I am staring into the middle distance. I am present in the room but my mind has been stolen away. I should be focusing on many other, more important things, but there is only one thought boring its way into my mind – how much I want to go back to playing Skyrim.
For most people left outside of the Skyrim circle, that’s a bad thing.
A majestic world
Skyrim is the sort of game that garners a bad reputation outside of the gaming community. It’s a beast, and a deceptive one at that, a massive masterpiece that rewards and enchants in spades. It focuses on solo-play, needing hundreds of hours worth of free-time to fully explore.
It’s deceptive because to an outsider it’s a friendly game about magic and swordplay. From a distance it’s a beguiling tale of whimsy far from modern day warfare and violence. I suspect it’s a game that many spouses have bought as Christmas presents this year without realising what they’re bringing into their home – a technical and artistic marvel that will utterly enthral those who play it. Perhaps even on a few occasions to the detriment of everything else.
There’s no one solitary thing I love about Skyrim – or any Elder Scrolls game. It’s a game that blends together tried and tested ideas into one glorious landscape. Skyrim (and its predecessors) are games that leave you never quite sated, leaving you always eager for more. So immersion is at Skyrim’s forefront, and as I try to focus on other things, I find my mind wandering back to its illuminated caves and awe-inspiring peaks.
Skyrim’s world is so majestic, that it requires some preparation to play. I found myself completing other games or plan the appropriate time to start on such an enormous gaming project. You have to be ready to play an Elder Scrolls game (or any game that is similarly large) the sense of grandeur upon starting is palpable. As such we as gamers often start an enormous game without thinking of the impact on those left around us.
Hard to step away
There’s definitely some silent (and occasional not so silent) accusations leveled to us as gamers. As if in the experience of playing any type of game makes us collectively more neglectful and selfish. This is perpetuated by the occasional intrusions into our gaming time, as we wrestle with a moment in a game, it’s not always totally understood that cannot always pause or easily drop what we’re doing. It’s an unfortunate side-effect of the engagement of video games.
The immediacy of attention that Skyrim (or any large single player game) requires does unfortunately help to perpetuate that view. The gaming object of our desire can equally annoy another, as some games can require a considerable time investment.
This is a particular problem with Elder Scrolls games and they are as much about the suspension of disbelief as the engagement with the world. Skyrim becomes a platform to each person’s individual fantasy. We follow and complete the same “quests” collectively as a community, but resolve them in our own way and develop our own stories and motivation for doing so.
A labour of love
Skyrim is a refreshing change of pace from other games, which can often push you down linear paths with a set roster of characters. This is usually done with helpful pointers and help to coax you along the narrative path. The process of playing Skyrim is liberating and it goes some way to explain the success of the series as a whole, and crucially why it can be so addictive.
Skyrim pushes us away from the tried and tested path. It encourages you down a particular route with the merest thread, only to flash a glimpse of a beautiful view, or a ruin, or an undiscovered landmark, or a trail of wild flowers and suddenly we’re selectively amnesic, dazed by another bright idea or curiosity, we tumble past our goal and into something else, and something more.
Skyrim is a beautiful siren song, only it’s not singing us to shipwreck, but to sheer, unadulterated gaming bliss.