As I’ve stated before, I am a long way away from being a hardcore gamer. I take breaks and lulls in my Xboxing as I have work, and a life to get on with. After eight months of playing ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’, including short periods of no play, I have to say I am still excited each time I start the game and I am continually struck by the vast scope and depth of its world.
I chose to be an Orc and I have fought my way through numerous side quests and I’m still advancing cautiously along the main quest. Sometimes I decide to just wander the countryside to see what fate throws in my path. For me a lot of fun is gained by trying not to use the Fast Travel option which teleports you from A to B. I like to set out on my trusty ride and trek across the inhospitable landscape, navigating through valleys, over mountains, into woods and settlements and combating, or fleeing from, the huge variety of beasts and adversaries I come across.
There is so much I have already done and yet there is still plenty more to do. Quests completed include, ‘The Throat of the World’, ‘The Break of Dawn’, ‘Blindsighted’, ‘Darkness Returns’, and ‘Whispers in the Dark’ to name just a few. Admittedly they sound like early Joy Division song titles but the dark and sombre mood and tone of the Skyrim world permeates through to every level of detail.
I am also the leader of the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild; chosen to lead because of my bravery and questing know-how. A recent achievement was becoming Arch-Mage (leader) of the College of Winterhold, a magicians hang-out and training centre. Not a bad career path for a rough and ready old Orc.
I have my own Spectral Assassin sidekick who I can summon when I’m outnumbered. I have climbed the highest mountains, slain dragons and brawled in bars. I’ve had a large bounty on my head, and served some jail time. I have fought in a civil war and visited the cities of Marketh, Solitude, Morthal, Falkreath and Riften.
I own a home called Breezehome in Whiterun. It is sparsely furnished and full of looted treasure, a few skulls and weapons, all in keeping with the lifestyle of a warrior Orc. I find it oddly reassuring to go home for a good sleep after a long, hard quest away in the frozen north.
Attention To Detail
As I ride up a snowy mountain trail night falls and the sky above is suddenly awash with a stunning display of Aurora Borealis-like lights. I actually stop, dismount and look up at this thing of beauty. I am totally immersed and engaged by the world around me.
Skyrim is an incredibly rich and varied world that creates a real sense of freedom and of a brave, lonesome hero seamlessly roving from one adventure to another. I believe one of the factors that helps create this is the incredible attention to detail given to every aspect of the unfolding story and the gameplay.
Stories, Games, Storyworlds
Stories and quests are both a form of journey – beginning, middle, end with a lot happening in between each of these three main structural points. The whole mythic structure school of screenwriting is based on myths and quests and Skyrim’s writers and designers are fully aware of this. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few well-thumbed copies of Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero With A Thousand Faces’ and Christopher Vogler’s ‘A Writer’s Journey’ lying around the studio.
The game’s mini-quests weave in and out of the main quest in a structure very similar to one I use when writing a transmedia story or developing a storyworld for an existing linear story. I have a Main Linear Story and weave extra story content around it, feeding context and details into the Main Linear Story.
In Skyrim I’ve encountered a few blips where I can’t seem to resolve a mini-quest but these are easily forgiven because there is always something else to do or somewhere to explore. There appear to be no dead ends and, like a real world, ‘life’ goes on.
The Skyrim experience is a superbly executed blend of genre storytelling and gameplay – both are integral to each other and EVERYYTHING grows out of a richly detailed and strictly defined Storyworld.
All Good Things Come To An End
I still have hours of gameplay left and then there are the three add-ons that include new quests and characters I can download, so it’s not over yet. I could also start a new game and play the whole thing through as a different race with different skills and abilities.
I recently noted in the press that Skyrim’s developers, Bethesda, have announced that Skyrim content development has now ceased. All I can say is I can’t wait for their next Elders game to be released.