Forays into Middle-Earth Part 1

Installing and breezing through the tutorial of the game, I tried to keep in mind the texts that I had recently been encountering (indeed, in an act of profound multitasking, I began playing LoTRO while still listening to the Glass program). One of the things that struck me almost immediately was the attempt at immersion into a “hyperreal” scenario; I wasn’t just living the books in a linear storyline, rather all races and locales were present to me. Choosing an elf character (mostly because damage-per-second characters are the easiest to solo with), I was struck by the attempt to create the illusion of an expansive world in a game that is remarkably linear. I could choose any number of types of elves to be; I chose wood-elf, but I still began the game in the House of Elrond. I could change my facial features/hair, but I still needed to look “elvish” enough. The servers were all named after sites from the Lord of the Rings books, but here was where the anachronism began: I played on the Brandywine server, though Brandywine was a well-fortified place that largely escaped the violence of the books. Violence, necessarily, is the central feature of gameplay here. Additionally, the character name I chose is that of all of my online avatars, but in this case, its decidedly un-elvish name placed anachronism into every NPC I interacted with. Finally, the global chat window vibrated with urgency as the various denizens of Middle-Earth debated the merits of the recent SCOTUS ruling. Did these anachronisms hurt the game? Actually, in a way, yes. Unlike the benevolent anachronisms at Medieval Times, where there is little expectation of true authenticity, the global chat window sought to pull me away from the immersion into the hyperreality of Middle Earth. Next time, I’m closing the chat box.

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