‘Elder Scrolls’ a Virtual World of Possibilities

 
A scene from Elder Scrolls

A scene from Elder Scrolls

My husband and daughter have been playing the video game “Elder Scrolls” for a few years now (yes, they take breaks to eat, go to school, go to work, etc.). This virtual world is stunning in its detail and sprawl. When the weather is bleak outdoors, the digital forests with sun filtering through trees, birds singing, and wildflowers blooming give me a lift. Sometimes–although I would never publicize this on an online forum–when weather doesn’t permit walking, I jog in place in front of the screen, pretending to “run with” my daughter’s screen character. It is cheering, if there are no nightmarish beings attacking, to imagine I’m taking some air on cobbled paths winding through woods, or on a beach, or over a boardwalk. As my daughter works her way through the game, with its stiff storylines and stilted dialogue, we are building our own family lore around it, which to me is more amusing than what the Tolkien-wannabe scriptwriters offer. Here are some absurdities you can only get from the blending of real and programmed worlds:

Virtual Clutter: In Elder Scrolls, players constantly acquire objects and carry them around in their packs or whatever their digital conveyance is. If I understand it right, these items come in handy later, or give the player an edge in fighting, or extra food for recipes, or clothes. At times, it gets to be too much, so you can sell off items to people in the game, or you can dump them somewhere. Apparently, my husband has taken to dumping. My daughter discovered this after she spent some time buying herself a house and furnishing it how she liked. It was tidy and cozy, a calm retreat from battling mutants. One day, unsuspecting, she selected that area on the map to visit her home. My husband had been there before her. He had been busy cleaning out his gear, leaving items strewn around the medieval dwelling. And in the middle of the floor was a sacrificial heart.

Virtuous Character: This game allows a player to take on any role. One can be an honest worker, making a living from skilled craftsmanship. Players can also steal–and worse, kill the robbed victims for no clear reason. You can join an assassin group and carry out dark missions. (I admit that this doesn’t sit well with me. I’m not sure what it does to one’s conscience to play at being evil, and regularly walk up and stab a person, with a showy fountain of blood, who had just been minding his own business up until then.) Anyway, my younger daughter set up a character for her older sister, @Dill. And when she plays as Dill’s character, Elder Scrolls becomes a wholesome game. Dill’s character would never dream of violence that wasn’t in self-defense or to kill bad guys. In fact, she doesn’t seem to do much fighting. She never steals, never has a bounty on her head. Instead, she wanders benignly through the worlds, busying herself with productive handicrafts. She might cook, make purchases, try on different outfits. No wonder these girls–when not at home due to canceled classes–successfully share a tiny apartment near their real-world college campus.

Fellow Travelers: Elder Scrolls can be played online, where other players are jogging by, dog or exotic pet close on their heels, or riding on a majestic predator. When ugly brutes have spawned for a massive fighting encounter, players team up and help each other fight. They can use their healing powers on one another or join other players for a multi-pronged attack. All this sounds noble, but when you visit a populous town square, especially if you’re wearing headphones, the dignity melts away, and one suspects that teenage boys are behind the earful of coarse language irrelevant to the game. We witness a range of puzzling behavior: odd poses, dancing, noisy gatherings. Today, a tall, lanky woman in sketchy underclothes was standing on a pedestal–and then suddenly acquired pants. Next, a whole outfit appeared. She was getting dressed in public. Also today, there was howling. You might have heard of the social media movement encouraging people to go outside and howl at eight every evening while in isolation. Well, it wasn’t nearly eight, but several players were circled up on the backs of their assorted wolves, tigers, and mythical creatures. Their animals were all howling over and over. My daughter laughed, steered her ride over, and joined the circle.

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  1. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Great family of games. I recently played through Skyrim. It’s one of my favorites!

    • #1
  2. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    Great family of games. I recently played through Skyrim. It’s one of my favorites!

    Oh. Skyrim is actually a different game?  I am still vague about how this thing works. I thought it was the same game, just a supplement or something. 

    • #2
  3. She Member
    She
    @She

    Back in the dark ages, my family loved Kings Quest for many of the same reasons.

    • #3
  4. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    She (View Comment):

    Back in the dark ages, my family loved Kings Quest for many of the same reasons.

    I remember Kings Quest. 

    • #4
  5. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    Great family of games. I recently played through Skyrim. It’s one of my favorites!

