6 Months, 1 Day and 16 Hours
6 months, 1 day and 16 hours. Or put another way that’s 4504 hours. In total, 270,240 minutes. That is the total amount of time to date, that I’ve invested in my primary character in LOTRO. I have had several other alts over the years, many of which are now deleted, so for the sake of accuracy you can probably add another 20 hours or so to that total. That is a sizeable investment of time over an eight-year period. But that is the nature of the MMO genre. They are essentially time sinks. However, that is not what this post is about. I’m not here to dissect whether 4504 hours has been a good use of my time or not. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve gained a commensurate amount of entertainment in return. Plus, those 2504 hours were specifically leisure time, so if I hadn’t of played LOTRO they would have been spent watching TV or on some other pastime. Therefore, I’m not going to claim that in different circumstance I could have learned to play the Sousaphone with that time. This post is about reflecting upon LOTRO and the MMO genre.
Over the past eleven years LOTRO has waxed and waned and subsequently stabilised with regard to its playerbase and its place in the hall of MMO fame. Despite regular claims of its imminent demise (some even by myself), the game has doggedly soldiered on. It is my belief that the game is sustained and perpetuated by the loyal support of a group of core gamers who have decided to make LOTRO their online “home”. They may not like every aspect of the game or the way the developers, Standing Stone Games, runs things, but they’ve gotten used to the way things are. The other major factor is that there is no alternative game for the present. The recent news that Athlon Games is developing a new Middle-earth based MMO, doesn’t really have much bearing on the situation. The game doesn’t exist yet and will more than likely be a completely different beast to LOTRO. I can’t see LOTRO players jumping ship any time soon.
So for those who play LOTRO (I won’t use the term “gamers”, because many don’t identify as such or play any other title), it remains simply a fixed constant in their leisure activities. A social hub for staying in touch with friends, an immersive game with ten years’ worth of content to play and a source of inspiration for wider activities such as writing, role play or fan fiction. As for the game itself, it has a wealth quests and activities to undertake, ranging from the Epic Story to the most arbitrary of “busy work”. Therefore, there’s always something to do in LOTRO. Hence that number of 4504 hours. And that time investment is a really big factor for me. One of the reasons I keep coming back to LOTRO is the fact that I have committed a great deal of my own personal life to the game and that is not something that you casually disregard. Such an investment engenders a sense of loyalty and commitment. For some players it even fosters a sense of “ownership”. I may not necessarily agree with such a perspective, but I can see how it occurs.
Although I am not an especially emotional individual, I think it is fair to say that after ten years of playing LOTRO, I have developed some sort of sentimental attachment to the game. One that I have not found elsewhere with any other MMO. I have an abiding love of the Star Trek franchise, but STO doesn’t quite generate the same emotional response from me as LOTRO does. A lot of that is down to LOTRO’s intellectual property. Middle-earth and the writings of Professor Tolkien have a profound effect upon those that love and identify with his work. Then there’s the context of the time that I discovered and initially started playing the game. It filled a large gap in my leisure and social activities back in 2008. Another important point to consider, is that it was my first MMO and major experience of online communities. It’s a variation of the “first love” concept and how your initial experience of something greatly shapes your future outlook. So overall, I think that there’s no real surprise to be had by the revelation that I’ve spent over half a year of my time on LOTRO. Until something happens to change things, that number will continue to increase.