Skyrim- it’s fun because it’s shaggy

I know, I know. I’ve been completely remiss in updating this blog. It’s not that I haven’t had content to add, but that I’ve been too busy to take the time to write it. I hope to catch up on that after the Christmas break, once the burden and expectations of coursework have abated, and my only priorities will be thesis research and whatever projects tickle my fancy (believe me, there are more than a few just waiting in the wings).

In addition to being super-busy with thesis prep and coursework, most of my at-home free time has been dominated by video games. For the directed study I’d planned this term, I played through both Dragon Ages; then some content analysis coding related to Mass Effect came up in my research methods course, and I just couldn’t help myself. And more recently, Skyrim, the most recent installment in the Elder Scrolls franchise was released, and I find myself well and truly addicted.

There are several things about Skyrim that set it apart from other games, but the most important quality is the high level of freedom given the gamer to explore the gameworld. Not all the rules are obvious; it often seems more like a simulation game than an RPG. And in a world as big as Skyrim, this can lead to unexpected results. The AV Club’s review of the game puts it best in the following excerpt:

The soul of Skyrim isn’t in these meticulous improvements, but in its shaggier side. Not every aspect of this world lines up perfectly. You might be anointed by an ancient priesthood as the greatest warrior in all the land, only to walk 10 yards down the road and get slaughtered by a stray bear. Incongruities like this arise all the time—characters behave weirdly, and quests veer off-script. It isn’t just about bugs, although there are some of those. These eccentricities are the result of an extremely detailed organic world acting out in unexpected ways.

Skyrim lets these rough edges show, because the element of chaos lets players feel like the game is happening to them, and they are alive in it—not just cogs in a pre-fab Game Experience. That’s what sets Skyrim apart from some of its contemporaries. Where many games with lavish production values seek to direct players’ imaginations, Skyrim seeks to ignite them.

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