Silumni, Easily Lost

A lot of my fellow posters have been talking about Braid, which is a fantastic puzzle-platformer that absolutely deserves to be talked about.  However, I thought that I should change it up a bit and instead talk about the other game that we’ve played in this class so far: LOTRO, or Lord of the Rings Online.

LOTRO is an MMORPG, or a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game.  As such, many (but not all) see role-playing as an important component of playing these types of games.  While I don’t necessarily get into the social aspect of role-playing (as can be seen most commonly on the role-playing required servers of LOTRO), I do think that creating a character who is an interesting, complete individual in and of themselves is an integral part of enjoying RPGs.  Therefore, as a thought exercise, I would like to introduce all of you to my Elven Loremaster, Silumni.

The Lord of the Rings Online™ 9_1_2016 9_19_43 PM

Here she is.  Isn’t she great?

In all seriousness, creating a complete character in LOTRO is a bit harder to do than in other RPGs that I have played, such as Bioware’s Dragon Age series or even Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls series, simply because those games gave me dialogue choices that help me cement my character’s personality traits and even parts of their backstories without me having to really devote time outside of the game to thinking about my character, something that LOTRO does not do.  This doesn’t necessarily make LOTRO bad for role-playing; it just means that creating a whole character is a bit more front-heavy.  I can’t just figure it out as I go.

Because of this, a lot of the character choices I made for Silumni were made in the character starting screen.  For example, her name is not actually related to Tolkien’s works at all (mostly because any interesting Tolkien-related names have already been used by the thousands of players who have come before me).  Instead, “Silumni” is the Sylvan word for animal-according to one site on the internet, at least.  Since I knew I wanted Silumni to be a pet-based Loremaster, this seemed fitting for her character. I also chose to have her be from Rivendell, which is surrounded by nature.  This helped me create a character who loved nature and the animals found within it more than even Radagast the Brown, if such a thing were even possible.

I from this point on, I tried to make my in-game choices show Silumni’s love of nature.  For example, the Elven hair choices in this game are surprisingly varied, given how long this game has been out.  I purposely avoided the more “cultivated” hair options-the ones that included hair decorations or intricate braiding.  Instead, I gave her the roughest-looking hair I could find, since she would be almost exclusively hanging around animals who wouldn’t really care about the state of her hair.  I also made her an “Explorer,” a crafting vocation focused on going out into nature to find natural resources.  This also allowed me to craft the absolutely beautiful armor you can see on her in the picture.

Honestly, that’s about all I have when it comes to Silumni’s character.  I still need to give her an interesting personality, even if I won’t necessarily use it when questing.  I know that her character isn’t totally loyal to Tolkien’s works, but I really wanted to give her a unique personality, and I didn’t want to be limited to the fairly strict limitations Tolkien puts on his elves.  What do you guys think? Do you have any helpful comments on where I should take her personality, or is there any constructive commentary you could offer me?  Thanks for reading!

Women And The Gaming World, also #Gamersgate

I’m not going to lie, I approached the whole gaming world with many pre-conceived notions and stereotypes of gaming culture and the very people that played these games. I pictured the overweight, late-twenties male in a stained and dirty t-shirt hidden in his parents’ basement playing games alone for hours, with the reflective glow of a screen illuminating his pasty white skin providing the only light and the quick twitch of his hands on the console being the only sign of life. My perception of the gaming world mostly came from its negative (or at least off-color and sensationalized) portrayal in the media, and specifically Brian from the film The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants (pictured below), which was one of my first introductions to gamers. One of the bloggers on here has already mentioned that the gaming world really seems like a boys-only club akin to something out of a 90s movie, and before I approached the world of gaming, I would say that I agreed 100% with that statement.


Before I started gaming, I thought my entrance into the culture would be a bombardment of ostracization in the online community. I thought the people playing games would be jerks because I wasn’t a guy; I have to say though, I have been very pleasantly surprised. Please keep in mind that my experience is limited to only a few games, but I have found that people for the most part have been very welcoming and helpful. I guess there isn’t really any way to tell outright that I am a woman, but I think that this gender neutrality is a plus of gaming. In the game, one assumes the identity of his or her avatar, and thus the gender of the gamer is kind of a moot point. Video gaming provides a unique and cool situation in which men and women can compete against each other and be on teams together in a completely equal way, which is more than one can say for most organized sports. So basically video gaming is the utopia of gender equality, right? Right?

