I’m split between two Switch games this month: Skyrim and (don’t judge me) Farming Simulator, the best zen-out pretend tractor simulator ever made.
I’m revisiting the world of Skyrim, a six year old game that was recently released in carry-around-with-you-mode for Switch, and worth every penny I scraped out of my mad money fund to buy it.
There is a broad, fuzzy, blurry, guilt-ridden no man’s land that is part of every game purchase, a place between Point A when I’ve reluctantly typed my PIN number into the credit card terminal and Point B when I feel like I’ve justified typing my PIN number into that credit card terminal. This justification comes in the form of value: entertainment value, experience value, novelty value, or just general I-now-don’t-feel-like-I’ve-wasted-my-money value.
Having paid for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim multiple times, the math on that value equation is exponentially more complex to compute. One needs to factor in a long list of other variables not limited to but including things like nostalgia, updated content add-ons included in late versions or even one’s previous purchase of a cheat manual that is technically out-of-date but useful enough to nudge a frustrated player through most situations as required.
Ten hours into my third Skyrim playthrough, this time on the Nintendo Switch, and having kicked off writing this series of posts I’m calling my Skyrim Adventure Journal … well… actually I haven’t settled on a proper name yet so never mind that part… but, having kicked off writing this series of posts and videos and general commentary recapping my time in this overgrown land of playing with magic and fighting dragons and picking mountain flowers for hours upon hours, alas, I feel like the math on my value justification is starting to reconcile itself into a positive number.
I’m making progress, in other words, and pushing through the story…
When I bought this game for the first time on launch day in 2011, it hadn’t even slightly occurred to me that I’d even remember Skyrim let alone still be talking about it years later as a six year old title. Yet, here I am about to deep dive back into this game. What a sucker.
A misguided sense of longing for this virtual world has compelled me to pick up this title once again (in two-thousand-seven-almost-eight-teen) and for the third time restart this epic quest from the very beginning and play it through. How far? To the end? To a point of diminishing returns? To the first sign of summer weather and the desire to do something besides hibernate and play video games? A combination of all three, no doubt.
You may choose to follow along.
As the title of this post implies, I have it in my head to write a narrative play along with many parts, chronicling the effort. Perhaps it will justify my raw gaming as something more creative or enduring than just pissing away the hours pushing buttons. Maybe it can help me feel better about the expense of my buying the systems and these games with my own hard-earned money. Or perhaps it will just call me out as a mediocre gamer with a writing obsession. Either way, with the ability to capture thirty second clips and share them on this blog, whenever I reach a threshold minimum of footage– or like I said, until I get bored and stop posting — I’ll write my adventures (back) in the land of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
Now would be a good time to tune out and click away if you have anything less than a fanatical interest in role playing video games. No? You’re going to keep reading. Alright. I warned you… let’s play.
We downloaded the Switch version of Lego Worlds. I’ve been virtual LEGO’ing.
We downloaded Minecraft for the Switch, which has me hooked on solo crafting again when I have time to spare.
In the Ninth Edition of my “Week of Lists” I tackle the high level topic: Offline versus Online Parenting, exploring the collision of ideas parents face when seeking to participate and bridge gaps between themselves and other parents… while avoiding ruining their kids lives by oversharing or mild exploitation. I’ve been dad-blogging for ten years in various forms, so I’ve thought about many of the pros and cons, like…
3 vs 3 Reasons Why Let’s Play Videos are Epic (or Awful)
I read somewhere recently that sports broadcasting is struggling. Fewer people are watching other people play sports these days.
On the other hand, I look at what occupies The Girl’s screen time for any given week, and were I to represent her viewing habits in the form of a cake, sliced into eight pieces, as much as three or four of those pieces would be her watching other people play video games.
Let’s Play is the online equivalent of perpetually waiting for your turn at the arcade, of sitting on your friends house when there’s three of you fighting over a two player game. And it’s huge.
I would say I don’t get it but then two points: (a) it’s the TSN of video gaming and (b) I watch it too, so figure that out. But are Let’s Play videos actually pretty epic… or just plain awful?
Epic #1: There is a Low Barrier to Participation
To start, anyone can do it.
Sure, the skills to put together a Let’s Play video or channel worth watching are still skills that need to be trained and honed and practiced.
But have you got a computer? Have you got an internet connection? Like playing a certain game and talking aloud as you do it?
Awful #1: There is Culture of Oppressing Outsiders
Well… almost in. You still need to get followers. You still need to find an audience. If you build it they might come… but they also might completely ignore you, or worse, decide that you are an outsider worthy of derision and hate. As a dad who is a male, I can’t genuinely speak to some of the hate I’ve witnessed against girls who attempt to push into this culture, but as a dad who has a daughter who has keenly wanted to participate, I am myself keenly aware that she is going to face some opposition if she were to try, and not opposition that either fair or free of raw sexism or entitlement.
Epic #2: All Those So-Called Anti-Social Gamers Are Now Performers
Back in the eighties and nineties, I recall growing up and being sternly informed that no one ever makes money playing video games. Of course, any parent who says that now would be laughed have, perhaps having never heard of the multi-million dollar incomes generated from the ad or subscription revenue of some of the most popular Let’s Play channels on YouTube or Twitch.
The era of the geek hidden away in his or her basement playing solo has been replaced with the era of the geek performing her video gaming prowess to a million people. And through this video gamers have become creators of culture and makers of entertainment, shaping and reshaping what we consider to be worthy of spending our entertainment time watching.
