I started walking from Thorin’s Hall a long time ago. I ended up in this valley, where I failed a quest for the first time. Even then, I couldn’t feel any serious consequences coming from my failure. I let poor Nos Grimsong die, and all I could think was that it was going to be a bloody long walk to get back to town to sell the loot in my inventory. I remain unashamed by this fact. I walked back to town and scalped some…well, scalps, or the ursine equivalent…for some funding. After that, I walked back into the woods and vivisected several score woodland creatures, each time returning to town, each time ridding myself of a load of skins/wings/chompy-bits and earning some minor funding.
It has been two weeks. My footsore dwarf has slogged over mountains and through marshes. He strode tall (read: relatively tall) through deep valleys (read: gently sloped ditches) and across wide rivers (read: over bridges that spanned wide rivers). He has done battle against pestilence and pigs, including the variety that causes pestilence after a sort. Only after many long walks did I find myself in Bree, and only after several long outings around the area did I find myself in The Prancing Pony discussing a matter involving some bandits with a mysterious stranger named Strider.
The first time I went out, I got the idiot NPC I was attached to killed. As he perished, run through upon the wicked blades of the Blackwold bandits, I could feel no sorrow at his death. I felt no sadness, watching his animated corpse fade into nothingness as with the strongest of the Jedi. Instead, I found my mind transported far away across diverse planes of light and shadow. I found myself warped away to replay the failing of my first escort mission and every mission since then. I watched Air Ixiom 701 and 702 burning in the sky as enemy fighters failed to falter in the face of my poorly aimed gun bursts as I played Ace Combat 04. I watched Nos Grimsong ambushed by wildcats once more two weeks ago. I found myself with a single thought in my mind as I watched my Ranger companion dying…
I hate escort missions. Never, EVER, have I enjoyed an escort mission.
I cannot relate with a game in the same way I relate to a story. I cannot access LotRO in the same way that I can associate with the written stories by Tolkien. As I play, some part of me is forced to access my memories of other games, recalling tactics for engaging multiple opponents, remembering maps, recollecting materials required for crafts. In giving me a purpose for journeying into the world, I lose part of the world. We may play the game at work, but working in the game is serious business. We quest and there are connections made, but are we playing for the story? Is the story playing us? Could it be that we do not play each other, but rather we, the story and the player, are dancing around each other and throwing punches in hopes of a solid connection, one strike to win the match? In a book, I don’t have to worry about this issue. I am a silent observer, safe in anonymity, and I can watch Strider decapitating orcs and goblins to my heart’s content. I don’t get my hands dirty, my soul is clean of the killing, but I am free to watch. The Fellowship’s failing is mine only in thought, and I am free to savor the scenery as they are ambushed yet again. They fight the good fight for my enjoyment. “It isn’t my war, man.”