Much has been said about the community in Lord of the Rings Online, about how helpful it is, about how generous it is, and about how generally mature, at least relative to World of Warcraft.
And, in general, it is true enough. There are always a few problem children around, but the ratio of good to bad is pretty reasonable.
And nowhere is this more true when it comes to role playing in game.
In WoW, on the Lightninghoof, a designated role play server, nothing gets the 13 year old boys (those either physically or mentally 13) using the word “gay” or “fag” faster than somebody role playing in Orgrimmar.
And I have seen this sort of active hostility towards role playing quite a bit in WoW.
Not that I am big on role playing in-game. But I try to be… role play compatible. I tend to go with character names that are not too disruptive to immersion in the game and I will hold up my end of things if I end up in a situation where role play is happening.
In LOTRO though, role play seems to just happen, whether you plan on it or not.
For example, the other night, Potshot was working on his cooking profession in the game.
While some recipes can be cooked at the oven in the crafting hall. Other recipes, trail food specifically, need to be cooked over a campfire. But unless you are near an NPC campfire, you have to buy kindling (wood all over the place, buy you have to buy kindling!), which can get expensive when you are a low level character.
I offered to get out my hunter, Silinus, to help him out. Hunters get a skill that allows them to create campfires without kindling. Free fire, so to speak.
So I met up with him by the gate in West Bree, over by Harry Goatleaf, and started a campfire.
Within a minute though, several people joined us at the campfire.
Granted, this is something of a high traffic area, but I think everybody who passed stopped at the fire for at least a moment to see what was happening.
Potshot kept working on his cooking… maybe people were expecting treats. Meanwhile, the instruments came out and dancing, or at least clapping along with the music, ensued.
And you may say that well, sure, on the main road out of Bree you light a fire, then you exclaim surprise that you attract a few passing role players, how silly of you… or me.
But I am pretty sure these guys were not role players. One had what I would call an immersion breaking name, while the other was in a kinship called ‘Stoners R Us.’ (But we’re ‘Murder for Shire,’ so I can’t really criticize.) And, of course, I have seen this sort of thing happen before.
I think this is more of an indicator of what draws people to LOTRO.
As a game, LOTRO has been called a WoW clone without quite the polish and with a few more boars. (Boars do seem to be rampant in Azeroth as well.) And without the backdrop of Tolkien’s work, it would be hard pressed to differentiate itself from the crowd of fantasy MMORPGs.
But the fact that it is Middle-earth, the land of Tolkien, changes the way people play the game. Unlike Azeroth (or Norrath), the lore and legends of Middle-earth are generally known already to those who come to play the game and are, to some extent, why they have come to play the game. They likely want to feel they are a part of that world.
Which leads, I think, to a somewhat different player culture in and around the game.
Not that all of this leads to some blissful player nirvana. The game still has its mental 13 year olds.
But some things, like role playing, seem to be generally accepted as part of the game.