Are games more fun when you know the lore?

There are two different types of tourist.

  • The well prepared tourist has read guides, made lists of things they want to see and do and planned out their holiday in advance. It may be a sketchy plan but it’s there. They may even have learned a few words of the local language and know which of the local delicacies they plan to sample. Perhaps they have watched films about their destination or even been inspired to go there from seeing the place featured in a favourite book, comic or TV show.
  • The accidental tourist travels with the aim of exploring. Maybe they have made some preparation but what they really want is to be surprised with new and exciting experiences to tell all their friends about when they get back.

I always feel like a tourist when I head into a MMORPG for the first time. I like to know about the lore so that I can have the fun of recognising places and people if I see them in game. If someone made a game set in the town where I live, I’d enjoy “walking” around it in the virtual world, even though I could go outside and see it in real life.

For Warhammer, I’ve been reading some of the Black Library books to get a feel for the setting. I really noticed the effect of this when I was reading this month’s newsletter. Every other paragraph, I caught myself stopping to think something like “Wait, I read about that!”, “Ooo, that looks like a rat ogre, that was in my book!”, “That sounds like one of the daemons I read about … and it’s going to be in that dungeon! Wow, cool!”. I don’t know how excited I really am about the Warhammer setting per se but I am very intrigued at seeing how the world I’ve been reading about will be brought to life.

Of course, a graphical setting can be breath-taking whether or not you know the lore behind it. It’s nothing to do with how hardcore a player you are or whether you roleplay in game; an awesome visual is a visceral experience, and a well-written storyline can engage anyone who reads it (this is why even in a game like WoW, you can ask people if they have a favourite quest and most of them will pick the well written ones.)

Do you prefer to research the lore before you play a game that is set in an existing ‘world’?

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4 Responses

  1. Playing LotRO inspired me to reread LotR, and then to read The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales, and the game is immeasurably richer for me because of it.

    If I’m suitably impressed by whatever lore EA Mythic manage to cram into the game, then I’ll certainly check out some of the associated books in order to get the most out of my playing experience.

    In contrast, I never experienced a smidgeon of interest in learning more about WoW’s lore, which I assume is mostly tied in with the story of old Warcraft games.. *yawn*

    Oh, and I actually picked up ‘The Complete Chronicles of Conan’ in anticipation of playing AoC, but my interest in the game lasted only slightly longer than my interest in the first chapter.

  2. now I keep singing ‘cos everybody hates a tourist…’ and feeling bad about it.

    Desperately trying to catch up on email and the like.

  3. and um.. hey unwise, you forgot to mention watching the Conan films too ;p

  4. I was trying to forget 😦

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