Three Years is Way Shorter Than I Remember

This is what I picked up at a midnight release three years ago:

As cold and compelling as ever, old friend.

As cold and compelling as ever, old friend.

I have a fond relationship with Skyrim. Three years ago, I was at a pretty low point in my life: I’d been out of work for a little more than a year, I had almost no money, and my final semester at the local community college offered little in the way of hope for the future. Oh, an Associate’s Degree in English? I’m afraid that won’t help you get the edge over this applicant who actually has, you know, experience. Anyway, bitter recollections and cynical snarky crap aside, Skyrim gave me something I desperately wanted back then: escape.

Yeah, I’m an escapist. I’m never quite sure how to handle my real-world problems, so I find the easily-managed, endlessly predictable virtual worlds of video games immensely comforting. Skyrim was released at the best and worst time for me: it was the best because I was in sore need of some good pixelated entertainment but it was also the worst because I become obsessed with other worlds. Obsessed. It could be a crappy-but-honest name for a cologne; you want other people to be obsessed with you? So do we, buy our product!

Anyway, I played Skyrim for what felt like a good half a year straight, booting it up every day and exploring the seemingly endless caves, crypts, and cities, taking in every detail like a piranha takes in unwary swimmers. I was voracious. It didn’t take long for my family to realize I was in love with the game; my sister got my mom to buy me the following gift for Christmas in 2011:

Not that I was gonna use this thing, anyway. I was a real explorer, man. I walked everywhere. What is fast-travel, anyway?

Not that I was gonna use this thing. I was a real explorer, man. I walked everywhere. What is fast-travel, anyway?

Of course, I didn’t really use the guide for anything in-game, but man, the pictures are real pretty, and I’m a word junkie so having a veritable tome filled with Skyrim knowledge just sits right with me. I had to haul it off my shelf so I could get a good look at it again; it really is beautiful. Too bad it’s out of date now, what with all the add-ons – d’oh!

As you can see, Skyrim was a big part of my recent life. Did I play it every day for three years? Well, no. Hell no, actually. There are other games, after all. I don’t even play Animal Crossing every day – I go through phases, playing every day for months on end then dropping the game completely for a while. Same thing with Skyrim: six or so straight months of playing, then whoosh, I hardly even remember it. A guy I met right around the time I put Skyrim away for a while started asking me questions about the game and I heard the machinery in my head whirring, trying to get the relevant information to my conscious mind so my mouth could put it in the air. About a year and a half ago, when I started at my most recent ill-fated job, I dropped random tidbits of Skyrim knowledge to the one “nerdy” co-worker I had just so we could have good conversations about the game. Skyrim is like that: it ebbs and flows, kissing the shore of one’s consciousness before retreating and playing coy. So what do I want to do with it now, three years after it first graced my sad, tired brain with its presence and pleasant distractions?

I'm gonna go with "Yes" and press A.

I’m gonna go with “Yes” and press A.

Yeah, I’m gonna continue from my last saved game. I’m in the midst of one of those flowing Skyrim phases, and the cold crisp air of the November nights meshes with the cold crisp air I imagine blowing through Skyrim while I run from town to town, hunting vampires and gathering ingredients for my mercantile alchemical endeavors. There’s always something to do in Skyrim; it’s an Elder Scrolls game, after all! Here’s to the past three years, and probably the next three as we await word on Fallout 4 and pray that The Elder Scrolls VI comes around before too long.


It’s Wednesday Night

Yep, and that means a few things. First, the radio is on so I may listen to The Music of America, a local program that focuses on “big bands, blues, ballads, and Broadway,” as the tagline goes. I love everything having to do with jazzy older songs so I do my best to tune into this program when it airs on Wednesday and Sunday nights.

I hear more than Radio Gaga. Phew, my ears still work!

I hear more than Radio Gaga. Phew, my ears still work!

Of course, there’s more to do than enjoy the fine musical styles of yesteryear; I’ve also got some homework I should be doing, but, y’know, this blog calls to me. I swear, I was getting prepared to read a bit before I decided to update this site. The proof is in the picture:

It's a pretty good book so far. Compelling and thought-provoking. I dig it.

