Massively OP really doesn't like WoW's Cataclysm expansion. Observing that "Cataclysm is without a doubt my least favorite expansion for the game", he goes on to give as one of his main objections the overuse of callbacks to contemporary pop culture. Eliot wishes it might be ..."possible to go back to a world without so many zones devoted to making pop cultural references that were dated a year before launch, including an otherwise compelling story in Westfall choked with CSI nods."
It's an interesting point. The last expansion, Warlords of Draenor and the forthcoming Legion both play very heavily on Warcraft's extensive lore. Judging by the excitement in some quarters there are plenty of people who take that kind of thing very seriously.
It probably helps that WoW is a kitsch icon in its own right. When you're playing in a world that provides humorous backstory for characters in some of television's most successful and popular comedy shows it goes some way towards squaring that circle. And anyway, when I came late to World of Warcraft, I came half-expecting an interface between the high renaissance and last week's TV Guide.
That's not quite what I got and reading Eliot's comments I realized why. I just don't get most of the references.
My knowledge of popular culture is good, even excellent, in part. I can give chapter and verse on quite a few musical trends right across the last half century and not only from the days when I actually used to go to see music live, either. My visits to the cinema may be few and far between these days but I keep myself very much up to speed from a variety of critical sources. As for modern fiction of most kinds, popular, serious, children's, teen or adult, well I kind of have to know what's going on there - it's my job.
What I haven't done for more than a decade and a half is watch television. I stopped doing that when I started playing Everquest. Oh, I watch the occasional series on YouTube, usually a few years late, and I know the names of some of the bigger, more talked-about shows because, well, I talk to people. But I have very little idea what happens in those shows, what the characters are called, any of the tropes or memes or catchphrases they generate.
So, when I wandered into Westfall and stumbled over the corpse of Old Blanchy, no CSI alarms went off in my head. I could see that I was involved in a detective story and a murder case, of course, but my frame of reference was Sherlock Holmes not...whoever's in CSI. I don't even know what CSI stands for without looking it up.
It's not just television cues I miss. I also haven't watched a whole slew of key geek/nerd movies or listened to the appropriate heavy metal albums. I'm great on the films of John Hughes or Francois Truffaut but not so hot on those of Stallone or Steven Seagal. I could just about pick Slipknot out of a line-up (well, you'd think so...) and I can hum a couple of Rammstein's catchier numbers but most days I'm more likely to be typing these posts to Israeli dreampop or Lana del Rey.
That's why, although I did, eventually, realize that John J Keeshan was Rambo, it wasn't until I'd already gotten all of his old team back together. I had had the nagging feeling there was something oddly familiar about the set-up for a while but it took a long time for the penny finally to drop. And even then it raised nothing more than a wry smile because I've never seen Rambo.
The very references that set some people's teeth on edge just go straight over my head and the few that I get make very little impact. Even Harris Pilton made me smile. Once.
So no, I don't mind a few pop culture references sprinkled on my MMOs. Provided it's smart and clever and witty and not blindingly obvious and clunkingly embarrassing. Like when some pillock thought it would be such a wheeze to add an NPC called Tavid Dennant to EQ.
What's more I expect it from WoW. If and when I get around to leveling a character through Cataclysm I'll be looking out for these little Easter Eggs and enjoying the ones I spot. I'm betting I'll miss most of them.
Which is probably lucky for me.