Okay, Bethesda. You win. I will buy Skyrim.
For those of you who have been privy to my gamer crisis of the last few weeks, I have been extremely torn in regards to the latest Elder Scrolls title. Now, the gaming community has been all atwitter for months in preparation for the release. And really, when you watch the trailers… can you blame them?
I mean, that’s pretty fucking badass right there. The game looks gorgeous, it’s a high fantasy sandbox, you get to kill motherfucking dragons and steal their souls… What’s not to like?
Indeed, it seems like exactly my kind of game, the kind of game I can develop an unhealthy obsession with (much like my sordid, tumultuous affair with WoW). But, when all my Skyrim-seduced acquaintances would approach me, starry-eyed and swooning over Bethesda’s latest darling, I looked them straight in the eye and told them I had no intention of playing it.
O, my precious gamer cred, how quickly you were stripped from me with the admittance of my aversion to Skyrim.
In order to understand, we’re going to have to go back a few years.
My first encounter with an Elder Scrolls title was Morrowind, probably two years after it was released. My younger brother owned an Xbox (not the 360- told you we had to go back), and the two of us were in the habit of hitting the GameStop every two months or so (about how frequently we’d travel the two hours up into Montana to the nearest such store) to turn in old titles and buy new ones. On this particular trip, I was the one who picked up Morrowind, though I ended up talking him into buying it. Because I’m crafty like that.
And so, we take it and a few other games home. He played some of his other acquisitions, while I waited for the console to free up. When it finally did, I settled in to try it out.
After about an hour of frustration, I gave up. It was clunky and ugly and boring. I kept dying, I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to be doing, and it was giving me a tension headache.
I never went back to it. On the next trip to Montana, Morrowind found its way back to the GameStop.
So, a few years pass, and it’s my freshman year of college. For Christmas, my brother gets me a copy of the latest Elder Scrolls title- Oblivion. Much like with Morrowind, I was intrigued by the description, though I was a bit warier this go round. After all, I’d been burned before by this series.
And, after completing about the first quarter of the main questline, I felt cheated again. What do people see in these games? I wondered. They keep getting accolades, praised by gamers far and wide. To me, they seemed like the worst fantasy titles I’d ever tried (at the time, my favorite classic high fantasy series was the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance games1). Movement and combat seemed awkward, the controller layout made little to no sense, and the expansive world was just exhausting. I died a lot, kept accidentally killing civilians who walked in front of my sword, and wasn’t leveling up. I didn’t see the point in continuing to waste my time with a game I wasn’t really enjoying.
So, once again, I put an Elder Scrolls title aside.
It was a few short months later that I first ventured into Azeroth as well, though my first attempt at playing WoW ended just like Oblivion– after reaching a mere level 19 (which, for those of you who have blessedly never thrown your money at that particular Blizzard death-trap, is incredibly easy), I threw in the towel. It just wasn’t fun, all these silly little quests and boring experience gathering.
Eventually, I got completely immersed in other games. Mass Effect. BioShock. Fable (I know it’s terrible, but I still enjoy it). Portal. Twilight Princess. You know, the games you all know me for.
And along came Fallout 3.
It sucked me in with its post-apocalyptic setting, to be honest. And with a few more years of GTA under my belt, I was starting to develop a stronger appreciation for sandbox-type games. And so it was that I was broken, that I embraced the sandbox game with open arms. Because Fallout 3 was glorious. And still later, I found myself sinking hours and hours of my life into Red Dead Redemption, another kickass Rockstar sandbox.
Maybe it was because of this that I found myself buying a cheap copy of Oblivion again (my first having been lost in the Great Theft of ’08) last year, almost unconsciously. A game which then sat among my game collection, gathering dust, as I continued to not play it.
Which brings us back to Skyrim.
I can’t escape Skyrim talk. At work. In class. On the internet (my Twitter feed is full of geeks and my Stumble preferences all-but-demand that I’m sent page after page of Skyrim news and humor). Hell, I went to a goddamn bar last weekend and the people at the next table were talking about the game.
And all this time, I’ve been stubbornly stating that I won’t buy it and I won’t play it. Because I just knew that, despite how amazing it looks and sounds, I’d end up hating it. I mean, I had to. I’d already been disappointed by Morrowind and Oblivion.
Finding myself done with everything for the semester, I went to select a game. I reached for Dragon Age… but found myself hesitating. Oblivion was right there. And it had been years since I’d last played it. In that moment, the full weight of those years hit me. The way I’d finally come to embrace sandbox titles. The borderline disgusting fixation with WoW. I realized that I just might be depriving myself of a game series I could really enjoy.
That was two days ago.
I can’t stop playing.
It’s like WoW, but without all the asshole players.
I. Am. So. Fucked.
So, there you have it.
I take it all back, Bethesda. I take back everything I said. I mean, I still think the gameplay can be a bit awkward and the tutorials really suck in some places (I mean, what the fuck is with the Persuasion minigame? Was there no way to make the description of it clear to the reader? Or, better yet, was there no way to put a better fucking minigame in there?), but I’m able to ignore all of that because it’s so addicting.
I give up. I give in. Somebody hand me a copy of Skyrim. I am defeated.
All I want is to become a badass Viking, much like this guy (who I just imagine is Skwisgaar, because he would go through a game punching everything to death):