Rushing Through The Journey

We embark on journeys of different lengths and purposes all the time, but we rarely stop to appreciate them. The journey is always seen as an obstacle to our goal, something we must go through to get what we want. Even when we get to the end we are not satisfied because there is always something more to strive for. I often find myself racing towards a goal without really paying that much attention to the process of getting there. However, reaching the goal doesn’t instantly make you satisfied. There is always another goal to strive for because without a destination you are just aimlessly wandering through life. In “Ithaca” Cavafy writes

“But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.”

emphasizing the need to slow down and appreciate the journey that is life instead of just racing towards a goal. On the rare occasions when I do stop and take a minute to enjoy what I am doing I am much happier and can interact more with those around me. When I move towards my goals at a slower pace and focus on the journey instead of the destination I can take in more of my surroundings and see many things instead of just one. This need to slow down and appreciate what is happening can also apply to a book like Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. Since it focuses on a journey, the book spends a long time on each part and forces you to slow down and see the entire journey instead of quickly skipping ahead to the destination. You could skip ahead yourself to see what happens at the end of the book but then you wouldn’t get to enjoy the journey that the story takes you on. What use is knowing the ending if you don’t get to experience the how the characters got there and how they grew and interacted along the way? You can find the ending to almost anything you can think of online but it can’t replace reading the book, playing the game, or watching the movie. In many of the puzzle style games I often play the goal is to solve the puzzle and get to the end of the game. Looking up walkthroughs can get you to that goal quicker but reaching the destination of your goal isn’t fulfilling on its own. The path you take to get to the end is the part of the game that is fun and once you reach it you can’t keep playing or get any more satisfaction unless you want to retrace your steps and repeat the journey. It is much more satisfying to enjoy the journey for what it is instead of just focusing on the destination or goal at the end.

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

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

LOTRO: The Quests Go Ever On and On

Playing Lord of the Rings Online has been interesting. For me, I have zero experience playing that type of computer game, so a lot of it is just me fumbling around, not sure where to go or what to do. 
I have a lot of problems with that, actually. I can start quests, and that’s fine, but ask me to find out where to go? Man, I have problems enough getting around the city where I’ve lived for all of eight years, and you’re asking me to figure out a landscape with very few signs? Needless to say, it takes me twice as long to find a quest’s location/person than it does to finish it, despite the map and indicator icon thingies (yes, that’s a term).
I’d also prefer it if it was more interactive. I know that doesn’t really make sense, but I’d like to be able to do more, aside from click on different attacks (sorry, I’m one of the ones who prefers the shoot-em-up games). 
Aside from that, however, there is a lot I find fascinating and interesting about the game. As a long time Tolkien fan, getting to see the locations that I know from the books (and from the movies) laid out on a landscape I can explore for myself is, well, awesome. 
Unfortunately, there is a downside to being a Tolkien geek. Even as I explore the different areas and options, I can’t help but feel like it isn’t really the Lord of the Rings. The two don’t connect in my head.  Sure, the names are the same, and the land is made out to be Middle Earth, but it’s just not right. Can’t even put my finger on the why, but it doesn’t feel like Tolkien. And I kinda think that if Tolkien were able to see LOTRO, he’d be a bit aghast.
So, I guess the end result is that I can play the game, and I find it entertaining, but it will never be my favorite game. 


Coming out of the Closet

Over the past decade or so, society has become drastically more accepting.  Our community has taken huge strides towards eliminating the stigmas associated with being game.  In the Dark Ages, so to speak, it was not uncommon, and perhaps even expected, for openly game people to be beaten up and mercilessly teased just for their life style choices.  Now, however, there are gamers almost everywhere you look.  We are no longer afraid to wear clothing displaying our game pride or to discuss our culture in public.  Even the government is beginning to support us.  Long gone are the days where we gamers were forced to hide in our basements, to lie about our nature.  We have Game Pride now.  I myself am openly game.  I am or have been a member of many gamer community groups, such as LOTRO, WoW, COD, FIFA, etc.  I have gone to various gamer events.  I’m not hiding from myself, nor am I hiding from my peers.

Some people are GAME. Get over it.

However, there is one threshold I have yet to cross on my path to being completely out as a gamer.  I have yet to come fully out to my parents.  They have their suspicions.  The late nights locked up in my room, the suspicious muffled sounds, the scrambling to conceal whatever it was that I was doing moments before they walked in the door.  The truth is, my home is my favorite place to be a gamer.  Why go to all the trouble of going out when I can just bring that world into my bedroom?  This leads to some awkward confrontations with my parents, unfortunately.

“What were you just doing in there?  What was that voice I heard?”

“It was nothing, Dad.  I was just…watching YouTube.”

“Are you sure?  Because that sounded an awful lot like that Cole Phelps character.  You know how I feel about how much time you’re spending with that boy.”

