When Bad Mechanics Do Good: Lord of the Rings Online, Session Play, and Empathy

So, for once, I do not think I need to reassure you, dear readers, that I don’t really mean that something is 100% very bad no good but rather that, if you understood every word I wrote in the title, I a) am absolutely serious b) definitely do understand the … fraught feelings us LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online) players have towards session play quests.

I have kicked the leeches. I have kicked the leeches more than once and am sure I will again. And yet – I do also have a certain fondness for session play and a desire for it to stick around as an occasional mechanic. And I also, as this article will show, think it can be used to really great purpose and effect.

Unsurprisingly, I also like epic battles. Quite a bit. But, that masochism aside (I kid, I kid, but kidding is more fun than serious answers 😛 ), it’s time to head below the “read more” cut for a discussion of consent, choice, Isildur (and his descendants) kind of being a big time jerk, point of view, empathy, and how LOTRO chooses to engage with the Paths of the Dead section of its source material.

There's also a stealthed burglar somewhere in this screencap.

Shrew’s eye view heading north in the Dead Marshes.

Continue reading

Your Analysis Failed to Properly Load, Please Try Again

Soooo, Feminist Frequency (link to official web site here) put up their latest video yesterday (link here), on women as background decoration, and totally failed to make good use of the material they showed. They also managed to alienate and objectify an entire group of women by using the phrase “prostituted women” over and over again in the course of the video and only using the preferred and neutral term “sex worker” in reference to male workers. This is not okay. Absolutely, categorically not okay. And while I mostly want to provide a brief overview of the points that could be made about the games shown in a better, more understanding discussion of sex worker representation in games, I will also get a bit into why the video’s language and handling are such a problem.

Continue reading