Ever since BlizzCon, when the expansion and the playable race were revealed, I’ve read a lot about Kung Fu Pandas.
I’ve never felt the desire to comment about Pandas before now, but there seems to be a rising narrative that I want to rebut and rebuke before it simply becomes “what everyone thinks” from inertia and a lack of pushback.
It feels stupid to even acknowledge the ignorance, but what the hell. It’s annoying me, I’m not seeing anyone address it, and whether you feel what I say about it is appropriate or accurate or not, I’ll feel better for having said it.
The playable race is Pandas. Pandas are cool. Deal with it.
I’ve seen people talk about how they hate the pandas, the idea of pandas, how stupid pandas are, multiple references to Kung Fu Panda, and my personal favorite, repeated statements that nobody out there wants to play a panda as a heroic character because they’re fat and stupid and uncool and, like, whatever.
First off, and my biggest point.
Speak for yourself. Don’t speak to what “everyone” thinks, or “everyone” wants, because you just come across sounding like what that shit is: stupid or ignorant or both.
All you can speak towards is what YOU think. You’ve got no idea what other people think. All you know is what you think in your head, and what you’ve seen people publicly say in the locations you go to.
If you surround yourself with alcoholics, and then ask if drinking is the best thing ever, you’re going to get a certain point of view. It’ll likely be damn close to unanimous in favor of the awesomeness of booze. Ask that same question at an AA meeting, and you’ll likely get a different answer.
So just shut up about telling us what “everyone” thinks based on what you think coupled with the opinions you’ve read in the places you frequent. Or, as I like to put it, stop giving us your knowledge learned in the school of “What some guy said in a pub.”
I’m saying you’re full of shit, in case I’m being too vague. You not only don’t speak for everyone, you CAN’T speak for everyone. Nor can you speak for a majority of people, about ANYTHING.
What, you did a Rasmussen poll? Who did you contact? Where? The forums? Oh yeah, that’s representative of the playerbase as a whole. Some blog? Your college dorm friends? What is your sampling size? What backgrounds and demographics are represented?
This goes for every damn thing out there. I don’t care what the topic is. Shit, even if we’re talking cannibalism. You can assume that nobody in the entire world is in favor of cannibalism, but you don’t KNOW. All you really know is what you think and what you feel inside your own head, and sometimes you don’t even know that.
Haven’t you ever heard of repressed feelings, and living in denial?
Maybe eveyone in the world secretly wonders what people taste like, but nobody dares to mention it for fear of being thought a freak. You don’t really know? Do you?
If you want to say something about what you think, say what you think. Don’t try to bolster your argument by acting like everyone else thinks the same as you, if you disagree you’re not cool. Outsider, unclean, conform, conform.
Bullshit. Yes, speak your mind. If you think pandas suck, fine. Say so, loud and long, based on YOUR thoughts and feelings.
But don’t tell me that “everyone else thinks they suck, too”. Red flag, BULLSHIT ALERT. BULLSHIT ALERT.
Let’s move on to more Panda-specific ranting, on the race and on role playing in general.
People say Pandas aren’t cool. Aren’t neat. Are stupid as a playable race.
Here is where tastes divurge.
I think Pandas in general look pretty cool. When I see them hugging a tree, or eating a piece of sugarcane, I go “d’awww.” So cute! For all I know they might be mean little buggers in real life, with nasty claws and a bad temper. No idea.
More specifically, I think the Pandaran race in World of Warcraft looks very cool. When you see them in motion, there is a graceful flow to them that is very nice. I made a male Panda Warrior, and the two handed sword combat looks super-cool. It brings back fond memories of watching old Kung Fu movies when I was a child.
They are very graceful, without being explosions of macho muscle. They seem deadly like a keen edge, not a battering ram. And yet, the males Pandaren are physically huge, without being aggressively muscular.
So, you don’t think they’re cool? I do. I’ve given some reasons already, and I’ll have more further down. If your reason for why they’re not cool is to say, “Well, duh, ’cause they’re pandas” I say, not good enough. Back it up.
Now, I’m going to really delve into my own personal opinion on role playing games, playing, and what I think is at the heart of all the panda hate as a race.
Total speculation, my opinion, based on my own personal experiences playing pen and paper role playing games for many years, both in High School and for eight years with Marines that also played.
I know some people play role playing games to live vicariously through the lives of their characters.
