Friday, December 09, 2011


As someone who works in video games, I haven't said much about them yet on this blog. Well that is about to change. I play quite a lot of video games and am currently deeply into Skyrim. This is a role-playing adventure game that takes place in a massive frozen wilderness and gives the player complete freedom to roam around and explore, finding many interesting things along the way. You can play this game in many different ways, choose to be a pure fighter, a mage, a thief, trader, blacksmith and so on. You can combine these roles to suit your playing style. The character I am playing currently uses light armor, conjures weapons and creatures to help in combat, does a bit of smithing and enchanting and uses restoration spells for healing. This makes for an interesting mix. There is a central story that you can follow, dragons have returned to Skyrim and are terrorizing the locals. You can investigate the return of these creatures, fight them and unravel the mystery behind it all. I haven't paid too much attention to this though, I have simply been traveling around getting into all sorts of trouble.

The game is very well put together, the visuals can be extremely impressive. I had added a few screenshots to give an impression of how well they have managed to convey the sense of being in this frigid northern land. There is no end to the amount of content in this game, I am about 40 hours in and expect at least that much again.

To give you a small example of what happens in Skyrim, here is a memorable bit of adventure I had recently. As usual I was roaming around, looking for trouble. I noticed a lighthouse in the distance perched on a frozen rock overlooking a bay full of ice floes. I went to investigate and found that the door was unlocked so I entered and came across a rather shocking murder scene. There was a dead body on the floor with an axe protruding from it and a large dead insect like creature was in the next room, other than that the place was deserted. I examined the various rooms and found diaries of the occupants. These diaries told a story of a couple who bought this lighthouse and retired there. They mused fondly of sitting by the window looking at the icebergs floating past whereas their children lamented the isolation and boredom. Things got sinister quickly though, there was mention of noises from the cellar and items disappearing. The last entry in the husband's diary was an anguished note about finding his wife dead in their living room and how he was going into the cellar to investigate. I found a key to the cellar in a vase on the mantelpiece and entered. At the back of the cellar was a dark tunnel opening that I ventured into. Almost immediately I was attacked by giant insects and strange pale orc-like creatures called Falmers. I battled my way through tunnels and caves until I found what looked like a breeding room where a queen insect was surrounded by eggs and many of her brood. A pitched battle later I had killed them all and found the husband's remains in the queen. I laid these to rest at the top of the lighthouse, it seemed fitting.

This episode took a couple of hours of playing time and is only a tiny bit of the enormous scope of Skyrim. I could have passed this lighthouse by and never known about the fate of this unfortunate family. There are many other of these kinds of encounters hidden away in Skyrim's many, many nooks and crannies which to me makes this game so fascinating to play. I have saved villages from vampire attacks, cleared out bandit nests, located artifacts in tombs full of undead, bought a house and decorated it (yep!), helped strangers from bear attacks and fought off dragons that were burning down entire villages. So far so good :-)

Skyrim has become a bit of a cultural phenomenon as well. A quick search on Google or YouTube will yield hundreds of results. People are blogging about their adventures, there are many video diaries on YouTube of people chronicling their character's travels (one, called Chinchilla Dave is hilariously funny) and pretty much everyone I know is playing it. It is definitely a testament to the lure of perfectly immersive escapism...

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