The reason I like Lord of the Rings Online is because it scratched my brain. There are a great many computer games to choose from, but what makes this one stand out to me is that it is fundamentally literary. As a game based on a couple of books, it rewards those who read, study, and analyze literature. That description could also apply to, oh, the Jane Austen Online MMO, but by happy chance LotRO happens to be based on books which are also examples of imaginative adventure fiction, which means that when you want a break from your reading you can run out and kill some barrow-wights and loot their stuff.
I've been a part of LotRO since Closed Beta. I joined about a week after their first stress test, which I avoided because it coincided with a "double XP weekend" on City of Heroes, my previous vice. Joining when I did allowed me to learn much about how the game plays at the low and mid levels, and I was very impressed with the degree of fidelity which the game designers had to Tolkien's work. On the day that Open Beta began, I created Imraheth, Captain of Dol Amroth, and I founded the Red Arrows, a group of roleplayers known on the game as a "kinship." (I know such groups are called guilds on other games, but those are games I do not play.)
Since that time the Arrows have grown to almost 50 members, and I have made a second character -- Eldiriel, "Maiden who watches the stars" -- to join a kinship called the House of Feanor. Technically, I have created a total of five characters but the rest have yet to see play. I made them chiefly because I wanted to reserve their names: Idis, Frana, and Vestri. Not particularly noteworthy names? Perhaps.
I have been modestly active on the official Lord of the Rings forums; when I do post a new thread it tends to be something I have done a lot of research on. I do not claim to be a master of Tolkien's world -- when the GM staff ran a trivia contest to commemorate the end of Closed Beta I was surprised at how many I got wrong -- but where I do stand apart is in my willingness to actually crack a book open to figure out the answer to a question. When the only tool you have is Google, every problem starts to look like an empty search bar; but good old fashioned research has allowed me to solve problems while also learning about context, style, and sources. I've been glad of this.
In the days and weeks to come, we will go many places, you and I. We will walk the cliffs of Dol Amroth, and the ruined Elf Haven of Edhellond. The shade of Greenwood the Great will cover our heads, and the Horn of Helm Hammerhand will be heard in the Deep. From the shores of Aman to the Sea of Rhun, with guides as strange to one another as Pukel-men and Blue Wizards, we will explore Middle-earth, the virtual paths of online play, and perhaps, if I am weak, some elements of my personal life.
Now you know why I called this "the Long Defeat."