Remedial MMOs (OK, LotRO) and Authenticity

This may be my particular cross to bear as a non-comformist and reflexive rebel, but has no one else commented on the phenomenon on remedial MMOs (and probably RPG type situations generally) wherein self-appointed guardians of the spirit of (Tolkien in this case) will unkindly pass stern judgement upon your interpretations of things like behavior, choice of costume, associations and other things when inventing characterizations?

My impression has been that a lot of people get put off from the roleplaying aspect (which can be as simple as taking the setting seriously when interacting with others) entirely when getting the bizniss from these people. I’ve had more than one other player tell me they were interested in the roleplay/social aspect of LotRO but had been told by someone they were ‘doing it wrong’. My own tack when being told I’m ‘doing it wrong’ is to explain my position and I usually get acceptance, grudging or no. I know enough of the source material to construct my own interpretation and I’m equipped to argue the points methodically.

I explain that my approach is guided by the core canon. That is to say, The LoTR trilogy, the Hobbit and the Silmarillion. I’m iffy on “Unfinished Tales” since for the most part they are finished, but ended up on Tolkien’s cutting room floor. If someone had only read the Hobbit, I’d say they should still have a good enough understanding of the material to invent the rest for themselves.

The huge gray areas inherent in projecting a novel, even one as richly detailed and thought out as the LoTR trilogy demand a certain amount of interpretation if one is inserting a character of one’s own devising into it. Roleplaying is really improv acting be it in workplace team building exercises or games like LoTRO or WoW. Like language itself, this form of communication is interactive and requires that our internal dictionaries be sufficiently in sync.

The bigger the uncharted territory in the source story, the greater the room for disagreement amongst players or a remediated game. So if someone does something as simple as walking their elf character through the town of Bree, heaven help you if the wrong person sees you trying to interact with the ‘locals’.

I use this example because I get victimized by it all the time. Tolkien loved him his elves and though they only briefly take center stage in the Silmarillion, he lavished a great deal of attention to developing their lines of kingship, family trees and mythic history. The problem lies in the lack of detail he gives any of their lives. Legolas is the only one who we get to rub shoulders with in the trilogy and he seems delightful company. Friendly if a bit reserved at first, he’s eager to get into the trenches with his newfound friends and get right to the mat with the forces of evil. The kind of guy we want on our football team, right? We never get into his head though the way we do with Aragorn or Frodo or Sam. Or even Gandalf who’s secretly a lesser angel. We don’t get much from Gimli either, to be true but Tolkien’s dwarves barely got more attention than the orcs in terms of detail.

According to some, Elves are so ethereal and aloof that they’d never travel through such a delapidated sty as Bree. At least not openly. This is not an interpretation I’d necessarily get red in the face arguing about. They probably wouldn’t. Probably. But Tolkien didn’t address this specifically. Or really even hint at it. He mentions that elves didn’t interact much with anyone when they passed through the Shire, keeping to their own secret paths, though certain Hobbits like Frodo might note signs of their passage if they were of a more curious nature than was average or that people. But again, it’s not addressed any more specifically than that.

The problem is that a great many newbies and game tweenage kids’ knowledge of Tolkien’s work is limited entirely to having seen some or all of the Jackson films. So confronted with someone who’s demanding your scholarly credentials before they’ll interact with you in a game will generally lead most of these people to go back to Skrim or whatever. Thanks Lore Bores for driving people away!

The issue seems to me to be more one of cultural malaise and a poverty of education in the west than anything else.

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About lazycat1984

In addition to being a character in a novel, I allow my creator to post comments about esoterica, politics and kultur. Lately, I'm going to start plunking in bits of writing here as well. Don't hold your breath waiting for something intelligent.
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