Tag Archive: Skyrim

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.

By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

After about exactly two months to the hour from when I purchased the video game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim I finally finished the game.  How close to two months?  I bought the game on December 9th, a Friday evening around 9 pm.  I finished the reunification of Skyrim set of quests at around 12:30 am on February 10th.  Finishing that set of quests got me to 48 of the 50 possible achievements for the game on Xbox.  I don’t think I’ve ever written a more obsessive-compulsive geeky sentence than that one, or for that matter a more obsessive-compulsive lede.

I finished the 49th achievement by 1:30 am that same night (escaping from jail.) I completed the last achievement (get a 1000 bounty in each hold) at about 5:30 on Friday night.  Then, after I went to each hold again to clear my name, I went to my home in Whiterun, took off all my weapons and armors and sat down to rest.  I had become Arch-Mage of the College at Winterhold, I had become the listener for the Dark Brotherhood, and I had become a member of the Nightingales as well as the guild master of the Thieves Guild.  I had become the Harbinger of the Companions.  I had slain Alduin and I had reunited the factions of Skyrim.  I think my character deserved a little sit down time, a little time to sit and reflect before beginning more adventures.

I could easily see picking up the game again and playing more even though I’ve finished it. Starting it up, grabbing a selection of weapons, armors and magical trinkets from my storage locations in Whiterun would take about five minutes.  There are still areas that I haven’t explored.  I still haven’t mastered the schools of magic or the use of a shield. (I tend to be a bow and two-handed sword guy, both of which preclude the use of a shield.)  Then again, I could pick it up and start from the beginning and instead of doing everything, maybe just do quests that relate to being a mage.  It would be tougher to do, especially with my poor hand-eye coordination skills in the middle of a melee, but I could eventually get to the same place in the game, I’m sure.

That’s the beautiful thing about this game and it reinforces the idea that I had when I first started playing the game: it’s like automated Dungeons and Dragons (or D&D for those in the know and that don’t mind abbreviations and so that I can save quite a few characters going forward.)  I loved D&D because you could take the same character, find their strengths and flaws and update your style of play to that every time you went on an adventure.  You could play that same character again and again and just like a model airplane, a drawing or a long piece of writing, you saw it improve with each new addition and you took pride in getting it to that point.  On the other hand, each time you played, you could create someone new and start that process again because I found enjoyment just creating a new character.  Playing the game no matter the character or adventure was fun.

The tough part of D&D (and to some degree another old favorite, Strat-o-matic baseball, hereafter known as Strat to save characters) was that there was such minutiae to track that sometimes you chucked things out the window or didn’t bother to track them because it would make the game take too long.  For example, there is encumbrance.  You shouldn’t be able to carry everything you can buy or find as you walk through the world.  Maybe a sword, a bow, your armor, some gold and some various bits of miscellany and that’s it.  However, writing down the weights of each, adding it up and then tracking it as you add and subtract things is not the fun way to play a game.  Skyrim does all that for you.  You want to carry five chunks of dragon bone? You can, but then when you find an ebony sword, if you decide to carry it, you can’t run.  You slowly plod along.  I tried it a couple of times.  It’s not a fun way to play.

For Strat, I liked to keep the stats of my players.  I liked to track all of the stats you’d see on the back of a baseball card.  But, if you asked me would I rather look at the past game and write up all of the statistics or play another game, I’ll take playing the next game every time.  Catching up on stats can wait until that time when all of your friends have to go home for the night.  My friend Jon introduced me to Diamond Mind Baseball, I found automated stats and all I had to do was play the game.

However, not all is rosy in the world of the Elder Scrolls.  The first negative with Skyrim, and you can probably guess what it is from the previous three paragraphs, is the lack of a social aspect.  It’s a single player game and there is no multi-player option. (Boy, would a multi-player option be great.)  What made D&D and Strat so great was the chance to get together with friends and play a game.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a social aspect to Skyrim; it’s just not in playing the game. If I know someone has played or is playing, I want to hear about their character.  What race did they choose, what paths did they try, where they are in the story, did they get married, did they buy houses, what are their strongest traits, what shouts do they know or whatever comes to mind in what I just did in the game.  Most everyone likes to talk about their characters and how they choose to interact with the world.  The great thing about these conversations though is the thought to return to our youth.  Playing Skyrim has led me to a few different conversations to play some D&D or other role-playing games.  That has me more than a bit excited.  I love games.

The second negative with Skyrim is my problem with pop culture addiction.  Playing Skyrim ebbs and flows, there are times when it becomes a little less interesting as it feels like you are just running errands, but at other times, you can’t wait to see where the story goes next, where your abilities and skill with the game match up perfectly with the difficulties of fighting and every battle is a perfectly tuned challenge.  Those are the times that I can’t stop playing and just like staying up until 3 am to catch up on Mad Men, watching the sixth episode of the day of The Wire or Doctor Who or reading books until 5 am because after every chapter I want to know what happens next, Skyrim fits into that danger zone of compulsion where I don’t leave the house and push off sleep until the early hours of the morning.  I stayed up until 3 am for four straight days and woke up at 8 am every morning as battles with Draugr and dragons filled my dreams and I had to battle the temptation to immediately turn my Xbox on again.  (I failed more than a couple of those internal battles.)  I became a walking zombie with Skyrim replacing the quest for brains.

As you can see, those negatives don’t reflect that poorly on the game, just my ability to manage it and my expectations for it.  I did love playing it, but its greatest magic comes from opening the past portals to my life, the joy from getting together with friends to play a game.  I’m sure I’ll still play Settlers of Catan or Apples to Apples with friends, but the chance to play a little D&D now that it has stirred in the minds of friends and myself makes me smile a little inside.  First level never sounded so wonderful.

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