It’s a pretty good book so far. Compelling and thought-provoking. I dig it.

Of course, the way I’ve been operating, I start four tasks at once and dash about madly trying to finish them; for the past two hours I’ve been juggling my daily Animal Crossing routine, the urge to blog, a need to finish my homework, and a strong desire to play Skyrim. Oh, Skyrim. Lovely cold lands of strong people and steady adventures. I’m in the midst of trying to put the finishing touches on my in-game house, because I finally decided to embrace the customizable manors offered by the Hearthfire DLC. Yeah, that’s the fun thing about big open games like Skyrim: I can play the damn thing for going on three years (November 11th, here I come!) and still boot it up every now and again and find something to do. I have to question myself though: do I boot it up because it’s fun or do I boot it up because I’m obsessed with crossing things off lists?

Witness the face and the name of compulsion. Menial tasks, ahoy!

Witness the face and the name of compulsion. Menial tasks, ahoy!

See how I’ve only got one sabre cat tooth? I need three more to complete the decoration/furnishing of my sweet new house. Every time I manage to track down a sabre cat and slay it, I find no teeth to harvest. I’m starting to sound like a creepy poacher but I promise, I earned those spoils fair and square! Now, this is the age of fast computers: I’ve looked into this issue on the good ol’ interweb. Apparently, I’ve been a fool because I’ve neglected to save my game before each sabre cat encounter, for if I don’t find a much needed tooth I can just reload that save and kill the creature again. Save scumming … it looks like I may need to resort to it. I can also check out various shops to see if some sabre cat teeth are available to purchase, but I don’t think very many merchants are going out of their ways to grapple with a ferocious killer feline. So I’ve got a weird path ahead of me, replete with saving and reloading and reloading and reloading some more. Yay modernity?

On another note, I may have to go back on something I said in my previous post: I mentioned that with the end of October, I am ready to put creepiness behind me. Well, that’s a lie in a few ways, the first of which is this: I read “creepy” literature whenever I get a chance. That book sitting atop my radio in the picture above is a compendium of strange tales and scary stories, and I’m still slogging through it. School makes it hard to read for pleasure, but I take my fun reading opportunities when I can. The second way I lied is that, well, school also makes it hard to afford certain pleasures. However, a good friend of mine lent me this beauty last night:

Oh boy. It looks like I'll be scaring piss into my pants yet again.

Oh boy. It looks like I’ll be scaring piss into my pants yet again.

My friend bought this game right around Halloween time and he finished it last night. Being the nice guy he is, he brought it over so I can experience the horror for myself. As a huge fan of Resident Evil 4, and hearing that The Evil Within is like a revamped modern iteration of RE4 gameplay-wise, I’m pretty damn excited. Yet I still booted up Skyrim; I’ve got this compulsion to finish up my decorating, and after that I’ll want to transfer all my important stuff into my new abode. It’s like real life, except I’ve got gnarly armor and a big-ass sword with which I defend my possessions! Once the move in Skyrim is complete, however, I will delve into The Evil Within. I promise you that.

If I make it out with my sanity, I’ll see you folks on the other side.


Damn, I Did it Again

Uh oh, is that another Castlevania game on your Wii U?

Uh oh, is that another Castlevania game on your Wii U?

Why yes. Yes it is. I’ve got this problem when it comes to Castlevania, and another problem with enjoying modern convenience, and when you throw those problems together in the middle of October while Nintendo decides to embrace the creepy Halloween spirit you get this concoction that sucks money out of my bank account.