    Oh. Skyrim is actually a different game? I am still vague about how this thing works. I thought it was the same game, just a supplement or something.

    Skyrim is my favorite game, as was Oblivion before it. The Elder Scrolls Online is a “massively multiplayer online” (MMO) spinoff of a decades-long series of single-player adventure games by Bethesda Studios. 

    ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) stitches together environments, themes, and other standards from those single-player games. It captures a lot of what is great about the fictional world, but is a far cry in many ways from the solo experience. ESO better suits social gamers and grinders (formulaic repetition in pursuit of fixed goals). I much prefer Skyrim. 

    Skyrim was made available in Virtual Reality years ago, but I don’t own VR hardware to play that way. I can however stitch together screenshots to create 360-degree photos. Here are my 360-degree shots of Skyrim

    On second thought, I see the point of confusion. Skyrim is the name of a region within Tamriel, the world of Elder Scrolls games. That region was recently added to the online game — ESO. So Skyrim is now both an area within the online game your family plays and the area where an entire single-player game is set. 

    • #5
  6. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    sawatdeeka: All this sounds noble, but when you visit a populous town square, especially if you’re wearing headphones, the dignity melts away, and one suspects that teenage boys are behind the earful of coarse language irrelevant to the game. We witness a range of puzzling behavior: odd poses, dancing, noisy gatherings. Today, a tall, lanky woman in sketchy underclothes was standing on a pedestal–and then suddenly acquired pants. Next, a whole outfit appeared. She was getting dressed in public. Also today, there was howling.

    Multiplayer game communities, like offline communities, always include a mix of generous, considerate players and obnoxious jerks.

    Unfortunately, game publishers tend to tolerate bad behavior for the same reasons store managers usually fail to police their customers — they see a banned jerk as a lost sale, rather than a more inviting community as a customer attraction. Or maybe we really are just stuck with them. In any case, it is the main reason I and many other gamers avoid multiplayer games as much as possible. 

    Many multiplayer games have options for managing interactions, like disabling messages and audio from other players or requiring a duel request before anothet player can attack your character. Some games divide PvP (Player vs Player) and PvE (Player vs Environment) experiences into different game-world areas or even different servers. 

    Skyrim the game is bliss for many solo gamers. Bethesda single-player games offer unparalled freedom for players to craft a character, explore anywhere at any time, play at one’s own pace, and generally play however one wants to play. 

    Bethesda has traditionally alternated between two game series of differently themed worlds but similar gameplay. The Elder Scrolls is high fantasy and the Fallout series is a bleak but silly 1950s apocalypse. Soon, Bethesda will reveal its next series with the sci-fi game Starfield. It can’t arrive soon enough (and won’t). 

    • #6
  7. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Y’know, your daughter could easily help you make a character….

    • #7
  8. Ben Sears Member
    Ben Sears
    @BenMSYS

    I loved Oblivion. I have Skyrim, but just haven’t had the time to play. Years ago, 2000 or 2001, I played Asheron’s Call. It was a multiplayer and my wife was on the computer next to me with our across the hall neighbor within yelling distance (it was a fourplex and we could leave our back doors open and see each other as we played) and we’d explore the game.

    It was designed for group play as a lot of the challenges were impossible for a single character. Most notable were the monthly challenges. Some would need as many as 30 players to beat. There was a feature that let you set up guilds so you could help each other out and get together when needed. Pre Slacker there was an in-game com system where if someone was in trouble and they were in your guild they could send out an SOS and the guild would rain holy terror on whatever digital troll or dragon had them in pinned. The game was fun.

    What cracked me up though was the gatherings before we tackled the monthly challenge. Nobody was on time. We’d all sit around with our shiny armor and swords waiting for the buffing wizard (don’t let your mind go that way) or the healer and when we finally all got to the virtual place the elected leader would sound the charge only to be held back because somebody needed to change a diaper or let the dog out or stir the pasta sauce. It was the most domesticated crusade you’ve ever seen. We’d get 20 mins of fighting in with every 2 hours of organizing. It was really funny, and really fun.

    I should make a new character and start Skyrim again. I suddenly have the time.

     

    • #8
  9. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    It sounds like they are playing both.

    But I agree about the light visuals. They are breathtaking games. Elder Scrolls III was the first video game I ever played.

