This blog isn’t dead, I just haven’t felt the need to get anything off my mind.
Here’s a cool wallpaper if you care.
A man is walking down the street with a brisk pace, as if desperately chasing something down.
Indeed, he is. A woman, a woman he loves dearly.
The man strides down the street; tripping, sneezing, stumbling, wheezing, breaking, braking, taking note of every twist, turn, push, pull, breeze, tease, and change of pace.
Meanwhile, he meets a woman on the way. The two don’t have much time for each other, he’s got his worries and she’s got hers. The woman seems a bit absent-minded, as if she’s just wandering around with no direction. She stops and asks the man:
“How are you?”
He tells her:
“I am lost. How are you?”
“I am lost.”
“Sorry to hear that. Good luck.”
They part ways. Both of them remain in each other’s minds enough to make them think about each other, but not enough to completely distract them from their missions.
Still, the man is rushing. He’s going, and going, and never slowing, unless his more tender side is showing, until he meets up with another man.
This man is going the same way as the woman he just met, oddly enough. However, he does not share the same absent-minded stupor. He seems to be rushing towards something as well. Our first man stops and asks him:
“How are you?”
The second man tells him:
“I am lost. How are you?”
The first man replies:
“I am lost.”
The second man replies:
“Sorry to hear that. Good luck.”
The first man replies:
They continue on their way, wondering if either of them had some tips for them on their search. Perhaps they could’ve helped each other, but that’s in the past now. There are more important things at hand for both of them.
The man is still following. Racing, until he meets yet another woman. This woman is different from the two people the man met so far. Instead of a face of anxiety, sadness, or worry, he’s met with a bright and wide smile. The woman stops him and asks him:
“How are you?”
The man tells her:
“I am lost. How are you?”
“I am found.”
She places a hand on his cheek, and stares him deeply in the eyes. She gives him a soft kiss, and draws her head back slowly, with her loving smile and warm stare.
The man feels wonderful, he’s completely forgotten about the search he was on. For just a moment, it feels as if everything is right in the world.
However, as soon as he remembers his mission, he sobers up and tells the woman:
“I am sorry. I have to go. I’m on a mission.”
She is confused and saddened. She asks the man:
“Where are you going?”
“To find something. Thank you, and good luck to you.”
He gives a tip of his hat before rushing off to chase down the woman once again. The girl he just met, follows him.
As she follows, she meets up with another man. The man stops her and asks her:
“How are you?”
The girl tells him:
“I am lost.”
The journey is more important than the destination. By conceding that you are lost in this world, you not only are forgetting, but disrespecting all the people who have found you. For all you know, someone that found you or that you found may very well be a prize much greater than that you once thought was the most important thing in the world.
If you stand atop a wall and look out, you will either not be able to see far enough to know what’s out there, or you will find yet another wall that you must climb in order to get the next view.
Life is an infinite journey with no end in sight until all of a sudden it’s over. Take some time to appreciate all the lives you come in contact with along the way.
You don’t always have to shoot for the stars; you just might even already have your sun. Even then, every star deserves to be appreciated.
Be the Galileo that glimpses upon the eternal sky of humanity, before all the stars die out, or worse, your own light fades.
Thanks for reading and appreciating my starlight, I love and appreciate yours.
If you’d like to share this light with others, or share your thoughts about it, as always, there is a comment section and a sky full of convenient share links below.
Thanks again, and happy stargazing!
I can picture myself now at the 2014 Marshall University Jazzfest –
I’d spent the past couple days with my All-Star troop noodling and preparing for the performance that was to come almost as soon as we’d began practicing. But I wasn’t nervous, oh no; I was anxious to put it on stage from the minute I found out I was even a part of it.
So, with a skip in my step and head held high, I walk into the auditorium hours before we were even meant to be there to get the headstart-iest of headstarts on playing my music, especially since just like the practices and performance, I’d be getting to see the music and then never play it again before I ever knew it. Might as well spend some time really getting into its core and seeing how it ticks from my perspective, right?
I had my notebook with all my notes about the songs with me, I could’ve copied down all of the music to have a personal set to keep, but I felt that there was a value to keeping the timeframe I was given responsibility over the music to the length it would’ve been.
Heck, I was so excited about the whole thing, I didn’t even make sure I was in the right practicing area. I ended up practicing alone in what looked like a dance classroom with a piano and drumset, with a large curtain veiling a wide mirror. Lucky my common sense told me to start looking around once it got to an hour prior.
So, suited up like I love to be, I went out there and put on a show. Everyone else tapped a foot lightly or stayed as still as possible, focused on feeling and reading their way through the tunes. Meanwhile, here I am, bottom row with the saxes at the end next to the rhythm section, swinging my Bari inadvertently while my feet tap out every beat and rhythm they can and my face goes through the expressions of the phrases on the faster songs. On the slower ones, I’m swaying my upper body like a sensual mating dance mixed with ‘The Worm’. I’m throwing my hands and fingers around and missing keys, screwing up tricky runs, and loving every second of it. Only a couple spots, anyways, and it was always when my whole section was playing the same thing, so it sounded fine. Playing with legendary drummer Butch Miles made that song impossible not to go crazy-legs on.
When it was all said and done, I was treated to getting to watch and listen to yet more of the jazz I crave. The next day, I got to perform alongside my High School jazz band. This time, I decided to introduce myself much more softly. Instead of my trademark wide smile and preemptively rocking body, I came in like there wasn’t a thing special to me. I did this because of our first song; it was my song. Tenor Madness, jokingly called ‘Bari Madness’ by my band director since I was taking over the soloing and remaining mic’d throughout. I wanted everyone to lower their expectations, not for what they were about to hear, but for what they were about to see. And as soon as Phil kicked off, my eyes shut, and my body started moving to the beat. I wasn’t tapping my feet, I was thrusting my legs, with a little bit of shuffling, just like what I did at the All-Star performance sitting in that chair. And when my solo came up? Again, I was so into it, I was screwing it up. But again, I didn’t give two tits and a gravy.
I may not be the most dedicated instrument player, but if there’s one thing I refuse to put out about my personality, it’s that I’m not a passionate musician. That’s why they gave me a medal for being an outstanding soloist; I did what insecure teenagers don’t and didn’t do – I sacrificed trying to impress others for being myself. No doubt in my mind there were a ton of more talented instrument players within the other schools that performed, even just Bari saxes, but I’ll be damned if someone tells me they saw another kid that showed the love I did. I didn’t. And that’s not to say no one out there loved music more than me, my point is that I proved my love without having to say it. That’s what love is about.
Just yesterday and at the time I wrote this I was over at my Aunt’s for a family reunion, and that day happened to be the same as an annual Bluegrass pickin’ (and eatin’) that my Aunt’s family throws. The festivities were taken up mostly by talking to family in the house while the music and food stayed outside and made its way in gradually. By about 9pm, the crowd left, but the music stayed, and had now fully moved into the house by way of the living room.
My cousin was on guitar along several other musicians. I’d say who they are and what they played, but there was so much instrument switching it was more like instruments were just moving from hand-to-hand than being designated to anyone. There were guitars, mandolins, fiddles, violins, a doghouse bass, a banjo, I think even a Dobro at some point, and I even jumped in a little at the start with my melodica. I quickly left however, because as the number of musicians increased, so did the complexity, and I felt it better to listen to the shear talent and practice than to try and walk in its footsteps.
These were people from all over the place, from the WV capitol as far as Tennessee to my knowledge, but they all knew the songs and the instruments so well that they could just play for hours. And they did. The most amazing part was the inbetween, where each song would end and be immediately met with idle conversation and random noodling, until one person would just noodle the right thing, and everyone would immediately join in. One man, a beer-bellied fiddler with missing incisors, seemed to know lyrics to every song they played. They’d sing in 2, 3, 4, even 5-part harmonies, in that trademark Bluegrass southern draw. They played for so long, that when I went to sleep at 2am, they were still playing. I heard they played until 4:30am. That’s 7 hours and 30 minutes of high-energy pickin’.
For what time I spent on the couch right next to them listening, my legs more moving and my feet were tapping. Just like when I was there at the MU JazzFest. As soon as each song started, my eyes went shut, and I was crazy-legs again; tapping out all the rhythms in beat that felt right. Sometimes, just letting them go stupid as if I was standing up and shuffling without my upper body being a part of it.
What was happening wasn’t a similar thing. It was exactly the same.
If they’d played any slow-Blues, I’d bet I’d’ve done the rocking sway just the same.
At its roots, all music goes back to Blues. Before Blues, it was all orchestrations. Songs may have been meant to make you feel an emotion, but not always to express it. Songs didn’t really have lyrics, and titles if not non-existent were usually coupled by “Song Number 6” and so on. Of course, this wasn’t always the case, but comparatively vapid to Blues. The Blues was all about pain and truth, and though a conscientious observer might notice more of an affinity in me to the Orchestra more than the Blues, I’m impartial. The Orchestra is about taking you through a musical journey, while the Blues is about telling you a musical story, neither better than the other. Blues was the slowly growing musical style that birthed all the music we know. Quote:
“Ah, swing, well, we used to call it syncopation, then they called it ragtime, then blues, then jazz. Now, it’s swing.” -Louis Armstrong
The quote may be taken to assume that Blues wasn’t the root, but technically, it wasn’t. However, it’s not useful to talk about the history of lemons by talking about what went on before and completely unrelated to them. The American music scene was defined by Blues, and then by Jazz. Call it whatever you want, practicality perhaps, it’s what mattered.
If there’s one thing America did for the world that it never spitballed back an equal gift, it’s our musical roots.
Blues was in a lot of places, I’m a little against the idea that it started here, but Jazz definitely did. From Jazz came Rock & Roll, and I think we all know how much takes its roots from that American treasure. Oh, and also from Blues came Country.
A sub-genre of Country, Bluegrass takes its roots here among the Appalachian region, where the traditional music of all its cultures blended into a high-energy hoedown describing the nitty-gritty life of the Appalachian people. What’s interesting about it is how it turns every situation into a dancing-silly situation. Relationship issues, laborious working conditions, political outrage; all put into lyrics along poppy rhythms and flying fingers. Even when the chord progressions and lyrics say sad, the smiling faces, “Yeehaw!” lilt in their voices, and the high G-force flow of the rhythms say “Party in the Hills”.
Not being a Bluegrass player doesn’t stop me from being a musician, and listening to it for hours and hours taught me about how it ticks.
And y’know what? It’s Country Jazz.
When I’m playing Jazz, it usually has a bunch of tricky note values and runs that only someone who either really knew the song or the style or how to figure them out on the fly could do. What makes it different from other music, because technically that’s how most music is, is that there’s a story behind every note, every measure, and every phrase. Bluegrass is like that, too.
When I’m playing Jazz, some sections just forget conventional techniques like making a freaking part to play, and instead just opens it up for you to put in whatever it is you like. Knowing the style of the song and your instrument helps you add yourself to the song’s story in a way that’s conducive to the rest of it. Knowing how to Improv isn’t just a show-off technique you can do to surprise people, sometimes it’s required by the song’s demand, because it wants your story in with it. Bluegrass is like that, too.