I have known people I’ve played with who heavily invested themselves in the character they created. They played their character to feel things and do things, and act in ways through their character that they either could not or would not in the real world.
These were characters, yes, but they were also surrogate selves. They were the people my friends wished they were, or were like, instead of the reality.
Some of them, yes, played their character to feel powerful and badass. Some of them were Marines I’ve known. It may surprise you, but Marines can feel powerless and ineffective in the real world too. They played to feel some control, some power, some feeling of success.
I’m not just guessing. Some of my good friends and I would bullshit about this stuff all the time, they knew they did it, and copped to it. In some cases, freely admitted that they did it as a stress relief. Work may have really sucked and the Sergeant has been giving them a ration of shit lately, by damn let’s get this game going, I want to blow some shit up.
I say, good. Whatever you do that helps you feel better, and doesn’t involve hurting other people is just fine with me.
I’d much rather someone feel powerful by playing a badass in an RPG than that they get out on the open road in a 2 ton car and decide that by God they were going to make people fear them today and touch someone else’s life whether they like it or not.
It’s not just about feelings of power or control, either.
I’ve also known people that had a public face, professional, restrained, even proper, but when playing a role-playing game felt safe enough or free enough to act completely different than they ‘normally’ would. To be flirty or unrestrained, as one example, but also to act loud and brash, or argumentative and bullheaded instead of going along to get along, or other behaviors that they just didn’t feel right doing in real life.
Part of role playing is it’s not real. It’s a safe environment to let you do shit you yourself don’t do in the real world, because that’s not who you really are, but let’s pretend for a short time.
Sometimes, how you or someone else acts in the anonymity of the internet isn’t who you really are inside, it might be someone you are exploring being, a path not taken, someone you’ve never been, just to try it on where it’s ‘make-believe’. What else IS role playing, if not trying on something that ain’t really you?
They’re role-playing games. This is the whole point, doing things and experiencing things through a character that ain’t you. Sometimes you’re working out issues, sometimes, you’re just exploring the possibilities.
Hopefully, doing it inside a fictional storyline, being interactive and playing with friends makes it all one big fun time.
But, if you do play the your character in the game to feel like a powerful badass, then a character race or class that you identify with that feeds into a sense of personal power would be what you want, not some soft cuddly panda.
I get that.
In pen and paper role playing games, the races chosen by players seeking personal power would be the big gonzo things, the giants, half-giants, orcs, dragonkin, half-dragons, etc. Massive super-powerful, imposing, rippling muscles and ragged loincloths or big spiky armor. Honking big axes, flaming swords, that kind of thing.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Damnit, it’s one of the things that I like best about role playing games, we’re adults, we can damn well play make believe in any way and for whatever reason that we want to. There isn’t a ‘right way’ to play a role playing game.
But maybe that is why people say they don’t like the pandaren playable race, or think they’re not cool?
The person playing to be a powerful badass wishes they’d gotten something badass and powerful like dragons or dragonkin as a playable race, or something else large and imposing and covered in spikes or rippling muscles. Something that fits a different definition of ‘cool’. A definition that gets fed by the covers of video game magazines, muscle car magazines, and the Shooting Times.
I don’t know. I’m wondering, and yes I’m projecting, but I’m trying like hell to figure out where all the panda rage is coming from, and I’m drawing some blanks here.
In short, I’m wondering if most of the rage at Pandas as a playable race is coming from people who wanted a race to feed their power fantasies better.
If you don’t like pandas or are raging against them, if that’s your thing, go for it.
But don’t go out there and start talking about how everyone hates them and nobody would play one, or how stupid they are, and expect it to go unchallenged.
I love the panda characters, their style, their feel. They are very interesting as potential characters.
They cry out for stories, for adventures, for making their way in a fictional world, stumbling into trouble and trying to learn more about the outside they’ve never known before. And all of this with a positive, open, curious frame of mind.
The pandas to me are a playable race where, finally, we don’t have a legacy of war and patriotism and old feuds and fury. We’ve got a race that can wander out in the world, not to kill or dominate or impose their will on others, but to see, to explore, and to learn.
Pandas are the good stewards, looking to leave things as they find them, to learn from what they see, and to offer aid to those that need it regardless of who they are.
I for one am grateful to have a new race that is more open to having a different point of view, a more peaceful, reflective mood as a foundation to build on.
Oh shit. Wait, I just thought. Is peace not cool, either?