From what I can tell from observing my behavior, I clearly have no intention on following through on using my blog as a platform to discuss psychology and the Big 5 and game design. I figured this out by looking at the number of months that had passed since I wrote something on it, and noticing that that number was “4”.
So, screw it. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. I’m talking about Skyrim. My relationship to Skyrim is not exactly, um, healthy.
When I’m done writing this, I’m probably going to boot it up and get started on my 85,000th play session of that dumb game. WHY!? WHYYYYYYYY?!?!
It’s because somewhere along the way, their tricks worked. It got its hooks into me.
Now, I hated all of the other Elder Scrolls games. Well, hrm. Maybe “hated” is too strong a word. I “failed to play” all the other Elder Scrolls games except for Morrowind, and Morrowind got two hours of my life before I hung it up forever. The end had come for me while standing over the corpse of a grandmotherly woman, deep in the forests outside my starter town. This elderly lady had seen me pick up a piece of bread that didn’t belong to me, and had converted herself into a murderous fiend, determined to end my days with her fists (as she was completely unarmed). She was the only person who had witnessed my heinous crime, and so when I fled the scene of the crime into the nearby woods, she had shorty appeared, trucking after me into the dim, intent on ending my time on this planet for expressing my curiosity. After literally being forced to choose between the end of my game and murdering this kindly old lady, I decided that maybe I was “doing it wrong”, and hung it up.
Dragons, right?? Who doesn’t love ’em?
Me, at least in this incarnation. But everyone was playing it, so whatever, I’ll give it a try. Bought it for PS3, slammed the disc in the drive, and gave it the old one-two. Dragonborn! I am it! And stuff.
The first forty hours or so took about nine months. My sessions were generally a few hours long, and profoundly unsatisfying. I would pick up the controller, don my character (a female Redguard semi-paladin on a mission to ignore her so-called ‘fate’ and simply find a place in this chilly wasteland so far from her home), and would soon find myself going about vacuuming every object I could get my hands on from every cave I could locate.
I’m a hoarder. OH LORDY, THE HOARDING.
What I mean is that when I play a Bethesda game, I literally cannot leave behind loose, pick-up-able items. If you have played Skyrim, you know what this means. I… have a lot of stuff in my house.
Ruined books, for example! There are several different types of ruined books. I have over four hundred of the most common kind.
Shhhhhh. Shhh. I can quit any time.
The world seemed so wondrously false to me at first. I would try to get some emotional footing in the game, and would end up just slipping down the random looting slope. Weeks would pass between sessions, and I would only pick it back up out of a sense of “well, other people are playing this, so I probably should have an opinion about it.”
Fast forward to three months ago.
So, there is this key moment in the game where the Greybeards (which I think of as The Gandalfs) summon you to the big mountain, so that they can Explain To You The Plot.
I was busy. I had books to cart back to my house, man.
It took me something like three years of in-game time to finally get around to the side of the mountain where the path up lay. (What I mean by this is that everything between the starting valley, the second valley of Whiterun, and everything north of the mountain had been completely hoovered of recoverable goods. I am moving across Skyrim like a wave of item removal.) By the time I got there, I figured that maybe they had gotten the message? I might have been Dragonborn, but I was not going to be the Tool of Fate. Nossieree.
But, hey. I was there. Why not go see what the old farts had to say? They might even have some ruined books.
So, I got up there, and with defiance in my visage, I admitted that yes, I was the Dragonborn. They seemed excited by this, and taught me a few new tricks.
And then they sort of went about their business.
Confused, I interrogated their leader. “What’s the plan?” I asked.
I’m paraphrasing here, but his response could be summed up as “Yeah, we really have no idea. Let us know what you come up with.”
It was at that moment that the cold, snargly claws of Open World Design wormed themselves into my mind.
What, like, I can just sort of do whatever I want? COME ON. I’m the Dragonborn! Isn’t there a… a… thing?? Someone to kill? An item to recover?
The Greybeards simply shrugged. “We hope so! Because, dragons, right? Wow! They suck!”
Looking down on the wide vale that dominates the land called Skyrim from high on that polygonated mountain, I took in a deep breath, tasted the freedom, and said to myself, “I bet the designers didn’t really intend this to happen.”
See? I bought the trick. I drank the cool-aid. I figured I had out-smarted the gods of their world.
I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. But, I crossed over two hundred hours last weekend, am the Lord of Just About Everything, have pushed the cursed Imperials out of the lands, and am level a billion in everything. Story hook lead to achievement hook, and now I Will Finish It. It’s how I am.
Why am I telling you this?
Honestly, I just enjoy telling the story. I’ve told it to several of my friends, and I wanted to write a blog post (FOUR MONTHS!!), and it was the first thing that came to mind.
Skyrim! It is sort of good.