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One of my favorite things about Blizzard is their willingness as a company to acknowledge the fact that their games exist in a larger world of media and entertainment. Where some companies shy away from reference or homage to other forms of pop culture, Blizzard has always embraced the opportunity to point toward their influences and other popular cultural phenomenon.
Some of my favorite references in World of Warcraft are those that take me back to my childhood. Now, I grew up in the 80’s, so for many of today’s WoW players, these references may seem like ancient history. Most will probably go right over the heads of many younger players, so I feel it’s my duty to point out some of the better (mostly) 80’s pop culture references in World of Warcraft.
I’ll try to confine my list to NPCs, most of which are fairly easy to reach (with one notable harder-to-reach exception too cool to be left off the list).
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Pop Culture References in Dalaran
We start our journey down memory lane in the city of Dalaran. There are a multitude of references within the city. First, a certain flower vendor situated outside the entrance to the Violet Hold. Her name is “Aerith Primrose,” but her dress and vocation suggest a certain more famous Aerith many gamers will recognize from a little-known RPG called Final Fantasy VII. Those who found themselves disheartened by her death midway through FFVII will be happy to know she appears to be alive and well in Dalaran.
Next, our detour into the late 90’s now over with, we journey deep into the city’s sewers. Just outside the entrance to the Circle of Wills is a female gnome NPC curiously named “Natalie Tootieblare.” This is one of the more obscure references on the list, and refers to the 80’s sitcom “The Facts of Life.” Natalie, Tootie, and Blair were three of the main female characters on the show. Few people remember it, but one of George Clooney’s earliest roles was as George Burnett on the show.
On the other side of the Circle of Wills is a curious group of animals. Four “Dalaran Sewer Turtles” stand facing a “Dalaran Sewer Rat” who appears to be gesticulating fervently. Around the rats and turtles lie various containers filled with a curious glowing green liquid. Anyone who watched afternoon cartoons in the late 80’s will recognize this scene as an homage to the origin story of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and their sensei Splinter.
At the end of a long tunnel opposite the turtles, observant WoW players will find a “Sewer Shark” curiously named “Segacedi” swimming about. This is an obvious reference to the 1992 Sega CD game “Sewer Shark.”
Check out page 2 for more pop culture references in Grizzly Hills, Shattrath City, and Uldaman.
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Two very recognizable NPCs exist in the Northrend zone of Grizzly Hills, as well. The fedora-wearing, whip-bearing tomb explorer known as “Harrison Jones” is found locked in a cage deep inside the Drakil’jin Ruins (he also makes an appearance in Zul’Aman). Rescuing him from his cage starts the quest “Dun-da-Dun-tah!” an obvious reference to the Indiana Jones theme music.
Nearby, at Harkor’s Camp, a male gnome NPC named “Datalore Smallsphere” worries about Harrison incessantly. Clever players will recognize his last name as a play on the name of Indy’s sidekick in “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” Short Round. The first name, “Datalore” is a nod to the other famous 80’s character portrayed by Ke Huy Quan, Data from “The Goonies.”
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Several very recognizable NPCs hang out in the lower city of Shattrath. Fans of 80’s cartoon series “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” should instantly recognize the Alliance Arathi Basin battlemaster, Adam Eternum. Prince Adam was He-Man’s alter ego, and the name of the planet he fought to protect on the show was Eternia. Next to him stands a gnome in a pointy hat named “Oric Coe” and a battle tiger appropriately named “Battle Tiger.” The two are obvious references to He-Man’s pal Orco and his mount Battle Cat.
On the other side of the lower city stands the Horde Arathi Basin battlemaster, named “Keldor.” His hood and staff make him look remarkable like He-Man’s nemesis Skeletor. Keldor was the name of the man who eventually became Skeletor on the show.
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Deep within the dungeon of Uldaman lies one of the coolest pop culture references in all of Azeroth, a stonevault chieftan named “Grimlok.” Grimlock, for those who don’t recognize the name, was the leader of the dinobots on the extremely popular 80’s cartoon show Transformers. He was famous for referring to himself as “Me, Grimlock” and his in-game doppelganger appears to have picked up the same habit, shouting “Me, Grimlock king!” as he attacks.
Also within Uldaman is a pretty cool “Raiders of the Lost Ark” reference. Players are required to assemble two pieces of a staff and then place it within a city model. Once the staff is placed, a light shines through the head and a location is revealed, opening a pair of nearby doors. Indiana Jones famously does the same thing in Raiders.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this trip down memory lane through the magic of WoW pop culture references. Fortunately, I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the awesome things to be found in Azeroth. So, keep your head up while you’re out exploring the World of Warcraft. You never know, that quest giver you’re talking to may just be a character from one of your favorite movies.
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Have You Seen Others? Share!
There are many more pop culture references throughout WoW. One of the charming and amusing things about WoW's developers is that they sprinkle them throughout the game rarely enough to not kill the theme, but often enough to keep you amused.
Post some of your own favorites here: Pop Culture References in WoW
A collection of articles noting some of World of Warcraft's references to pop culture.