This Thursday night at 9:30 Eastern we’ll convene the third session of our monthly symposium (you know, a drinking party) on “Roots of Humanistic Game Criticism” inside the world of Turbine’s The Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO). Last month we got deep into the question of the ludic nature of Tolkien’s Quenta, though of course without a conclusion to show for it (ἀπορία is the way a symposium is supposed to end, whether of the Platonic or the non- variety).
That dialogue, though, seems to me in retrospect to have begged an important question, in the true sense–I was assuming the fundamental coherence of my understanding of the RPG as a practice. This Thursday, I want to go back a stage and see if we can figure out what we mean by “game” when we say “role-playing game.” Is there, I’m wondering, a fundamentally ludic quality to “playing pretend” that we then develop into mechanics like hit-points? Or is “playing pretend” not naturally ludic, and we create a pleasant sort of monster by grafting mechanics into it?
Examples to be drawn from D&D, DragonAge, LOTRO, and my son’s elaborate fantasy-life.
As you may know, LOTRO is free-to-play (though of course there are ways to give Turbine your money if you should insist), so anyone who has a moderately capable PC and the time and patience to download the game should come along and see if the game and/or the symposium suit him or her. Of course, if you’re already a LOTRO player, it shouldn’t be a problem to pop over to Ered Luin on Windfola to check out the effete nonsense.
We’ll be on the Windfola server (called “world” in the LOTRO jargon). I will be playing on a toon (character) named Trianuil. If you haven’t played LOTRO before, you’ll have to allow ten minutes or so to get through a tutorial in which you learn to kill stuff and pick other stuff up. If you want to be with the VGHVI group, make an elf toon yourself, and join us in Ered Luin right after the introduction. More details available upon request, of course!
We’ll have discussion on Ventrilo, which is a free program that you can download and install in something like two minutes. Once you have it downloaded and installed, set up a server as follows: Name: vent108.light-speed.com; Port: 4383. Then email me at Roger Travis Jr (no spaces) at gmail dot you-know for the password, or let me know in-game via Tell on Thursday night that you need it. (Press [enter] and type “/tell Trianuil I’m with VGHVI”.) In any case, please comment here to let us know you’ll be there, and then, in-game, /say “VGHVI” so that we know you’re with us.
As before, I’d also very much like to hear what others are interested in discussing, whether it’s specific to LOTRO or a more general topic in the intersection of games and the humanities.
See you in Middle-Earth!