When I’m playing Jazz, there’s always the complexity and diversity in each part of the Overture of an Orchestration, but with a beat told to me by the drummer and/or bassist. Even if I’m the loudest one, and the spotlight has been put on me, it’s still a team effort as to keeping the song going. People might be listening to me, but I’m listening to both myself and the beat-keepers. And the beat-keepers will always be underrated by anyone ignorant to their importance. Bluegrass is like that, too.
Of course, as I’ve said, playing or listening to Jazz communicates the story of the music or lyrics through to my body and straight into a dance that can express it right back. Feels just the same with Bluegrass.
If someone asked me if there is a style of music that took appreciation for the style and understanding of music in general, and that laid down narratives about people, cultures, and times through sing and song; that allowed its musicians to go places with it every time they played it, but that forced them to be a team player lest they feel and look like fools, and that would make them feel like dancing like idiots or reflecting on their lives and existences depending solely on their mood; that found its roots in American culture and lives on today, and is about expressing emotions, telling stories, and having a good time, I’d have this to say:
“I can think of 2: Jazz and Bluegrass.”
Hiya, thanks for reading.
If you love Jazz and/or Bluegrass, feel like adding your story into this posts song (Even if it’s in disagreement), or want to influence and perpetuate the style of this blog and the amount of content coming out through, there are a ton of convenient share links below as well as a comment section.
It’ll really boost my morale and hopefully distract me as I try to figure out what to call a mixture of Jazz and Bluegrass I’m doing.
“As a jompledygump-ist, I find the very existence of this entire universe blatant wabblegabble-ism, obviously made by drump-ist Romeosexuals that want nothing more than to spread flargintoid-ic peeeeeeeeeeeeeeeem-ism, and will not be showing this to my children, parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, grandunclaunts, paren, coustoms, parendromes, siblimes, or pet rock.”
“You jompledgyump-ists are just deer-hungering fistians, demacaroni-tized by your dimpledorfs. Even a herubian would be able to tell you’re just flavililililili, and gharpis jarpis gooktyfish.”
Well…either way, what you just read was the kind of ridiculousness that happens when we get too label-minded.
Let’s do a little roleplay. All the Christian readers, give me a moment. All non-Christian readers, go ahead and pretend you’re a Christian for a moment. You don’t have to understand Christianity, just go ahead and act like you identify with exactly what you know and think about it.
Now, you’re about to defend yourself in an argument, with a specified answer. Someone has some questions about the history of the Bible, specifically, a particular story. Say, Adam & Eve, David & the Goliath, or Noah’s Ark. The inquirer is confused about some things, and wants your help explaining the story.
Let’s use Noah’s Ark. The inquirer asks: “How can all of those animals fit in the Ark, and how can a boat that big with all those animals float?”
How would you answer? Go ahead and think about that for a second, and keep reading when you’re done.
Okay, now for the experiment, I’m going to give you an answer to use. I’m not reflecting on my own views and opinions, it’s only in the interest of the experiment.
You decide to answer: “Because God works in mysterious ways. The boat could fit all those animals and float because God was watching over Noah.”
How do you feel about this answer, and how the inquirer might respond? Reflect on that.
Now, up until now, the inquirer has had no identity. Now, we’re going to give them one.
Same question, same answer:
The inquirer was an Atheist. How do you think they would react? How effective would your argument be?
Now, imagine they’re a Buddhist. Now how would they react?
Now they’re a Christian. Their reaction?
Now they’re Agnostic. Their reaction?
Now, you once again don’t know their religious affiliation, however, they’re from Iraq. Their reaction?
Now, they’re from Japan. Their reaction?
Now, they’re from Canada. Their reaction?
Now, they no longer have a geographical identity. They’re just a child. Their reaction?
Now they’re an old woman. Their reaction?
Now they’re a young woman. Their reaction?
Now they’re an old man. Their reaction?
Okay, that’s it. You don’t have to be a part of the experiment anymore.
Now, if you participated in everything and didn’t just skip past it all or certain parts, I’ll tell you what happened.
When I originally told you the answer you had and to reflect on what you thought and how they’d respond, you immediately came up with someone who would respond in the way that you felt about it. That’s called ego. I’m not calling you selfish, we all do that. We see the world in our own perspective, and when we’re given creative freedom to think of a situation, we immediately come up with one that’s worth our time: a situation that coincides with our way of life.
Think you don’t have ego? Think you didn’t do any of that? Well, maybe you didn’t. I suppose that would be very egotistical of me to assume you did, even though I set up the experiment. But this is where I’ve got you hooked, all of you that don’t like Christianity. If you didn’t come up with someone who objected to it, you came up with someone that agreed with it blindly or dumbly.
You may not have realized it. That’s ego, too. Ego is probably making you hate reading every word of this, as I make assumption after assumption. Like I know how everyone is going to react, right?
The deeper we go into this, the more and more possibilities your ego has to take advantage of your emotions. As I continue to make more and more assumptions, someone who’s ego-driven becomes frustrated. Someone who’s truly calm and collected has read through all of this, emotionally indifferent, and continues to read and consider things. They didn’t just skip through because they thought it was stupid or disagreed, they didn’t scoff and berate me when I made such assumptions of their character, most of all, they didn’t immediately click off as soon as I said “Let’s Roleplay” or “Christian” and etc.
That’s what ego-driven people do. Not mentally sound, calm people.
Calm people are secure in themselves. They keep their lives and minds healthy, with a good balance of things in their life that take tons of complex steps that they’ve grown accustomed to. They’re happy with life.
When you’re not happy, you immediately become ego-driven. It’s what makes you want to continue living. Your mind finds excuses, and does mental gymnastics when you’re exposed to flaws in yourself. Happy, secure people see their flaws a lot, too. But the difference is that more often than not, they meet their flaws in the middle. They don’t do it all the time, even they have their limits, because every human being is, at their base, driven by self-interest. Not selfishness, but literally, the need to find interest in ourselves.
That’s called security. It is ultimately a flawed system, and is often and easily feigned.
Human beings are afraid by nature. They’re afraid there are monsters in the closet, then they become afraid that no one will accept them, then they’re afraid that they’ll be working the same dead-end job for the rest of their life. We’re faced with scary things all the time, and what you’re afraid of might be child’s play to someone else matching many of your characteristics. Everyone’s got different insecurities, some of them are situational, like phobias or primal dangers. I.E. Being afraid of holes in things or being afraid that when you stop falling down the hole you’re in, you’ll die. Those are the basis’ of fear.
That which you do not understand, and that which you cannot control, and the belief that either of them will be detrimental to you in some way.
No one likes to be afraid, and as such, no one wants to not understand or be out of control.
When you’re afraid of rejection from a high school crush? It’s because you don’t understand what might happen, or maybe you feel out of control of what could happen. Maybe you being out of control is what causes you to think that what might happen can be nothing but bad? You also may not understand what to say, or feel like you don’t have good control of your speech or feelings.
It all takes root in not understanding and not controlling in situations of things you want, or want to be able to do so.
And this is very, very dangerous to us. It’s one of the most common dangers to our thinking that exist. But it’s also an important part of our lives, and overcoming those dangers.
To explain: the peoples of ancient, primitive/primal humans, they didn’t have society. They didn’t even have any knowledge above their primal characteristics. Primal is a keyword, remember it.
So, what did they have to do? Why, things that animals do. They found or made shelter, then they hunted prey for sustenance and drinkable water, then they danced or expressed their alpha characteristics to find a partner to mate with, then they took care of their kids, and they did all that until they died.
But, humans are a bit special, aren’t they? Well, I can’t go too far into the future, but let’s go as far as when we started building tools. Humans don’t really have the claws or poison or any of those things to kill our prey with. Sure, we could grab things, but all of nature has defenses against getting grabbed. Everything we could grab could just run, fly, or swim away, with extreme speed. So, if you got lucky, you maybe caught yourself one fish per three days. Not exactly sustainable food. So, you have to go for the bigger meat. But the bigger meat either had the same characteristics, or was stronger than you and could kill you. Your grabbing abilities don’t really work when there’s a bear tearing your face off. And what are you going to do if you manage to sneak up on a deer? Grab it? Punch it? Bite it? Pretty sure it’ll just buck you off and run away to heal from whatever wound you gave it.
So, humans were a real accident in evolution, huh? No built-in attack/defense mechanisms.
Except, for our intelligence.
A dumber animal with our bodies would have just gone extinct, but we were smart enough to realize that those rocks that everything just walks past could be used as weapons. At first, the strategy was to grab a rock and conk something with it, but that’s not efficient, and a barbaric attack that would scare things off. There’s gotta be a way to kill things without having to aim for weak spots to beat to death repeatedly.
Well, tear into it, naturally. Eventually, someone picked up a sharp rock and was like “This is a lot like the bear claws that gave me that all-over wound.“, and stabbed that bear in a moment of cathartic revenge. Then, he ran home (cave) and showed everybody his find. Time passes, and now humans have figured out not just how to use weapons, but to make them. And not every human all over the world needed to learn it from that guy, they were intelligent enough to figure it out on their own. Now we had sharp rock-tipped spears and wooden axes with blunt bludgeoning rocks on them.
And all this advancement? The only technological advancements that existed?
Made due to primal fear.
Humans have been inventing things to improve our lives since the beginning, and that’s all we’ve invented since. Even the Atom bomb was an experiment in being secure in ourselves, on top of being a sin of man. Why would we do anything else? It all roots back to the fears of the ancient humans:
“I do not understand death, and cannot control death.”
They don’t understand the animal, and cannot control the animal. Therefore, if an animal wants to kill them, and they want to live? They don’t get to have that. They want that, so it makes them afraid of animals.
I’ve gone on for long enough. What does all this have to do with labels, names, ego, and ignorance?
Just making sure you, the reader, really understand fear. Because it’s important if you’re going to hear what I’m about to say and understand why I would say it.
What do we do to things we understand and control? Just forget about them? Say: “Hey, I understand this now. Welp, time to do absolutely nothing concerning it.” No, we wouldn’t, because we never would’ve come up with the language to think that sentence. Language was built as a way of understanding and controlling all of life’s mysteries: ourselves, our fellow humans, and all that exists.
Let’s say somebody tells you about a movie called Citizen Kane and that you should watch it. Well, what if it’s not good? How do I know I can trust his opinion? Why should I do things I don’t understand and don’t have the command over?
“Well, it’s a drama.”
And there you immediately start associating it with things. You know what a drama is, you’ve seen dramas, you’ve heard people talk about dramas. All of what you know about drama is set up by things that other people have done, and you have created your own perception by mixing those things together in a way you see fit. Just that word: “Drama”, it tells you so much about something. And it has different meanings, and different feelings depending on the context of the situation. Lots of people like movie drama. Most people complain about life drama.
Categories. Labels. Names.
So naturally, if we have this complex system of placing names and definitions on things that help us understand the world around us, we’d start putting them on people.
No, I’m not talking about names like your name and my name. That was a pretty good idea by all accounts, and we’ve perfected it over the years to the point where it doesn’t force any ideals on you for your name.
I’m talking about categorizing people.
Sadly, our flaws have hurt us in the form of using association as fact. We’ve turned life’s big illusion into a bunch of names that we can feed our ego with, and act like we understand more about the world than we truly do.
