how Skyrim stole your people

About six months ago, all I heard about was Skyrim. Everyone was playing it. People were being made widows by it. No one could adequately explain what was so cracktastic about it – or even what it was.

About two months ago I bought it for special k. He started playing, full of high expectation – but two hours later his reaction was, “Meh.” Three hours later his reaction was, “I could play this game forever.”

For those of you who haven’t heard of it – or haven’t had the pleasure of trying to speak to your husband while he’s playing it – it’s a computer game set in a fantasy landscape. Think Lord of the Rings, with some other races thrown in, and a Hogwarts-type school for adults.

There are lots of reasons to enjoy playing it. The landscape is vast and spectacular and you can interact with every part of it. Seasons change. Days pass. Every village has its drama and you can follow characters about and get involved in their story lines. There is a surfeit of story lines. One day special k’s moving up the ranks of the thieves guild, the next he’s walking around inside a mad god’s head, trying to wake him up. It leaves you to make morally ambiguous choices without one outcome ever being prized over the other.

But this is why I think it’s so successful:

Special k was making his way down a huge river, in the middle of nowhere, trying to find his way out of a valley. He came to the river’s end, beneath outcrops of stone so huge you couldn’t even see the sky any more.

There were only rocks – and the huge, hairy corpse of a troll hitting against the rocks with the river’s movement. Beside it was a chest, still full.

There was no explanation attached – it had nothing to do with his mission, and didn’t send him on a new mission. It was just three small details that between them evoke a whole drama that had already played out, and was done.

It’s tip-of-the-iceberg storytelling at its best. It makes you feel like you’re in a complete world that doesn’t need you inside it to function. Other things are happening and have happened.

So next time your protagonist finds themselves in a river – remember to add a dead troll who hasn’t been robbed.

Comments 8 Responses

  1. princessfiona01

    My fifteen year old daughter is a Skyrim player. Among other things like Assassin’s Creed and Dragon Age and some pretty one with an elf on the cover starting with F. Fable I think. They are truly as good as a book and better than a movie.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      the story lines are amazing! Special k’s also really into Assassin’s Creed. Such a detailed, sumptuous world. Slightly less sprawling story-line than Skyrim, but it has a stronger central drama. Our household is looking forward to the new October release!

      1. princessfiona01

        My daughter tells me the reason why she’s suddenly decided to get fit and go jogging is in case she gets a call up to be an Assassin. She told me last night she needs to work on her climbing and jumping skills.

  2. Skye

    The graphics look beautiful. Must take a lot of memory and processing power, though. Is it a computer game or a game system game (like xbox or ps3)? I don’t think I’ve played a game since Myst ….

    1. anna cowan Post author

      we use the PS3, but I think you can probably buy it for all platforms, including PC. It does blow my mind how much programming would have gone into it, when you can interact with every part of it and the interaction/view changes depending on where you’re positioned etc.

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