Making Me Care

I actually had a moment of true emotion yesterday while playing LotRO.

So there I was, questing around Bree. Bree had up to this point been fairly annoying; after all, the Bree from the books never seemed like the sprawling rabbit-warren that is represented in the game (though little is actually said about it besides the curious fact of Men and Hobbits living together). However, I was starting to find my way, and actually enjoying questing around the Barrow-downs for L007. A distraught mother was missing her son, and wanted me to locate him. Ho-hum, I thought, standard FedEx (delivery) mission like most of the other quests I’d encountered. So, I go to find the boy. I find, instead, a corpse. I click on it a couple of times, but the boy is truly dead. This was my first moment of real emotion. I go back to the mother to tell her the news. She is distraught, but asks me to go find her other son. I go to find the other son, hopeful that he will be alive, at least, since there’s no way the designers would leave the mother so bereft. I find the boy, but he’s possessed by an evil spirit. After I fight the evil spirit, he leaves the boy’s body…and the boy is dead.

Fuck.

I literally said that out loud while I was playing. I had to go back to the mother, AGAIN, and tell her that her son is dead, AGAIN. The boys had been treasure hunters, I was told, and that was their doom. I later found the treasure they were searching for and returned it to the mother, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

This illustrates nicely the discussion of the importance of the shift from the epic to the personal story. Up to this point, I’ve not been terribly invested in the game, since it is a sweeping narrative arc where I have little effect. However, I genuinely cared about the fictional mother being represented to me. I’m sure Cantor would find all sorts of Oedipal feelings there, but for whatever reason, the game touched me in a way that I haven’t been touched in a long time (have fun with that sentence, Cantor!). Well played, Turbine.

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