A Story About My Failure

By A. A. BENJAMIN

There’s a game sitting in my Steam queue that I haven’t played for months. I’ve gotten to the very last level, and just can’t get across this dreaded chasm.

A Story About My Uncle

It’s called A Story About My Uncle, and trying to “grapple” with computer keys and a touch pad didn’t drive me nuts until this stage. In class on Thursday I was struck by the “I don’t care if I fail” consensus. It was so interesting to me, to see how a person can be both competitive and yet so careless about failure. Commence brain malfunction in 5…4…3…

I think I have a problem. I have diagnosed myself with “sore-loser” syndrome. It’s not that I kick my feet and whine about how it’s not fair or that the computer “cheated.” I just give up. I tell myself I can’t bear to get so far again, just to have to do it again, and again, and again. I tell myself I have to drastically change my strategy each time rather than just trying the same strategy again with more patience. So, A Story About My Uncle sits in my queue undefeated indefinitely. (A quick note: I absolutely love these kinds of simplistic games for their visuals and story lines…quite stimulating for an aspiring author. But that’s another story.)

Oh, but it doesn’t end there! My relationship with LOTRO began with me blazing through the Intro and Prologue. What did you say? I can do side quests? You mean stop and help those peasants with their remedial chores? BAHA! I think not…But first came the warg, when I got too cocky curious. Then came the marsh, where some short marsh thing blasted me with a firebomb and I almost ran away crying. Almost. Then came Bree, and all the smack of reality that comes after it. I found myself dying. Once, twice, three times, nooo! Then I was not only dying, but failing quests. Then not only failing quests, but having quests lined up in red because my level was so “embarrassingly” low. And don’t even talk to me about the Old Forest. The last time I just tried to make it out alive with a bucket of water, and when I finally made my last steps toward victory, time ran out and the bucket disappeared. You can probably guess I haven’t gone back to try again. Then I killed a little girl, Leila, because I wasn’t prepared to fight every living breathing thing in the Barrow Downs as she dragged me around looking for her cloak. (At least she did find her cloak. At least she was nice and warm when the skeletons got her.)

Then, THEN—for goodness sake— I couldn’t even figure out the CHICKEN RUN. I finished all the prerequisite quests but failed in the part that really matters. Why? Because it was late, and I was too frustrated to even process information properly.

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Yep. I logged out with the chicken run literally right in front of my face, because I was too frustrated to pay attention. “But where’s the race?!” *Puts on dunce cap and goes to sit in a corner.* I’m beginning to wonder if this is a “real life” problem.

If how we behave in video games reflects our reality, I’m going to hit a mid-life crisis real soon. That’s why our discussion last class struck me. If we can theorize that gamers are more inclined to take risks and make waves, what does that say about discouraged gamers? What about those “when I’m good, I’m great, and when I’m bad, I’m terrible” people? There’s no in-between. Which is quite a premature attitude to have. Ironically this attitude appears to be a recent installation in my life, because some years ago when I cared less about pride and more about fun, I completed more games.Therefore, I’m assigning myself an era of reform in gaming. To all who claim that gaming sucks us out of reality, I’d like to be the counterpoint. Perhaps gaming puts the deeper reality we can’t see, touch, or feel right in our faces.

True Life: I’m a LOTRO Addict

I am very proud of myself… I’ve made excellent strides in the gaming world. For those of you that don’t remember, I am the newbiest of newbs (the writer who basically had only played iphone games), so when I downloaded LOTRO and was told that it would be a part of my grade for the course, I was wary at first. Initially, I struggled with the controls of the game, not realizing that the arrow keys could be used in place of the “a” “s” “d” and “w” keys for movement; not being able to move with ease was frustrating and really put a damper on my enjoyment of the game. Another issue I had at first was navigation through the game with the quests. I did not realize that one merely had to follow the glowing ring on the map to find the next part of the quest, and because of this, the going was excruciatingly slow. A silver lining the this issue was that I learned how to move before I learned how to navigate, and so I spent a long time fighting wolves in Thorin’s realm and reached a higher level by the end of the intro period that most. On the issue of navigation, I wish that staying on the epic quest line would be more self-explanatory because I’ve spent a lot of time doing side quests that I would in some cases prefer to avoid.

With that being said, these were just issues I had at the beginning of my journey. Since I’ve managed to get over these problems, I have become completely enamored with the game. If I’m waiting around, I play the game. If I’m bored, I’ll play the game. Not feeling like going out on the town? I’ll visit the Prancing Pony in Bree. I am seriously getting addicted to LOTRO!