Well… not so fast.

The gaming world, especially now, has been getting a lot of flack for a lack of diversity, ESPECIALLY with how the gaming world regards women. I’m spoiled that in LOTRO, I have the option of completely customizing my character to be whichever gender or race I want it to be, but in most games, this is far from the case. In the vast majority of games, one assigned an avatar/ protagonist character from the beginning, which would be okay if men and women characters were generally equally spread as protagonists throughout games, but that isn’t what happens. The majority of games have a male protagonist, and women characters are highly sexualized. Geek Feminism made a list of games and how women are portrayed in them, and the protagonist section is woefully low. It’s missing a few, but considering how many games there are, the message is overwhelming.

You can read their info here:

Sadly, this misogamy is carrying over to the real-life world. While female playership is increasing greatly, some male players seem to be pretty mad that the “boy’s club” aspect of gaming is on the decline. You may be familiar with the “#Gamergate” situation that is currently going on, and if not, the gist is that a female game maker, Zoe Quinn, and another female game critic, Anita Sarkeesian, have been harassed and threatened by members of the gaming community to the point where they have had to flee their homes. You can read more on the situation here:

This behavior is unacceptable. Gaming is not a man’s world, it’s everyone’s world, equally. I think the fact that we play using avatars speaks to this. While the characters display sexism, which needs to change, the games themselves are gender blind. The age of the damsel in distress and femme fatale is over. It is time for the gaming community at large to welcome and respect the influx of women that is helping to make it so hugely successful, both online and in the real world.

-Sparling Wilson

Enjoy this satire:


A Story About My Failure


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.


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.

Not Man Enough for LOTRO

I could barely even walk straight. I was swinging my camera wildly and even straight through my head. I stumbled around knocking into walls and trees. I had just “entered middle earth” for the first time as my newly minted elf huntress avatar in Lord of the Rings Online, the massively multiplayer online role-playing of the World of Warcraft variety. I was experiencing firsthand what I had only before glimpsed over a guy friend’s shoulder. I had never thought that I would be playing a game like this myself. I got incredibly frustrated multiple points in just the Intro alone, shoving my computer away and muttering “How can I be so bad at this!” and “Ugh, I can’t believe I have to do this.”

I continued to feel uncomfortable with the game as I was assigned multiple gameplay levels to beat or quests to finish over the next few weeks. I was self consious and realized that I was always behind on my LOTRO’ing because I avoided playing it in public spaces like the library (where I do a majority of my studying) for fear of judgement. First, I thought I was embarassed for someone to see how bad I was at playing and how I couldn’t help walking in zig zags or straight into trees. But as I got better at the game and started levelling up, I still felt a certain anxious avoidance and made sure to sit so the least number of people in the library could see my screen.

When friends commented on the fact that I was playing LOTRO while we were studying together, I felt the need to explain myself. I joked that I stayed in my room all the time now secretly playing LOTRO because I wasn’t “hot enough” to be doing it in public in an intriguing and “cool” way. The joke was laughed at but it left a sour aftertaste in my mouth. I reflected afterwards and realized that my comment had nothing to do with my “hotness” and everything to do with my “women-ness.” No matter how beautiful, as evidenced by the lovely ladies I know who are avid gamers, no one is exempt from the confused head tilt upon finding out that they play video games, especially games like LOTRO. While my joking remarks were highly problematic in themselves, they could also be revealing some pretty widespread issues in gaming.

First of all, I hadn’t thought about what was “cool” or not since I was thirteen, yet being forced into playing a game like LOTRO suddenly made me feel gainly and self conscious. Was I suddenly regressing and having flashbacks to caring so desperately what people thought of me or was moving into the boundaries of what had been conditioned into me as socially acceptable causing the inner anxiety? Were there implicit social norms about what kind of person are “allowed” to play video games in public and who are not?

