Accidentally Awesome: Why Skyrim’s Greatness is in Its Flaws

An Unreality guest post by Dave Bast.

Why I picked it: I got a few different personal essays about Skyrim, but this one stood out as an interesting account of why Skyrim’s craziness actually makes it a more lovable game, however immersion breaking it might be. I had similar experiences during my own playthrough(s) and I think Dave’s style makes for an enjoyable journal read.

***This post contains spoilers***

I entered the cave south of Whiterun just after midnight. The bandit guard at the entrance I tried to sneak past was keener than I had expected and caught me before I could proceed. A few quick and deadly maneuvers and the debate was over, his gold in my pocket before he hit the ground. The silly fool should have pretended he didn’t see me. Once inside, I quickly checked to make sure that my blade, an Orc-made, vampiric dagger, is properly poisoned and that I’m ready for combat.

Lights flickered within a large open chamber, the voices of two bandits echoed within. As they came into view I could hear they were discussing the security of their mine’s entrance, one even questioned the wisdom of having only one guard out front. Good thinking, I smiled. I crept down a small ramp and around to the shadows surrounding their camp. As I crept closer, I hoped that they would see me, I was itching for a real fight. They each stood at either side of a small campfire; the one closest to me was within range of a long shadow cast by a bookcase nearby. As I approached I grew excited, I knew as soon as I killed the first one his companion would attack in fear and frustration. I was looking forward to that fight… that and the look on his face when the man he is speaking to slumps dead into the campfire.

However, something about this kill didn’t feel right. As I crept closer to my victim I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a set up. I shook the feelings away. I’m a professional assassin. How many have died to my blade, to this blade? If it is a trap I’ll handle it, I always do. I rolled forward and raised my blade, slashing the neck of my first victim with brutal efficiency. I looked up to see the face of his friend, to see the fear in his eyes as I crouched where his friend stood just one bloody instant earlier. He looked over the campfire, raised his greatsword and said, “Is someone there?”

… For a moment I paused, maybe I heard him wrong. Then he said, “When I find you, I’ll smash you to pieces,” while within two feet of me looking in all directions. After about a minute of dutiful searching he decided to, ahem, return to his post located three feet from the scene of the crime. Then, I guess, out of madness or sheer stupidity he continued having the same conversation by himself like nothing happened… I put down the controller.

No longer immersed, back in reality I felt unsatisfied. It was all a charade. I wasn’t an assassin, I was a dude pretending to be an assassin. Even though all the stealth and sneaking gameplay looked slick, I knew that I could most likely kill all these bandits with my eyes closed. I mean, I just murdered the guy you were having a conversation with, but please, feel free to keep on talking to yourself. I was playing the part of an assassin in a world where it didn’t matter. I could have run through the halls screaming “I wanna be an airborne ranger,” and they probably wouldn’t have caught me until I made it to the gym. I was right, it was all a set-up. The joke was on me.

All the sneaking around was for me and my immersive experience as a player, and was not an inherent requirement of the game. However, for me, no matter how many things you get right or how immersive a game is “supposed” to be, all it takes is one small glitch or bug to pull me out of an immersive experience. It isn’t always a bug, sometimes it is some sort of gameplay choice or feature. Like how half the Draugr in all the catacombs in Skyrim just stand there while I completely destroy them. Sure, they look awesome, their eyes glow and they are genuinely creepy and discomforting to look at, but if they just stand there and refuse to fight they are nothing but giant undead Nordic gold purses.

A little while after the events of the cave I decided to head back to Whiterun to do the general selling of items and goodies before going back out. At this point in the game my most poignant immersive moment was a dragon attack on Whiterun during my previous visit. The dragon killed among other people, Adrianne Avenicci, Warmaiden’s blacksmith. Upon seeing her corpse, Ulfberth War-Bear, her husband, crouched over her body, cried and generally freaked out a ton. It was actually really sad as I was used to seeing her work early while Ulfberth stumbled home from a night in the Bannered Mare.

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  1. Wait, so blind bandits bother you, but the fact that every person in every town can only speak three sentences or so doesn’t blow your immersion? And don’t get me started on the guards. That’s a lot of arrows in a lot of knees, man. Also those injured knees seem to have no problem chasing my ass all over the place. Just saying. Skyrim is a great video game. Maybe on of the greatest. But we are still a pretty long way away from the technology required for the kind of glitch-free immersion you’re looking for. But goddamn it will be glorious when it happens. Good, imaginative post.

  2. Great post, very well written.

    @Mandy, if you want people with hobbies that don’t include gaming find another site ’cause Unreality isn’t for you.

    Skyrim is best viewed I think as a grand experiment in open world gaming. I personally don’t have it, but that’s because I don’t have £45 to blow on a game for PS3 I have heard has serious frame-rate issues. It IS seriously rough around the edges, and like most things pushing frontiers it has a charm of random events attached.

    I’m not sure this is enough to convince me it is a valid game, for the prices they are charging I would expect a game that works properly and I can trust to allow me to play without serious malfunction. Note I say “trust” as I know many people have no serious problems

  3. Only thing I really didn’t like about Skyrim was it’s utter lack of consequences. You could kill some really upper level guys as an assassin and only have to pay a fine. You didn’t even get penalized (by your Brotherhood guys) for being caught. It had it’s good and it’s bad, it’s still an imperfect “perfect” world.

  4. huh, i keep remembering what was said when skyrim was first anounced

    “the questgivers in skyrim can all be killed, because they all have relatives that will take over for them if they die”

    im not gonna go search for that quote, and i dont care who said it, i just wish it was the truth.

  5. Skyrim has a ton of bugs. It crashes on me once a week; my “wife” is stuck in a temple and won’t leave despite everything i try; I’m a perpetual outlaw in that town, even if I submit to jail, and they won’t take me; and on and on.
    With that said, it’s still my favorite video game of all time, and I can’t get enough it.

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