Thanks to Uros for the pointer to this article!
Lord of the Rings and Video Games
Action Trip – May 28, 2002
Sir J.R.R. Tolkien will be remembered in history as a man who influenced the development of entire generations. Few are the books which echoed in time just as much as “Hobbit” or “The Lord of the Rings.” Conceived as an exercise in creativity, a linguistic jest and a lullaby for his son, professor Toliken’s works became a cult, a nexus for an entire subculture, and an eternal inspiration to musicians, theatre and movie producers and, of course, programmers. Tolkien’s prime urge to create a new language resulted in his Elves, who nowadays have their own academy, newspapers, and a recognized language. In literature, fiction as a genre gained a strong new sub-genre – the epic fiction, which is also in close connection to the origins of Fantasy Role-Play (or indeed Role-Playing Games in general), a new world of social entertainment which developed into a strong urban-based subculture. This induced a need for fantasy which started looking into media other than books. Not so long ago we had a chance to see a somewhat bizarre semi-animated movie about the Middle Earth, and some older folks might even remember several low-budget amateur attempts to bring Tolkien’s work to the little screen. The good old copyright laws have prevented many such attempts, but in stead we had a chance to see a large number of relatively good fantasy movies by other authors, all of which borrowed a hair or two from Gandalf’s beard.
The computer game industry could not possibly let go of such a good material, and so we came to witness a large number of games based on Tolkien’s mythology, some of which got a license to use his world, and others presented us with worlds simply inspired by Tolkien. Still, we have never faced the Tolkien-mania we are facing today, when the glamorous movie took us back to Halflings and goblins. It’s not an easy task to achieve a commercial success with a product based on a masterpiece of such magnificent depth; you would have to develop a game which will cover all the aspects of the story to the extent that would satisfy even the hard-core fans of the book. The pathetic visual capabilities of early computers were far from what would be required to compete with the imaginary experience the books could provide, so that most early amateur attempts simply got forgotten. The fact that no games set in the Middle Earth appeared in the last five years might mean that someone will try to capture the spirit of Tolkien’s work in a modern, high budget game in near future. In the meantime, let’s see what Tolkien inspired games we did have a chance to see in the past…
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