A Thanksgiving Lego Battle for Middle Earth

Lego The Lord of the Rings video game cover art

One of the highlights of my Thanksgiving was playing through the Lego Lord of the Rings video game with my nine year-old nephew. I’ve been considering using the game as part of a module on interaction design for my spring course, and so tricked him into helping me field test it. It took us two days and about 12 hours (and several puzzled queries from the rest of the family about whether we would be joining them for Thanksgiving dinner) but we saved Middle Earth. It’s very cathartic to bash Lego bricks instead of stabbing your victims with a hidden wrist blade (I’ll be fighting that good Assassin’s Creed fight to deal with marking stress next week.) The designers tied game play and voiceovers to the Peter Jackson films rather than the books. Several online sources claim that the dialogue and voiceovers are all from the movies and Gandalf and Gollum certainly *sound* like Sir Ian McKellen and Andy Serkus. But I have to say I was a bit disappointed. The cut scenes are well-crafted, but we both found them to be overly long and ultimately boring. Our job was in essence to complete brief tasks bracketed by those cut scenes. I couldn’t help feeling that as a player I had very little agency. There wasn’t much for us to do (at least in story mode – we didn’t get to freeplay). Still, I enjoyed the addition of humor, even in the dark scenes such as the Battle of Helm’s Deep. And ultimately it was a great way to hang out with my nephew, who still deigns to hang out with me through our video game adventures.

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