When you hear: “Atheist”, what comes into your mind? Sadly, it’s a person, not just a concept. You immediately picture what an Atheist looks and acts like. Children don’t. Children don’t know what an “Atheist” is. They don’t understand a lot about the world. That’s why children are afraid of such different things than we are. Things that seem completely irrational to us as older and more experienced people. A bad thing that’s alive is a Monster, and you don’t want eat things because they’re gross. To us, there are thousands of things that are bad and alive. There are a bunch of different meanings to ‘bad’ and ‘alive’. We don’t want to eat certain things for tons of other reasons than: “It’s yucky”. We ‘understand’ the world ‘better’.
The fact of the matter is, knowing a bunch of words doesn’t mean you understand things, and separately, it doesn’t mean you’re better off than others.
And that brings me to my point:
Just because it’s a label doesn’t mean you should tag everything with it.
Correlation is not causation. Just because you’ve met a lot of mean black people doesn’t mean black people are mean, right?
You’re damn right, it doesn’t.
So that means that not all Christians are stupid, and not all Atheists are assholes, and just because you disagree with them or associate their beliefs with something you disagree with, doesn’t make them wrong, or anything other than who they are, which you know nothing about.
People just LoooOOooOOOoooOOOOOOve to stack labels on labels, not point out flaws in people.
None of these tell you anything about anyone. However, they carry so much meaning and emotions, don’t they? Some of them make you angry. Some of them make you shake your head in agreement. Some of them make you shake your head in confusion, and some, in disapproval. Some of them shock you.
None of them mean anything.
That’s all you’re hearing. A bunch of meaningless words. Yet they define entire groups of people you’ve never met in your life?
Oh, and of course, there’s the other way around. Instead of associating a natural evil with a label, you correlate a label with a situational evil.
They’re Muslims? Terrorists!
They wear Fedoras? Beta-Males!
She said what? Slut!
There are homosexuals in it? Conspiracy/Agenda!
This is, literally, a logical fallacy. It’s not just a flawed statement, it’s a raw logical error. When your entire point is a fallacy statement, your argument and perspective is invalid.
This is the correlation implies causation fallacy. When X and Y have similar attributes to each other, and you assume X either causes or is the same things as Y.
The civilized people living in America are quite aware of racism. If there’s on thing that gets a guilty white guy anxious, it’s making a derogatory statement, or worse, joke about black people. Everything we consider racist towards black people is an immeasurably higher crime than towards other races.
Maybe if we all thought about derogatory general statements how the guilty whites of America feel about racism towards African-descendants, we’d remove a lot of ignorance from our speech?
I mean, we should. We just happen to be very recently and intensely guilty of that brand of racism. If we had spent 500 years killing ginger people, and then there was a huge movement that gave them rights, ginger or some equivalent word, there’s that power of words again, would be the worst word you could say in public.
The fact of the matter is, all matters of general statements about any group of people are equally ignorant unless there’s evidence to back up that you truly understand every existing person it applies to.
For example, I’d trust a doctor to tell me about “Cancerous People”, but only fully if they showed me their research. Just because they say “I’m a doctor” doesn’t mean they have authority about everything medically related. And if I didn’t understand their research? I’d ask them to explain it so that I could. If they couldn’t, I wouldn’t just throw away their perspective. I’d come up with my own, but base it off the perspective I had. If I couldn’t answer all my questions in a good, scientific way, then I’d just submit that I didn’t know or understand. Then, I would educate myself until I did. I wouldn’t just submit to trusting someone just because I didn’t understand.
Sure, I don’t do it all the time. No one really does. Even the most careful analyzers and well-to-do scientific method-appliers can’t push past the societal norm that is label-association.
That’s the big thing: It’s just normal. People do it so often, it gets into your brain, and then you end up doing it, too. It’s your fault, and it’s not. The only part you can fix is the your fault part, which means you can only be sure half the time. The other half is just a big ambiguous area that’s frustrating to apply good science to.
Those ancient humans? They needed to be able to recognize things. That was their greatest asset to their survival. They could see patterns, in the land, and in the stars. They could know where they were, when it was, and what to do, all because of recognization. And that’s good! It’s okay to name things. Some things not only are okay to name, but should be named. It’s a vital part of our human advancements.
It’s not a totally bad thing. It’s just very easily misused, because ego and ignorance make us want to. Instead of searching for the answers, it’s much easier to just use buzz-words and familiar concepts to manipulate people into thinking you know what you’re talking about.
Don’t let yourself fall into ego and ignorance. At least try.
I’ve thought this for years. All of this. But, honestly, I still feel like I don’t explain it well enough. I’ve tried all my life to figure out a way not just to communicate it, but that I felt totally good about. It’s always made me feel like I was being just as ignorant for believing it so much and not having a concrete way of arguing it.
Well, if you’ve heard of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, the new Cosmos series with Neil deGrasse Tyson, I stumbled on a little gem on Disc 3.
In the Extras menu was the Disc 3 special feature: the 2013 Comic Con Cosmos panel.
And within it, Neil deGrasse Tyson said in just a short few minutes what I’ve been trying to say all my life.
Thank you for reading, and I leave you with his quote:
“…See, if I went around always calling myself Doctor, that would mean that you would have to believe what I said because of my authority. But in fact, if what I say is fundamentally true, and you understand why it’s true, you never have to reference title again.
…I think I’ve been quite vocal on the matter of these rampant ‘ist’s that have been running around. The only ‘ist’ that I am is a Scientist. Any other ‘ist’ that exists out there I’ve found, are short-hand ways for people to believe they know everything about how you think before they actually have a conversation with you. So, if someone says you’re a human’ist’, or you’re an athe’ist’, well all of a sudden a whole package of thought and philosophy gets laid out on the table before you even start having a conversation. I don’t want anyone to ever presume in advance that they know what I’m going to say. I want you to have the conversation with me, and if that happens to fit some philosophy, okay, go ahead and attach it to it, but don’t then put all this extra baggage that didn’t come out of me with[on] my views. So, I strongly overlap with the missions statements of the humanist movement, but to say
“I am a humanist! And here’s the manifesto!”,
that closes off arguments rather than opens them.”
-Neil deGrasse Tyson
Hey, thanks again for reading this.
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It is with a heavy heart that I must denounce a game I’ve put over 400 hours into. Like an MMO, I recently finally reached the level cap, pushing past the dry spells of boredom from having to do the same quests over and over to satisfy my OCD mind, which Skyrim forces so many side quests on you you’d think they don’t even want you to do the main quest.
I found myself in a position of feeling empty. The feeling that I never wanted to feel from a game, one that I became aware of early enough before it became a reality.
The dangers of Avatar strength, the mark of addiction that so many confuse as a good trait of a game rather than a bad trait of the mind; the horrible system that should’ve been buried from existence once we became advanced enough to no longer require it that is: the Leveling System. So much oversight that we, the gamers, award to such low caliber tripe programming, from our ignorance and mental incompetence to face the truth, put to work in the form of literally ignoring labor, boredom, decadence, and become apathetic as a result. But there’s so much good in this game, too! Such potential for greatness, so great that it exceeds in certain areas.
Sadly, I have to give this game a stamp of disapproval. It twists the knife in the wound given to the gamer in me, from the time I’ve invested in the game.
That’s because Skyrim is an addictive experience that not only fooled my better judgement, I have none but myself to blame for doing what I did. I’m an outspoken assailant of MMOs, specifically the obsolete technology which as previously said, should be deader than an occupied body bag, the “Leveling System” some dare to call “RPG elements”.
But hey, we’ll get to that in time. Skyrim is addictive for good reasons and bad reasons, and in everything that makes it an actual game, it’s…bland. A ‘flour and tree-bark with oxygen-topping sandwich’ kind of bland.
Well, that is, except for how HUGE it is. The grandular scale of the game is enough to get lost into alone. Just exploring the vast and (with mods) beautiful landscape and exploring a world rich with diverse life, adventure, and mystery. Much like the settlers that arrived in the New World from the European countries, all you have to do is pick a direction and walk that way, and there’s no telling what you’ll run into. Maybe it’ll be a vast plain full of interesting flora and fauna, or a mineral-rich cave to mine, forests full of animals, or maybe you’ll see a hostile, or two, or five, or a camp full of hostiles. It’s wonderful. (Except the New World settlers just had hostiles and vast forests, sans-animals. Terrible game, don’t know why anyone programmed it that way.) And the lore, my god, if there’s one thing Bethesda just can’t get wrong is lore. Skyrim is a game where you can just get lost reading the multitudes of interesting books, and it’s not like picking up a real book and having to set aside a weekend to get through half of it. You can get through an entire Jarl’s bookcase in a day, because Skyrim’s books manage to squeeze in a vast amount of interesting lore in short reads that even all the people in your High School classroom that read like they’re 5 years-old would be interested in.
However, why the hell am I reviewing walking around and reading in a game about fighting dragons and being the hero of the world? Shouldn’t I praise the combat system? The teeth-grinding battles? The quests? The character building? The mechanics making Skyrim…a game?
Well, this is precisely where Skyrim fails. As a game. It’s a great museum, but it’s just as good as playing Namco Museum without getting to play any of the games, just watching the ‘cool’ 3D animations and looking at the ‘revolutionary’ graphics, and reading the little tablets that have concept art and fun facts.
I’ll address the core issue at the end, but I feel it important to address what’s good about the game first. I’ll include a Pro/Con chart at the end after I address its core issue, but I’m going to need some time to get there.
1st Point – The fighting system is balls.
Skyrim is honestly one of the most boring games to fight in I’ve ever seen, which hey whatever it’s not a CORE MECHANIC or anything. For example, let’s look at a couple of indie games with in-game combat: the Mount & Blade franchise and Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. These games have UNREAL levels of realism in their combat systems. That is, for an indie game. I wouldn’t fault anyone for not making a completely realistic feeling combat system; I don’t even think we’re at the point we can do that yet. However, all things considered, M&B+CH:MW (Which I will now call the dream team when referring to them both) are two of the best examples of how to make a combat system that feels real, intense, and fun. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
When designing a combat system, it isn’t hard to lose sight of remembering to make it fun, especially if it’s strategy or stat-based. How are you supposed to make someone clicking a button over and over ‘fun’? Well, that goes into the area of game theory that no one likes to talk about, what exactly is ‘fun’, and how can you cause ‘fun’ to happen. Well, I can’t say I’m some big respected authority on the subject, but I can give you a very informed opinion not just from being a gamer, but from reading books upon a wide variety of texts and listening to talks upon talks about game design: JUST HAVE PEOPLE PLAY THE DAMNED GAME AND SEE HOW THEY FEEL AND RESPOND.
You know how I feel when I play the dream team? When I play M&B, I’m excited about going to battle, even if I’m just by myself. This is because the combat system epitomizes what any combat system should be: dynamic, smooth, practical, interesting, intense, immersive, and satisfying. The combat strategy is VAST, and those wishing to play multiplayer servers had better break out a pen and paper, pull up Google and YouTube, and take a self-teaching course for a good month with practice if they plan on being a pivotal part of victory, or part of ANY victory. Those that find themselves on the losing side of a scuffle don’t (or shouldn’t) feel BS’d due to sloppiness. In fact, the rush of a good loss can be just as great as that of a good win. There’s nothing like getting into a long battle where you both just keep blocking in the right directions and getting one puny stab in every once in a while. (Dark Souls, much?) It feels good, because you’re going through this complex system that’s simple to understand and satisfying to utilize. One of the most important parts of a satisfying combat system is, well, making it seem like combat.