One aspect I really love is the role playing. I love the fact that I can customize my character’s wardrobe and appearance, as well as the specific skills I can gain as an Elf Champion. I think one reason why this part of the game is so appealing is due to the fact that I am an English major and avid reader. When I am reading (especially in the Lord Of The Rings series) I can imagine myself in the protagonist’s position and wish I were apart of the action. By playing LOTRO, I am able to engage with the narrative in a way that has never been open to me before, and that helps to fulfill this desire.

Additionally, the quests provide just enough challenge to be fun and engaging, but are not difficult to the point that I want to abandon them as a lost cause. Even if my character dies, I feel like I can evaluate my performance and improve enough to give the challenge another go and ultimately be successful. While this game isn’t as strongly based on learning as the game Braid was, I still think it is an important factor here. In playing this game, you learn new strategies to help you play more efficiently and creatively.

One thing that I have learned since starting this game is that apparently Lore Masters get to have animal pets. Since I have been enjoying playing so much, I think it is time for me to create a new character of the Lore Master variety so I can acquire some of the cute and friendly creatures I’ve spotted along the way!

-Sparling Wilson

LOTRO: A Test of Patience

While I revel in the ability to run around for hours in a virtual environment while still convincing myself that I’m being productive, I must say that it has gotten to be a bit tiresome at times. My one biggest complaint about LOTRO is that there is just
so
much
running.

I picked up the controls to the game very quickly and I have enjoyed juggling the various quests I taken on; however, again and again I find myself just running back and forth between the various areas in this vast world of the game.

Now, I do appreciate how that adds to the experience of the game as well as contributes to the narrative. It enhances that sense of journey–of being just a tiny figure in this massive world. It goes along with the long and tiresome journeys we read about in the novel. With this being said, my patience runs rather thin when it comes to video games and I would rather not spend a significant portion of the time just running from location to location.
I did recently learn about the auto-run key, so that along with riding horses has eased my frustration on the matter, though the quests are still often more a test of my patience than anything.

I’ve only come across one quest so far that was even remotely challenging. I had to sneak around these goblin-like creatures and pick off one or two at a time in order to finally reach and kill the Goblin Chief. I later realized that this quest was definitely meant to be conquered with a partner or team, but I still enjoyed the challenge of taking it on by myself. Other than that, my quests have mostly been a matter of taking the time to run and find or deliver various objects or creatures. But maybe I just need to get to a higher level first.

All in all, I’ve enjoyed exploring this enormous world; however, I’m just hoping that as I progress, the challenges and quests will become much less wearisome than they have been thus far. I also really look forward to being able to work with the other players on quests and toward a shared goal, as I have yet to experience that.

– Logan W

To War – Reflections on Lord of the Rings Online

What would Tolkien have said about LOTRO? I wish we can know. Because this is one heck of a way to explore the rich mythology Tolkien has created.

In the familiar trilogy, the story is mainly focused on the Fellowship of the Ring and its adventures during the War of the Ring. However, given that there is a full-scale war going on, what happened everywhere else? Did the elves, humans, and dwarves  just sat around and waited for Gandalf and Aragorn until the few momentous battles occur at Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith? LOTRO seeks to fill this gap, and I think it did a very good job of it, so far.

I have played LOTRO  briefly once before, but for some reason I found the narrative so much more engaging this time around. The story line of the epic quests provided a nice view of the beginning of the War from a fresh perspective, of forces from both sides working to gain more advantage (aside from fighting for that one magic bullet, that is) for the looming War. These forces included many elven guardians, dwarf champions, human vagabounds, unlikely hobbit warriors, Southern raiders, local scoundrels, ring-wraiths and many more. These narrative made Middle-Earth so much more lively and colorful, providing details I have never imagined in, for example, Bree before. It is also nice to see characters, places, and events mentioned in the original material and see many characters come to life and fleshed out. I felt a pang of excitement and urgency while helping Aragorn in ensuring the safety of Bilbo and company, could not help but feel alone and confused trekking the Old Forest, and stood in mild confusion talking to Tom Bombadil.

Aside from the narrative perspective, playing LOTRO has been a fairly standard MMORPG, where target selection is done by clicking the mouse, and extra abilities are with pressing progressively large numbers of buttons. While this in itself is not a huge problem, it does show that Turbine (LOTRO’s maker) did not try very hard in pushing the envelope or challenging RPG conventions (many of which are set by another MMORPG, World of Warcraft). Granted LOTRO was created in 2007, fairly early in the history of MMO games, Turbine could have made more effort in designing a better tutorial, for instance.

All in all, I feel LOTRO is a great MMO game, despite certain shortcomings. It has great narrative, amazing world-building, and serves as a great exploration of the original material. While the gameplay itself is not very innovative, it plays smoothly and is, most importantly, fun. I believe I will continue to play LOTRO and slowly make my way through the epic quest line, if only to see what happens to Skorgrim, push towards Angmar, take on a Balrog, and even participate in Helm’s Deep (soon-to-be-released).

