The Mental Burdens of a Top Dog

By: Sam F

Character parallels can be seen between many works and Lord of the Rings and King of Kong is a good example. Billy and Steve in King of Kong mimic the relationship between Frodo and Sam in the LOTR series. For Billy, the source of his superiority complex roots itself in his long-term dominance in the world of arcade games. For Frodo, his similar complex draws from the ring and the burdening sense of responsibility that comes with it.

Billy and Frodo are both portrayed by the director as pompous and arrogant. Unique past experiences have helped build up this arrogance, or seeming arrogance, over other characters. Billy is like Frodo in that he is forced by being number one to be heartlessly competitive to help maintain top status. Being number one must be done alone, as there is no room for two at the top of the podium. Frodo similarly must carry his “top-dog status” alone as the ring is a burden for only one. This solo journey for each character likely builds on this arrogance. Clearly this attitude could simply be resentment to the fact that each character’s lifestyle requires working alone in their conquests. Frodo is also similar in that he does not seem to enjoy his burden of the ring. He wishes he could give it up but ultimately understands that the ring is his responsibility.  Billy also shows fatigue with his fight to be at the top, as he must face the frustrations of people like Steve Wiebe challenging his record. When he receives the phone call that Steve had surpassed him, his weariness was very apparent.

Another paralleled pair between LOTR and King of Kong is Sam and Steve. These are secondary characters to the holders of the spotlight. Both share similar qualities and roles in their respective movies. Sam is a conveyer of fair play and being as helpful as he can. He is a very untroubled and has good morals. The entire movie he is working tirelessly to help Frodo and is seen as a threat. Steve shares this type of relationship with Billy in King of Kong. He is simply trying to take a small piece of the spotlight for himself and right things in his life by winning for once.  Billy views Steve as a threat and treats him as such throughout the movie. Sam and Steve both share a sense of innocence; however, that blinds them to the mental states of their foil characters, Frodo and Billy, in each movie. They don’t seem to realize the burdens of being in the spotlight and this naivety makes the lead characters frustrations more understandable.


Game Perspective and Immersion

by: Sam F

Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO) creates a cave version of Tolkien’s “Middle Earth” alluded to by Mackenzie Wark in Gamer Theory 2.0 and displayed in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Critics to this belief could perhaps argue that both movie and game are idealist worlds of fantasy, as Middle Earth creates a realm beyond the human and racial limitations of our earthly scope. While Middle Earth does possess elements beyond our world, LOTRO the game creates an unrestricted domain with which to absorb aspects of its world. Peter Jackson’s representation of this world similarly portrays Middle Earth, but through a director’s eyes. The mise en scène is limited to the rectangle on which the film is being viewed. The dialogue is taken from a series of shots such as a master shot, which is the entire scene from one wide shot incorporating both actors. Another possibility is a series of “mid-shots,” which split the dialogue into individual pieces with specific characters, which includes dialogue shots over the listener’s shoulder while focusing on the speaker In a game like LOTRO, the viewpoints are infinite. This medium offers a panorama of angles with which to observe the characters.  Differing points of view offer a more vast visual experience for the movie, while the player guides his character on a personal adventure to his or her desired destination within the world.  

            The movie also differs from the game, as it is a broader plot experience. The game focuses on the player’s particular character whereas the movie focuses on various protagonists. The implication of “fellowship” in the title of Jackson’s film reveals on screen a story observing a group of protagonists. An observer may become attached to a particular character’s agon and feel they are lead protagonist, but the fellowship is not about the struggles of one character. The game, on the contrary, provides an interactive experience with other characters, but the sole purpose of the game is to develop a single protagonist.  Character attachment in LOTRO creates a more immersive experience than perhaps the movie, as one is able to blaze the trails of Middle Earth during a more individualistic adventure.