Fun Video Game, or Creative Imitatio?

Monolith Production’s Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor is a game that directly relates to J. R. R. Tolkien’s works of, The Silmarillion, The Hobbit, and even Lord of The Rings. The question when playing the game however is, is this video game true to form? Meaning, does everything mentioned or imagined fit into the world Tolkien created, or does it have continuity errors that make this game inconsistent with the lore of Middle-earth? I set out to figure out that very question.

shadow(2)Before diving into the depth of the question at hand, I though it was important to ask what this game was supposed to represent. Is the game to be enjoyed and played, or perhaps the game is supposed to represent something much more intimate with J. R. R. Tolkien’s writing and is actually a form of impressive and imaginative Imitatio. Imitatio is an imitation of a preexisting work of art. It’s a retelling almost and its purpose is to improve upon what is already there. Imitatio was not about pure replication, but directed toward the goal of improving the model. Thus, their objective was never to simply copy but attempt to make the work even better.

I believe that Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor is doing just that, the game is imitating Tolkien’s preexisting work and fleshing out some of the lore people may not already know if they only stuck to The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings. Both The Hobbit and Lord of The Rings have Imitatio’s made after them, that being Peter Jackson’s movies. The Silmarillion had nothing, and in fact, very few people even recognize this as Tolkien’s work. So, I believe that this game goes beyond fun and entertainment, not to say it’s not fun, because who doesn’t love fast action scenes with a slow motion finish of cutting off an Orc or Uruk’s head? But also the game works as an imitation that is true to form and matches perfectly with Tolkien’s other works that can represent a type of electronic literature.

For those of you that don’t know the premise of the game, you start as a ranger named Talion. The beginning of the game acts as an explanation as well as a tutorial, you are in a purgatory type state, wispy blue lines of the spirit world wrap around you as you see not only your wife Loreth, but also your son Dirhael killed before you on the ground. Your character should be dead too in all honestly, but as the line in the game goes: “You are banished from death.” You see, while you should have died with your wife and son, for you all were a sacrifice to summon Celebrimbor. Celebrimbor, instead of being used for evil, instead decides to posses your body, and in doing so saves you.

Celebrimbor in all his Elf Lord glory!

Celebrimbor in all his Elf Lord glory!

Now, who is Celebrimbor? Was he mentioned in The Lord of The Rings? Yes, but just briefly. Celebrimbor is the original forger of the Rings of Power in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion, which is Tolkien’s book of lore for Middle-Earth that explains all the races and their history as well as the story of Annatar (aka, Sauron) and Celebrimbor. However, If I got into the depth of that it could take awhile, there is a great article by Alexa Ray Corriea through Polygon that gives a pretty great explanation of who Celebrimbor is and explains his importance in the game as well as the importance he serves in Tolkien’s original works. also mentions two videos made that explain the lore of Shadow of Mordor in a fun, lighthearted nature that give a clear explanation of all the events leading up to players’ adventures in Shadow of Mordor.

In my opinion, this game isn’t just a game. It’s a piece of electronic literature in its own digital form. Sure, it wasn’t born digital, but it was imitated into a digital medium to tell a story through a playable character.  Monolith Productions did very well in staying true to the lore of Tolkien. Sure, there were embellishments no doubt, but for the most part they didn’t stray too far from the narrative of Tolkien’s many works and I think because of that, it makes this game more than a game, but a piece of electronic literature that is absolutely brilliant.

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