My heart pounds in my head as I make my escape. As I sprint out of the cave I hear the dirt shift beneath my newly acquired boots from a fallen guard. I can’t run anymore and my breath is loud in my ears so I take this moment of freedom to at last survey my surroundings. All attempts to catch my breath are lost, as the wind is knocked out of me by the astounding vista before my eyes. I can almost smell the plants and feel the snow touched breeze on my face. I look up and take in the amazing aurora dancing against the darkened sky and I see what look like fire flies just a few metres ahead, gathering around a dying tree. Finally ready to walk again I head towards them and on closer inspection notice that they are indeed Torchbugs. I reach out to cup one in my hand for a moment, to feel the warmth and to see its glow inside my palm. Instead I snatch the bug out of the air and tear away its thorax for my inventory.
As much as I laughed when this happened, it was my first hint at something that disturbs me a little bit. It’s undeniable that Skyrim is an excellent game, but it’s almost as though the more realistic and open a game is, the less of an emotional impact can be taken from it. It’s hard to admit, but it has become clear that my favourite game of the past year is callous, calculating and emotionless.
There have been so many great games, with excellent stories and immersion and with characters you genuinely care about, but in Skyrim I don’t really feel an emotional connection to anyone or anything that has happened. My followers I try to keep alive because they are of use to me and after purchasing a dog I almost cheered when the blasted thing was killed so that I could finally walk through doorways or corridors once more. How this can happen when even in a game as similar to Skyrim as its sibling, Fallout I felt like I had lost a limb when my pooch had his last breath. I found myself missing the little things that often I would wonder why they bothered to include with other games. Unnecessary back and forth dialogue with a follower, being able to play with or scorn a pet, or even giving gifts, something to make the world feel alive and as though my actions on the common man mattered, but I’m not sure they would be enough.
By making such an open game, where you forge your own story and choose your interactions with others I understand that it quite simply might not be possible to have the same level of immersion and connection as a more scripted story. I’m desperately hoping there’s some sort of middle ground, because as a gamer I want it all. I crave the ability to travel vast lands, talk to every npc and chose my own path, but I also want to be immersed and emotionally enhanced and even challenged by a game. For the sake of the nine divines, I want my scope for roleplay.