It’s quite astonishing how my attitude to a game can alter through the simple expedience of changing how I approach it. That is, how I approach playing it, not how I approach the game itself, lest any of you were having visions of this author walking stiffly, military fashion, towards the computer from the front; then another time sneaking, hunched-over and on tip toes, before slithering into my computer seat from underneath the desk; another time bombing from atop the arm of the sofa while screaming ‘banzai!’; yet another time slowly crawling, sloth-like, with ponderous arms and improbably dextrous legs, from around the back of the monitor.
Heading into Lord of the Rings Online for the recent Update 5 found me completing about forty minutes of, to my mind, uninspiring epic book content. Even Tolkien’s epic tale had its slow patches, and I suppose I should be thankful that at least there was no sign of melancholy poetry or inapposite singing in the LotRO content. I don’t know, maybe the singing in Tolkien’s work was justified, but I always used to skip over reading it because it always seemed awkward to me, the middle-earthian equivalent of the silent mournful contemplation at a funeral being broken up by one attendee gently tapping their foot and then crooning “Oh baby, baby, how was I suppose’ t’know”. Feel free to add head jiving and hand claps to your own taste.
I’m not sure whether it’s the case that I’m simply tired of the game, or if this latest update –and, indeed, entire expansion– has actually been as lacklustre as I believe. I find myself beginning to wonder whether Turbine are starting to focus a little too much on in-game store items, or if this expansion is a stop-gap while they work on a more impressive Moria-like expansion for Rohan, or indeed if they’re working on another game entirely and have perhaps stretched their development teams too thinly. It certainly doesn’t help that the Warden class, which has been a favourite of mine for some time, has been tweaked and tampered with, presumably to the satisfaction and appeasement of raiders and spreadsheet optimisers, but unfortunately to the detriment of the soul of the class. Such a simple and elegant mechanic has now been twisted and tortured, with new parts bolted on, such that it has become a warped image of its former beauty, it is the Hollywood star unable to accept their aging gracefully, undergoing plastic surgery after plastic surgery until they no longer resemble their former selves, instead appearing more like some poor cousin of Gollum, one who has stood for too long in a wind tunnel while orange paint and superglue were fired with great force at their face.
I had dipped my toe back into the frosty unappealing waters of LotRO because I found the fire of my enthusiasm for Skyrim starting to flicker and diminish. Where before had been a roaring inferno of gaming passion, a veritable burning city of desire, there now stood a small camp fire: warm, safe, comforting, but without the flare, fervour or fascination of that former passion. The game had not changed, and I estimated that I had discovered but half of what its vast and ranging lands had to offer, so why had my view of the game changed so? I contemplated that perhaps I had changed the position from which I viewed the game. I took a step back and looked at how I was playing the game now, comparing it to how I had approached it when I first started out, back when it was fresh and I was unaware of how the world operated. It soon became obvious that I had, in the finest MMO tradition, begun to optimise the way I played the game. Instead of heading out from town and adventuring in the world, I had become a slave to the Quest Shopping List. When I wanted to adventure, I realised, I now immediately opened my quest log and looked at which items I could tick off, preferably those which were the quickest. Then… THEN (for shame) I would open the map and fast travel to the nearest location to my destination, so as to cut out any of that messy running around business. It was I who had devolved the wondrous emergent discovery-based game-play of the world of Skyrim into a simple MMO quest pipeline; I was a cog in die MMO Schleifen-Maschine once again, crushing content with maximum ruthless efficiency. All of a sudden, just like that, the game had become utterly bland, it was the bleak whiteout monotony of Skyrim’s storm-thrashed barren ice flats realised in game-play form.
Thus, last night, after achieving this minor epiphany, I logged-in to the game. I checked my equipment was in good order, headed out of the main gate of the city, picked a direction, and began to walk.
Six hours later I tore myself away, but only so that I could give this weak human shell the sleep it deems necessary to function. I still haven’t finished the main quest line, or many of the quests sitting in my journal, and now once again, I’m very pleased to say, I don’t care to.