Give the swords a nice loud clink when they clash, add a butt-clenching mushy impact when you smack a blunt weapon into your opponents organs, sterilizing them for life, and hopefully death, and add a blood spray and a cool animation of them staggering back from the blow and quickly regaining their countenance and fighting back the recoil to prepare themselves a getaway to have their wounds palpated. And, most importantly, make them diverse. Take a page from ol’ Jon Blow, make a lot of sounds for your game. That’s where the immersion comes in. Games are an illusion, we play them to get lost in a world that doesn’t exist, that gives us the idea that we’re not just smacking our greasy fingers on a bunch of plastic buttons, so make me believe, damnit! That’s got to be the most important thing is not breaking the experience of a game! Immersion is what separates a game from being library filler and your desktop wallpaper.
However, Mount & Blade, even Warband, compensates in the same way Skyrim tries to, because it doesn’t have all that flashy (Sorry, I meant VITAL) polish. It’s got most of it down pretty good, but it fails by limitation, not by ineptitude. Chivalry, however, succeeds where M&B is too big and complex to. Unlike M&B’s world war, Chivalry goes for the ol’ Quake-style class warfare confined to an arena. It looks great, by every account, which is right considering how much newer Chivalry is to the market compared to M&B. It also takes this advantage in the form of an even MORE realistic combat system. There is hardly a greater joy in Chivalry than running up to an opponent with a charge and a gigantic hammer and literally smashing their brains out in a big testosterone-induced HULK SMASH.
Now, I’m not a sadist. Heck, I’m not even the attacker type. Other than defense, I’m pacifist to the max. I’m not saying that good combat systems should be designed for people who want to watch the world burn, nor should it be designed for people that like their battles like they like their Monopoly, taking 6 hours for anything noteworthy to happen and always won by your superiors. (Damnit, Grandma, you Hotel spamming tyrant.)
But close observers will note that even how Chivalry goes for the ‘Fuck ’em up’ approach, whilst M&B goes the ‘Strategic Stick Swinger/Shooter’ route, that’s what makes them great. Not just those differing approaches contrasting them from each other, but all the other things they have…in common.
For brevity’s sake, I think it’s okay to stop the context there. But I hope you, the reader, understand this as well as I do: how important your DSP IIIS. That’s an acronym, and it’s really really bad.
Apologies, coming up with a better one…
DIPSISI (Dip-Sissy). Remember DIPSISI whenever you’re playing any combat game. It stands for “Dynamics, Immersion, Practicality, Smoothness, Interest, Satisfaction, Intensity.” It’s a lot to remember, but if you train yourself to see it, you’ll keep them sacred. When a game developer tries to give you a pitiful combat system, you tell them how much you understand about combat fighting and how inexperienced they look. Imagine them saying: “Oh, really? Is that what it’s like?”, and then you say right back: “You must’ve never been in a fight in your life. No dip, sissy.”
And to better help you understand before I stop digressing and actually talk about Skyrim, here’s some (not all, just well-suggested) questions to ask yourself when considering if a game is a good example of DIPSISI combat:
Dynamics = Variety: “How much am I required to do in order to fight? To Win? To Lose? How much can I do? Does the game have enough? Why would it need more/less? Does the combat add/detract to the game’s total Dynamic feel?”
Immersion = Successful Illusion: “Does this game advertise its combat as realistic? How does it advertise its combat? Regardless, how realistic is it? Does it succeed at what it attempts to do? Is that good? If it fails, does it succeed in another way? Is that specific to me? Does the combat add/detract from the game’s total immersive feel?”
Practicality = Importance to Fight: “Is combat the main mechanic? How important is combat? How often does combat show up? How much is required of me to fight/when fighting? Am I, the one playing the game, useful, or is it all in my weapons or stats? How do I get better? Do I need to get better? Are my skills advancing as I, the player, advance in real life? Does the combat improve me, the player, in real life to do anything?”
Smoothness = Conducive Feeling and Flow: “How do I perform combat? Does it feel like you’re only doing it because it’s an obligation? How easy/hard is it to perform combat? Is its difficulty due to it being a bad system, or because I haven’t learned how to do it well? Is it something you can do well? Is it worth it? Is it buggy or anomalistic?”
Interest = Self-Explanatory: “Do I really care? Is the combat grabbing my interest because it’s interesting, or because I want it, or this game in general, to be? Why is/isn’t it interesting? Is that personal, or the nature of the game? How much time do I feel like I could invest in it? Is that because I want to or because I have nothing better to do?”
Satisfaction = Self-Explanatory: “Does combat feel good? Why does/doesn’t it? How many of the dynamics feel good? How often does it make me feel good? For how long does it make me feel good until I’m drained? Am I drained because the game is good, or I’m disappointed or wrongly fatigued? Would I recommend this game to people? What kind of person do I think would love this game? What could make me love it more? Does it look/sound good?”
Intensity = The Essence of Combat: “Is this really a fight? Does it feel like a fight? How cool is fighting? Do I ever feel rushes of adrenaline or tense my body up? Am I totally focused? Why or when am I/am I not totally focused? What is my character, and does combat make me feel like I’m in the thick of what my character is? How?”
Many of the parts of DIPSISI can be partnered, but it’s not a bunch of like terms, it’s a Venn diagram, and the only thing in the middle is “The Best Kind Of Combat System”.
This is why I say I don’t expect combat to be perfect, because no game ever has combat that’s been. That’s why fun is so hard for people to talk about, because sure, there’s things that make a game fun, but you can’t just mix-and-mash mechanics together and make a fun game.
Like, you couldn’t take the satisfying and clear sound effects of Pac-Man and slap them on an intense game like Dark Souls and expect people to praise you for your immersion. But, then again, some people might be okay with that. Some people. Others would complain that it gets annoying after a while, or immersion elitists would ream you about it.
The melancholy of the game developer: 2 rights can destroy everything about every idea you have, good or bad. They can also make an experience that people remember for the rest of their lives. They can also just make it okay, so no one ever gives a crap. There’s still no defined ‘way’ to make a game, but there are guidelines to follow that you can learn from playing good games.
Makes it hard to be an authority on game theory when literally no one is, and we’re all just trusting whoever we feel like or what’s popular in the media. Like politics.
But, enough digressing, where does Skyrim fail? Welp, Skyrim’s combat system fails literally in every single category.
Skyrim DARES to act like it has dynamics, in the most complex effort I’ve ever seen put into designing a big fat turd wherein lies its crimes against the six categories of good combat.
Oh, sweet mother of lord does it have the plainest dynamics it could possibly have.
“Wow, gee, golly, whiz! There are so many different kinds of weapons! Iron! Steel! Elven? What’s Elven? Orcish? Glass?! Who would want Glass? Oh, that’s why! I can even make armors and weapons from the bones and skin of dragons, or imbued with the very powers of the Daedric realm of Oblivion! I can even find armors and weapons used by the Daedric lords themselves in exchange for adventure! And look at all these weapons, too! Swords! War Axes! Maces! Greatswords! Greataxes! Warhammers! Bows! I could be a one-handed adventurer, with my trusty shield to block and retaliate quickly in my light armor, or a thief, wielding dual daggers to stab through my enemies lungs to keep them quiet as I slit their throat undetected, then escape to use my bow to shoot down investigating and anxious foes from the shadows as they search fruitlessly, or a glorious warrior wielding a giant weapon only one with my muscle power can wield, on top of my impenetrable and heavy armor which only one with my strength can overcome its cumbersome nature.
But wait, what’s this? Magic?! And so many different kinds of spells! Well, why choose between swinging things around or firing a slow-reloading missile when I can command such diverse powers to bend to my will! Destruction! Conjuration! Alteration! Illusion! Restoration! I can conjure flames from my hands and send them towards foes, exploding at their feet and charring them alive, then raise them from the dead as a weak distraction should I be damaged in battle, so that I may retreat to heal myself before charging up a whirlwind of ice to trap them and drain them not only of their ability to move, but live! Dark Nordic ruins? No problem, I can conjure light, bending the very energy of existence to my whim, as a mere light source as I pillage and slaughter with my army of the dead, my wards and magic armors, my clerical insight, an infinite supply of lightning bolts, and an itchy trigger finger! And all these perks! My god, there’s so many ways to not only advance my abilities, but to create ones that only I can receive! Truly, I have more choices than I could ask for. What great variety.”
Some programmer who programmed this system is rubbing his hands in maniacal joy, because he knew he’d gotten away with making such a horrible system that somehow people think is exactly all of that. They must know how vapid this system is, and how asinine the idea that a bunch of different graphics, animations, and words mean ‘variety’, right?
In any case, let me boil it down into what your actual choices are:
1. Press button, do a little damage, semi-fast to fast.
2. Press button, do more damage, semi-slow to slow.
3. Hold button and release to fire a missile.
4. Hold button(s) and possibly release to do a specific amount of constant damage.
5. Hold and release button whilst aimed at dead npc to get a weak follower.
1. If your Attacking choice is 1 or 2, ability to press a button that may/may not decrease damage enemy does.
2. Choice of armor that allows more carrying space at the cost of more damage received.
3. Choice of armor that allows more damage resistance at the cost of less carrying space.
Think there’s more to it than that? Well, let no mistake be made, I am only talking about the combat system right now. What I just did was make what everyone thought was, like, hundreds of possibilities and thousands of combinations literally 8 possibilities with less than 20 combinations. How? Why, for the same reason that everyone hates on Call of Duty, but not to that extreme of an extent, just that, well, y’know.
FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, DIFFERENT WEAPONS DOESN’T MEAN DIFFERENT MECHANICS. A CHOICE BETWEEN RUNNING UP TO SOMETHING AND CLICKING ON IT OVER AND OVER UNTIL IT FALLS DOWN AND RUNNING UP TO SOMETHING AND HOLDING DOWN A BUTTON UNTIL IT FALLS DOWN IS NOT SIGNIFICANT ENOUGH A DIFFERENCE TO BE CALLED. FUCKING. VARIETY.
Phew…I’m sorry, I had to get that off of my fingers. It’s not really bad MMOs where you just click the same thing over and over and watch the same animations over and over and walk around forever and ever until a scale hits 100 and you feel empty inside, but in fact, it’s even worse than the MMOs where you can actually macro things to your keyboard.
That is how much I hate the combat system of Skyrim.
Compared to a system that I believe equates to clicking a button and then pressing another sequence of buttons and nothing more, I believe Skyrim to be the lesser.
At least when I macro those ‘abilities’ and ‘skills’ in an MMO, I’m doing it kinda strategically so that I can get them in the right sequence for killing efficiency. In Skyrim, I’m just running up, clicking a button. Running up, clicking a button. And you know what? I haven’t boiled this damn stupid combat system down enough yet.
First of all:
No one uses Conjuration, and don’t even act like it’s even a significant part of your play-style, because it’s not. Bethesda knew this, so they made it level up super fast, and as such is one of the best tactics for leveling up quick, running up to an enemy or un-zombifiable dead body and doing conjuration spells over and over. Even when I played a complete mage character, it didn’t matter what level I was in general or in each specific skill, I used at the most 4 different destruction spells, 3 of which were just interchangeable in case of resistance type mismatching, and one to make runes.
I tried to use Alteration and Illusion, but honestly, I just had to fucking Google the shit even though I have over 400 HOURS IN THE GAME because I couldn’t remember which one was which.
