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Pandystopia: Building A Zen New World Through Randy Panda Sex

October 26, 2011
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We’ve been told we need to wait and see how serious the Pandaran world will be, that we should not assume the content will be “light and fluffy”. There have been a few excellent theories going around about what kind of conflicts we can expect to see in Pandaria. Please do check out Anne Stickney’s “5 Reasons You Should Love Mists of Pandaria”and Rades’, of Orcish Army Knife,  “Meet the New Races of Pandaria” post, to which I owe this extrapolation. One indicator that there are serious, mind-meltingly convoluted reasons to be excited to meet the Pandaren is in the Sha.  Welcome to my tinfoil hat speculation. Do I think any of this will make it into World of Warcraft? No. Do I think it’s badass awesome? Maybe a little.

“And finally we’ve got the Sha. The Sha are really unique. Sha are the manifestation of negative energy on Pandaria. So if you imagine whenever someone gets killed or a fight happens, something like that on the island, any sort of battle (essentially what’s happening with the Alliance and Horde once they get here), it releases Sha energy into the land. It’s kind of a Shadowform creature, you’re going to see it all over the place. Super aggressive…” - Cory Stockton, WoW Lead Content Designer

Okay, so they’re aggressive shadowform creatures that show up when people fight, blah blah. Hold up, “the manifestation of negative energy”? So, the Pandaren have evolved in a world where negative thoughts and actions literally turn into and feed hostile demons.  Can you imagine what that would do to your culture? Have a fight with your wife? Demon shows up. Kids won’t stop pulling each other’s ears? Demon. Go to war with the creepy bug people that live next door? Demons, everywhere. Demons rampaging your villages, demons killing your children.  I’d imagine you’d learn pretty quickly to reduce all signs of conflict in your culture.

What we know about the Pandaren makes them look like a placid, harmonious culture. Metzen says that they’re not motivated by hatred, that they’ve completely subsumed that set of emotions. We know that they’re interested in zen, in the balance of the light and dark, and in meditation, which they can use for physical confrontations and to perform magic, like healing. This is just the sort of culture that might evolve over time when anything short of gentle peace creates shadowy demons running amok.

The existence of the demons might explain why they’ve built a wall dividing them from the Mantids, who have happily stayed on the other side of the wall until an unknown force caused them to go mad and start invading the Pandaren’s land. What caused the Mantid and the Pandaren to build the wall in the first place? If one side had been naturally aggressive, a wall would not have stopped them for millenia. But why couldn’t two reasonably peaceful species learn to share the rich, fertile land of Pandaria? Maybe the natural conflicts of having two such different races, two such different, if equally peaceable and sentient, peoples living in close quarters ended up involuntarily feeding the demons? It would be so tragic if the Pandaren had been forced to choose isolation when confronted with the natural conflicts of interacting with others.

Pandystopia

Speaking of interacting with others, what would Pandaren society do with dissenters? Remember, hostility amongst the people was not just a crime of disruption, theft, violence, etc, it also fed the Sha. If your society was beset by agitators, or even a multitude of people who couldn’t learn zen, you’d soon be overrun with negative energy beings.

It makes sense that the Pandaren would have to have force compliance amongst its population for the safety of all. Pandaren would learn to control their natural emotions and react peaceably, or die at the hands of a shadow monster, or be exiled or even killed in public defense. The Pandaren would naturally create a culture in which everyone’s actions would be everyone’s, perhaps even the government’s, business.  Perhaps the peaceful Pandaren culture we see today is the result of generations of bloody witchhunts for people unable or unwilling to control their emotions. What if the Asian influence was not so much tiger fairy tales as Mao’s Cultural Revolution, pitting family against neighbor, brother against sister, in an attempt to stay safe through orthodoxy?

