By: Amir Aschner
Every MMORPG I can think of has multiple races and classes involved in game play: WoW, EQ, Diablo, LOTRO, and the list goes on. Focusing on LOTRO we can see how these classes and races affect the media. LOTRO is a remediation of Tolkein’s novels “The Lord of the Rings.” This means that it observed and repurposed the information presented in the novels into a new format: the game. The classes and races that LOTRO incorporates play a huge role in supporting this remediation.
Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth is a very diverse place. I am sure he went to great lengths to ensure that this was so. He created a plethora of different races. Each has its own roll in the world, living habits, dietary habits, appearance, interests, skills, flaws, etc. You could not have the world of the Lord of the Rings without Hobbits, Elves, Dwarves, Men, or Orcs. To leave out even one race would be an insult to Tolkein and a flaw in the game.
The books did not define characters as ‘classes,’ however if we take a close look and analyze enough characters we see similar patterns and characteristics that can be used to categorize them. For example, Legolas, and many other elves, were excellent woodsman and bow-users. In the game a hunter epitomizes this roll. Aragorn, Boromir, and Gimli are excellent fighters and are skilled with their respective weapons. Is that not also what a Champion or a Guardian is in the game? How about kicking it old school and looking at Bilbo in “The Hobbit?” He is recruited to join the dwarves as a ‘thief.’ That sounds very familiar to class in the game. If we continue to look at characters this way in all of the books we see that the class specifications are not that far-fetched and go hand in hand with the narrative of the stories. In fact, not including the classes would detract from the remediation of the game.
The game does such a good job at recreating the novel because each race and character is presented in a way that they interact similarly to the novels. For example, the races are already set in to factions good vs. evil, just like the novels, and the classes all interact according to the logic Tolkein created in his narrative (you would not battle many monsters alone or fight magic users without one of your own). Not only are the races and classes presented in LOTRO effective at enriching the narrative, they are key to its success. Without each and every one of them the remediated media would be a failure in the eyes of a real fan.