WOW is based on Azeroth, a setting in a fantasy universe with some distinct similarities to our world. Some of the coincidences are kitschy, funny even. But at the heart of these japes lies something a bit darker. Blizzard sets up a world where it is easy to hate the players on the other side of the game. From that hate can spring the hate of people and races existing in our World. Blizzard was not always kind to the people they represent with the races in their game.
There are two sides a player must choose when beginning to play WOW. The Horde is made up of Orc, Trolls, Tauren and the Undead. The Alliance consists of Humans, Dwarves, Gnomes and Night Elves. From the very beginning, players are set opposed to each other. The players of the alliance share a common language, as do the horde. Interaction between the two factions is limited to ‘emotes’ some visual, some purely textual motions or gestures the players can make such as cowering, waving, and spitting on the other gamers. Often times in such encounters, there is no time for even rudimentary communication, as players are encouraged and rewarded for slaying members of the opposing faction on sight.
Most people can see the game for what it is, entertainment. Yet some of the players are absorbed by the game and lose perspective on reality. After repeatedly being killed by members of the opposing faction, the rage can build to a point where a player may begin threatening another with real physical attacks. Blizzard set policies in WOW to punish those who threaten others, but the hatred for the opposing faction is never sated, always mounting.
WOW’s races have a great deal of similarities to those of our world, stereo types included. The Dwarves, who speak with a Scottish/Irish accent, have a lot of beginning quests concerning obtaining, delivering and making liquor, implying that the fine folks from the Emerald Isles are drunkards. The Trolls speak with a Jamaican accent, and the dance the males perform is Capoeira, a martial art devised by slaves in the Caribbean islands and South America. Blizzard portrays the trolls aa island folk, like those of Jamaica, and they actively practice various forms of voodoo, witchdoctors being the most important officials in their society. The peaceful Tauren, with their totemic and harmonic lifestyle are representative of Native Americans in their naming practices and garb. Aside from potentially insulting members of these nationalities, Blizzard sets them against other players, furthering hatred for the people of the real world by spurring hate for the digital representations of them in their game.
Walking the line between what is allowable in depiction of a group of people and what is offensive; WOW inspires its players to hate one another. From that hate, the more impressionable, or inclined players would not have a far leap to transfer their hate from the player to the race they play, then to the real life ethnic group from which they are modeled.