You Never Should Have Come Here!

Why I’ll Always Keep Playing Skyrim.

“Hey, you! You’re finally awake. You were trying to cross the border right? Walked right into that Imperial ambush same as us and that thief over there…”

I’ve heard these words many times, because out of every game I’ve played, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, is one of my favourites to come back and replay again and again. Since being released in November 2011, I have started a new character four times, and am eager to start a fifth. The first character that I made – a Nord mage warrior called Valeria – definitely has the most hours clocked: a number that I am not proud of. If I put that much time into any other activity – one that is more socially acceptable than sitting on my bed in my underwear for 26 hours at a time, only getting up to make cups of coffee, use the bathroom and make another packet of 2 minute noodles – I would be an expert.

When push comes to shove, there are probably three main reasons that Skyrim appeals to me so much more than other games I have played. The fantasy nature of the game and the heavily explored lore and history, the beauty of the graphics and visual aspects of the game – which still hold up today, after more than three years – and just how expansive the world really is in terms of gameplay.

The Elder Scrolls universe has a very rich and deep history filled with lore, legends, religions and the like. There is magic, mythical creatures, like giants and dragons (DRAGONS!!!), cool armour, even cooler weapons… The writers of this game really gave it their all to attempt to create a fully immersive world for players to lose themselves in and become a part of. And it one hundred percent payed off. The final product is a game that sucks you in and holds onto you. In the first five or so minutes of the game, you are already becoming part of the world, and you haven’t even created your character yet! Everything from the loads of exposition they throw on you to get a better sense of the story (Ulfric, Imperials, Stormcloaks, details of the civil war going on. You are inundated with names and facts and story to fill you in to this very moment), to the look and feel of the world around you impacts you and helps you to decide what kind of character you are going to play this game as. And these decisions impact your gameplay. Skyrim is the homeland of the mighty Nord people, so choose to play as a Nord and you’ll have an easy time interacting with most of the NPC’s in the game. Argonians, Dark Elves and Kajiits, however, are less welcome in Skyrim, and so the NPC’s will react accordingly. The game has a very heavy fantasy feel to it (helped along with the inclusion of magic and DRAGONS!!!) which really appeals to me on a personal level as fantasy would have to be my favourite genre to read/write/explore.

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Did I mention that the game has dragons?

The second reason that Skyrim is a game that I keep coming back to is the high quality of the graphics. Seriously, this game is so beautiful to look at. I remember when I first started the game, before I could even get to start playing and could only move my controls to look around my surroundings (sitting in a horse-drawn cart with other prisoners as we were being taken through a forest at the bottom of a mountain to a small hold called Helgen), I was in complete awe of the realistic landscape and the detail of the whole thing. The visual quality of the game is so impressive that, in many instances, someone on the internet has posted a screencap of a Skyrim landscape and at first glance, you could be fooled into thinking it was a real life photo of a real life place. The environments are so varied as well, you have everything from snow-capped mountains and icy tundras, to swamplands and deep forests. All of the holds and villages are joined together by quaint little dirt paths with signposts every so often so you can find your way – although it is important to note that you probably will not use these paths, instead attempting to just jump your way up a mountain or get to where you’re going in the fastest and yet most difficult way possible. My favourite mode of transport is via Shadowmere – the undead horse, but each to their own. The designers of the game did one of the best graphic design jobs I’ve ever seen in a video game. This is evident because the game has been out for over three years now and it still stands up against games being released in 2015. The beauty of the game is something that I get excited about every time I play.

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Check out that lake!

