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Skyrim is videogame theatre, and I found myself worryingly lost in its labyrinth. Swapping the uncertainties and dangers of real life for the control and safety of Skyrim eclipsed my day to day reality in a way I hadn't bargained for.
Never has any game drawn me in the way Skyrim has. As media, it is akin to participating in a piece of theatre - an immediacy and interactive level that is usually reserved for being in a room with the actual performers. Skyrim takes you further than this though, and like a favourite theatrical form of mine Forum Theatre, gives you the choices and makes you the protagonist.
I could easily spend hours talking about the awe inspiring world you are dropped into; the beautiful, detailed surroundings which establish the atmosphere of the game, or the awesome spectacle of the dragon encounters. This is an intricately ornate place full of interactive elements, areas to explore, and people and monsters to encounter.
This is certainly a huge factor to the engagement and playability of the game. The vastness and breathtaking nature of the buildings, trees, rivers and mountains continues to feel amazing. The attention to detail in these settings, and in every aspect of the world around you, is so intriguing that it is actually distracting. It all combines to create a game that I couldn't stop playing it and my real life is suffering.
Skyrim is a world that you shape. A world that develops based on your decisions. Your character builds from what you make him do. The side effect of this is that I sometimes just stand there, not knowing which decision to make, or which mission to do next.
Why are these things so much more engaging in a game than in real life?
I have such a long 'To Do' list in Skyrim, so much so that I spend much of my real life contemplating what to do next in the game. Do I join the rebellion or the empire? Will my life in the Thieves Guild affect my relationship with people in the games world?
Sitting in my newly purchased house in Whiterun, I look over all my new decorations and furniture. I have just spent an hour organizing my equipment, items and food, sorting out my characters' inventory. Back in the real world however I sit in my chair surrounded by an increasingly messy room. I waste (real) hours cooking, smithing, combining potion ingredients, doing small jobs, buying, selling, running pathetic errands, and organizing my character. I spend hours getting lost within the type of small tasks I am putting off in the real world. Why are these things so much more engaging in a game than in real life, actually nipping to the post office to send that letter or going food shopping?
I'm 130 hours in now, and on my second character. I realise a month has passed and I have somehow managed to delay and postpone much of my actual life so that I can put more time into my character.
Maybe I prefer Skyrim’s theatre to reality because I am having more impact on this world than I could ever have in my real life. Like Forum Theatre, this is a fantasy world where my actions actually count. It takes me to a new level, something that I really wish I could have in my real life but is out of reach – so instead I live vicariously through this game.
Like a piece of theatre, Skyrim offers control we can't get from reality.
Like a piece of theatre, Skyrim offers the control that we can't always get from our, all too often, disappointing reality. Maybe it's the safety of this environment (the ability to restart from a save point in a game) that makes me put so much of myself into the characters that I am playing, or maybe it's the freedom that we have in a game like Skyrim that we don't have in reality.
All I know is there is still so much more of the game to play, and I still have so many more skills to master. I just need to get the inconvenience of bodily sustenance and bathroom breaks out the way first.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: