Video games–Skyrim revisited: Choices

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

It’s been a little over two weeks and I’m already jonesing for another Skyrim fix.  You heard that right.  Over 200 hours already played over two months and after only two weeks, I’m thinking of playing again.  (That’s a lot of twos.)  Not just picking up with my old character, but starting all over again.  (Maybe I’ll name my character “Two.”)  This time though, when I play, I’m going to specialize.

You see, the first time through, I did it all.  I hacked.  I slashed.  I cast fire and ice out of my hands.  I snuck in people’s houses and I killed them in their sleep.  I stole valuables and I planted stolen goods.  I became a werewolf, I watched as people feasted on human flesh, I lured people to their deaths and I did the bidding of the Daedric princes.  I was a fighter / thief / bard / assassin / magic-user, which as far as I know in the world of Dungeons & Dragons is impossible.

Maybe it’s cool that this game can keep track of all of that and let you do all of those things at once and advance you up in the levels appropriately.  There’s something to be said for experiencing as much of the game as possible.  It is pretty nice that no matter what you choose, you can still try different aspects of the game.

It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t feel weird.  I think of it like being a MMA-Fighter / Accountant / Actor / Senator / Physicist.

Real-life WWF fighter / USNavy Special Forces / Actor / Governor

Yes, you can be all of those things and maybe there are people that can do all of them at once and can be elite at each of them.  However, I have yet to see or meet that person.  (If you are all of that and you are a 5’11” redheaded woman (or blonde or brunette or taller or shorter, I’m open), feel free to contact me on Twitter and I will take you to as many sushi dinners as you want so that I can hear all about it.)  Editor’s Note:  Hey, Jason, I didn’t know this was your personal dating site. 

Scarlett--graduated law school with honors, skilled in martial arts and acrobatics, has advanced military training... and she's a redhead

Now that I put it like that, maybe that’s why I like this game so much.  A jack-of-all-trades and master of all is a pretty cool thing to aspire to being.  To combine the brain of physicist Brian Greene with the fighting skills of (insert MMA fighter here as the only one I know is Brock Lesnar and he’s retired now) along with the political savvy of Barack Obama (check back here in nine months for that – if he doesn’t get a second term against the Republican candidates that are out there, I hate to say it but I’d have to replace him with George W. Bush or Bill Clinton), the charisma of George Clooney and the Oscar tabulating ability of the accountants at Price Waterhouse Coopers, you’d be better than Frankenstein’s monster, you’d be Frankenstein’s best monster.  (Maybe I’ll name that character “Apex.”  Nah, I still like “Two.”)  As long as the scars didn’t show, you’d also easily be at the top of all the beautiful people lists in the grocery store magazine shelves.

Strangely enough, combining Brian Greene, any MMA fighter, Barack Obama, George Clooney and a PWC accountant makes Willem Dafoe

However, we all have to make choices as our time and life is finite.  I think a review from Michael Shermer from “eSkeptic” says it best:

“If you read a major newspaper such as the New York Times or Wall Street Journal cover to cover every day for a week you will have consumed more digital information than a citizen in the 17th century Western world would have encountered in a lifetime. That’s a lot of digital data, but it’s nothing compared to what is on the immediate horizon. By comparison, from the earliest stirrings of civilization thousands of years ago to the year 2003, all of humankind created a grand total of five exabytes of digital information. An exabyte is one quintillion bytes, or one billion gigabytes. That’s a one followed by 18 zeros, and from 2003 through 2010 we created five exabytes of digital information every two days.”

So, we eventually have to choose. Which choices will I make? When you stray into a dungeon, a crypt or even walking around outside, you see a red dot and there’s no talking involved, all there is a mass of spells, claws, teeth and swords all trying to tear you into pieces. Within that framework, I grew accustomed to dealing death because that seemed to be the only way to survive. I didn’t see the possibility of going through the game as peacefully as possible (which you can through spells like “Calm” or letting your follower do your dirty work, which still seems not to be particularly peaceful but rather the exploitation of an exception.)  For my skills it may not be possible and as I aspire to be lawful good, maybe my hand-eye coordination won’t allow me that possibility.  Then maybe I’ll rationalize and say that part of being lawful good, like the beliefs we hold dear now, is to put an end to the ideals of those that are chaotic and evil. In the game, it is to kill the thieves, assassins and no-good-niks of the world. Here, in real life, it seems to be to shout down those who don’t believe what you believe, whether it is in a paper, a television program or a blog.  Maybe that is the way to be lawful good.  Thinking about that and about Andrew Breitbart who just passed away (and who James Poniewozik gives an eloquent eulogy) and I don’t think that is me.  I don’t want to yell down someone else.  I don’t want to grind other ideas into a pulp.

Maybe that means I’m more of a neutral person.  (Until you start to threaten science education and then I’ll yell at you for that though it may just be under my breath.)  Once I start the game again, I’ll see where specialization and my choices take me.  Looking in the mirror though, I expect it will take about five hours to realize that I still want it all and fighting against everything is a losing battle.  But, I promise I’ll still try to be nice.  Until you appear as a red dot.

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