I used a calm spell once when I pissed someone off I didn’t want to and hadn’t saved, and then it didn’t work because it turned out I’d bugged the guy out (Which I will hit Skyrim hard later about), I used Detect Life until I got aura whisper which made that a complete waste, wanted to use Oak/Stone/Iron/Ebonyflesh, but could never remember once I was in battle, because I never died so it didn’t matter, Equilibrium to level up restoration, wanted to use Invisibility but didn’t have to, because Sneak makes your presence in a room from that of a lumbering drunken bear to a microscopic bacteria in a completely stupid and broken amount of time, and that’s it. The only schools of magic that mattered to me at all were Destruction and Restoration’s healing, but I find no discernible difference between using restoration healing and healing potions, and I never used Healing Hands, so I chose not to put restoration as a Defense option because it’s a necessity, and can go ahead and remove 5 from Attacking, and I meant to put the other schools of magic up somewhere, but hey look at that FORGOT THEY EXISTED.
So that leaves us with 1-4 up there. But wait, the only difference between one-handed and two-handed is speed and damage. But whatever, that’s still a difference right?
Well, sure, but good ol’ leveling system has come to save the day and make your decisions pointless. The perks system balances everything out, so you could only put X amount of perks into this specific skill, so you’re not tempted to put them in another one that make it objectively better. Two-Handed weapons are better than One-Handed in this sense, and with a high enough sneak skill, you don’t really need to have daggers. Sure, daggers are OP weapons of justice, but a fully upgraded Two-Handed tree next to a completely untouched One-Handed perk tree makes daggers pale in comparison. So, your choice isn’t between play-styles, it’s between perk trees, which make the differences in the weapons pointless to consider.
So, since weapons speed and damage don’t matter, 1 and 2 merge, to become:
1. Click a button enough times.
So I think we’ve boiled the Attack down enough, so let’s look at our new strategies:
1. Click a button enough times.
2. Hold button and release to fire a missile.
3. Hold button(s) and possibly release to do a specific amount of constant damage.
1. If your Attacking choice is 1 or 2, ability to press a button that may/may not decrease damage enemy does.
2. Choice of armor that allows more carrying space at the cost of more damage received.
3. Choice of armor that allows more damage resistance at the cost of less carrying space.
Pretty shallow, right?
But, there’s a saving grace. The last opportunity for any combat system to be considered dynamic: the superiority each choice has over each other.
Unfortunately, this is where most games actually end up having their combat systems boiled down extremely, with maybe only a few new possibilities. Type differences are usually the only thing that keeps any differences in the play-style. That is what makes Pokémon so dynamic. If it was just a game where you tried to get the strongest moves and pokémon, it’d be boring as shit other than the glazing childlike wonder. But there’s all these type differences, and special items, and abilities, and oh my lord is that game WAY complex. There’s forums all over the place, and even legitimate community organizations based on teaching you how to compete in player-to-player. It makes up for everything by how interesting, immersive, intense, and dynamic it is. And it’s satisfying when you apply yourself to it, and an undisputed smooth game that takes literal hacking to break its flow. Luckily, a combat system like Skyrim is absolutely none of that.
Here’s the deal: As I said before, leveling and the perk system add that extra acid to the limestone that the combat system was already guilty of. So, really, your choice of attack style and defense style? They’re all the same given enough perks, and it’s not hard to level up something if you’re doing it all the time. And no, we’re not going to pull any of that: “Well just don’t use it, then.” bullshit. If it shouldn’t be used, it shouldn’t be in the game, period.
So, since no certain style of attack matters at all, that puts it all down to what is happening in real life, because everything happening in the game is practically the same. So we’re down to the way we click the buttons, making our strategy list:
1. Click a button repeatedly.
2. Hold down a button and release it.
3. Hold down a button.
1: Click a button.
2: Click a button to equip the thing.
But wait, there’s more!
So I want you to ask yourself this. Really, I do. Because that can be the list right there. That can be the end of my argument, I’m going to encourage you to participate with me on this question, and if you honestly disagree, then that’s fine.
What difference do you draw between clicking a button, clicking a button and releasing it, and holding down a button, when the choice you make between the three doesn’t matter? Do you think that between three kinds of labor, you would choose one that you didn’t like as much?
If you answered “No” to both, then you’re with me on this. Because that is all Skyrim is. Pick which way you like to click the button. Don’t worry about the armor choices, you don’t have to do anything with it once you’re fighting, it just sits there on your model whilst you click the button in your preferred manner. So, from the idea we had at the beginning, all of us eager for this adventure which we were promised, this amazing experience of fighting dragons and exploring a nation within a continent full of culture, magic, and war, infinite quests and places to go, and what do they make the core mechanic of the game?
One boring choice.
I give you, my experienced Skyrim player’s guide to fighting:
What to do when you want to do damage:
1. Find a button and way of clicking it you like, and do that over and over.
If you don’t want to die:
I feel so much rage. And it’s not like I didn’t know this until now. That’s what’s truly sad about this entire scenario: I willingly kept doing it. I knew it was stupid. I knew I wasn’t having fun. I was weak. Skyrim took advantage of that weakness, the same weakness many of us have: addiction.
Some of us get addicted because we’re still children. We see all those flashy colors and we pick it up, and we’re mesmerized for a couple hours. Then we put it down, get distracted, and then come back to it as some kind of brand new experience we never had.
Gamers, many of us, we have obsession with completing games, and increasing a character’s fake number to the most it will go, and getting achievements, most of which are either gotten by accident, cheating, or specific effort in doing pointless things, mocking the very word ‘achievement.
Skyrim, among most of other of Bethesda’s games, is such an insult to gaming. It is completely unapologetic for what makes it bad. But the combat system is not its worst trait, oh no, I’ve yet to mention that.
Oh yeah, did you happen to forget that I’m still on what I called “Point One”? Because there are more points. They might not be as long as this one and need as much explaining, especially with all the context and Freudian statements I’ve made now, but either way, I thank you very much for reading this far, and for reading the rest.
This isn’t made as much to be a blog post made for people as it is a journal entry made for me, but there are important things I’ve wanted to say for a long time about games that I’m getting to say now with an example. I’m very passionate about games, and they mean a lot to me, and Skyrim feels like a big fat betrayal, and retroactively a big fat personal failure.
But hey, I think you get what I’m saying by now. I haven’t stated it outright in a statement, so I’ll do that now:
Skyrim’s combat system is absolute garbage hidden behind a veil; the illusion of choice, which manipulates players into thinking they’re having an amazing and enriched experience when all they end up doing is one thing over and over. That’s why people start over again, and again, and again, because it’s a game you have to start over to make the illusory ‘different choices’ between character builds, and to get a break from the game because it’s only fun in the beginning when you haven’t spent your perk points, and therefore the game hasn’t leveled up with you and is vulnerable to anything you pull out to them. Which means you get what you were promised: a choice.
Anyone can expect to have a total of 10 hours of fun with Skyrim on every new character before the tedium starts to become a problem, but because we don’t realize it, we don’t accept that we’re tired of it until it’s far, far, far too late. All just because of the combat system.
Now onto the other stupidity about Skyrim.
2nd point – Why are we ignoring the cockroach in the room?
Are we just going to pretend he’s not there? And the cricket? And the ants? And the caterpillars? An—Je-…Jesu-JESUS CHRIST, WHERE DID ALL THESE BUGS COME FROM?!
You know exactly what I mean, and everyone and their mothers refuses to accept this argument.
Bugs. Hey? Remember that thing where a game is supposed to…y’know, work? How when you play it, it…plays? Do you like that? Do you like it when people give you stuff in exchange for your money and you get exactly what you were told you’d get? Doesn’t that make you feel like even though people make mistakes, at least it’s a free world, and you have the ability to be responsible for yourself instead of any alternative? How you get to have bad things that happen to you be your fault so you can learn from them instead of someone else’s fault so that you learn nothing, just get pissed off at them?
If you said ‘yes’ to any of those questions, don’t you dare act like bugs can’t/don’t destroy games.
You, the reader, are invited to either in your head or aloud, read the following block quotations in the voice you use to imitate people you don’t like as if they’re whining and complaining about things, and everything in-between in your favorite condescending and/or passive-aggressive tone when applicable.
“But of course it’s going to have bugs, it’s a game!”
You’re right. In fact, I think that’s a universally wonderful attitude.
Like, for example:
Doctors: “Of course their sick, they’re human!” So don’t cure them.
Lawyers: “Of course my client’s innocent, he’s done good things before!” Acquitted.
Bankers: “Of course it got lost, it’s money!” No problem, then.
Artists: “Of course it’s worth that much, it’s art!” Millions of dollars for your scribbles.
Engineers: “Of course it fell over, it’s a building!” Funding for all new buildings in the city; tenure.
Teachers: “Of course they’re not learning anything, principal, they’re kids!” Full benefits; tenure.
CEOs: “Of course I embezzled money, this is a corporation!” Carry on, then.
Understand? Just because there are things that happen to things, doesn’t mean that some circumstance is always going to be the case. That’s ludicrous, that’s a set-up that people use to give examples of logical fallacies. Bugs happen, but that doesn’t mean that they have to be in the final product. They’re annoying and get in the way of anyone’s enjoyment of a game. They’re not unfixable things that are a sad reality that we have to face. That’s why they’re called bugs, and not terminal illnesses.
“Oh come on, look at how huge Skyrim it is! Yes it’s a matter of “Of course it has bugs.”, every 10 square feet of the game is enough code to be its own game!”
You know what, you’re totally right. I hadn’t thought about that actually. I’d much rather play a really huge game like Skyrim that’s unplayable than a flash game online that works perfectly fine. In fact, that makes Minecraft infinitely good. The joy you can have playing Minecraft increases exponentially as you render out more world. That’s why it got so popular, everyone loved wandering in a random direction forever because it only got better and better.
If you like your games big, that’s fine, but when people are pumping out content that is designed around crappy mechanics in a big world, I’d better not see you having their back. It makes me sick.
So, what, not only do we have drug addicts that don’t know they’re hurting themselves by continuing to fall for something that’s designed to trap them, as well as people that defend correlation is causation in all given circumstance, but we’ve got shallow people that think that size is a trait that overshadows all other traits?
I didn’t realize there were so many gamers that were ignorant, thirsty crackheads.
“Oh whatever, so there’s some bugs. So I clipped through the ground once, so what? I recovered everything. Yeah, I was pissed, but that’s fine. And what about the bucket over the head shop trick? That’s just cool, and funny, huh? Besides, why should I care if this one section of the stream has a broken texture? As if I’m ever going to see it again.”
Keep in mind, those of you who may not know, Immersion does not imply realism. Rather, a game that attempts to be realistic makes an attempt at a sub-category of immersion, realism. There are tons of different kinds of immersion, and as long as you succeed at one, people can get past a lot of a game’s failures. Sometimes, they can be the saving grace that actually makes a game good instead of bad, not just playable.
In fact, I’d say on a scale next to any/all of the important parts of a game? Hmm…I’d say it’s…2nd only to being able to run the game at all.
Immersion, to put it simply, is just another name for game feel. Heck, on a Venn Diagram, no matter what kind of game element you stick in there, it fits in immersion. But, it’s squares and rectangles. Everything is immersion, but immersion is not everything. It’s just really, really, really, really, really important.
