Archive for February, 2012

Letters From Skyrim

During reading break I resumed playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which I had put on hold at the beginning of the term in January.  It really is an amazing game.  It’s not perfect, like perhaps it shouldn’t be snowing inside but those are all very minor quibbles.  I was browsing some forum when I came across someone complaining about Skyrim and in particular saying it was not as good as The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall a comment I found rather funny.  This poster is only able to get away with such a comment because most of the people playing Skyrim have never played Daggerfall.  Not that Daggerfall is a bad game, in fact it’s an excellent game, only it is very dated.  I had been playing it in the early fall before obviously putting it on hold when Skyrim was released.  Daggerfall’s biggest downfall is that it was released before mouselook became universal.  The game designers at the time probably didn’t realize it but mouselook revolutionized PC gaming.  The inability to look all around you or the ability to only do so with the keyboard severely limits a game’s functionality.

But back to Skyrim.

Skyrim is the first game I’ve ever pre?ordered and picked up the midnight of release day.  I got there nice and early and was seventh in a line of apparently over 200.  It was a fascinating study in human behaviour.  As I said there were hundreds of customers there and only a handful of employees plus a few security guards.  We could have easily stampeded and stole all sorts of things but we didn’t.  I like to think of it as a testament to human civility but perhaps it was just a case of nobody willing to make the first move.  If a riot had broken out I can’t decide whether I would’ve started punching the rioters with impunity or huddled in a corner in the fetal position.

There were a lot of smokers which I guess disproves the commonly held belief that nerds are smart.  I also overheard a man complaining that since car crashes are already illegal there’s no reason impaired driving should be.  Genius.

It’s quite possible I was the only person in line that is planning on going into the ministry although I really have no proof of that.  And in fact, I’ve always appreciated The Elder Scrolls’s treatment of religion.

The dominant religion is a polytheistic one with a basic structure based on the Greek/Roman model but with some notable tweaks.  The Aedra behave more in the non?interventionist fashion of real world monotheism whereas the Daedra are the classic Greek gods behaving in their own selfish manner.  The status of the Aedra has allowed for syncretism for political reasons.

The elevation of the emperor Tiber Septim in godhood after his death is clearly based on Julius Caesar’s posthumous divination as Divus Iulius.  That the divine version of him is referred to by his pre?regnal name “Talos” is reminiscent of Haile Selassie who was known as Ras Tafari before ascending to the throne of Ethiopia.

But Skyrim represents a new chapter in The Elder Scrolls series.  The first for games, although they had unrelated protagonists, were intimately linked.  They all involved, to a certain extant, the emperor Uriel Septim VII, who was assassinated at the beginning of Oblivion.  There were other connections as well. Arena and Oblivion both involved Mehrunes Dagon and the realm of Oblivion (although with the former I believe it was a retcon).  Daggerfall and Morrowind both involved the building/activation of a Dwemer (Dwarven) brass God (Numidium/Akulakhan).  Skyrim is like the four preceding games in that you start as a prisoner and you must first escape a starter dungeon (except Morrowind didn’t have a starter dungeon).

The one thing I’m most impressed with is continuity.  The Elder Scrolls series has amassed a huge amount of lore and it must be a headache to comb through it all.  But I’m interested to know is how far in advance do their story writers plan?  The concept of thu’um, the dragon speech first received a casual mention in Redguard in 1998 (it might have even been merely in the game’s documentation).  Now, 14 years later thu’um reappears as an important plot device.  Now did the writers go back and search for things and then fit the story around them or is this an extreme version of Chekhov’s gun, being placed there with the knowledge that years it the future it would reemerge with a vengeance?

A final note, in this game you are given the option to get married.  I perused some forums and chuckled at some posters describing their prospective video games wives as “freakin’ hot” and other such refined descriptors.  I wanted to mock them but I recalled there was a time in my life that I also had a little too much reverence for video game women.  Ahh, simpler times.

Well, that was a hodgepodge affair but it’s been too long since I posted anything.