My Introduction to Lotro

 

 I’ll never play any of those MMOs

Almost two years ago Beloved started playing the Free to Play Lotro.  He thought I might be interested; he thought it was something we could play together; he thought it was a good introduction to MMOs.  Now I feel that I must say this:

  • I had managed to read ‘The Hobbit’ and not really enjoyed it
  • I started to read the Lord of the Rings and had not been able to complete the first part
  • I found ‘questy’ books boring
  • I thought that the female characters in Tolkein were ridiculous
  • If I was going to be a geeky gamer it would be in a science fiction setting

But I thought I would give it a try and ‘rolled’ a minstrel.  It sounded a nice idea – something that I could relate to, but it is not the best choice for a newbie gamer, so after another try at something else (can’t remember what) I settled on a hunter and actually made it out of the starter area.

I soon found myself really getting into the game, but no way were we going to start paying for a game. Hunters are a good class for starting out with. I found the combat weird at first, and whilst it was spiders and wolves I had not problem but then we started killing humans, but they were baddies, so it didn’t matter? No what was really important is that it is a game. In teaching I surprised myself with being able to role-play really nasty people, and the same applies here.

I’ll never pay subscriptions for a game

Beloved and I did the epic quests together and some of the side quests and pretty soon we were able to get out first horses. Oh the pure joy of riding across the Lone-lands on a pony – because my hunter was a hobbit. Suddenly I realised that we were playing every night of the week, so when it was tentatively suggested that I might want to get VIP status (pay for the game) and that way I would get extra storage space, which I already realised I needed, I am afraid that I said yes.

 

Over Christmas my son came over and we introduced him to the game – like pushers encouraging everyone we knew to take our drug of choice. He rolled a Lore-master and with Beloved’s cappy (and yes we were learning the lingo) and my hunter on DPS (see!) we had a useful fellowship. We played a few times remotely and then he stopped playing. He went on to other things (RL stuff mainly). My mother was interested and started playing and soon she was fellowing with us. Our birthday present to her was a subscription for a couple of months: she now pays her own and has been playing for a year.

I’ll never play a game with a total stranger

One of the things I soon realised was that there were these things called kins. Apparently on other MMOs they are referred to as guilds but I have never played any other MMO so they are and will remain Kins to me. We were on snowbourne server by now – a European server and were looking for a good mature kin and found The Last Alliance. They ae a great kin and we played a few raids and instances with them. They were not th most active kin around and I cannot say that they were the friendliest, merely because they were the only one I tried but they were lovely. A friendly supportive group who were willing to share their experience.

I’ll never consider online friends as real friends

They taught us a lot about fellowships and about using our classes to best effect. I started to see these people in my kin chat every night and chatting with them became part of my routine. I started to think of them as friends. Most were not UK players and I had no idea if they were millionaires or paupers but we got on well. I now saw another huge benefit of gaming, you get to see other nationalities and people and interact with them in a way totally divorced from issues of race, ethnic background, sexuality or gender and disability. We had parties and events and, I know this sounds sad, but we even went to Weatherop together to set off some fireworks at New Year, even though we were all in different time zones. It was with great sadness that we left that kin and only a move to another server would have made us do it.

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Collaborative gaming

Portal 2 introduced me to a new shiny world with a new jargon all of its own.  I learned about push to talk and  in game chat clients and how to play with someone else.  I also set up my  steam account (though it may have been earlier).

It isn’t that simple, in that you have to look at joint aims not just your own.

The picture shows the Logo for Aperture Laboratories, the fictional site of the Portal game

Aperture Science We do what we must because we can. For the good of all of us. Except the ones who are dead.

Portal 2 was – like the first version – very funny and again it was a puzzle – you needed to engage your brains.  It wasn’t like the FPS, I reasoned, where you just go around on a killing spree.  I now think that I had hugely underestimated most computer games.  If it really was just point and shoot then people would pretty soon lose all interest in them.  So we played Portal 2 and found that we talked about it, shared jokes about it, laughed together at it, and when we finally finished it together it was a huge high for us both.  At long last I saw the point of games – doing them together.

But Portal 3 is a long way off, and so I returned to Transport tycoon, Bioshock and Civ5 whilst  Beloved turned to Assassins Creed and other titles.

 

 

Our concert on the Methel stage

The Traveling Bilberries is the name of the band which I play in.  I am mainly a lyricist and theorbo player.

Tonight we did our first proper concert although we have performed a couple of times so far.  Here is the video of the concert.

I do want to post about making music in Lotro but that can wait – but at the moment I am exhausted and not really ready for a huge discussion on creativity and virtual  music making but I do want to post  his.  I have after-gig exhaustion and the usual high which will mean a crashing low tomorrow.

I was slightly disappointed by the number of attendees at our gig, but pleased about how it went – except that I made two errors; twice as many as anyone else – oh how annoying!  Tomorrow I will be so down about those errors.

Gaming is OK, really!

There was a point in my life where I realised that all the sexism and violence that I had seen in computer games were actually having little or no effect on the actual tendency to commit violence in the person I was most worried for – my son.

