Monday, June 17, 2019

I've been playing Skyrim

In my spare time, I've been playing Skyrim. This won't be surprising to anyone who has played Skyrim, as it is an excellent game which provides hours of fun. What is more surprising is that I haven't really played Skyrim until now, in 2019. I fiddled with it a bit when I first purchased the game, fresh off of another stint in Fallout 3. Like all games I've tried to play to replicate the feeling of playing Fallout 3, Skyrim failed and I lost interest shortly after beginning. This isn't Skyrim's fault. It is just a function of how good Fallout 3 is. 

Speaking of Fallout 3, the only game I've found which successfully supplanted this game as a go-to pasttime was Fallout 4. I consider that a major success for the series. To really understand the psychology behind these things - for me anyway - I should rewind even farther. I quit Counter-Strike by playing obscene amounts of Warcraft III. I quit Warcraft III because I was honestly burnt out on it and found Guild Wars. Guild Wars was amazing, but it wasn't enough to keep me away from World of Warcraft forever. I always knew that World of Warcraft would be a mistake, yet eventually I dove in headfirst. To quit World of Warcraft, I turned to Borderlands. Then League of Legends. Borderlands ended naturally and of its own accord. I completed everything about the game long before achievements were introduced and I had lost too much interest in playing by the time they were (so if you check my profile it will not reflect the level of completion I actually achieved for that game). Also Torchlight. I've played a lot of Torchlight. From League of Legends I discovered (thanks to my brother) Fallout 3, which left an indelible mark. From Fallout 3, I convinced myself to buy Fallout New Vegas on release, a substantial investment at the time and one which I have never anything other than regretted (I've never played Fallout New Vegas past the first town). 

While there were plenty of games which captured my interest after this time, Fallout New Vegas proved to me that it would be a mistake to pay full price for any game... ever again. I played a lot of phone games and other trivialities until Torchlight II came out. I've played quite a bit of Torchlight II, then moved back to League of Legends and didn't invest in anything new for quite some time. When Fallout 4 finally came out, I was excited, but unwilling to purchase it for full price. So I didn't. I waited and played Fallout 3 and League of Legends. I did try out Borderlands 2, but never really got into it. I bought Borderlands the PreSequel, but never played it - not even once - because I hadn't finished Borderlands 2. I also bought the Borderlands telltale game thing on mobile. The full package with all the episodes. It was expensive. I never played it. Eventually, Fallout 4 became affordable, so I purchased it and greatly enjoyed it. I am not sure if I ever played through the full storyline, but that's a task for another day. 

After Fallout 4 I went back to League of Legends again and essentially stopped investing much time into games. I started playing a mobile game pretty intensively and pretty expensively. Seriously, pay to play games are the worst. But I got suckered in. I used to think that World of Warcraft got the better of me with the sheer and overwhelming amount of money I spent to play the game. Then I thought League of Legends must hold the true crown with all of the cosmetics that I purchased over the years. Alas, neither one comes close to the financial drain that mobile games represent. These things are the worst version of gaming to date.

After being raked over the coals by my ill-conceived mobile obsession, I was anxious to return to a simpler form of gaming. I wanted to find something self-contained. A game which you buy but once and then enjoy for hours upon hours afterward. I found such a game in Subnautica. Alas, that game is far too intense for me, with its creepy underwater settings and insistence on diving ever deeper to progress the storyline. I only lasted through three or four encounters with its leviathans before I packed it in and decided I'd seen about as much of Subnautica as I was ever going to be interested in seeing. 

This was the point that I came crawling back to Skyrim. I had my doubts, don't get me wrong. I didn't have an overly fond memory of the first playthough. I remember the control being kludgy and the game uninteresting. However, I longed for an open world to dabble in and countless reviews insisted that Skyrim was the best game ever made. It seems unlikely that everyone would be wrong. 

Everyone was not wrong. Skyrim is amazing. I just needed some time to acclimate to it (fresh off a Fallout play-through is not the best moment for me). The only real downside to the game is its lackluster endgame. Actually, it isn't that the endgame is lackluster, really. It's just that by the time I am interested in trying it out, I've already leveled too far for it to be challenging.

So, all of that to say that once I played through Skyrim and reached the endgame content, I was left once again looking for a satisfying game to occupy my play time. Is this because pay to play and MMO games are better for content with their incessant demand for more money?


I played Skyrim for 100+ hours. In my world, that's like 4 months. If I wanted to get that much content out of a mobile game, I'd have to spend something approaching $3000 over a four month span. Instead, I spent $20 on a GOTY edition of one of the best games ever made and received a ton of enjoyment in return.

The economy of modern gaming is pretty messed up. People like me who don't have gargantuan piles of liquid funds to waste on a daily basis are being separated into a lower class of gamer, the so-called "free to play" crowd who are expected to grovel in gratitude for access to games which ostensibly don't carry a price tag. And while grovelling, don't forget to abandon all hope of playing the game at a viable level - you only get to do that if you're willing to shell out unreasonable sums of money. It's pretty messed up.

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