In the light of this dystopian society, the existence of the Shadow Pandas, a fringe group of Pandaren located in the north, may be more sinister. [I can’t find my source here, so I’m going from memory from BlizzCon. If I say something wrong, please correct me] The Shadow Pandaren are a faction that embrace both the light and dark side of the Chi energies that flow through Pandaren. Perhaps they were formed out of exiles from mainstream Pandaren society, who insisted that only the light side could be indulged, to avoid spawning Sha. Perhaps the Shadow Pandaren are outcasts, or even escapees, who were willing to face down demons in order to honestly feel their own emotions, both light and dark. This trope comes from a rich historic line, of a camp of scorned rebels facing down injustice or drugged oblivion for authenticity, despite the many dangers.

It also throws sinister overtones onto the Pandaren’s love of scrolls, literature, and written histories, along with their Loremaster faction. When your culture has evolved to be stoic to the extreme, controlling information might be a primary interest for the Pandaren who protect society. The why and wherefore of the society’s inability to embrace conflict could be a well protected state secret, with a propaganda machine intended to explain and obfuscate the truth. After all, wouldn’t society be calmer if they were told “we’re calm because we’re zen masters” and not “we’re peaceable people because if you start a fight, a demon might show up and eat your daughter, if we don’t muzzle you first.”

Coping Mechanisms and Insane Tinfoil Hat Theories

The Pandaren are thus faced with a permanent enemy that they cannot control head-on. They cannot fight the Sha, because the violence inherent in conflict would simply empower the shadow creatures. Instead, they must come to terms with coping mechanisms.

As the hippies say, MAKE LOVE, NOT WAR. If there’s anything the opposite of violence, it’s positivity and love. Perhaps the Pandaren, millenia ago, discovered that love-making would disempower the Sha, maybe even cause them to hibernate or disappear. This also provides a hilarious contrast with the stereotypes of earth’s pandas, who are notoriously difficult to breed and notoriously disinterested in copulation. I’d love to imagine the almost gender neutral (to us outsiders) Pandaren as fat and furry Lotharios. Yes, bring on the naughty bear sex, Blizzard.

Then again, perhaps the Pandaren are not so unlike earth’s Pandas, and have difficulty copulating. Perhaps they have low libidos, or perhaps Pandaren just find the opposite sex horrifically unattractive.  In a world where sexytime is the best guard against demons, they would want to encourage any cultural activities that lower inhibitions and engender romance. Something like, perhaps, brew mastery? Ringing any bells? Oh yeah. Drunk panda orgies. That’s what you’re coming to Flavor Text Lore for.

Another element of natural good will bound to offset the negativity of the Sha would be Pandaren cubs. Panda cubs are insanely adorable, and Samwise’s concept art of Pandaren children, especially his daughter, is no exception.

Zookeepers feed and play with panda cubs

Look at that black and white furry cuteness. I am filled with inner peace just looking at this!

Samwise Didier's drawing of a Pandaren and son in a cart.

The love of a happy Pandaren family might be enough to keep the Sha at bay, with careful management.

If children were enough to keep the Sha under control, there would be strong evolutionary and cultural pressure for Pandaren to have many children. Many children. So very many children. So many children that it might begin to be difficult to feed them all. After all, the Pandaren do live in an isolated environment with no room for expansion, and have few, if any, natural predators. They evolved sharing the land with the Mantid, who are well known to cannibalize their children and mates. If just LOOKING at a Pandaren cub could soothe a Sha, can you imagine how potent they would be if… digested?

Can you imagine having to cope with a peaceful, benevolent society that gently sacrificed its children to keep their shadow demons hibernating? Would we blame them for their apparent callousness, or would we accept it as a tragic consequence of living in a world infested with demons, like Arthas culling Stratholme. That would be some stirring conflict that Blizzard will never in a million years put in this game.

A Sha holds a folk while examining a pile of sleeping panda cubs.

Delicious, Soothing Pandaren Babies

Reasonable Extrapolations

I think it’s safe to say we won’t have any “throw your cubs into the volcano to appease the angry shadow gods” subplots on Pandaria. But that’s not to say the idea of having malificent shadow energies couldn’t be used in less dramatic ways.