He played Tomb Raider and I had real problems with this partly because a hypersexualised mannequin was the heroine. That was the game he chose to show me to prove that games weren’t sexist – it has a female in the lead! I knew in the back of my mind that the others he played were probably much more questionable but I never asked and he never told.

Yet he grew into an OK bloke, who is not sexist or racist or homophobic.

I knew also that my partner was a gamer too, and I could see he was playing violent games as well, but he was the mildest and most reasonable person I know. Now here’s a thought – maybe I ought to try violent games as a substitute for real violence to help me get rid of my anger? That wasn’t my reasoning then, nor now, but is worth thinking about.

A 'no guns' sign

I don’t like guns.

There was a point where I grew interested in what my beloved was doing in these games. I suppose my first game where I actually killed something would have been Doom. We started off by Beloved trying to show me how atmospheric it was to have headphones on and be running through corridors. So I had a go, and that led me to play for quite a while, and yes, I did actually enjoy killing the aliens. But you see, that was the point, as long as it was aliens it was OK. It didn’t mean that I would be killing the next door neighbour. I still have this fear of de-humanising real people – I know it is the first step in creating a real enemy, and I don’t want any part of that. And then there were people in Doom and that shook me a little, but I figured that they were aliens too, so that was all right.

I went back to Transport Tycoon and other sims in my virtual world and ignored the games paraphernalia that came into the house – the driving wheel, the joysticks, the flight game controllers, with names like thrustmaster. I knew that they were never for me.

I think Bioshock was the first game I actually wanted to play but I already knew that I wouldn’t be able to. The platform games I had tried in the past led me to decide that fps games and I wouldn’t mix. I am dyslexic and have very poor hand to eye coordination as well as very little patience with anything or anyone that I don’t teach. Put me in a classroom and I never lose patience with a learner, anywhere else and I will lose my rag very quickly. But Bioshock was lovely; beautiful and I wanted to wander round that world. I tried it and struggled but then there was Portal.

Now around this time my Beloved decided that what would bring us closer would be if we could game together.  Portal 2 had just come out and he wanted to play it anyway and this collaborative game would be ideal to allow us to play together.  So I tried to play Portal.

The image shows a slice of lovely cake with the familiar Portal comment that "the cake is a lie"

One of the best phrases to ever come out of a game!

Oh at last! A game designed for me. I think that was the very first game I ever completed (with one bit of help on a bit that was a too difficult – where you had to jump and I couldn’t get it). I cried at the ending, I really did and only partly because it was the first game I had finished (apart from sims).  Now I was ready for Portal2  and gaming with another person.

I was wrong about computer gaming

I tried pong. I lasted about five seconds: I was useless at it. You had to pay for each game. What annoyed me was that I was being penalised for being rubbish at it – I couldn’t practice to get any better because I wasn’t good enough to get any bonuses. I tried asteroids and breakout and  space invaders.  I was useless at them all.  The first negative I found– games are (or can be) expensive.

picture shows a male using a space invaders machine

I never really got on with such games

Shareware was the start of my connection with computer games (or video games – I never worked out which is the correct term). Often games were given away on magazine covers – in the form of a floppy disk, and if they would run on my 386 dx25 we would try them. I tried Tetris, and got better at that because I didn’t have to pay to practice. I found it addictive and it was soon pointed out that I got quite angry and annoyed when interrupted especially if anyone tried to get me to give up playing it. I found my second negative there – so games do affect us, they can make us angry and aggressive, but I stress the word CAN.

 

An image of a screenshot of Transport Tycoon

For years this was my favourite game

Somehow I ended up with Transport Tycoon – Oh, how I love that game! A train-set: one that I can lay out as I wish, with proper signals and trains, and stations and… oh …all sorts. I had the train-set I always wanted as a girl and never got, probably because I was a girl. I played the first shareware version for years: it was limited to a year’s virtual play and only trains, but that was fine by me. My son bought me the boxed set full game for my birthday or mother’s day one year and it was one of his best gifts ever. Now I could run buses and lorries and trams. I quickly discovered that you could scupper your opponent by driving a worthless train across their road and stopping it on a level crossing (and yet I hate game cheats)! I played this constantly, rarely trying anything else to be honest and this is possibly why I believed so much utter tosh about computer games – they were all violent, sexist, racist and wholly undesirable for children. Transport Tycoon was off course an exception as it was for adults and was a sim. After a time I started to collect various Sim games.

 
By now I had seen a familiar pattern occurring in the marriages and relationships of friends that I found worrying. I was seeing, all around me, men and boys spending more and more time on the computer game and leaving their wives/girlfriends/partners/siblings to do the housework. Now this is no new phenomenon – some men were very good at avoiding their share of housework, and always will be and the truth is that if they were not playing games they would be doing something else to escape housework. Those men would be out at the pub, or even for the older men in the shed.

(I just want to point out that this is not all men, OK)

But for a young woman who is looking at games with a negative eye this was another reason why I disapproved of them.
The problems still existed in my head – video (computer) games are:

  • a waste of money
  • in the main violent and should therefore not be promoted
  • in the main sexist and should therefore not be promoted
  • in the main addictive and should therefore not be promoted

 

I now think that I was wrong about much of this. I am now, I suppose, a gamer. My views are now much different, but I wanted to explain where I had come from and how far I have travelled.