Am I going to say Skyrim tries to be a realistic game?
This seems to always be the hardest thing to get across to people. Yeah, it’s a game about a literally magical fake continent with elves and orcs and dwarves and dragons. But why, I ask you, are there a bunch of human-like creatures running around? Why is there combat that uses weapons that actually exist in many forms in real life, and in ways that are supposed to simulate medieval combat? Why is there so much ‘history’? So many moral lessons spread across the dialogue and quests? Why do you have the choice of being a human, with a human voice, and human features? Why do things bleed? Why is it when someone hits you with a sharp weapon, it’s supposed to sound and look like they’re cutting you?
Because it’s a fantasy land where nothing works like how it does in real life.
AND SO IS EVERY GAME, EVER. MOVIES PULL THAT SHIT, TOO. IT’S CALLED THE ILLUSION OF MEDIA.
Nothing that you’re seeing is real. None of it.
All those photos you have? Well, they used to be a mixture of different colors that were created by a machine that took data out of another machine which collected light and stored codes to recognize what kind of light was where, but nowadays we know them better as still being made by the collection of light as data, but stored and viewed on electronic screens which translate the code into their own language and beam the light back at you. Photographs are a big fat illusion.
Hell, you’ve never even seen the color yellow on an electronic screen. Y’wanna know why? Because only recently have they been making some special kinds of screens that use yellow light. Almost every electronic screen that exists uses a combination of red, blue, and green to make its spectrum. It’s called RGB. What you’re seeing is an optical illusion, created by putting the colors red and green together so close, that it communicates to your eyes as yellow. I’m not even sure if they can do all the different colors of yellow because of that. Yellow’s a primary color, and green is a secondary made by mixing blue and yellow, so who knows what other colors might be illusions.
Even your real life is mostly fake things. Especially through eyesight and hearing. Good lord, there’s an absolute library full of knowledge just about how the things we see and hear are lies. That’s because our body’s created a system for perception and we have our own subjective systems of discerning real and fake.
So people can make fake things that feel real, because y’know what? You can make just about any absurd concept with artistic media, and make it more ‘real’ than ‘real life’. What if someone came up to you and said: “Hey, Toy Story is fake. It’s a big fat lie. It’s a big, complex hoax. Nothing that happens in Toy Story actually means anything until you start making it mean something.”
Well they’re right, so screw you, you get Toy Story, and everyone else gets whatever the hell they have, because everybody has false perceptions that help them express themselves and live without going insane, even if they don’t mean to. Welcome to art, by the way.
And bugs are just as much of a big slap in your face to wake up from the reality.
It’s like if in Saving Private Ryan, all of a sudden one of the buildings in the background and some of the dust particles in the air started randomly disappearing and reappearing.
Then Tom Hanks says a line, nothing happens on the screen for a while, everyone just kinda stands around idle, then he repeats the line again, and things happen this time for some reason.
Then for no reason, one of the American soldiers comes out of the shot and starts attacking the cameraman. Then you can never watch the movie again because that guy always kills the cameraman, and you have to restart from the beginning or skip back a scene.
Then in one of the scenes, one of the guys that’s supposed to be in the room isn’t there to start the dialogue, so everyone just stands there idle waiting for him to come, and he never does, so you have to manually get into the disc and put the code in for the scene to be over.
Then during the Sniper scene, instead of coming up with a strategy to figure out how to get a good shot at the guy, Tom Hanks just crouches and walks right through the enemy lines and puts a bucket on his head, then steals his gun.
Then in the middle of a battle, everyone just freezes in position and nothing happens, and you have to reset the DVD/VCR player, but then it turns out the DVD somehow screwed up your TV’s circuiting, and now you have to buy a new TV.
So you buy a new TV to watch Saving Private Ryan again, and you can’t go back to where you were because you got a new TV and you saved everything to its circuitry.
So you have to watch it again, and it’s still acting weird, even weirder than before.
For some reason, one of the supporting characters is missing their hair for most of the movie until it pops up again on his head hours later, and the movie sometimes just gets stuck on a single frame and you can’t skip past the frame to get on with the rest of the movie unlike all the other frames.
Then you accidentally bump into the TV getting popcorn for your girlfriend, and Tom Hanks won’t stop trying to attack your girlfriend because you pissed him off, but she won’t die so she just keeps taking abuse, even though you’re the one who pissed him off, but you can’t do anything because all of his buddies kill you if you try to intervene.
You can’t talk to them, because Tom Hanks ordered a huge bounty on your head. So you just leave your girlfriend in your house to get wrecked by the American army and Tom Hanks’ character from Saving Private Ryan, and you go stand in a forest and just stay there motionless for 3 days, and then you go back and there’s no bounty on your head anymore, but they’re still endlessly beating up your girlfriend.
So, you have no other option, so you try to kill her yourself, but it doesn’t work because she’s an invincible person, and then you get the American army and Tom Hanks on your ass again, so you walk out of the house into the first to spend a few more minutes, and come back after 3 days, and she’s just gone, and there’s still a bounty on your head this time.
SO, you walk back outside of your house, immediately run into a humongous mongoloid human being with a big stick and he punches you and you bounce off the ground and your dead body ricochets and flies off into space before resetting you back to when you first broke your TV.
ABSURD, ISN’T IT?
So what the hell’s the difference the two? Well, it’s precisely the thing that people try to defend it with: the game’s too big; so big that it makes you think it’s good.
There’s too much that actually does work that makes the multitudes of things that don’t work that would be obvious issues otherwise. Plus, a lot of them aren’t really all that literally game-breaking, so you find yourself walking around in a bug-free environment, you accidentally end up on the wrong end of a disappearing texture, and you’re like “Eh, whatever, it’s a little thing compared to all this other stuff.”, but in your mind, the game’s immersion has been completely broken, and every time you put a bucket on someone’s head, or can’t skip some dialogue you usually could, or get damaged because you walked over a tomato, or get stuck in a room because an NPC didn’t activate, it just makes it exponentially harder and harder to immerse you back into the game again, making you unwilling to do anything related to immersing yourself and just play around with the mechanics like a toy.
And, didn’t I preface this by saying that the only thing that the game has going for it was the exploration and lore? Yeah, specifically in this situation, all this game can count on is immersion, and since any bug having any tangible or otherwise perceivable anomalistic effect breaks immersion immediately and turns up the shit-switch, which, takes more and more time each time it’s turned up to turn it back down, in which you’re doomed to find more and more bugs?
Does someone believe me, now? Can I get a brother to relate? Bugs aren’t some little tiny thing to look over.
It’s dog crap on the carpet. It’s your kid crying over having to eat his broccoli. It’s an abusive and dependent ex trying to hook up with you again. It’s a spam e-mail. It’s sharing pictures with text captions on Facebook. It’s getting called ‘Cis scum’. It’s blaming stupidity on religion. It’s blaming blasphemy on science. It’s hearing people call something like Skyrim, full of absolutely stupid things that didn’t have to happen how they did, that are overly glossed mounds of crap:
“Besides the bugs, a masterpiece!”
You say no. Bad. Don’t ever do that again.
Stop glancing over issues like bugs. Developers should be giving hand-outs and kissing feet over this bullcrap, because if not, if they’re even slightly unapologetic about it? They should give you your money back, and promise you they’ll do better next time, because they failed you. They made a product for you, and they lied about what you were going to get. Just like games with crappy mechanics and boring gameplay, games that were disappointing and overhyped, buggy games should be thrown right in the garbage where they belong to be added to the landfills of crap, because it’s stinking up the house and I’m sick of having to smell it.
And I’m sick of walking around and watching people smear it all over themselves like it’s some kind of high art.
Nothing is “Awesome, except for what sucks.” Nothing is “Pretty good, but could’ve been better.” You drop that ego right now, you say “I think I enjoyed it.” and you move on with your life without shoving that shit in everyone’s eyes and ears about things that are “Great, except for the boring parts.”
Go ahead. Google it. Google what the most beloved and then successful game companies around there is, and I guarantee you’ll find Bethesda in there a few times.
Because people love Bethesda. The Elder Scrolls and Fallout franchises are their biggest products, and people love them. That’s a couple of franchises you’ll see listed multiple times in a lot of people’s ‘tops’.
Googled it yet? Now I want you to just go ahead and type in ‘what games have the most bugs?‘. I haven’t looked, and I’m not going to, because I already know what you’re going to see ALL OVER the place.
“Well this Fallout, and this Elder Scrolls, and this Fallout was the worst about it, and this Elder Scrolls was worse than this other Elder Scrolls, and wow everything Bethesda has ever made is just a buggy piece of software, but despite these loads of crap I’m being shoveled, it’s still perfect!”
I implore you, any one of you who find dignity in calling yourself a gamer, or even just one who likes games;
Stop letting developers get by with bugs.
Yes, they’re frustrating issues.
Yes, they’re the bane of every developer’s existence.
Yes, I’m being shoved a big fat turd in my mouth because I paid for it and I have modeled my life around my ego and put all of my brainpower into making sure I never say anything that could even imply that I make bad decisions or have regrets.
Bugs are inexcusable. Maybe impossible to get rid of completely, but the right bug in the wrong place is the difference between thousands upon millions of dollars in well-earned revenue, and thousands upon millions of dollars to keep shoveling more shit in our face.
So, now we’ve got a lot of basis. Skyrim’s perk system is designed as the final nail in the coffin to its combat system, which make both of them boring and irritating mechanics, which the lore and exploration might be able to save, if it weren’t for the constant reminder of how not real Skyrim is with bugs ranging from game-breaking to silly to subtle that all the same destroy any chance for its strongest points to save it, relying only on human weakness and addiction to keep its players playing its game.
So, what else is there to talk about?
I’ve denounced pretty much all of it: Progression is based on leveling, which is a stupid system to begin wi—Oh, yeah! I don’t think I’ve gone into elaboration on why leveling is the stupidest thing in gaming history! Oh boy, this is one of my favorite opinions about game design.
Nevertheless, I’ve gone on quite a while now, so I’ll try to make this one as short as I can.
(Really, I’m sorry this has gone on so long. If you’ve read this far, you’re awesome, and I appreciate you and your opinions, especially if you disagree.)
3rd point – It isn’t fun anywhere else, so why would it be here?
Mmmm. Where to start.
Well, let’s go back to an earlier statement I made.
“… found myself in a position of feeling empty. The feeling that I never wanted to feel from a game, one that I became aware of early enough before it became a reality.
The dangers of Avatar strength, the mark of addiction that so many confuse as a good trait of a game rather than a bad trait of the mind; the horrible system that should’ve been buried from existence once we became advanced enough to no longer require it that is: the Leveling System.”
Out of the few episodes of Sequelitis that Arin Hanson a.k.a. Egoraptor put out, he goes into huge detail about this in his “Castlevania vs. Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest” video, which I’ve linked if you’re interested. (I’ve already said a lot of cuss words, but I’ll go ahead and give a parental advisory here, because he says ‘fuck’ a lot, and both he and I hope you’re okay with that.)
It takes about as long to watch as it does to read this article, but Arin’s video is a video, with animations no less, so there’s a bunch of interesting visuals and sound, and I think he illustrates the point I want to make very eloquently, so it’s not just good insight. Since I’ve kept you all here for my over 16,000 words of text, I’d say it’s an alternative to reading this section of the article if you feel like a break from all the reading. Arin gets game theory really well.
