Shoot Club

Shoot Club
Hobbitspotting, Part Five

Tom Chick | 31 May 2007 17:00
Shoot Club - RSS 2.0
image

Part Four

"Come on, you can't just quit," my friend Trevor says.

"I can. I am. I've already written the review. There's no reason for me to keep playing. I'm done. I'm getting out. Going clean. I'm going to start playing single player games again."

"Even after what Mike did for you?"

That's the hard part. The other people. Stopping playing is just the first part. But if Mike and Trevor keep talking about it at Shoot Club every week, if they log in and I watch them play, if they talk other people into trying it, then it's going to be even more difficult for me to stay off. Mike's gesture of goodwill doesn't help matters.

"Look in your mailbox," Trevor had told me shortly after the night I lost everything.

I logged on quickly and ignored a couple of tells long enough to run to a mailbox. There was a whole long list of mail, each with an attached item. Armor, rings, a staff.

"We bought you a basic set of equipment," Trevor said. "Mike even made some armor. He got a critical success on the gloves. Check them out."

Stout padded gloves. They added 18 to my armor. They gave me 5 extra points of morale. But I couldn't use them, and not just because I wasn't going to play any more.

"I'm a lore-master, I can't use medium armor," I said, and then immediately regretted making Mike feel like an idiot.

"I can make something else," Mike offered. "It's just that those were a special pair, on account of the critical success. Maybe you could sell them on the auction house?"

"Come on, you should stick with it," Trevor said. "Guess what we found? Oathbreakers. Guess what else?"

"What?"

"Remember how you said it was lame that there was nothing on Weathertop?"

"Yeah."

"Well, things change. Something happens. I have five little words for you: They have a cave troll."

"It's actually a mountain troll," Mike said.

"Shut up, Mike. It's a famous quote. That wouldn't make any sense, to say 'They have a mountain troll'."

It's not just the promise of the trolls. It's not the loot. It's not even the game itself. It's the people. That might be what I realized at some point that evening. That might be why I did the stupid things I did. That might have something to do with me waking up at three in the afternoon, having slept through my 11am conference call, and finding a baggie on my desk with a single blue pill in it.

'What happened to the other four Ambien?' I wondered as I sent apologetic email to the folks I was supposed to call. 'Wasn't this wine bottle full last night?' I wondered as I made coffee in the kitchen. 'How did I get here?' I wondered as I logged in and found my lore-master at the Green Dragon Inn in the Shire. 'Where's all my stuff?' I wondered as I noted my lore-master was basically naked. 'Was there a server rollback or something?' I wondered, alt-tabbing out to check the official announcements. 'Why are the words Must Love Hobbits floating over my head? How did I get into a guild called Must Love Hobbits?'

Your friend, Leggollass, has come online.
Leggollass tells you, 'hay do u have innymore poshuns'
You tell Leggollas, 'Hi. Who is this?'

Yeah, I actually use punctuation in chat. I realize that makes me the freak, but I can't help it. The written word is the written word, colloquially or otherwise. This is language. There are rules. Without rules, there is chaos, ebonics, leetspeak, Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

Leggollass tells you, 'Legolas'
You tell Leggollass, 'You want to buy potions?'
Leggollass tells you, 'u sed to look 4 u when i get back from school 2day'
You tell Leggollass, 'Ah. I'm afraid I don't have any more potions. How old are you? Does your mom know you're playing after school?'
Bormorir tells you, 'Hiya, sweetie!'

'Sweetie?' What? It never ceases to amaze me how many people think that fewer than 98% of the people they encounter in an MMO are dudes, regardless of what they look like ingame. I wasn't sure I wanted to know why some guy was calling me 'sweetie'. I logged out.

The last thing I remembered that night was taking another Ambien right before the last battle in the Great Barrows.

"I had a blackout, man. Who has a blackout playing an MMO?"

"What's the big deal?" Trevor said. "Would you rather have a blackout at a bar, or a party? I had no idea you were trashed. You just seemed like you were in a good mood. You kept running around offering to help people, and giving them stuff. You gave that little kid all the potions you'd made. You gave that guy in Bree all your money. That guy trying to learn how to play his lute."

"I gave someone all my money?"

"Him and that guy who couldn't figure out how to put skills in his task bar. And some other people. You founded Must Love Hobbits and were paying people to join."

"You gave me some of your money," Mike said. "I can give it back to you."