The gameplay of Skyrim is the main reason that I love this game. Seriously, there is almost nothing I do not love because there is simply so much to do!!! I loved all three expansions – Dawnguard which deals with vampires and vampire hunters, Hearthfire in which you can build houses and have a family and Dragonborn where your character battles the first ever dragonborn. I felt like these expansions added to the experience of Skyrim all together and were very refreshing and exciting when they came out. Between these expansions and the original game, there is a seemingly endless amount of quests to complete and dungeons to explore and the levelling up system takes some serious time to complete. You could, in theory, start this game over fifty times over and have a different playthrough experience every time, whether that be because you play as a mage or a warrior, join one or all of the guilds, be an relatively good guy or a bad guy who deals with Deadra. The experience can be different every time. Some people I know only completed the main story lines, others did everything, or a bit of this and a bit of that. Some people grind to level up every possible skill to 100, and some don’t. I fall into the latter category here. I don’t necessarily try to “beat” the game to get to 100 or be the best at it. I’m more interested in completing quests and exploring dungeons than I am in smithing, but that is my personal preference. Everyone plays Skyrim a bit differently because the gameplay is so customisable to suit you and your personal playing style, and that is a wonderful thing. It’s also the number one reason that for the foreseeable future, I will always come back to play this game.

So even though the gap between playthroughs is forever getting larger (probably because I have stuff to do now, I mean, I’m a Uni student and I can’t just lie around all day playing video games. I have classes to sleep through, cheap wine to drink and sobbing stints of self-loathing to battle against…) I keep finding myself wanting to play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim because it is one of my favourite games, and for me, isn’t boring or dated. It holds up, it stands its ground. What’s not to love about absorbing the souls of a dragon you’ve just killed and using those souls to shout words that allow you to breath fire or knock goats off mountain tops?


I wrote this in April of 2015.

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End of an Era

This morning I woke to the news that the game developer Maxis has been shut down. I stumbled across this information whilst sleepily flicking through my morning newspaper (by which I mean scrolling through Facebook while still half asleep in bed and barely functioning) and a headline that caught my eye made me jump. “It’s A Sim: EA Closes Sims/SimCity Developer Maxis”. My sleepy brain was shocked into action as I thought this meant that The Sims would cease to be made and released, and it is a game that I almost religiously purchase and play. I read on to find out that the Emeryville headquarters of Maxis is shutting down, but its four other studios around the world will be staying open for business, including the division of EA that took over the development of The Sims in 2006, The Sims Studio. The closure of Maxis is still very sad news, however, because the Emeryville studio is where the Maxis brand as we know it was created and developed, so its closure is, in a way, the end of an era for PC gaming.

Maxis is best known because of its creation of The Sims franchise, however, it has made several of other games with various success rates. (Fun fact: if you ever owned a Windows 95 – Windows XP computer, you will remember playing the Pinball game that came installed on the computer alongside Minesweeper and Solitaire. This was 3D Pinball for Windows, and was published by Maxis!) Most of their games are simulation based, for example, their 2008 title Spore, in which players develop a new species of organism until it evolves through various stages of intellect. SimCity, The Sims and Spore are regarded as the companies most successful games. Maxis has a few claims to the gaming Hall of Fame, as SimCity revolutionised gaming when it was released in 1989 because it was the first computer game to not have a clear win-or-lose outcome and The Sims is the best selling PC game of all time.

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Even though the overall success of the company is undeniable, it is no secret that Maxis has been running into some problems in the recent years. Spore received positive critical reviews but had a large amount of negative user reviews. The most recent SimCity game, released in 2013 had a number of issues, ranging from connection problems to users simply not enjoying the gameplay. Maxis also came under criticism because the game required the players to always be connected to the internet to play, which was fixed with an offline option in 2014, however this was too late for many users. The Sims 4 was less well received than any of its previous versions.

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The closure of Maxis as a developer is sad news for the gaming community. Numerous people will undoubtedly be losing their jobs through this decision, and if you the read comments of the mass number of articles written about Maxis’ closure, many people are now uncertain about the future of many of EA’s development labels, namely Bioware (the creator of the Mass Effect series, among others). While EA is consolidating Maxis among its other companies, and insists that The Sims and SimCity players will not be affected by the closure because they will continue to develop game options for these titles, the dissolution of Maxis Emeryville is being viewed as the end of a twenty eight year old legacy.

I personally want to express my sadness at this news, and I want to thank Maxis for creating the games that first opened my eyes to the world of PC gaming. I was seven years old when I first played SimCity 2000 on my uncles computer and now I’m almost twenty-one and on any given night if you walk into my bedroom at 2am it is almost certain that I will be playing The Sims. The closure of any creative company is devastating, and this one is very close to my heart. Goodbye, old friend.

Written by Kassi Klower