-SyC

LOTRO: The Struggle is Real

Lord of the Rings Online has definitely been a new experience for me to say the least.  I have never played a game like it before.  The virtual world is so interesting and complex!  It has definitely taken me a while to feel at ease within it (though that may just be because I am directionally challenged in reality let alone navigating a completely foreign fictional world).  However, I think I am finally starting to get the hang of it.  I have been stuck on one quest for three days now (The Wrath of the Elves) and have therefore become very familiar with the Ered Luin area.  Its not that the quests are difficult to understand, its just hard when you aren’t familiar with the layout of the world yet.  Many times I have had to exit the game and google where something was in order to move forward in that quest.  Also, the controls are very confusing.  When in battle, I have no idea what I am doing.  Half the time I am literally just hitting random keys. However, most of the time the quests are really fun and straight forward.  I like having a narrative to follow in the game.  It gives me a sense of purpose.  My most frustrating times so far have been when I am simply roaming around aimlessly without a quest to follow.

Aside from my incompetence with slaying goblins, the game is surprisingly really fun!  I love reading the book and finding the places I read about in the game.  For instance, I loved the Prancing Pony assignment because I had just read that part in the book.  It was cool to explore the famous inn for all of its other qualities that aren’t expressed in the novel, in a way bringing the Prancing Pony to life.

Overall, the game has been a really cool and interesting experience yet very frustrating at times, the struggle is real.

-Emily Blake

Castles and Dragons

For all of the good features of today’s world, people still find mythical places in different time periods to be fascinating. This is reflected in the plethora of different worlds in which our video games and movies take place. Whether it be thousands of years in the future or millions of light-years away, everyone has a place from a video game that they would like to live in. For me, this world would be that of Middle-Earth, the setting of The Lord of the Rings Online and every other work in the LoTR collection.

This world appeals to me because of its inherent simplicity. Life in a decentralized, technologically unconnected society such as this one would allow a person to truly live like they wanted to, without the societal pressures of “being successful” and whatnot. There is no law to follow when the authoritative structure is no disperse, and one is governed by what he feels is right, not what someone else told him was right. Without a societal hierarchy that one must necessarily fit into, it is possible to devote the mind and body to whatever pursuit seems right. The satisfaction of really making one’s own way in life, fully depending on yourself or a few relatives for survival sounds enthralling. Essentially, existence is simpler and therefore allows more time for intellectual or physical gain.

Would it be a shock to live in a world with no Facebook or video games? Maybe. I know some people that couldn’t imagine it. But I think that a simpler world would be more fun, and there isn’t a better simpler world than one with all of the mythical aspects of the Dark and Middle Ages that allows one to spend their time as they wish and has no outward societal pressures.

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Videogames…Art?

People have long debated the idea of videogames being a form of art. Many have strong opinions one-way or the other. I on the on the other hand, believe that videogames are both.  According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of art is “the conscious use of skill and creative imagination especially in the production of aesthetic objects.” In my opinion, it is hard to deny that the creators of a game like LOTRO were artists. It takes true artistic vision to be able to create a world so beautiful and so detailed. Purely by the definition of art one can see the fictional world of LOTRO is artwork. Creating it absolutely took creative imagination and it is quite aesthetic. It has become pretty widely accepted that video is a form of art of why would the LOTRO world not be considered as such?

Is the playing of a videogame a form of art? This is where the question gets trickier to answer. When a game has very specific rules, and the player strictly follows those rules, the player is not an artist.  If anything, they are more of a mathematician. Simply doing moves like they are inputs into a formula. However, when the gamer decides to go beyond the basic necessities to complete their task, they can become an artist. When they invest themselves in the quest and the different ways they could go about their tasks the gamer becomes the artist.  And what of art’s ability to bring about an emotional response in the gamer? That too is dependant on the gamer and how much they invest in the game. In fact, in some cases games can change a gamer’s total outlook. War games can make a gamer view real life war in a different way. Playing can give gamers a new appreciation for the job of soldiers. War for trivial reasons like seen in games can make real war seem pointless. However, when gamers are only invested enough to fulfill the minimum requirements to advance, there is no chance that they are affected emotionally by the game.

So are videogames art? In their basic form, as they stand without the gamer, I would say no.  Despite the fact the imagery is art, the rules and coding in the game make the game too stagnant and inflexible to be. If the game becomes too much about the science that makes it work, it takes away from the artistry. However, with the right gamer, the videogame can become more than the coding. It can be appreciated emotionally and for its imagery and therefore becomes art.

-CRHayes