The Lord of the Rings: Gollum level designer Nika Dvoravic recently posited that the game is set up to “the player will start feeling empathy towards” the titular character, Gollum.
Dvoravic recently spoke with Games Industry where she set out to address one of the main complaints regarding the game at-large. She said, “There’s this preconception at the beginning, ‘Who would want to play Gollum? It’s not interesting.'”
However, she posits, “But he’s so versatile, so agile. It’s realistic that he can actually get from this point up to that balcony. After you solve the first level, you instantly get that feeling. He is like a little piece of rubber, and he can get thrown around.”
“I think the player will start feeling empathy towards him, because this game gives you the humanity of Gollum as well, because he’s a complex character,” she adds.
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Gollum’s creator and the writer of The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien made pointed comments about Gollum in Letter 181, a draft to Michael Straight. After discussing how Frodo’s decision to forgive Gollum gave him a grace that ended up leading to his own salvation and relieved him of the burden of the One Ring, Tolkien specifically addressed the character of Gollum.
He said, ” Into the ultimate judgement upon Gollum I would not care to enquire. This would be to investigate ‘Goddes privitee’, as the Medievals said.”
However, he did go into a discussion about Gollum’s character and how he viewed him, “Gollum was pitiable, but he ended in persistent wickedness, and the fact that this worked good was no credit to him. His marvellous courage and endurance, as great as Frodo and Sam’s or greater, being devoted to evil was portentous, but not honourable.”
“I am afraid, whatever our beliefs, we have to face the fact that there are persons who yield to temptation, reject their chances of nobility or salvation, and appear to be ‘damnable’. Their ‘damnability’ is not measurable in the terms of the macrocosm (where it may work good). But we who are all ‘in the same boat’ must not usurp the Judge. The domination of the Ring was much too strong for the mean soul of Sméagol. But he would have never had to endure it if he had not become a mean son of thief before it crossed his path. Need it ever have crossed his path? Need anything dangerous ever cross any of our paths? A kind of answer cd. be found in trying to imagine Gollum overcoming temptation. The story would have been quite different!”
“By temporizing, not fixing the still not wholly corrupt Smeagol-will towards good in the debate in the slag hole, he weakened himself for the final chance when dawning love of Frodo was too easily withered by the jealousy of Sam before Shelob’s lair. After that he was lost,” he concluded.
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Pitying Gollum and empathizing with the character are two distinct differences. Neel Burton M.D. explains in Psychology Today that “pity is a feeling of discomfort at the distress of one or more sentient beings and often has paternalistic or condescending overtones. Implicit in the notion of pity is that its object does not deserve its plight, and, moreover, is unable to prevent, reverse, or overturn it. Pity is less engaged than empathy, sympathy, or compassion, amounting to little more than a conscious acknowledgment of the plight of its object.”
In contrast, he explains that “empathy can be defined as a person’s ability to recognize and share the emotions of another person, fictional character, or sentient being. It involves, first, seeing someone else’s situation from his perspective, and, second, sharing his emotions, including, if any, his distress.”
As Tolkien points out, Gollum is pitiable because even before he runs across Frodo and Sam, he had “become a mean son of thief.” On top of those, he ultimately “ended in persistent wickedness” and was “devoted to evil.”
What do you make Dvoravic’s claim that the game will try to make players empathize with Gollum?
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