Shadow of Mordor is the kind of game that really knows how to seduce players with its ultraviolence. But it's not just the game. People playing it have been using its nifty photo mode for increasingly elaborate purposes. The most creative I've seen is using the photo editor to create surprisingly moving short films.
Two of the best I've seen come from the YouTube account "Suck Professor." I know: that's a pretty gross name. But then again, Shadow of Mordor can also be a pretty gross game, too. Turning it into something beautiful is a matter of ingenuity and craft, which this murder-filled montage demonstrate masterfully:
And here's another one, from the same YouTuber, which is also great:
What I like about these videos is that they don't just give in to the temptation of glorifying Mordor's supremely violent visual palette for its own sake. Rather, they help bring out the brutality and pathos that's at the heart of this game. I first came across one of the videos in a post on the Shadow of Mordor subreddit, for instance, and was struck by how emotional one other player's reaction was:
After watching this video and seeing the range of emotion they have managed to convey with the orcs I'm beginning to actually feel sympathy for them. Talion has become a living breathing boogie man to the orcs. He appears out of no where, murders numerous orcs as they go about their daily lives, and then disappears as quickly as he appeared.
I think it was the shot of the orc on his knees and Talion holding his sword with his right hand about ready to plunge the blade into him that did it for me. If you look at the group of orcs in the background it's almost as if they are trying to decide wether to try and save their comrade or turn tail and run. I can imagine one of his friends screaming for someone to help him but everyone is to afraid to step in and do anything. I can imagine the terror that they felt when their ranks broke, their morale shattered, they turned tail and ran only to be hunted down like dogs. Later the lucky few who escaped will spread the tale of how a single ranger slew twenty orcs for nothing more than doing their job.
Are we really playing the hero, or does our genocidal lust make us just as evil as Sauron?
I'm not sure I completely agree with Reddit user RedRedKrovy's take. But as I continue to play Shadow of Mordor, I have also noticed that I'm becoming increasingly aware of how strong the pull of this game is—both in terms of the emotional bonds Talion forms with his nemesis orcs and the way it makes brutalizing those same bad guys feel viscerally satisfying.
It's weird to form complex relationships with video game characters, and then only be able to kill those same characters. At the same time, it's interesting to see just how invested players have become in these nominally antagonistic and violent relationships.