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April 5th, 2007

MMOre Weirdness

Well I've moved over to the "unofficial RP server" for LOTRO and made it my home, at least for now. So far, so good. In order to acclimate, I've also been checking out the forums for a likely guild (referred to as "kinship" in LOTRO), and in a thread set up by a group called "The Waywatchers of Cardolan" (a nice Middle-Earthey name for a group if ever there was one) there was an announcement of a kinship event where a bunch of them were going to meet up in Bree and patrol the Great East Road to free it of goblins and Dourhands [1]. "Neat," I thought. "They're really getting into their 'We are the guardians of the Shire' role, that's cool."

This was followed up by a post from someone with a hobbit character in the game, who basically said, "Thank you, brave heroes, for protecting us Shire-folk from the dangers of the world." "Aww," I thought. "That's cute."

Finally, after the event took place, somebody posted on the message board, "The roads are cleared from Bree to Weathertop. The patrol was successful, though I fear the safety of the East Road will not last long. Be safe on your travels my friends and call on us when you seek aid."

At this point, that Charlie the Unicorn part of my brain popped up and said, "But you didn't actually achieve anything!!!"

Which, of course, they haven't. It's an MMO ... the goblins and Dourhands were all re-spawned before the post hit the internet! I mean yeah, I know that roleplaying is all make-believe anyway ... but there is a point at which my suspension of disbelief just gets sprained. Yes, we can all Gather At a Webserver Round and pretend we're a bunch of elves, dwarves, and wizards in this fantasy world -- but on top of that, we have to pretend that the fantasy world we're "in" is actually behaving in the way we are, er, pretending it is, rather than the way it actually is. So we're not just rejecting reality, we're also rejecting the alternate reality of the MMO environment in order to use it as a kind of stepping stone to get to the shared mindspace of being on Middle Earth.

... That's ... a lot of work for what you get out of it. ...

I know, I know, it's just a game, I should really just relax. But these things bug me! I'd like to be able to just go along with the premise and say "Hurrah, the Waywatchers of Cardolan have done a great service!" -- but the "reality" (such as it is) of the world the Waywatchers of Cardolan inhabit, is that less than fifteen minutes later they might just as well have not done their patrol at all. The various players' individual enjoyment, and any loot or XP they might have picked up along the way, is all there is.

I just have a real hard time wrapping my head around that.

-The Gneech

[1] A clan of dwarves allied with Sauron, at least in the game -- I don't think they appear in Tolkien anywhere. But you need to have something to fight besides never-ending waves of orcs.

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