In some of the most brilliant 19th century prose I’ve read, The Stones of Venice, Ruskin illustrates the six key components of the Gothic (6). I’m going to focus on his first two, and illustrate that, despite using medievalism as a setting, LotRO is decidedly un-Gothic in nature:
By this, Ruskin largely means flawed originality. Ruskin admonishes the reader that forcing people to copy other items, rather than allowing them to explore and create on their own. He decries clean lines and finished work, rather celebrating the flawed romantic work that lesser men are capable of. Lord of the Rings online seems an exceptionally rigid game. The variety of the quests, at least in the early part of the game, is all clean lines and finish, not allowing the player to do much at all besides finding the next quest and doing what’s told. To paraphrase Ruskin, by doing this, we make a player, but we don’t make a man.
On a related note, I’m having trouble continuing the gameplay of Lord of the Rings online. While many MMO’s rely heavily on the “go here, kill that, gather that” type mission, I’ve never played a game that relied EXCLUSIVELY on this type of mission. This is the sort of monotony that Ruskin decries. While I’ve been “cultivated” by many years of gaming, I can’t bring myself to wait any longer for variation to show up. I am longing for an experience that is more Gothic in practice, rather than merely in external form.