"I started a guild called Must Love Hobbits?"

"A kinship. They're called kinships."

"That's it for me. I'm out. I can't think of a better way to call it quits. I'm going to start writing my review and then I'm going to uninstall the game. We're going to be late, let's go."

So I'm out now. Me and Trevor are watching Men and Women walk by.

"I can't believe you let me wear a cape," Trevor says, briefly giving up on talking me into staying with Lord of the Rings Online.

"Yeah. My bad. Sorry about that. Just don't do it again."

"Who wears a cape?"

"Dorks? Superheroes?"

"I can't believe you let me wear a cape. Rowan branches."

"What?"

"There. Rowan branches."

There's a leafy branch on the sidewalk where the wind has blown it off a tree. It's just lying there. No one has moved it.

"You gonna get it?"

"I don't have woodworking."

"Forester. You don't have forester. Woodworking is the guy who needs it, forester is the guy who gets it."

Stupid bleed-through. When it becomes a lens through which you see other things. That's the point you might need to get out. It's one thing to pique my interest in the books and the movies, but why am I thinking in these terms now, here, sitting in front of this theater with Trevor, looking at a stick in the road?

Down the street, the sun is going down and the shadows are long. The clouds are orange and pink. You can see a pale half moon off to our left. We're waiting for Mike to catch up with us. Mike, who never has any cash, had to run to an ATM to get money for his ticket to Pirates III.

"You know what I'm thinking?"

"Yeah?"

"That it looks like something from Lord of the Rings Online."

"Huh. I was thinking, 'This majestical roof fretted with golden fire'."

"What's that from?"

"'This brave o'erhanging firmament, this majestical roof fretted with golden fire'."

"Star Trek IV?"

"'It appears no other thing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors.' It's from Withnail and I. 'Man delights not me.'"

"Nor hobbits neither?"

When I get home tonight, I'll cancel my account and uninstall Lord of the Rings Online. Of course, once you find one of these MMOs that gets its hooks into you, you're never out. You can cancel your account, break your disks in half, and even delete your characters, but you're not out. You're just off for a time. Sometimes a long time. Sometimes not a very long time.

Here's the email I'll get in three days:

From: hisemailaddress@hisISP.com
Sent: Tuesday, May 29, 2007 10:17 AM
To: myemailaddress@myISP.com
Subject: RE: LOTRO review

Is she that chick that writes for IGN, the one who licks PSPs? So I hear there's a new LOTRO expansion thing coming out next month. I'm going to put you down to review that when it comes out.

This e-mail message and any attachments to it are for the sole use of the intended recipients and may contain confidential and privileged information. This e-mail message and any attachments are the property of this corporate entity. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure, or distribution of this e-mail message or its attachments is prohibited. If you are not an intended recipient, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message and any attachments.

From: myemailaddress@myISP.com
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2007 3:01 PM
To: hisemailaddress@hisISP.com
Subject: RE: LOTRO review

Yeah, it's sitting right here. I haven't gotten around to installing it yet. Whatever on the edits. Do you think they do this to Janet Maslin?

From: hisemailaddress@hisISP.com
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2007 10:11 AM
To: myemailaddress@myISP.com
Subject: RE: LOTRO review

First of all, you need a part the beginning that explains what LOTR is. Mention the books, how they were made into movies, the storyline, all that stuff. I keep telling you. Second of all, you didn't have a paragraph on sound. I need you put one in. You can just stick it near the end. Be sure to mention if the music is any good. Third of all, you tried to use the same Bertrand Russell joke again. No one gets that. And finally of all, I checked Gamerankings and there's no way this game is a 10. Everyone says it too much like WoW, so it can't be a 10. I lowered the score to 9. Did you get the review build of Quake Wars? How's it look? I'm thinking we should give it a 9.

This e-mail message and any attachments to it are for the sole use of the intended recipients and may contain confidential and privileged information. This e-mail message and any attachments are the property of this corporate entity. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure, or distribution of this e-mail message or its attachments is prohibited. If you are not an intended recipient, please notify the sender by reply e-mail and destroy all copies of the original message and any attachments.

***

Tom Chick has been writing about videogames for fifteen years. His work appears in Games for Windows Magazine, Yahoo, Gamespy, Sci-Fi, and Variety. He lives in Los Angeles. Shoot Club will be appearing in this space every Thursday.

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on