    I remember stumbling into one cave called “Mother’s Den” that had the most gorgeous filtering of light sifted through overhead roots, leaves, and crumbling earth, casting speckles on the underground grotto with a waterfall, pool of water, and rich foliage… while my breath was stolen from the gorgeous visuals, my character was ripped to pieces my a hidden dryad that was 3 times my level. 

    • #9
  10. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    Great family of games. I recently played through Skyrim. It’s one of my favorites!

    Oh. Skyrim is actually a different game? I am still vague about how this thing works. I thought it was the same game, just a supplement or something.

    I’ve played Skyrim several times, and it never grows old.  The world is so vast, I discover new things every time I play it.  In addition, there are thousands of user-made mods for it that introduce new quests, items, and skills.  It’s a stand-alone, solo computer game as opposed to an online, multiplayer game, which is probably what you’re playing (Elder Scrolls Online).

    Two other games I’m currently playing are Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Fallout 4.  Fallout 4 is made by the same company that makes Skyrim (Bethesda), so the keyboard controls are almost identical.  It’s set in a post-nuclear apocalyptic Boston, a little over 200 years after the bombs fell in 2077.  You can read more about it online.

    Anyway, Skyrim takes place in a northern region, with snow constanty falling the further north or higher up in the mountains you go.  I actually feel cold climbing to the top of High Hrothgar, the tallest peak in the game.  You should try it!

    • #10
  11. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I still have the Skyrim collector edition box art on my wall (along with my grandpa’s tank destroyer insignia). It came with a vellum-bound art book full of concept art.

    • #11
  12. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):
    In any case, it is the main reason I and many other gamers avoid multiplayer games as much as possible. 

    If we made a little Ricochet guild, we could have civilized interaction in that world, too. 

    Thanks for chiming in, @aaronmiller .  It’s interesting to read writers who explain these concepts to non-players in an accessible, appealing way. And your 360 views of the game are beautiful. 

    • #12
  13. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    TBA (View Comment):

    Y’know, your daughter could easily help you make a character….

    Yeah, she could. We’ve recently talked about my visiting this place as a tourist at a resort. Skirting the water vipers and such, I would haunt the beaches, stay at the inns, and take lots of walks in the beautiful scenery. I could go for swims and tours on ships, too. 

    When we saw your comment this morning, we started planning a character. I guess I can’t always avoid the fights, but she’ll make me a healer, and I’ll try to stay away from the bad guys. The weather is dreary off and on (we’re finally had more winter–in April, after an oddly mild season), so I may be getting more exercise this way. 

    • #13
  14. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    Great family of games. I recently played through Skyrim. It’s one of my favorites!

    Oh. Skyrim is actually a different game? I am still vague about how this thing works. I thought it was the same game, just a supplement or something.

    “Elder Scrolls” is a family of games, kind of like the game’s universe.  Like with Final Fantasy and Legend of Zelda.  There have been several.  My own experience started with “morrowind,” which was followed by “oblivion,” and the latest iteration is “Skyrim.”  I’m not sure where “elder scrolls online” falls in all of that.

    They all have a very similar feel, but of course they keep getting better over time.  I think Skyrim has been out for nearly 10 years.  They’re currently working on the next one (Elder Scrolls VI).  

    • #14
  15. Hammer, The Member
    Hammer, The
    @RyanM

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    Great family of games. I recently played through Skyrim. It’s one of my favorites!

    Oh. Skyrim is actually a different game? I am still vague about how this thing works. I thought it was the same game, just a supplement or something.

    Skyrim is my favorite game, as was Oblivion before it. The Elder Scrolls Online is a “massively multiplayer online” (MMO) spinoff of a decades-long series of single-player adventure games by Bethesda Studios.

    ESO (Elder Scrolls Online) stitches together environments, themes, and other standards from those single-player games. It captures a lot of what is great about the fictional world, but is a far cry in many ways from the solo experience. ESO better suits social gamers and grinders (formulaic repetition in pursuit of fixed goals). I much prefer Skyrim.

    Skyrim was made available in Virtual Reality years ago, but I don’t own VR hardware to play that way. I can however stitch together screenshots to create 360-degree photos. Here are my 360-degree shots of Skyrim.

    On second thought, I see the point of confusion. Skyrim is the name of a region within Tamriel, the world of Elder Scrolls games. That region was recently added to the online game — ESO. So Skyrim is now both an area within the online game your family plays and the area where an entire single-player game is set.

    ha – you beat me to it!  You’re much more informative than I am.  :)  

    • #15
  16. Aaron Miller Inactive
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I started with Morrowind as well, though that was not the first Elder Scrolls game. There is a new one in the works, but it will be 3-5 years before it is released. 

