Why Fight?

By: Max Mam

After slaughtering masses of enemy goblins in LOTRO and enjoying the movie, The Fellowship of the Ring, I was struck by the vast differences in action between the two. First of all, the action in the movie occurs through cinematic sequences in which Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli, Gandalf and company elegantly defeat their foes. The intense fight scenes are presented to the viewer in a variety of angles and perspectives and the combatants have a definite reason for their fights. Whether it be Aragorn fighting the Nazgul to protect Frodo or Gandalf confronting the Balrog to allow the fellowship to escape Moria, each encounter had a reason for which the characters were fighting. My experience in LOTRO, however, has been vastly different compared to the action found in the movie. The action presented in the game occurs in a third-person perspective behind the player’s avatar. The player merely auto-attacks enemies with their weapon, occasionally firing off a skill to increase damage output and spice things up. There is no flashy cinematography or acrobatic combat moves to enhance the visual aspect of the encounter.

Additionally during my time in LOTRO‘s Middle-Earth it seemed that there truly were no motives for the player’s avatar to engage and defeat wild animals in combat other than to gain xp, level up, and loot the fur off their backs to sell for better creature-killing equipment. Unlike the movie where fights only broke out only when necessary, it seemed that the video game actually encouraged the slaughter of innocent woodland animals solely for the sake of experience and gold. This aspect of action reveals another difference between the two media: In the movie the action only occurs where necessary for story development whereas in the game the action is in the player’s complete control. In LOTRO the player chooses when to create encounters and generate action. There may or may not be a reason for the fight as the fight may be for experience, for a quest to progress in the story, or for mere pleasure. That aspect of the fight is totally up to the user whereas the action in the movie is predetermined by the movie director and will occur at specific parts of the movie. In this way LOTRO exhibits characteristics of an emergence game in that there are rules to the game but the user may freely create action when and where he pleases. The movie in the same way exhibits characteristics of a progression type game in that the action generated by the characters of the movie occur in a predetermined sequence of events and are directly entwined to the story’s development.

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