Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Skyrim: When the world is running down, you make the best of what's still around

at 1:21 PM
Can't believe I'm fucking sick again. Anyway, I wrote this post a while ago and didn't really like/finish/proofread it, so I'm putting it up today in lieu of a reflection on the Fire Emblem: Awakening demo that I can't get off the ground.

Skyrim wants me to save the world, but I'd rather just turn it on its side.

By this point, The Elder Scrolls has gained a bit of a reputation for awful main plot lines. They're macguffin-heavy, more rigid than a chicken bone, boring, and cliched. Frankly it's emblematic of video game storytelling in general. None of the "primary" quests have been any good for quite a few games now - Morrowind I don't know - people defend it, but I don't believe people, and I haven't seen for myself. The point is, Morrowind through Skyrim at least (that's ESIII - ESV), they all come down to "save the world". That world's name changes from Vvardenfell to Mournhold to Solstheim to Tamriel to Cyrodiil to The Shivering Isles to Skyrim back to Tamriel back to Solstheim, and the big bad awakening villain/god/demon from Dagoth Ur to Almalexia to Hircine to Mehrunes Dagon to Umaril to Jygalaag to Alduin to Harkon to Miraak, and yes the point of listing all those was to highlight that if you've been playing The Elder Scrolls for the last decade, you've saved essentially (often literally) the same world from essentially the same villain nine times. Sometimes you have to stop a dragon from being reborn, sometimes you have to stop a dragonborn from being reborn. I'm not even making that up.

This tale as old as time sucks everywhere, but I'm picking Elder Scrolls because I want to point out how little it actually makes me want to save the world. Wander Skyrim a bit or read up on the history through the in-game books (or Wikipedia), and you'll realize that everyone in Tamriel (the continent where the whole series takes place) is a dick, they've had like a million apocalypses and world wars, and it's generally just a nasty place. Okay, I admit, maybe the real world isn't super-nice either. We all remember that time that Morgan Freeman quotes Ernest Hemingway at the end of Se7en, which I've memorized by heart and will now quote with exact precision: "the world isn't very good, but I guess I'll fight for it, if I really have to". The real world works like that because it's the real world. Our lives and loves and futures are there. The Tamriel world doesn't get that freebie. It's kind of shitty and honestly feels like it could use a cleaning of house. Especially to get rid of all those demon-gods mucking about. As a matter of fact, that the game would even dare to suggest that Tammy is worth saving seems like an outright mockery of the worth of (IRL) human civilization. It's like The Elder Scrolls is saying: "you idiot. If you'll fight for this, you'll fight for anything."

I ain't about to get all philly [philosophical] in here about val/human/life or whether Earth is all that great; I'd rather just point out that it's why it's so crucial for the game to make me feel like a god. Because if the world is already going to be this fucked, you may as well let me fuck around with it further. And by "fucking around", precise a term though it is, I don't just mean running through towns and lighting people on fire like a GTA/Prototype-type kill-'em-all sandbox. I mean killing the giant spider that no one said could be done. Skyrocketing to the head of every major guild and organization. It's like, hey, this world is a bitch, so I guess I better get on top. Who gives a shit about saving it from impending ruin - I am impending ruin.

So was the reason I didn't like my first character because he was a weakling?

1 comment:

  1. Funny think about the Morrowind plot is that IIRC the creators of Oblivion decided it would be cool to have the province not be saved by main character...in IV you find out that the volcano the main character was supposed to stop in III went off and destroyed the "world" anyway.