So… computer games…
It would be wrong to say that I have never played computer games. I played a lot of games on cassette, way back when, and doesn’t that make me oooold? There was a great one called Kickstart, I think – it was a motorbike and there was lots of jumping. And balloons to hit. As a family we progressed through to a Gameboy (my brother’s, but I got to play, occasionally), and then to a proper desktop that played Civilisation like nobody’s business. Then I left home, and I didn’t play games again for ages, partly because I didn’t have a computer for it and partly because I had no ‘in’. After we got married I had a go at Starcraft, and played a fair bit until one section really stymied me and I gave up in disgust (I still get scowly thinking about it). J is a long-time gamer, and has been on the look-out for a new game for me to try for a loooong time, especially since we got a PS3 (to play Blu-Ray when we needed a new DVD player, honest!). I’ve been pretty anti, to be honest, for what are probably not great reasons. They take up a lot of time! time when I could be reading or knitting!… but somehow gaming doesn’t seem as ‘worthy’ a use of time. Also, I am pretty uncoordinated, which is disheartening when trying to use controllers; and I loathe learning new skills. Which is pretty pathetic, but true.
Anyway. He heard about Skyrim, and thought it sounded like the sort of game that I might enjoy, because of its non-linear nature – therefore no time pressures – and because it was reputed to be an amazing world to simply explore. I argued somewhat half-heartedly, we searched the city game shops high and low and eventually got told there was one copy in the game store closest to our house, and took it home.
That evening, one week ago, I sprained my ankle. Ha ha ha.
I haven’t actually played as much as you might think, but more than I might have expected. Partly that’s because I do still want to read and knit, and partly because J decided to have a go too, with a character completely different from mine, so we’ve been Sharing. Not something we’re always very good at. And, yes, I’ve been enjoying it. I’m playing a Wood Elf, which makes me naturally good at archery and general sneakery (I’m meant to be a thief but I just can’t bring myself to nick stuff. Also, the first time I tried I got caught, so I’ve given up on that for now). I nearly gave up on the game right at the start when I had to choose a race for myself; J, and the manual, were all “choose a character that will suit your playing style!” to which I replied “I don’t have a playing style!!” I doubted that I had the wherewithal to be coordinated enough for magicky stuff, and serious crazylike weapons stuff just didn’t seem like me (plus, I’m enough of a Tolkien fangirl to be uncomfortable with being an Orc – the race J chose, who gets to go berserk and literally see red). So, Archer and Wood Elf seemed a good choice (Legolas’ influence, not Paris’, for what it’s worth).
I’ve got a little disheartened when J has levelled up faster than me, found things faster than me, etc – but as he keeps saying, he’s got several game-playing-years on me, so he Knows How Things Work (barred door your lockpicking won’t open? Find a lever or chain to pull.) Also, I have to keep remembering our characters are pole opposites, so that dungeon was easy for him but I can’t sneak there… and so on. We do seem to both be able to kill dragons equally well, so that’s nice.
I am impressed by the world. I’ve felt uncomfortable about not finishing the quests set Right Now, until realising that it really truly is non-linear; if I leave someone waiting for their cart to be fixed, they’re still there several days (ahem, game days) later. So I can be as flighty as I like – ooh, a cairn! I’ll follow this trail! The landscapes are well-drawn, and while not hugely different in different areas there’s significant change when going up and down mountains, and towards water. One really lovely touch is that when travelling at night, there are often aurora in the sky, which is the sort of whimsy I wasn’t really expecting. One thing I have been particularly impressed by is the gender parity. The manual makes a point of saying that being male or female makes no difference to a character’s achievements or skills. Bandits, other warriors, and general characters are just as likely to be women as they are men – and I haven’t met many jarls (head honchos) yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ve come across one female jarl, which I hadn’t expected. So that’s a really major plus.
I will definitely be keeping on playing. I’ve now bought a house (bwahaha) which enables me to leave stuff there and not have to carry things all the time, so I can pick up more Cool Stuff and sell it to get more money… I must admit there is part of me that is still unsure of the actual point of this game. Highest level for your character? Most gold, best house? Most dragons killed? Complete all the quests? I guess the last point is the one that makes the most sense in the strictest sense, but I also think that it is the one that perhaps least encapsulates the spirit of the game, and I can’t quite believe I just said that.