But thanks for sticking with me, if you’ve decided to!
So there are, as I said before, many different ways to make a combat system. There are also many different systems you can put in a game. Combat is one.
All systems that have been done so far are known, and we recognize them as video game genres.
When you read the genre tags on a game, you already understand a lot about the game if you’ve ever played one with the same tags.
(So no, soccer moms, you don’t know what an FPS is from Fox News.)
You can tell how complex a game is whether or not it’s listed with just one tag, or multiple. Usually, your Minesweeper and Solitaire type games that for some reason saturate the market will be the only ones that hold only one tag, but not always, and not all one-tag games are equivalent to Windows 95-packaged games.
But, the more genres a game falls under, the more kinds of ‘systems’ it’s using. It doesn’t make it better, and that doesn’t mean it’s more complex, but if you took any genre tag out of a game with however many, it’s guaranteed to lose a lot of its mechanics that make it recognizable as the experience it is. And hey, not all tags exist.
Incidentally, I wonder why there isn’t such a thing as a ‘narrative’ tag. For example, the game “Portal” is a first-person sci-fi single-player puzzle game, sure. But if you take out all those aspects, and could still run what was in the game, you could still be a free-roaming camera watching as the protagonist goes through the story for you, just replaced with a non-sci-fi environment. Luckily, places like Steam are accepting player-made tags, so people are starting to really explain in those few words things that people never would’ve thought were there.
I digress, one thing that I often hear is people call the leveling system an “RPG” element. Some history to being:
The RPG game started as the old dice, board, writing, and backstory games, like D&D.
RPG stands for “Role-Playing Game”, as it marks games which utilize the player’s character as a fictional identity within a fictional world. Instead of the player just being themselves, they take on the role of a specific someone, who can be a complex and overtly different identity from yourself, or even just some person with a pre-determined name or existence that were it not for less than 20 words of setup would make the game lose RPG status.
E.G. If there was no such thing as the character creation process and you had to be a human race, or ‘The Dragonborn’, Skyrim would be about you living in a fantasy world. That’s not RPG, that’s you in a fantasy world. You’re not playing a ‘role’ if the only role is you.
“So, what? What does that have anything to do with levels, experience, and stats? Or for that matter, items, inventories, the fantasy tropes like Orcs and Elves, or space tropes like otherworldly aliens and technology? And quests? I mean, I know I’m taking on the role of someone, but why is everything I do a quest, and what does that have anything to do with being a person? Shouldn’t that be its own tag?
Its own system, and genre? Shouldn’t all these things be considered tags, systems, and genres? And…loot? And perks, and abilities?
Skyrim isn’t just an RPG, It’s a first-person, experience-gaining, stat-leveling, inventory-managing, fantasy-and-space, questing, looting, perk-building, ability-gaining, lore-rich, story-based, open-world, exploration, medieval-and-magical combat, realistic, skill-training, item-crafting, immersion-based, adventure, simulation…RPG!”
Well, I think that sums up the answer, doesn’t it? See, a mechanic doesn’t make a genre, because really, it shouldn’t. It’s okay to categorize games as “Narrative-based”, because it doesn’t tell you too much about the game to make it feel overwhelming, but is still general enough to make it interesting, especially to people that like narratives.
Narrowing it down to dialogue-narrative makes the narrative style in which the story is told through words and subtitles so popular that it could cause an overload of that kind of narrative. Or worse, destroy the idea that narratives can be told through other ways.
For example, look at the game Braid. I recommend this game to everyone, even people that don’t play video games, because if there is any game that displays why games are more than just entertainment, it’s Braid. For the gamers reading this, I’ll spare you the worship. I know it’s talked about a lot, and for people that aren’t HUGE fans like me and countless others, it’s not hard to see how annoying it can be for a lot of different reasons.
But, level with me here. If you haven’t played Braid, I won’t spoil anything, and I suggest you don’t get anything spoiled either. It’s one of those games. But I’m divagating, the reason I bring up Braid is because it is a shining example of the different ways of expressing a narrative. I’d go into detail, but I just can’t explain anything without spoiling the beauty of the experience that is Braid. Plus, I’m adding enough text talking about it and not Skyrim, for now, just take my word if you haven’t played it: narrative doesn’t have to be told by dialogue and subtitles. A single plot can contain a wide variety of smaller sub-plots without being a 7-season TV series or a separate dialogue happening concurrent with one that’s already going.
You don’t have to categorize and label everything, part of what’s fun about games is the mystery and exploring that mystery, because that’s an important part of the immersion. Not knowing what’s going to happen.
Incidentally, that’s why I’ll never get why people say:
“I don’t care if you spoil this for me.”
Even if you think you’re never going to watch it, Bill Gates never thought he’d ever be the richest man on earth, Gandhi never thought he’d be the go-to name as an example of total good, and Hitler never though he’d be the go-to name as an example of total evil.
We all think things, and we’re repeatedly told we’re wrong.
(See: the part of the article where I told you about how photos and yellow were lies.)
Personally, I feel like asking someone to spoil something comes from either fear, ignorance, or both.
Everyone wants to put a label on things so that they understand them better, because no one likes their world confusing or scary, and what is fear but the reaction to not understanding something and/or not being able to control it?
So, for some reason, RPG gets packaged and shipped with all these elements that have nothing to do with it being an RPG.
I could make a game about a secret government agency that wants to destroy the world, and you play the role as the one guy at the agency with James Bond-like skills and intelligence, as well as the protagonist to the evil of the corporation. And you know what? That’s an RPG.
I’d make it either a first-person puzzle shooter narrative RPG, or I could take out the fighting and make him have to do
Amnesia/Outlast-Style hide-‘n-seek tactics and solve puzzles to bring them down from the inside without detection, or better yet, I could drop the horror-game inspirations and just make it a horror game!
*Cold open, sounds of an office are heard as a man walks into a lobby with a large carpet. The camera pans to an aerial view of the carpet which shows an insignia of a giant padlock with an illuminated initial S replacing the lock area, across a waving American flag on a black background. “Salus.” is printed above the lock, and “Salvatio.” is printed below. Camera switches to the first-person view of the man walking in.*
*Office chit-chat, typing, and assorted office ambiance is heard as he walks through halls, and comes to a door where he swipes his card. The door hisses, whirs, and beeps, as a sequence of locks is opened.*
*The door slides open sideways, and the office ambiance is revealed to have been fake and played over a speaker. The man enters a futuristic glass elevator inside a concrete shaft, and presses a sequence of numbers, and the door shuts. The elevator begins its descent, before the concrete walls surrounding the elevator end. Outside the glass, the man gasps and looks out, frozen. The entirety of the outside is dark, with only a few sparking lights hanging from the ceiling illuminating the space above the huge room, swaying back and forth as if a huge gust had blown through. The man looks for a few seconds before panicking, and hurriedly pressing buttons with frantic hand movements and sporadic breathing habits.*
*An Orchestral Hit sounds as the man and camera view are suddenly jostled, electrical wires are heard snapping as the elevator plummets to the bottom. It crashes with a deafening thud and the sound of breaking glass is heard for a brief second before complete silence and blackness.*
*The man wakes up in a dazed stupor to see that the elevator lights have remained on, and glass shrapnel covers his body. He looks at his hands to see them bloodied, and he is shown still from his point of view, looking up and away as he pulls glass shards out of his hands. He stops to look down, and sees that there are still more glass shards in his hands, and even more covering his body. He lets out a whimpering cry.*
*Then, growling is heard, and disheartening, ominous orchestral progression plays as he looks up in the dim light of the elevator to see the outlines of a large group of human-like body outlines, but closer to his sight the elevator’s light reveals it to be a disgusting horde of horrifying, twitching masses of muscle tissue and organs. The appendages of these hard-to-discern monstrosities are mangled and disfigured, appearing to be the arms and legs of a human connected to a human torso and head, but placed in seemingly random areas, with a different number of appendages on each freakish being. A throbbing, runny, moist discoloration covers them like veins, appearing to hold together their body parts like a suspension bridge on the beings with extra appendages, and replacing the missing ones with large undulating pustules. The beings, though human-like, have no layers or areas of skin, and their facial features show decay of the muscle and skeletal tissues present in smaller varying amounts in other places; wide-eyes with no eyelids, full teeth with no lips or cheeks, and two snout-like holes. The discolored veins converge at the face, where they grow into larger aorta-like veins that tube in-and-out of the orifices on the head, with each of the creature’s heads having different orifices where they grow out. The creatures stagger, some unable to remain in one place, but all focused on staring directly at the man, focused on the view of the camera.*
*He shuffles backward through the broken glass elevator looking at the horrors, shrieking in vehement terror and disgust as the camera continues to follow his point of view. The bodies remain in their positions, staring, and after a few seconds of backward scooting through glass, his head jerks upwards in pain as the sound of glass stabbing through his skin is brought up loudly. His sight again jerks into position, down and towards his left arm, as he examines a large piece of glass that has been shoved deeply into his wrist. He rears back and violently bends over, vomiting. He continues his previous whimpering and crying, before looking up to see one of the monstrosities walking towards him.*
*He begins to shriek once more, but is silenced by the creature strong-arm grabbing him by the neck, and picking him up to face level and distance as he chokes out sounds that mix his desire to express fear and to be able to breath and have control of his body back.*
*The creature holds him in position as he and all the other horrors continue to stare, and from off-camera, rears his free hand backwards and shoves it forward into the man’s face. The muscle of the creature’s hand is torn as a small hyperactive bug fits itself through a tear in the palm. The bug’s arthropod face looks at the camera and hisses, then jumps towards it, cutting to black.*
*The black fades, and the camera shows a third-person view of the horde from the darkness above their heads, looking towards the shattered elevator. The horde looks down, as the body of the man is hidden by the horde in the foreground. It zooms in slowly as the man stands up with his eyes closed and mouth open, silent, with the ominous music increasing in intensity.*
*The camera is completely fixed on his head, and the music apexes into chaos as his eyes suddenly bust open, spraying blood into the camera which becomes completely red, and fades again into black.*
*Main character narrates in a nervous and aggressive demeanor as a montage displays context-appropriate imagery*
“My name…fuck me, what does it matter. I work for a secret branch of the American Government that used to be an exciting work environment, until a top secret biological freak designed by the Russian government was released through an act of espionage into the compound. It’s turned everyone into something outta Hellraiser, and the whole place went dark. No one could see, so no one could defend themselves. As if it mattered. As if any of us had a chance. Who knows if there’s anyone still alive besides me? Not everyone’s been affected by the bug, but the ones that manage to get that kind of luck get first-row seats to their bodies being treated like some kind of primal science experiment. I’m one of those lucky bastards, and I got to figure it out the easy way when a bug that one of those zombies tried shoving in some dude’s head scuttled away, right into where I was hiding, and tried to kiss me on the rebound. It seems like when they don’t get their fix soon enough, they just off and die, and either way, the freak shows they came out of fall over, too. Which is great for me, but sucks for anybody without the bug repellent, because those parasites start popping out of the ‘dead’ ones like a spider’s egg, and those ones don’t seem as expendable. I don’t know what those god damned spies or their fucked up superiors are planning, but I don’t care. I just…I just want to see my family again. I don’t want to be part of this crappy horror novel anymore. I don’t want to die, but…the alternative seems a lot worse.”
