Skyrimming Part 1

Play enough Skyrim and the game can start to convince you that it is not so much a collection of other people’s work but something of a personal toybox instead: a sort of fantasy madlibs creator. Every encounter, whether with monster or human or random item lying on the floor of a cave, wants to shape the story playing out in your game.

Bethesda’s latest — and maybe greatest — is the kind of game that seems tailor made for these Gamiary entries. It is a massive world that begs to have its dynamic narratives chronicled and shared (which is the point of this whole thing, after all) and is, luckily, also a stupid amount of fun.

The only Elder Scrolls title I’d played before this was Oblivion, a game that put me off within its first hour and convinced me that, just maybe, open world fantasy role-playing games weren’t for me. Its piles of silly-sounding jargon, bland aesthetic and unclear motivation stopped me in my tracks and only reinforced the distaste I have for the fantasy genre (a distaste that took substantial blows this year thanks to George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and, now, Skyrim). I turned Oblivion off and didn’t look back. The game mechanics had already been refined in Bethesda’s Fallout titles and, without the retro sci-fi hook of those games, there wasn’t much left to entice me.

The Elder Scrolls, I decided, was just not a videogame series I would ever understand the love for.

But Skyrim, sweet baby Skyrim, got its talons into me after roughly 20 minutes and hasn’t let go since. The hook (almost being beheaded as a part of a civil war you have no knowledge of before serendipity arrives in the form of a goddamned dragon) is compelling and the game doesn’t take any chances in squandering the goodwill generated by its opening. A further hour of play lets you fight mammoths/get curbstomped by giants, clear bandits out of their filthy little keeps, be viciously murdered by a frost troll or encounter any other wonderful scenarios full of skill-testing combat, character building decision making and context discovery that fleshes out the setting.

There’s a lot to say about the experiences offered by Skyrim and I’ll go on to do just that. For now, though, this is a sort of proof of concept of this Gamiary thing — a forum for describing personal reactions to videogames — and I’d rather cut off here as a pseudo introduction and return with another entry later.

Another entry that will most likely describe how I fell in with the wrong crowd and am now a werewolf.


Reid McCarter is a writer, editor and musician living and working in Toronto. He has written for sites and magazines including Kill Screen, The Escapist and C&G Magazine. He maintains literature and music blog, Sasquatch Radio, and, more importantly, founded, writes and is editor-in-extremis for game site Digital Love Child. His Tweet-fu is strong @reidmccarter.