Balancing Act

Got to love this guy...

Frodo Baggins. There’s a hobbit who knows about teetering on the brink. Say what you want about him, he (finally) got the job done, and went through Hell to do it. Personally, I’ve always felt that Lord of the Rings is the story of Samwise Gamgee or, at least, he’s the primary hero of the story. But I give credit where credit is due.

As I begin to revive my relationship with LotRO, I’m beginning to feel that it’s about time I, once again, join a guild (called Kinships in LotRO – yet another reason I love this game). For the past two months I’ve been running pretty much solo, occasionally joining in groups when a quest required it or the opportunity presented itself. But, even as someone who prefers to work alone most times, I recognize the strength of a kinship, and the extra dimensions these communities-within-a-community add to the game (for good and for not-so-good). In the past, I have been a member of some terrific guilds; Talath Dirnen on the Vilya server was a group with which I had tremendous fun.

So what, you ask, does joining a Kinship have to do with Frodo Baggins?

Two things: one is purely coincidence and the other is entirely personal (though probably a bit of a stretch, logically, for anyone but me).

The coincidental one comes from the name of the Kinship I’m hoping to join – Friends of Frodo. I’ve always like that Hobbit, but now I’m looking to make it official.

The personal part involves a slightly longer explanation. Stop here if you’re really just not interested (I won’t take offense, really).

To start, I have to say this: a little while ago, I actually did join a kinship. I’d had some good conversations with one of their officers, and the kinship as a whole seemed very friendly to my real life situation (casual-oriented, no requirements, just a mature group of players who spend time together and help each other out). From my short experience, they are a great group of people.

But it wasn’t a good fit. Though I’d call myself a casual player, the truth is I’m somewhere in between (always a good read there, and I love the title – very appropriate). I’m not available enough to run with the “hardcore” players, but I’m logged in more than the casuals. This particular kinship I had joined was a bit too casual for me.

I like to think that I’m a very “self aware” gamer. I know what I like, I know why I like it, and, most importantly, I understand what it is I’m looking for in my entertainment of choice. This translates into my play-style (I take my time, don’t rush through areas, I read quest text, and try not to focus on the “Gear Arms Race” too much), and in whose company I spend my time online.

Kinships for me are very much about the social aspects; being online with like-minded people who share a love for the same things I do, and making new friends. But, I also acknowledge the utility of a kinship, and I’d be lying if I said this wasn’t a big part of why I decide to join. Random groups are just that – random – and their quality generally follows suit. And they can be hard to find, particularly for someone like me, who takes his time working through the story and is usually significantly behind the releases. I’m still doing runs for radiance gear in Moria, and have only actually run two of the main instances (Grand Staircase and 16th Hall).

A kinship provides a great resource for finding help and for being able to give help, and the other players are a known quality. Overall, player skill is increased in a good Kinship, as everyone helps each other learn the nuances of their chosen classes, players get more opportunities at running the group content, and there is, honestly, a greater degree of comfort in experimentation. It’s okay to make a mistake that causes your group to wipe; we’re all friends, we’re kin, and we’re here to help each other. It’s easier to play in the low-pressure of a group of friends than it is amongst strangers.

So joining a kinship is always a precarious undertaking for me. I want to be a part of something larger than myself, but my real life dictates how much I can participate. I like the ready assistance kinmates often provide, and I want to be there to help others when they need it. But again, I can’t always be logged in. My natural tendency is to try to be as involved as possible, but my heart keeps me in check; I have the Real World to live in, and people and things I love there as well. For me, it’s about trying to find balance, and that can be a hard thing to do.

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