Awful #2: It Drives a Shallow Celebrity Mindset
On the other hand it seems as though every kid now dreams of being famous. Everyone is a YouTube star in waiting. Everyone is a Let’s Play god lurking in the shadows. Everyone could get discovered and be the next big thing.
Epic #3: It’s Driving Technology Growth That Has Overlapping Benefits
And the best of these people are going to be motivated to find an untapped niche market. Some of the best Let’s Play video channels I’ve watched have little to nothing to do with gaming. I remember the day I discovered that DeadMau5, the Canadian music producer and progressive house recording artist, will sometimes compose his newest work live on a Twitch stream.
If that sentence made no sense to you let me rephrase: a Canadian musician is writing music live on a self-broadcast video using the technology that most people are using to broadcast themselves playing video games.
Similarly, I’ve found channels of artists drawing or writing code. We’re toeing the line of educational programming here.
Awful #3: It’s Still Just Mostly Watching
Yet at the end of the day I can’t help notice that for every person embracing the technology and becoming a creator, there are dozens, hundreds, or hundreds of thousands of others just watching. Staring vacantly into a screen. And that part is kinda lame.
Maybe The Girl and I will just start a new channel: Let’s Bike. Let’s Hike. Let’s Playground.
In a perfect storm of video gaming, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch finally arrived in the mail on Monday and I found myself with an abundance of waiting-around-time to play it. Between waiting around at the dance studio for Claire’s class to end and then waiting around for Karin’s long-delayed flight from Toronto to land, I had enough time to log about four guilt-free hours on the new racer.
That said, I also learned it’s not a great idea to try and sight-read a new course you’ve never played in an online tournament two hours after your regular bedtime… but live and learn, huh?
Also, Claire turned out to be pretty darn good, even schooling me on one course. I’m going to have to up my game on this edition.
After two months of mashing at Zelda: Breath of the Wild, I’ve made pretty good progress… but I still have plenty of work to do to finish the game. Sixty six shrines complete. Two sub-bosses subdued and two more on the verge of confrontation. Many of the sub-quests quashed. Master Sword owned. Wardrobe polished (though not quite maxed.) And of course the entire map unlocked. I’m going to keep pushing, of course, because it’s truly one of the most amazing video games I’ve ever played. But two things: spring might actually be here (fingers crossed) and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe for the Switch comes out this weekend… so… there will be some hard choice to be made.
So much Zelda: BOTW that it’s not even funny anymore.
By repeatedly demonstrating different ways of winning.
If ever I had a moment of fire-hot regret for my hasty and impulsive pre-order purchase of Nintendo Switch earlier this month, those feelings have long since been quenched by my time in the overrun kingdom of Hyrule, the open world wonder that is the basis of the game The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
I could probably be content at that.
This is my new favorite game.
Most games that I’m playing “right now” are in some way held high in my esteem, true. Most games that are locked by your focus are considered at least marginally “favourite” else you probably wouldn’t bother playing them, I recognize that.
But this one, somehow stealthily and unexpectedly, quickly moved into the coveted category of “The Top Five Games I’ve Ever Played”™ …and now I’m juggling the thoughts in my head of what else would rank so dearly for me. Skyrim fits into that list. Final Fantasy VII has held a place in my gamer’s heart for a couple decades. Stick a generic MarioKart title in there (for the nostalgia factor) and the fifth slot would probably be a rotating, ever-battling list of hot titles that have peppered my gamer’s history rising and falling with the waves of eclectic moods and memories that flit through my life.
But then I was sick all weekend with the sinus cold to rival all sinus colds and so spent (modestly) a solid twenty of my waking hours immobile on the couch, cuddling a box of kleenex and multiple cup of hot tea, useless to most any chore save for the flicking of my my fingers on a pair neon Joycons… and so Link’s adventure through this unbelievably immersive world had a good-and-proper opportunity to sink into the depths of my soul and take root.
This is my new favorite game.
I could gush about the technical achievement of creating a uniquely broad game with a rich and immersive physics engine. I could wax poetic on the satisfaction that comes from building to a level of skill that feels as more earned than merely grinded. I could ponder the nuances of how valuable the tapestry of a carefully balanced yet seemingly unpredictable world set against an implied deep history sets a story of patient urgency into a subtle motion that compels the play to peek around every corner and climb every cliff and nudge every stone. I could.
I could also gripe about the deficiencies. Yes, the voice acting is mediocre. The rain conveniently seems to drizzle down on me whenever I find an alternative route that involves a long cliff climb versus fighting a powerful baddie. And some of the characters seem to be silly, cringe-worthy & tacky archetypes pulled out of some anime fever dream.
But even that is just small forgivable things in the context of everything else. It’s the 2% mediocre contrasted against the almost perfect 98% rest of it that is so damn good I can generously overlook the if onlys.
This is my new favorite game.
I know that many of my readers are not gamers. I know that many of my readers find the idea strange of someone being drawn into a multi-hour interactive story like this.
The world of video games can definitely be one overflowing with violent, shallow experiences that seem trite and burdened with a conflict to elevate the game aspects above a tacked on story. But occasionally there comes a title that is so much more than just shooting guns or kart racing or candy crushing: occasionally there is a game that compels you to enter a world that is layered with, yes, some of those things, but that also works very carefully to build steps above it to tell a story about a world and a place and a group of people that is, in a way that manifests from the drivel games with awesome graphics and photo-realistic blood spatter and ends up instead as good as any great cinematic experience, as good as Game of Thrones or Breaking Bad or even rivaling the merit of a compelling novel, all this in that it transcends the medium to entrance your mind and heart.
It’s just a game, but a game that leads to something that might even be considered –dare I suggest it– art.
So, yeah… this is my new favorite game.