So my mother came up to help us keep the Baby Vigil until the little one is born, which has been nice to have that extra support and also company. She had a lot of questions about what I write for Massively and this blog, and the game that I played, so I asked her if she wanted to see LOTRO and she said sure.
My mom used to be a huge LOTR fan, but this was way back — like, the 70’s way back — so her memory of Middle-earth was a bit fuzzy. I started to take her on a tour of the highlights: the Shire, Bag End, Prancing Pony, Weathertop. The cool thing is that she had more questions about how the game worked than about the whole LOTR world, so I ended up trying to explain a MMO to a complete non-gamer.
One of the first things I pointed out to her was the social interaction between players, and how it links up people from across the world. She got a huge kick out of me waving to another character and seeing them wave back, and realizing that it was another person controlling that toon. It was confusing to her that the world was populated by both computer-controlled NPCs and player characters, but I explained how you can tell the difference and that seemed to satisfy her.
I used the overworld map to show how players progress through both zones and levels, saying that levels were kind of a requirement — a “ticket” — to access additional zones and adventures. She didn’t want to get into the nitty gritty of character building, but instead gravitated more toward the fluffier elements, such as the outfits and player housing.
Perhaps the one thing that had her in awe was LOTRO’s music system, which she experienced as a pair of lute-players put on a little concert for a crowd in front of the Prancing Pony. I told her how the music system lets players wield their creativity to make new things, and that just appealed to her in a way that killing 100 bad guys to gain a skill did not.
We also talked a bit about how the game has expanded my knowledge and understanding of the books and Tolkien’s world, and I realized at that point just how far I’ve come in understanding the lore, characters and areas of Middle-earth in being able to discuss them without stumbling over the words or using a lot of “um’s”.
I’ll give credit to my mom — she might not be a convert and doesn’t really get how people can pour so much time into these games, but she didn’t mock me for it, and she made an honest attempt to understand my fascination with these online worlds.