The Lord of the Rings: The play`s the thing
TomChick - News - 07/06/06 - Link

Yahoo Games recently asked its contributors to pick their Games of the Half-Year. You can click here for my choice. Here's a hint: it's got hobbits.

I realize I am out-of-touch for how late I am in coming to the accepted state of Tolkein fandom that exists among most guys with my predisposition for videogaming. But like many subjects -- airplanes, trains, modern military hardware, naval warfare, World War II, the Civil War -- I can credit the beginning of my interest to a computer game (to wit, Sid Meier's F-19, Sid Meier's Railroad Tycoon, Gary Grigsby's Mech Brigade, Harpoon, and then any number of WWII and Civil War wargames such as Chris Crawford's Patton vs. Rommel, SSG's Carriers at War and Halls of Montezuma, and Talonsoft's Battleground series).

What's unusual about my recent fondness for Tolkein's mythology is that a) elves and orcs don't exist like WWII existed, and b) aren't I a little old to be getting swept up in this stuff?

I'd never read the books. I had seen the movies when they were released, and they were okay. Cool adventures, awesome battle scenes, and a lot of guff that I lost track of in the intervening year after one movie and before the next. Why is Liv Tyler crying? What's the deal with those guys who ride dragons? Wait, is that guy that other guy's brother? Why on earth does my girlfriend think Orlando Bloom is hotter than Viggo Mortensen, and does that make me gay to have an opinion on the matter?

Unlike a lot of people, the movies simply didn't grab me. And the first Battle for Middle Earth game was a decent translation of the movie's production design without much of a game under it. So, yeah, hobbits. Whatever.

Jump to the release of Battle for Middle Earth II. Suddenly there's a solid RTS here with a clever and inventive design. I'm hooked. And just like when I was a kid, the gameplay is just the first step. As I play, I start to get curious about the mythology behind each faction, and the new Ring powers, and the heroes, the same way I got curious about Flankers and Grasshoppers and Pickett and the Shokaku.

So I borrow the Extended Edition DVDs from a buddy. Over the next two days, alternating furiously between playing BFME2 and watching the Extended Editions, I become an aspiring Tolkein geek. This fact was driven home three days ago when I blew $60 on a massive War of the Ring board game and then stayed up all night playing against myself. I repeat: Aren't I a little too old to be getting swept up in this stuff? And this after having only read The Hobbit in 10th grade English and barely remembering any of it. I think there's something about spiders and dwarves and maybe a dragon at the end.

So I'm going on a vacation later in the month and I'll be buying a set of Lord of the Rings books to bring with me. Stefan 'Desslock' Janicki says -- I could be paraphrasing -- they're the greatest works of literature in the world, which strikes me as pretty silly, particularly since I just re-read a favorite Flannery O'Connor short story this morning while sipping my espresso and wearing a beret (the beret part isn't true). But I'm looking forward to going straight to the source to finally see what all the fuss is about, and I have EA RTS and Peter Jackson to thank for kindling my interest.

And it all comes down to being fortunate enough to have a hobby that can, on occasion, feed into other areas of interest.

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