For example, perhaps the Pandaren are able to keep the Sha controlled through self-control and management. Eastern cultures often have family shrines where ancestors are worshipped and gods are honored. Let’s check in with the art panel….
A collection of small shrines from the Blizzcon Art Panel

Yup, there they are! Instead of honoring ancestors, though, what if the shrines were in fact housing compartments for the family’s Sha. Perhaps the Pandaren are able to channel the inevitable hostilities and negativity of daily life into a small demon, rather than letting it coalesce into a larger, more dangerous, and less controllable creature.  Then they can defuse the energy by careful meditation. Pandaren mothers put their children to bed, saying, “Be nice to your sister or the literal monster in your actual closet will come out and eat you.”

There’s also some legitimate connections to be made between a “Light” creature that mysteriously speaks Demonic. (Go read Rades’ post now if you haven’t yet!)  Pandaria has been separated from the rest of Azeroth since at least the Sundering, meaning they may have dealt with consequences from the Burning Legion’s attempts to take over Azeroth through the original Well of Eternity that would be utterly unfamilar to the rest of us. Perhaps the Sha are a harbringer under the control of the Burning Legion, a perfectly insidious plot, since the hostility required to destroy them would only make them stronger, a demon that feeds on healthy emotions twisted. Or perhaps they’re not under the Burning Legion, but an eddy, a swirl in the Light force created by the methods the Burning Legion use to break into new worlds. Perhaps they’re the shadow, the chi balance, to the destruction of the original Burning Legion?

I’d love to see how Blizzard explains this odd Demonic connection. Also, it provides a perfect tie in to some of the classic villains of Warcraft. We know there are forces controlling the Aspects, forces controlling even perhaps the Burning Legion. This expansion needs to move through some of these ideas from Thrall: Twilight of the Aspects to move us into the end of Mists of Pandaria and the future of Warcraft. We need to know how the Burning Legion, the Scourge, and  the Old Gods are just toys in some greater plan, even if the whole mystery is not solved immediately.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Lani permalink*
    October 26, 2011 6:43 pm

    I’m going to get this ball rolling. I love this post. I love it so much. XD

  2. October 27, 2011 7:45 am

    There is not much of my brain left on this rainy morning, but this post has eaten the last of it. So much to adore.

  3. Hamlet permalink
    October 27, 2011 7:49 am

    I hereby affirm that I have read this post from beginning to end.

  4. October 27, 2011 9:07 am

    I am so ridiculously entertained by the idea of the Pandaren not fighting off the Sha through deep inner peace and harmony, but by wild bear sex and OMG CUTE BABY PANDAS. But seriously, I can only imagine how rigidly, artificially cheerful and calm the Pandaren must be, terrified of getting mad/sad/angry and UNLEASHING THEIR DEMONS (literally). “Oh, hello adventurers…I see you’re cutting down our pristine forest and riling up the other races into conflict and war? *frozen, teeth-clenched grin* How…wonderful…”

  5. October 27, 2011 9:53 am

    Best part is the evil demon hovering over the baby pandas with a FORK! :)
    Yeah, I think that is about all I got out of this essay. :)

    ….with a FORK!

  6. October 27, 2011 4:49 pm

    The teeth-clenched remark *lol*.

    I think zen will be an interesting theme. I don’t think its hard to have a culture where violent/aggressive dissent is thoroughly shunned in favor of more intelligent ways of dealing with issues. It just shows these bears are the *only* civilization in Azeroth.

  7. Azretha permalink
    October 28, 2011 2:54 am

    Random comment of the day: the first Samwise art pic is a reference to a famous manga called Lone Wolf and Cub, I think. (cub, babycart ….)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Wolf_and_Cub

  8. Mythrai permalink
    October 28, 2011 6:32 am

    What’s interesting though, is that belief in zen never precluded a complete divorce from violence. Indeed, the zen monks became the primary means for samurai and/or shaolin monks to become harder, better, faster, stronger. (that song is now in your head.) From what I saw of Pandaria through the starter zone, which definitely had a strong Chinese and therefore perhaps shaolin temple element, was that fighting and violence was not wrong but rather an important aspect of life to Pandaren.