“Daaaaddddd, come on.  I don’t spend that much time with him, it’s not like that.  I’m not…obsessed.  He’s just a good friend, someone I can go to when I’m feeling down or just plain bored.  He’s fun.”

A disappointed, all-too-knowing look, and he leaves me be.  To be honest, I doubt they would care that much if I told them.  They probably already know.  They’re just from a different era.  I do things outside the gamer world, I really do.  In fact, none of my friends are a part of the game life style.  But when I get some alone time, when the world slows down for an afternoon or so, there’s nowhere I’d rather be.  I love my friends, and I love the life I have on the “outside.”  There’s just something about the game community that draws me back time after time.  To be around that many like-minded people is liberating, and I wouldn’t trade the time I’ve spent there for anything.

So here goes.  Mom, Dad:  I game.  I live it, breathe it, love it.  I game, and I’m proud.  So the next time you see me shutting the shades in the family room on a sunny Saturday midmorning, don’t sigh and walk away.  Accept the fact that this is who I am.

I am a gamer.

-Deathly Hallowed

Team 7: Castle Joyous Plains

by: Calvin Patimeteeporn, Breon Guarino, and Aneel Henry

Book 3, Canto 1 Stanzas 20 – 30

From the forest, the PC is thrown into the midst of a small village in the plains surrounding Castle Joyous. Though the path to Castle Joyous is, indeed present, the road is blocked with construction, leaving the player at the hands of the villagers, who are in desperate need of assistance. It would seem as if the Lady of Castle Joyous, has neglected the villagers’ cries for help and has left the town completely isolated. Those townspeople with weak minds and souls have already left the town for the hedonistic castle of Lady Malecasta, leaving a handful of loyal and chaste villagers to deal with the problems. With no one to rely on, the town has fallen to a destitute state, being attacked by both wolves and bandits alike that emerge from the forest at night.
As the player enters the town past a rundown barn and two already abandoned watchtowers, the player witnesses the ruins of a once busy town square. A worried innkeeper is fretting over his dwindling food supplies that are continuously being pilfered by a wolf pack that has taken residence in an area of the forest near the town. Meanwhile, a small group of villagers are holding a meeting at the town well, discussing the bandit situation. While these villagers face these pressing matters, the rest of the village also holds a fair share of menial tasks that the townspeople cannot do alone. A small girl has lost her chickens around the town square and a young boy wishes that he could retrieve his family heirloom from one of the bandits.
While the menial tasks are up to the player to decide, the wolf and bandit situation, however cannot be left alone. Something must be done. Will the player pilfer the innkeeper’s store and blame it on the “undefeatable” wolves or will the player banish the wolves once and for all? Will the player help the bandits destroy and loot the entire village or will the player remain good and repel their advances? Regardless of choice, it would appear that after these events the road opens to Castle Joyous, allowing the player to move forward of his or her journey.
However, the player encounters a struggle between the six knights of the castle and a sole, brave knight, Redcrosse. The player must now defeat four of the six knights in order to gain entry to the next part of the journey, and gain access to the hedonistic castle that is Castle Joyous.

Main Quests:
1. The Road is Blocked (part 1)
•The player encounters road construction that obstructs the player from reaching the castle.
•The player must complete Quest 2 to proceed

2. A. The Wolves that Bite and Bandits That Catch!
•The player must talk to both the Innkeeper and the villagers meeting by the well

B1. The Wolves of the Forest
•In the forthcoming night, the player must confront the wolves that plague the Innkeeper
-Option A: Defeat the wolf pack that comes to raid the Inn’s storage (Chaste).
-Option B: Pilfer all the Inn’s store and lie to the Innkeeper and blame it on the wolves (Unchaste).

B2. Traveling Bandits
•In the forthcoming night, the player must confront the bandits.
-Option A: Kill all bandits that dare set foot in the town, expelling them forever from the village (Chaste).
-Option B: Join the bandits and raid and loot the entire town. Nothing escapes your wrath (Unchaste).

3. The Road is Blocked (part 2)
•After the Quest 2, the road is cleared and the player can move on.

4. Redcrosse and the Knights
•The player encounters Redcrosse and must defeat 4 of the 6 knights that are attacking them.
•The player is allowed entry to Castle Joyous.

Side Quests:
1. The Chickens
•The player talks to a young girl who seems to have lost her chickens.
•The player must collect all three chickens that are running around the village.
-Option A: Give back the chickens to the small girl (Chaste)
-Option B: Demand payment who in the end gives up a rare gem that has been passed down her family for years (Unchaste).