I knew it was coming. That title that’s highlighted by my Wii U’s cursor is Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, and it’s the beautiful GBA Castlevania game that tuned my heartbeat to the rising and falling of Dracula, and the cracking and smacking of a Belmont’s whip. That’s not supposed to be dirty, I promise. I anticipated the release of Aria of Sorrow on the Wii U Virtual Console, because the prior two weeks saw the releases of Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance on the Virtual Console, respectively – they’re the two handheld Castlevania games that preceded the masterpiece that is Aria of Sorrow. Seeing this fantastic October trend and knowing of the GBA Castlevania triumvirate, I figured Nintendo and Konami would use the third week of the month to grace loyal gamers with the third, final, and best GBA Castlevania game (ok, that’s definitely just my opinion but a lot of Castlevania fans agree – Aria of Sorrow is generally considered the best handheld Castlevania game).

Anywho, why do I sound a little disappointed in this development? Well, shit – it’s because I’ve entered one of my phases of video gaming A.D.D. I’ve got, oh, something like five or six games on my brain. I’ve been listing them throughout my posting to this blog, and with the addition of Aria of Sorrow and one more game to my list, things are getting out of hand.

Wait? Did I just mention another game I’ve added to my list?

Oh yeah. You've gotta know what this means. And if you don't, I'll lay it on ya.

Oh yeah. You’ve gotta know what this means. And if you don’t, I’ll lay it on ya. Also, look: it’s me! Way to take a ridiculous picture, genius.

Yeah, that’s the title screen from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. You know, that big awesome open-world game that helped bring “nerd culture” to the mass market? I don’t know if I’d been ignoring the trend or if my rampant love of Skyrim just forced me to face it, but the things I love that used to be “weird” or “uncool” suddenly became “normal” a few years back. It’s funky, but the trend continues and I shouldn’t feel bad about it – I can wear a Mario shirt or my Zelda hoodie and expect comments from strangers. It’s a little exhilarating. Once again, though, I’ve got to look at this example of a great game with a little trepidation. Here’s why:

Wow, cool nod to Norse poetry and OH MY WORD, YOU'VE PLAYED THIS GAME A LOT!

Wow, cool nod to Norse poetry and OH MY WORD, YOU’VE PLAYED THIS GAME A LOT!

Yep. Four-hundred-and-eighty-ish hours in the wild and ravishing lands of Skyrim. And that’s just one character – all told I’ve spent something like 600 hours playing the game. I got it at midnight when it launched on November 11th, 2011, and didn’t really slow down my wanderings for about a year or so. Even after I finally did take my foot off the Elder Scrolls accelerator, I’d keep coming back to it periodically – ya know, when DLC added more cool places to explore and more badass armor to craft. I’d jump in for hours on end and only stop to go to the bathroom or eat a little something. Don’t wanna pass out while I trek across ice floes in search of Horkers and ancient ruins!

As you can see, I get a little caught up in my games sometimes. October is my month to geek out on the creep-out stuff and I’ve been a Castlevania fan since I was thirteen or so – I think that’s when Aria of Sorrow was first released. Still, in the land I call home, October is also a month of deepening chills and frigid nights, when a sweater may need to couple with a jacket to keep the cold air at bay. Hence, my almost ritualistic return to Skyrim – it’s cold in real life, it’s cold in the game, it just feels right, all right? Sorry, I didn’t mean to go all Tarantino on you folks – I just have to be a little wary of my habits. When I first played Skyrim, I was unemployed and in my last semester at my local community college. My class schedule was almost bare it was so light, and I found myself sinking deeper and deeper into that land on the northeastern edge of Tamriel. Now, well, I’m unemployed but just now getting into the swing of university life; I’ve figured out how and when I can get away with laziness, and when I can be lazy I boot up a game. Why, the whole time I’ve been writing this I’ve had Aria of Sorrow ready to go, just waiting for me to click on the “Publish” button.

Thus, damn, I did it again – I added another time-sink to my life, one more distraction from a real goal or purpose. Ah hell, I’m getting cynical; getting an education is a purpose in and of itself. I’ve got ideas for stories floating around my head, I’ve got another few nights to finish that seven-page essay, and money ain’t so tight it’s strangling me. I think I can afford to play a game or two in my free time.

So here I go – back to Dracula’s castle for some soul-stealin’ and blood-spillin’. Happy gaming, folks!