I recently found out from a post on CSTM that Turbine had added a cosmetic item to LOTRO exclusive to the Dwarven race. Yes there is now a bare-chested cosmetic item, allowing your Dwarf alt to run about Middle-Earth stripped to the waist. As you can expect this item has met with mixed reactions from the community. Some have found it funny, were others object on grounds of lore-breaking. It has thrown the role-players in confusion due to the gender problems it raises. I personally don’t like it because I think it’s a cheap and tawdry money grab. Check out the official forums for a litmus test. The above image is courtesy of Brandon_Blackbird.
Naturally I wanted to find out more about the item so I decided to do a Google search. Let it suffice to say that” bare-chested dwarves” returned some very interesting results, none of which were particularly relevant. So I searched the Turbine store in-game but still had no luck. Then I realised you can only find it if you have a Dwarf character, so I had to roll a new alt. The details were exactly the same as they were in other posts, confirming that it wasn’t a joke. I did suspect that it was for a while. Also I would like to point out that this is a rather high price to pay for the privilege of seeing Dwarf titties.
Now I think there is a great deal of similarity between this issue and a recent article here on CMP by Laura Kemmerer about naming your alt. Both subjects are about personal preferences and tolerance. One man’s meat is another man’s poison and all that. As a libertarian I don’t want to see some players denied access to things that may enhance their game but I also wish to avoid elements that personally diminish mine. Therein lies the dilemma. It would be nice to see if Turbine could utilise some of the current in-game technology to deal with the issue. Could the dynamic layering and phasing mechanics of LOTRO not be used to hide other players cosmetic gear? We can at present turn other players names off, which is a sufficient workaround for those who object to the lore breaking in that respect. A similar facility for cosmetics would be adequate compromise in this case.
However, because the item is now in the store and people have already bought it, I really don’t see there being any major U-turn on this issue. Nor do I honestly think that Turbine will take any steps to accommodate those who object to this item. I also think it is interesting that just after the launch of a major expansion, Turbine has made some staff changes at senior level. Former Zynga manager Jai Singh has signed on to oversee Turbine’s “online operations hosting and computing infrastructure, technical support, and network operations. Mortal Kombat veteran Alan Villani is Turbine’s new VP of Technology and responsible for driving “online engagement and monetization. Make of that what you will. I wonder how much involvement they’ll have with LOTRO?
Finally, there has been for sometime an increasingly vocal debate about the objectification of female characters in games, especially within MMOs. Is this not a case of extending the same sort of outdated sexual attitudes towards Dwarves? Dwarves are a noble and dignified race, who extol such virtues as honour and loyalty. They are great architects and craftsmen but it would appear that none of that is relevant and that they are simply defined by there well toned abs, glistening with sweat. This sort of base sexual exploitation is totally unbecoming in the Twenty First century. What are we to expect next? Hobbit Lady boys? Look to your sexual politics Turbine.