Daedalic Entertainment recently debuted a new trailer for The Lord of the Rings — Gollum, the first we’ve heard about it in along time.
While it seems like we still have even longer to wait for a more detailed look at Middle-Earth’s most detestable creature, the brief snippet offers some food for thought on why a Gollum game could be a much-needed extra chapter the Lord of the Rings never got.
The new Gollum trailer shows… well, not much admittedly, but the perspective is unlike anything we’ve experienced in Middle Earth so far.
Whether in the films or books, the story is always told from the view of someone who belongs.
Sure, Frodo and the Hobbits might be small, and Middle-Earth outside the Shire is built for everyone except Hobbits.
But the point is they still have a place in Middle Earth.
They have a stake in the world and a respectable history with forebears who helped shape the Third Age.
Gollum has no one.
He is no one.
Granted, Smeagle murdered his friend in cold blood, so you’d expect him to be ostracized to some extent, but it’s just part of a broader story.
Even at their darkest moments, none of the Fellowship aside from Gandalf were alone, and Gandalf doesn’t exactly qualify as a person anyway.
Here’s Gollum, a victim of circumstance and the power clashes of others, left isolated and at the mercy of others and the powerful desires eroding his mind.
It’s not something you really have to care about if you’re watching or reading someone else’s story, but the Gollum game naturally makes it a central focus.
The fact that it's a game opens some interesting possibilities for understanding Gollum in an even more intimate way.
Gollum is smaller than almost everything else around him, and because he’s entirely alone, it means Tolkien’s magnificent world boils down to just different kinds of threats for him.
Barad-Dur’s malignancy is the same as the most opulent buildings the elves of Mirkwood could design.
It’s all an obstacle to overcome or a means to an end
Every graceful elven arch is just another way of getting around, for example, of escaping pursuers or surprising a would-be attacker.
You’d think this approach to gamifying Middle-Earth would be full of problems.
Part of the appeal is the world’s fantastical environments and splendid history, after all, and it’s hard to reconcile that with a central idea that basically turns Gollum into Agent 47.
But forcing us to see it as Gollum could be one of the smartest things Daedalic does with the game.
How Daedalic handles Gollum’s dialogue and action choice tree is still uncertain.
Yet on the surface at least, it offers a chance to do what Tolkien and Jackson told us to do but never accomplished themselves: empathize with Gollum.
Gandalf says we should, Bilbo does feel sorry for him, and Frodo only gets it once it’s too late, but it’s difficult for outsiders to understand.
Tolkien confines most of Gollum’s story to an appendix anyway, so all we see is Gollum at his most wretched and as Frodo’s antagonist.
If it’s handled well, the Gollum game will genuinely put us behind his eyes, so to speak.
Turning all of Middle-Earth into a parkour stealth game offers us a chance to understand Gollum’s tunnel vision, seeing only the end goal and not the world’s majesty.
Everyone he meets he naturally has to view with suspicion. He’s weak, with no friends to fall back on should something happen.
Based on what Daedalic said and some early media previews, it sounds like we’ll be making tough choices as Gollum too.
If he chooses to exploit these seemingly innocent people, who’s ultimately to blame — Gollum, Sauron, or the broader world that can't see him as anything other than a wretched monster and a disposable tool?