is Azerothian: not one of triumph against all odds, but rather one of displacement and enslavement by a populace that has since rewritten the history books. Beneath their menacing veneer, the Horde are victims and losers, the roleplaying of which can allow for dynamic, mature situations.