    Skyrim has remained so popular that it has been resold again and again on new systems and in new versions, yet people continue to pay full price as if it was a new game. Even so, few publishers have attempted to make similar games. 

    The Witcher 3 is the most similar game. But even that’s more narrative focused and reflects European gameplay preferences (less action-oriented, more realism, etc). It also lacks a first-person perspective, though that developer’s next game — Cyberpunk 2077 — will be most first-person. 

    Dragon Age 3 offers a large high fantasy world. But again it is narrative focused, party focused, and less devoted to player freedom. 

    A few other games offer large fantasy worlds with lots of choice. They too are scripted adventures and about managing a group of characters rather than embodying one protagonist. 

    • #16
  17. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily Essential
    @GLDIII

    I have enough difficulties managing the behavior and unmet virtues of the character I play in real life. Who has time for an alternate reality games.

    • #17
  18. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    I have enough difficulties managing the behavior and unmet virtues of the character I play in real life. Who has time for an alternate reality games.

    Ha–good point.

    I do get concerned about the amount of time poured into these games. I think too much gameplay for kids can be detrimental to their development. For adults, it can be detrimental to their weight, amongst other things.

    • #18
  19. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    Stina (View Comment):
    I remember stumbling into one cave called “Mother’s Den” that had the most gorgeous filtering of light sifted through overhead roots, leaves, and crumbling earth, casting speckles on the underground grotto with a waterfall, pool of water, and rich foliage… while my breath was stolen from the gorgeous visuals, my character was ripped to pieces my a hidden dryad that was 3 times my level. 

    Ha, ha. Great description. 

    • #19
  20. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    Stad (View Comment):

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    Hammer, The (View Comment):

    Great family of games. I recently played through Skyrim. It’s one of my favorites!

    Oh. Skyrim is actually a different game? I am still vague about how this thing works. I thought it was the same game, just a supplement or something.

    I’ve played Skyrim several times, and it never grows old. The world is so vast, I discover new things every time I play it. In addition, there are thousands of user-made mods for it that introduce new quests, items, and skills. It’s a stand-alone, solo computer game as opposed to an online, multiplayer game, which is probably what you’re playing (Elder Scrolls Online).

    Two other games I’m currently playing are Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey and Fallout 4. Fallout 4 is made by the same company that makes Skyrim (Bethesda), so the keyboard controls are almost identical. It’s set in a post-nuclear apocalyptic Boston, a little over 200 years after the bombs fell in 2077. You can read more about it online.

    Anyway, Skyrim takes place in a northern region, with snow constanty falling the further north or higher up in the mountains you go. I actually feel cold climbing to the top of High Hrothgar, the tallest peak in the game. You should try it!

    I remember getting that kind of synesthesia in WoW sometimes. 

    • #20
  21. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    TBA (View Comment):

    Y’know, your daughter could easily help you make a character….

    Yeah, she could. We’ve recently talked about my visiting this place as a tourist at a resort. Skirting the water vipers and such, I would haunt the beaches, stay at the inns, and take lots of walks in the beautiful scenery. I could go for swims and tours on ships, too.

    When we saw your comment this morning, we started planning a character. I guess I can’t always avoid the fights, but she’ll make me a healer, and I’ll try to stay away from the bad guys. The weather is dreary off and on (we’re finally had more winter–in April, after an oddly mild season), so I may be getting more exercise this way.

    ~predicts she will become a nOOb-PWNing griefer within the month ;) 

    • #21
  22. TBA Coolidge
    TBA
    @RobtGilsdorf

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    GLDIII Temporarily Essential (View Comment):

    I have enough difficulties managing the behavior and unmet virtues of the character I play in real life. Who has time for an alternate reality games.

    Ha–good point.

    I do get concerned about the amount of time poured into these games. I think too much gameplay for kids can be detrimental to their development. For adults, it can be detrimental to their weight, amongst other things.

    All true, but video games are a gift to the quarantined. 

    As a side note, I think we should develop games for jailed people which reward cooperation and self-control. 

    • #22
  23. Michael Brehm Coolidge
    Michael Brehm
    @MichaelBrehm

    The Elder Scrolls is all fun and games until you take an arrow to the knee and somebody steals your sweet roll.

    • #23
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