In the NYT article, “Women Get In on the Action in Video Games”, it is exclaimed with triumph that almost 50% of gamers are now women. So am I imagining all this? Maybe not. The article does admit that males are more likely to play “immersive, narratively complex games” while women preferred” ‘casual’ games” like Candy Crush or Farmville. Are women simply not interested in the immersive, richly layered stories and experiences? I was frusterated by my gender for a moment and asked myself were we not “sophisticated” enough to appreciate a richer more complex and demanding medium? No. I think that while the growing playership in casual games is an exciting development. The continued gender gap in MMO’s like LOTRO reveal that there is more than just a steep learning curve barring the way for a lot of women.

Even after I started to really enjoy the game, I was sad when I realized that if I had stumbled upon the game casually, I would have never played for this long, not because I wouldn’t enjoy it but because I would have run into too many invisible social barriers and given up. I know there are hundreds of thousands of happy and carefree non-white male players in LOTRO. But for each of those, I wondered how many dozen young girls were deterred by the same creeping self consiousness I faced when playing for the first time.

-Diana Zhu

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

Digital Media and Education

This class has taught me so many unique skills and provided me with very helpful knowledge for my interests and studies in education and training, as well as in Human and Organizational Development (HOD). Besides the very obvious skills of game design, blog writing, and media presentation, I also learned very important professional skills through my class experience.
I was always interested in creating educational materials or programs, but I had thought that I would write or do project management, and then let the graphic designers and programmers take care of all the hard stuff that I wasn’t good at. My parents (and my research) suggested that I still understand the basic principles of technology so I could understand what the technology was capable of. I did not have to be a “tech geek,” but I was selling myself short by thinking that I just wouldn’t be able to learn or wouldn’t enjoy learning about it. Reading “The Talent Code” by Daniel Coyle for another class showed me that any person can learn any skill. Playing LOTRO definitely put me out of my comfort zone. I spent hours trying to solve basic quests, and I felt very awkward with many of the controls. However, the experience helped me realize that I can learn to use new media and obtain some level of proficiency with them. It does take lots of hard work, but eventually, I can attain the skills. Hopefully, I can figure out the Neverwinter Nights toolset! And while I still find technology frustrating, I do not find it impossible.
In terms of knowledge pertaining to my industry interests, I gained invaluable experience by being a guinea pig in one of “Vanderbilt’s first flipped classrooms”. Yes, the use of a buzzword was intentional. There are lots of great buzzwords that I can use when discussing my class experiences with someone in the education technology field. I get weekly emails from EdSurge, an education technology news site (, and I’ve been able to connect the advice I glean from the newsletter to the skills and experience I gain from class. The fact that I took part in a MOOC and analyzed it in class? Major buzzword brownie points. Our discussion of “gameification” in class linked to my casual reading about “Game-based learning.” It’s a really interesting concept, and I’m fascinated by all the industry has to offer. Check out this cool article: I loved the opportunity to analyze an educational “video game,” and through class presentations, I noticed a clear difference in quality between the vast majority of educational games and mainstream video games. The industry has a lot of work to do! I hope to really use these experiences as marketing opportunities in my job search, as well as practical knowledge to use if I get the chance to create my own educational programs.


Lord of the Rings a Community Experience

My experience watching Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring truly enhanced my experience with the novel overall. Throughout all of the remediations we have encountered throughout our lessons on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed the movie version the most. I enjoyed it the most because of the community atmosphere that surrounded the experience of watching the Lord of the Rings movie. I watched the Lord of the Rings movie in a common space were there was a large TV and at first it was just me and my roommate watching it however; soon just by having the movie on there were at least 10 different people in the room that I didn’t know watching with us. And since most of the people already had watched the movie we discussed the extended portions, talked about the beautiful cinematography, and commented on the plot. 

This was the first experience at least for me that I felt that Lord of the Rings created a community and common experience for me. While I was playing LOTRO I felt very isolated from people and I never truly got into the virtual community experience that was the basic point of the game. I felt that I was always running around alone in the game. I had the same experience while reading the book it was a riveting read however; I read the book in my bed at nighttime and it was very isolating. 

The first time that I felt that I had to true community around Lord of the Rings was watching the movie in the common area with all of these people who have a common experience of watching Lord of the Rings because of the fact that it was a big blockbuster movie. That is what I like the most about movies as a remediation is that it brings in so many people into a culture like Lord of the Rings that normally wouldn’t participate and creates a wider community around the story. I really loved the experience of watching the movie after reading the book and playing the game because I had different perspectives about the movie that I normally wouldn’t and it added to the experience.