I am not a hardcore gamer by any stretch of the imagination but when I play the role playing game ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ the hours fly by because I am totally immersed in a truly epic storyworld – a planned one hour session effortlessly turns into five hours or more.
‘Skyrim’ is a province in the fictional country of Tamriel. It has history, geography, economy, politics, magic, religions and its own civil war – East against West. Needless to say it has corruption and intrigue at all levels.
I Am Orc
In ‘Skyrim’ I have chosen to be an Orc, my name is Krillic, and according to my game stats I have killed 667 people, 50 creatures, and 211 undead beings. I am an accomplished assassin and a member of the sinister secret organisation the Dark Brotherhood. I have also been a rebel with a cause and a hunter. I do most things for money.
The population of Non Player Characters (NPCs) seems to have a life of its own – the inhabitants gather crops, tend bars and chop wood – they do their own thing and ignore you unless you trespass on their property when they will challenge you. If I break the law I can pay the fine, do jail time or make a run for it and end up with a price on my head.
Attention to Detail
The details are astonishing; there are hundreds of stunning vistas and landscapes to not only look at but travel across and explore.
As I ride my trusty steed, Shadowmere, to Irkngthand it starts to rain. ‘Skyrim’ has its own weather system and flora and fauna. I enter an unexplored cave. I get careless and a creature kills me. In a burnt-out shack I pick up books and read about the ancient history of the Elves or about a war that once raged in ‘Skyrim’. I can pick flowers, herbs and fungi that can later be mixed together to create new potions. I can collect tools, raw materials and magic scrolls. I can embark on long, complex missions, or I can wander around the vast landscape and explore. I feel like I can do what I want within the physical rules of the ‘Skyrim’ storyworld.
I am immersed in the world of ‘Skyrim’.
Because the storyworld created for ‘Skyrim’ is so rich and deep in detail and because it is organically crafted. As transmedia storytellers we should apply this approach to our own storyworld building.
Everything you interact with is there for a purpose and serves both gameplay and story needs whether it is a type of mushroom, or leather strip, or an enchanted sword.
Gameplay mechanics such as tasks, objectives, levelling-up, magic skills, perks and character development blend seamlessly with the story content.
Everything feels as if it belongs to the wider, surrounding world, as if it physically comes from within it. Everything has a reason for being there and is an organic part of that world. There is no superfluous, gratuitous or unecessary content; it all originates from the source which is the storyworld.
The Journey Continues
I have empathy with my character. I care about him and I am absorbed and intrigued by the many quest stories and missions that unfold within this world. I keep playing and exploring because I want to know what happens next, more importantly, I want to know what will next happen to me.
Much of this approach to game design of this nature can be applied to transmedia storytelling – quests and missions as digressions and complimentary stories, mini-games, and multiple stories springing from the same source storyworld – journeys within journeys and stories within stories. And we must never forget an absolute attention to detail.
I still have a long way to go with this game and, like a good book, I don’t want it to end.
Look at my post, Bolton Storyworld, for more Bellythink on storyworld.