Lore or Back-story?

I saw a post on Twitter today that made me pause and think. It said something about the lore for League of Legends. Lore? I thought to myself. What kind of lore can a game like League of Legends have? Keep in mind, I play LOTRO, so lore may have a totally different meaning for me. In LOTRO, lore is not created within the game. It was formed and crafted decades prior to the game, and hopefully adhered to as much as possible within the game.

So, I ran over to the dictionary and learned that lore is simply defined as something that can be learned. In a truly meta moment, I realized I was reading lore about lore.

Still, I’m not convinced that those of us in the video gaming hobbyship totally accept that simplistic definition. I’ve always pictured lore as stories and legends that happen before, during and even after the time period of the game that frame up your overall place in the current world story. So, the rich framework chronicled by Tolkien is obviously LOTRO’s lore. The Elder Scrolls series also strikes me as qualifying as having “lore” that has been formed over release of several games and novels that span many years. Dungeons and Dragons…World of Warcraft, even Star Wars and Star Trek, same deal: Rich, interlacing stories written over a period of several years that frame up the rules of the world.

Then, there are games with long-standing histories and even some disconnected stories with repeating themes and characters that I wouldn’t consider “lore-based”. The Mario and Sonic games, for example. They are beloved franchises, but they don’t have any real lore. The stories don’t connect, and there is no timeline to refer to. Each individual game may have some sort of back-story (the boss took the princess away, let’s rescue her!) but those individual segments of back story don’t translate into lore when you string them together.

Then, there’s the grey area. Rift is a game that’s been around for a few years, and they’ve attempted to begin their own “lore” for the sake of framing up a single MMO. It does feel like you’re walking into the middle of a larger story when you begin the game, but with only one game and three years worth of storytelling under it’s belt, I’d hesitate to say that the Rift back-story has obtained “lore” status. Wildstar will be attempting to do the same at some point this year. They will be launching a game with a back-story and trying to pass it off as lore immediately. It will be learned by players bit by bit as they travel through the game collecting books and clues.

So, when does a back-story morph into full-fledged lore? My opinion is that you need more than one game and at least 5 years of history. MMO’s with multiple expansions could count as more than one game, I suppose. Additional publications (novels, graphic or otherwise, web series, movies) are a big plus. Some lore can be fluid (I’ve heard Elder Scrolls has some conflicting lore due to being told from different viewpoints), but central themes need to be consistent. The more you can intertwine the various legends to reinforce that consistency, the stronger the lore.

So, no – I’m still not convinced that League of Legends has anything more than a back-story for the game at this point.

#lore #LoL #LOTRO

Featured image by Augusto Serna on Flickr

 

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3 thoughts on “Lore or Back-story?

  1. Fredelas (@BrandywineFred) March 7, 2014 / 9:24 pm

    I’d say that in addition to being something that can be learned, lore also has to be something that HAS BEEN learned.
    It’s this generational aspect that is important to me. It’s a story that has been passed down.

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  2. Pasduil March 7, 2014 / 9:48 pm

    My dictionary says “Lore” means “Learning, esp of a special, traditional or out-of-the way miscellaneous kind, as in folklore, plant-lore”.

    It’s hard for dictionaries to capture all the associations and shades of meanings of words. I don’t think you can call just any kind of knowledge “lore”

    Outside of games I think for something to be classed as lore it would have to be somehow a rich, complex, mysterious body of knowledge. I’m not sure I would use “lore” in relation to something like Star Trek, because it’s all too clearcut, factual and systematic.

    Inside of games, I think maybe the word is used in a specialized way, same as “Quest” for example. In a game you can have a quest to deliver the post or kill ten wargs. Outside of games, “Quest” means something much bigger and more important.

    But it would be useful to have a way of making the distinction you want to make between something that has rich and deep lore versus only a thinnish backstory.

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