    I feel Narci, it actually makes a stronger case for your argument rather than weakens it. I’m kind of jumping to Japanese rather than Chinese lore because I’m a little more comfortable with it, but the aspects of zen and sacrifice were pretty well-documented in forms of self-immolation or seppuku. Not just male warriors, but women as well could be samurai and live within zen. Even children, raised within zen, would live with it and understand it.

    IDK lots of interesting thoughts to pursue. good post!

  9. October 28, 2011 12:16 pm

    I must say, this was a great post. I just stumbled upon your blog and your writing style reminds me a lot of Tam from Righteous Orbs.

    Added to my blogroll.

  10. Belinus permalink
    October 28, 2011 1:34 pm

    I find this incredible fascinating, having just finished a graduate dissertation on the moral and material metaphysics fo Paradise Lost. The idea that moral action has physical result in Pandaria, as it does in the theology of John Milton, raises intriguing and difficult questions in what is, essentially, a combat oriented game.

    I always appreciated systems such as “reputation” or “virtue” in games like Baldur’s Gate, but they were static numbers, with no real influence. For there to be a real difference in the gameplay because of this could be vastly difficult to implement, but also incredibly compelling.

  11. Narci permalink*
    October 29, 2011 2:02 am

    @Darraxus – Thank you, it’s a huge compliment being compared to Tam! Welcome to the blog!

    @Myth – Scaling back the “sensitivity” of the Sha definitely provides better/more realistic ways they could impact game play. I mean, obviously, the Pandaren are able to instigate violence, as long as it’s culturally justified. In the starting zone, you murder the bunny things for destroying your fields and the monkey kobolds for stealing your beer. They’re able to be mages and priests and martial artists and rogues and warriors. They’re not a pacifist society, they just have a very zen and balanced way of meeting…meating? metting? ffff. doling out violence and justice. Something akin to druidism but much more cultural instead of religious, and more central to their entire culture than druidism is to any of the other races.

    @Belinus – It IS interesting to see how they decide to implement the chi forces in game. Right now I think they’re two resource sets that spend independantly, rather like DK runes, but maybe it could be set so you’d have to use dark chi to gain light chi and vice versa. Or a system where if you were balanced between the two, you did better dps/threat/healing. Kind of a combination of the balance druid’s eclipse bar and the DK rune system. If that’s how they do it, it’d be the first time that a class’s resource system really had an RP explanation, though warrior rage does come close. (I play a moonkin and I don’t really personally find the eclipse bar mechanic compelling game play, so I don’t necessarily HOPE they’ll base the monk class on that idea.)

  12. Narci permalink*
    October 29, 2011 2:04 am

    @ Azretha -

    You’re right, it’s definitely a tribute, though I didn’t recognize it as such. (I’ve never been a big Manga reader.) Cynwise did a great blog post about Lone Wolf and Cub and Panderia you might be interested in. http://cynwise.posterous.com/on-lone-wolf-and-cub-oriental-adventures-and

  13. Narci permalink*
    October 29, 2011 2:18 am

    @Hamlet – I REFUSE?

    @Jenn – Truth be told, this entire blog post was inspired by wanting to share that picture of a Sha with a fork. Omg. It’s my own terrible photoshop and I’m still giggling at it. WITH A FORK.

  14. Shofie permalink
    October 30, 2011 12:42 pm

    Vigo the Carpathian just misses his kitt-pandaren.

  15. October 31, 2011 5:59 pm

    This definitely tickles my lore funny bone that tends to take everything nice and fluffy and fantastic and turn it into something so dark it’d make Orwell tell me to tone it down a smidge.

    Makes you wonder if the Pandaren on the Wandering Isle didn’t leave due to “wanderlust”, but maybe to escape persecution or maybe even were exiled much like the Kaldorei purged the highborne.

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