Posted by: Jess Riley | September 29, 2008

Theme Week Draenei: Keeping Up Appearances?

Consider the physical look of the draenei. They are tall – the tallest race in the game besides the tauren, if I’m not mistaken, at 7 to 7 1/2 feet – and, in the case of the males, very broad, with cloven hooves and reptilian tails. Their skin is “unnatural” in colour, ranging from pale blue to dark purple, and the females, at least, have horns protruding from their temples.

Given that all these traits are ones that have been prescribed to the devil of the Judeo-Christian tradition, is it any wonder that much of the original Eredar (who, presumably, looked much the same) became evil and corrupt? When viewed from this perspective, the analogues with real-world mythology and religion seem quite clear – and yet the draenei are the uncorrupted ones (and given their history and the forces of temptation laid out against them, seem potentially uncorruptable), the most unequivocably Good of the Alliance that they might as well have halos. No one expects us to believe that this is a coincidence, do they?

Now, this may all just be coincidence. Maybe I’m just trying to scare up some kind of conspiracy theory, because Warcraft lore can be far too short on examples of Jesus in Purgatory. But for the purposes of my post, let’s run with it, and say that there is some allegory there; after all, I think that at the least we can extend me enough credit to suggest that this was intentional as far as the demons (also descended from the Eredar, of course) are concerned, even if the design of the draenei was just derived from this and not directly from Satan, as I’ve suggested above.

Of course, the fact that the wonderful and good draenei and the evil and corrupt demons are both descended from the same race is so full of allegory that it makes my English student side weep for joy. But that’s getting off-track here; my whole point here is about how the draenei look.

Not only do the draenei look rather like demons – and we can’t overlook the fact that the other Alliance races would recognise this fact, if they ever had a lot to do with demons before – they (the females in particular) are cute monsters the whole way. Really. You take any one of the traits out of the draenei context, and they’re just not all that fine. Discoloured skin? Horns? Cloven hooves? Thanks, but no thanks. But look at them – I’m not saying I’d want one in my personal bed, but they’re cute and curvy and perfectly attractive, for weird halo-demon things. They’re certainly much more good-looking than the males, with their bulging, overblown muscles and octopuses attached to their faces tentacles.

Now, if we assume that this ‘attractiveness’ is an actual game trait, and not just what the models look like for the sake of fanservice, that has some serious implications in roleplay. (Yes, you were wondering when I was going to get to that, weren’t you?)

For a start, virtually all the other races are going to be physically looking up at them at all times, and that has some notable effect on the way people are treated. Short people tend to know this well – when you’re looking up at someone, it’s hard to treat them the same way as if you’re looking at them eye-to-eye, or looking down at them. It may not be actual awe, but certainly I don’t think draenei get hassled as much by the criminal elements in Stormwind, for example.

Further, as I mentioned above, anyone who is familiar with demons is going to realise that draenei have a lot of superficial similarities to the demons, and with good reason. If they’re familiar with the story of the draenei, this may not mean much – but if they’re inexperienced, and there’s plenty of reasons to be inexperienced, this could cause a wealth of reactions to meeting a draenei, from fear and alarm to deep-seated suspicion. Heck, given their history – it’s very possible to be suspicious or fearful of a draenei without the demon connection. They’re known for being a very religious race with close ties to the Light; surely that’s not going to come across well to a cheerful agnostic, and even a lot of human or dwarf priests of the Light are going to be a little wary of that. They practice differently, after all, and that may not bode well.

And of course, the cute monster factor – I’m willing to write this off as being more the model than the actual lore answer to what the characters look like, given the blood elves and how they look, but if we assume that the draenei women are actually unnervingly good-looking, how is this going to affect a member of another race? Most people aren’t all that attracted to people who look so different, and there’s a lot of reasons for that, but if you get a bit of an odd-ball who can thoroughly see what to find attractive in a draenei woman… well, let’s just say that things probably get a bit awkward in his head, and he may not be able to put his finger on exactly why.

Or possibly I’m a pervert, because I admit, I’d love to see a gnome who gets a bit confused and embarassed around female draenei.


  1. You know darn well I play a gnome who gets confused and embarrassed around both male and female draenei, although this is more because she’s in love with their technology and finds curious parallels between her people’s exile and their own.

  2. Playing a draenei, you become familiar with “Space goat”, “Tentacle monster” or somesuch -terms when someone is referring to your character, but sadly I don’t think Arcanya has once been called a Demon spawn.

    When Blizzard did the research on demons, they have definitely used bible inspired drawing as reference materials to a degree. Those are the characteristics that give us the mindset on what a demon should look alike. At one point the designers have decided that the Draenei are demon ascendants, thus they have to have something visual that links them to their past.

    This is when Game Design and Graphical Style come to play – Thing about the WoW characters is that you know what race and what gender someone is from far away – usually at least. Each character has their own unique ‘silhouette’ which, to a degree, forces the character to look certain way.

    And good looking characters and are nice to look at and they sell better than ugly ones. As harsh as it may sound – never underestimate the boob -factor when it comes to computer games.

  3. Arcanya, the phrase “never underestimate the boob” is now going to be a permanent part of my vocabulary.

  4. One of the draenei starter quests has a nice homage to their link to the Eredar. I don’t remember the name of it right off the top of my head, but it’s very compelling and encouraged me to look more into the lore. It adds an interesting thought that one wrong step, one too many killings in the name of the Alliance, and you could easily succumb to a more demonic nature.

    Two other things to point out:

    Totally agree that they’re tall. Lelissa is an amazon compared to the other races. Standing next to her usual partner in crime, Esmerellda (a human paladin), Lelissa towers over her by at least two feet.

    Draenei females still have the tentacles – they’re a lot more subtle, though, hidden just behind the ear. Most often, they’re covered up by hair, but if you wear something like Whitemane’s Chapeau and look again, they’re very visible, lending even more to the whole cute monster trope.

  5. My priest (a human) has a hard time dealing with Draenei, since they are, in his eyes, demons. Of course, he’s also such a hard-liner that he hates warlocks (heretical demon-lovers), shaman and druids (tree-worshiping heathens), and people who don’t venerate the Light in general.

    And somehow, I doubt he’d trust the Naaru.

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