2. Lost Heirloom
•The player talks to a young boy in the square.
•The player must find and locate the heirloom which happens to be in the hands of a lone bandit near the village.
•Player must defeat the bandit.
-Option A: Return the heirloom to the boy (Chaste).
-Option B: Pretend you did not find the heirloom and keep it for yourself (Unchaste).

The Innkeeper: A worried middle-aged man in commoner clothing. Owns and operates the Inn which is plagued by wolves nightly.
The Villagers: A group of emaciated townsfolk with tattered clothing who are concerned about the future of their village with the pressing matter of bandits.
The Small Girl: A young girl with dirty and torn clothing who has lost all of her chickens.
The Small Boy: A young boy with dirty and tattered clothing with no other desire than to reclaim his family’s honor by having their stolen heirloom back in his hands.
Lone Bandit: A lone bandit in bandit attire, furs and ragged clothing. Though weak, he still poses somewhat of a threat. He has stolen the boy’s family heirloom.
Bandits: Gang of bandits dressed in furs and very aggressive. They raid the towns every night or so.
Wolf Pack: A group of 6 or so wolves that raid the Inn’s store nightly.
Redcrosse: A brave knight who refuses to succumb to Lady Malecasta’s knights and needs the player’s help to defeat them.
The Six Knights: Black knights of the Lady of the castle. Aggressive and intent on serving her.

Weaving the Threads Together

So far, I have played through almost all of the Prologue, but I have not yet traveled to the Shire to begin the part of the journey that follows in Frodo’s footsteps. As an Elf, I began my experiences in LOTRO hundreds of years before the events of the Fellowship, fighting not against Orcs and Sauron, but against Dwarves. They had attacked Edhelion, the city where my character, Elyon, lived, and I was able to take part in the battle and witness the destruction of her home. Then, the story moved forward to the ‘present’ day–the time period where LotR takes place. A group of elves, including Elyon, had returned to the ruins of Edhelion, hoping to bring back to the place some of its former glory, but after finding some dwarven weapons among the goblins scurrying about the place, she was dispatched to the court of the dwarf Frerir, a friend of the Elves (but not of the Dourhands, another dwarven faction that ruled the area).  After helping the dwarves with various preparations for winter (such as cutting lumber and skinning auroch hides) and weeding out some problematic inhabitants that the Dourhands were not taking care of (mainly poisonous Skorgrim’s Bloom flowers and goblins), Elyon was able to meet up with Elrohir, a son of Elrond, who had discovered that the Dourhands were attempting to bring Skorgrim, their dead leader, back to life in exchange for allying themselves with the forces of Angmar. Elyon joined forces with Frerir’s dwarves to stop this from happening. Tolkien only knows what comes next…

Overall, I felt that the experiences my elf went through were very relatable to the world of LotR, with a few exceptions. First of all, the fact that Elyon was present at the destruction of Edhelion really made her feel like a real elf, who would have memories from hundreds of years back (as Elrond does of the first defeat of Sauron). The NPCs (non-player characters) were all concerned about the land, as elves are, and though they gave me tasks to do, the tasks (like clearing out the slugs from the pool) made sense until I ‘discovered’ the dead goblins with the dwarven axes. After the journey to Frerir’s court, however, the side quests made very little sense. If there was such urgency in finding out what the Dourhand dwarves were up to, why would I chop firewood and make auroch jerky? The dwarves would be perfectly capable of such tasks themselves, and if Elyon’s mission were really so urgent, she would not be asked to do such mundane jobs. So, that sort of broke the nice storyline I was playing out, though I did see the need for her to get experience fighting monsters and for her to level up a bit before leaving the Prologue for the ‘real world.’ The rules of the game interfered with the suspension of disbelief I was experiencing at the time. Or, not exactly the rules, but the necessary mechanics of playing a game interfered with the flow of the story and thus with my suspension of disbelief.

At first, there was almost no connection to the events of LotR, but as Elyon progressed in the storyline I began to see more and more threads connecting her journey to the one depicted in the book. At first, the only similarities were the fact that elves and dwarves had ancient grudges, and that the elves were struggling with living in Middle Earth (as evidenced by the sad attempt to rebuild Edhelion). Basically, she was living in the same world as Frodo and the Fellowship, and that was it. Then, there was Elrohir, seen only a couple of times in the book, but still a part of it, and the alliance of the Dourhand dwarves with Angmar–a province of evil, allied with Mordor and home of the Witch-King in LotR. So, as the journey went on, Elyon’s seemingly separate path began to merge with that of the Fellowship–a common desire to see the Free Peoples survive and to defeat the forces of darkness. The quest to stop the Dourhands shows the largest leap yet towards the merging of the storylines of Elyon and the Fellowship, as confronting any sort of force from Angmar would directly relate to confronting the forces of Mordor. Now, I just have to keep playing and find out what’s next on Elyon’s journey through the Third Age of Middle Earth.