*Logo and legal information show, fade to black.*
Sure, it’s a stretch, but what horror game isn’t? Not a lot. And that’s just an idea on the fly.
Wow. I…really got off track there.
So…anyways, I digress, still an RPG. Amnesia AND Outlast are both RPGs, despite not having any sci fi star trek stuff, or an orc or elf to talk to.
The big point I’m trying to get to here is RPGs and leveling systems have been grouped together by circumstance, not by nature. It just so happened that back in the day, when gaming was young and telling a ‘story’ wasn’t too easy to do, or get players invested in, developers resorted to familiar elements that the D&D players of the pre-NES and even ATARI days were accustomed to. That’s right, there were RPGs on the friggin’ Atari 2600. How do you manage that? Well, just make it D&D! D&D didn’t have video graphics, it didn’t /need/ video graphics. The little booklets and designs were perfectly fine, there didn’t need to be any movie magic. And so, the RPG as we know it was born. Adventure! Elves! Inventory! Stats! Leveling! Take the first letters of all those words, and what do you get?
You got it, an RPG!
Too bad leveling is an obsolete system that was cool when there wasn’t such a thing as ‘game that was fun and complex at the same time‘ before jumping around on platforms was as complex as fun was.
Leveling is a concept that’s all about numbers, a fake idea of strength. The ability to measure how good you are at flinging poo by your FLNG stat. Erryone jealous of my +56 FLNG Pooper-Scooper-Paladin.
Why is that bad? I mean, in D&D it’s fine, so why is that bad for video games?
Well, in a game like D&D, you know all you’re doing is rolling around an indented cube of marble on a big piece of processed tree covered in paint surrounded by a mess of flattened and thin tree bark covered in more paint, ink, and graphite. All in order to to make a fake character that doesn’t exist have higher numbers associated with him. That’s fine. That’s what board games are about. It’s not about creating an ‘experience’ for the player to have and feel like was more than just what was happening outside of the game.
But that’s not what video gaming is about. In a board game, you’ve got all this crap that’s physical and real, and you’re putting it together, and it’s tangible, and you know what’s going on. That’s why people had the D&D homemade dungeons or D&D clubs at school that got them suspended for Satanism, all this stuff was an actual process in physicality that required you to be with other people and think about strategies and use your mind and hands to change things in real life.
A video game is played by staring at light and moving your fingers around, usually alone. Nothing about that is cool, so you have to make it cool. But because the technology is so much more advanced with video games than with board games, you can take steps far beyond that which a board game can. In fact, it should be expected. If it ever crossed my mind, I’ll bet while I was playing a lot of bad games in my life, I’d’ve thought:
“Geez, I’d rather lose at Monopoly than this.”
But not everyone realizes this. In D&D and other board games, the game’s done when the day’s over or someone wins. And no one wants to keep playing the same game over and over, so even if you wanted to, chances are eventually someone’s going to give and then your whole system’s messed up.
But with a video game, alone in single-player, it’s for as long as you want.
And developers knew this, and they took advantage of it, by taking advantage of you.
Early game developers knew any old nerd in his basement in the 70s and 80s would love to have a D&D that never ended, and that he could do in his natural habitat, alone. And we’re all anti-social nerds for falling for the same tricks people 3 decades ago have fallen for.
They’re giving you Minesweeper with a 3D minefield. They’re giving you Solitaire with a 3D game board.
It’s all D&D with a 3D landscape.
That, to me, pretty much hits the nail on the head.
Remember when I talked about Practicality in combat systems? Well here’s why it’s so important, because developers love to exploit people that are lazy.
As comparison, let’s take Boxing versus, let’s say…Wii Boxing. Let’s say someone is setting up a training for you in both areas.
A good boxing trainer would get you to start watching your diet, get you jacked, get you focused, get you into a technique, teach you the love of the sport, and the pain.
A good virtual boxing trainer would teach you how to hold the controller for maximum comfort and ability, what buttons do what and what kind of situations to use them, as well as a strategy for any situation you might end up in, what AIs have what tendencies to know what to expect when taking them on, and would teach you the love of the sport, and the win.
By the time you were done with the real boxing training, not only would you be a good boxer, you’d be healthier, smarter, have a higher pain tolerance, you’d strong and swift, you know you’d be quite an attractive catch, your life will have all-around improved, as well as your ability to carry out daily do’s.
And the Wii Boxing training? Congratulations, you now know how to hold a Wii-Mote and Nunchuk and be good at Wii Boxing.
Now, I’m not saying that a game’s mechanics should get me jacked, I’m saying that what I’m training outside of the game should matter towards my success inside of the game.
This is the difference between a mechanic being practical and impractical. A good puzzle game has challenging but doable puzzles with a learning curve to acclimate you but never dip below your ability or jarringly high, whilst a bad puzzle game doesn’t teach its player anything and has far too easy/hard/uninteresting puzzles.
However, a good puzzle game that teaches you out-of-the-box thinking that you’ll need when things get more advanced later in the game?
Much better than a good puzzle game that just makes you think without a learning curve.
“But wait, Charles, earlier you were praising Mount & Blade! Mount & Blade is totally level-based, and then you talk about levels being obsolete and pointless?! And then you go on making some kinda crappy synopsis for a zombie book?! DUUURRRRR?????!!!!!”
Now just a minute, I was getting there. I do apologize for being so long-winded, but we’re there now.
Now, just like my good game/better game comparison, the leveling system is such a thing which can difference a good game with certain mechanics as better/worse than another game with similar mechanics. Namely, it makes it worse in any case.
Let’s look at it from a familiar perspective: Farming. What a farmer does is a long and arduous process. First, you have to figure out what land you want what to do what with. Then you have to go through the extremely complex process of preparing it all, which is only more complex and arduous the more that they’re required to do, and the more they have to buy in order to get it taken care of. Then, even after all of that, all they’ve done is laid a foundation. Then, they have to fertilize the land for their crops, make a plan for or go out and buy all the things they need to take care of the animals, as well as anything else that the nature of their efforts might require. THEN, they have to seed the crops, sometimes over extremely long periods of time, all while taking care of everything else, including their personal lives, and having not a single moment of relaxation, lest everything they’re working towards go to waste. And now what do they get to do once they’ve planted the seeds of their labors? Why, CONTINUE TO DO UPKEEP ON IT FOR MONTHS AND MONTHS.
And after only the crops have finished their cycle? Collect all the crops, and sort through the ones that died. Even after all that hard work, they don’t even get all of what they wanted. And their retroactive reward is to have to go through the whole process again later.
So, what’s the difference between that and an MMO? Well, when a farmer’s done with his job and bounces into the next cycle, what he’s done is created something that humankind will need forever. He/She’ll have created human consumables, animal consumables, the ingredients for textiles and fabrics, just to name a few.
Food and Clothing.
Necessary things in our lives. Some even grow trees, an alternative to cutting down forests that are vital for the breathing processes of trees.
Shelter and Oxygen Preservation.
And what is a beekeeper but a farmer? Bees keep everything in the world that requires pollen, which include just about every plant there is, alive and well. A bee shortage threatens our way of life, which we’re amidst right now, so incidentally, save the bees.
Oxygen Preservation again.
Half of the efforts of farmers are basic physiological needs that our entire human race depends on for life.
MMO PLAYERS MAKE FAKE IDENTITIES, ROLEPLAY, AND SPEND DAYS AFTER DAYS DOING SOMETHING POINTLESS AND DUMB TO CREATE NUMBERS NO ONE WILL EVER CARE ABOUT.
Perhaps it addicts us so because we pine for the entitlement farmers have? Perhaps that is the reason farmers are able to do so much work, they are driven by the same sense-of-self-superiority feelings that MMO players are? They know that once they’re done, their pay-off will be a clear marker of their hard work, and it keeps them going day-by-day knowing not only will they be recognized for their hard work, that even if not a single person ever thanks them for it, they will be eternally grateful for the efforts of him, the farmer. At the chance of some cataclysmic near-extinction of the human race, who will survive? If anyone possibly could, the only person you can trust to tell you the real answer is the farmers.
See, humans are ego-driven. And before you cynics and pessimists start greasing up the hatred and depression machines you call a perspective on life, don’t think that means “Every human is selfish.” What it means is that we live for ourselves, and the good things we do for other people are an extension of our efforts to improve our own lives or situations. If it didn’t feel good to help people, then we wouldn’t do it unless we felt obligated to. That’s not being selfish, that’s just being. I once heard a story about a guy that tried to prove mankind could be selfless. He gave up his life, dedicated every second of his life to doing things for other people, gave away all his money, opened up his house as a homeless shelter, and did nothing but wait hand-and-feet on those less fortunate than he. You know what happened to him? He went insane and died.
Point being: we live to feel good. Being entitled feels good, and that’s okay. It’s not bad to set an idea of what you’re due and why, it’s bad to base your life on it, and create an unrealistic idea of so. That’s what happens with leveling systems, they manipulate us into thinking that we’re doing a bunch of hard work that people respect, and it keeps us going when we’re forced to be a part of just the work aspect, because we think we’re doing something that’s not just respectable, but fun. Perhaps were it not for the fact that we thought what we were doing was worth it in the end we wouldn’t be so blind to how tedious it was?
That’s what Skyrim’s leveling is. Tedious. It’s a bunch of wasted time having to build up stats when it never had to be that way, and making it so a character is just over-powered when they’re fully leveled is lazy and unsatisfying. Yeah, I should be over-powered, I’ve been playing the game forever. How about a mechanic that gets me all that time back that I wasted? And no, making it so that I can’t be overpowered by forcing me to choose a build doesn’t fix the problem, because either the game ends up unbalanced towards me or the AI in different ways, or boring, or creates the possibility of one specific build that’s just as good as being overpowered.
Farming? Leveling? It’s a trick made by the developers of old when they were too lazy, or for more in their case, limited to make something better. Nowadays, it exists because people still buy the crack. It comes in many forms, social media games like “FAAAAAAAAARMVILLE” (SERIOUSLY, HOW MUCH MORE OBVIOUS CAN THEY BE?) as well as phone games which are the absolute bane of gaming, though phone developers and gamers alike are just as legitimate and aren’t all prone to ignorance and laziness. But even our most beloved icons in the gaming world use them. Why? Are they fooled, too? Possibly. The nostalgia glasses also apply here. Indies that face the limitations that big-time companies haven’t known since those first leaps into video gaming make them more prone to pump them out, as well.
But all it is is a deceiving game mechanic that makes you think you’re having fun doing labor. You’re working for game developers, and paying them money for it. Click the button over and over.
There’s a beautiful segment in Indie Game: The Movie’s special features where Edmund McMillen talks about a game he made in less than a day or two for a convention or competition of some kind, that’s just a light-switch and a white room.
You click the lightswitch a couple times and out pops an item! Click it 4 more times and you get another item! So your first gamer instinct? Click the CRAP out of that thing!
But the rewards get exponentially (literally) smaller and smaller. It starts requiring that you click the lightswitch more and more times to get more rewards. You’re not getting anything better, you’re not learning anything or becoming a better person for the experience, you’re experiencing addiction. You’re going through a process that you’ll tell everyone about until you actually do what it is you want to do, which is exactly what the game requires of you to keep you hooked.
A deadly cycle. You don’t want to stop playing even though the game’s not fun because the game is designed to make you want to keep playing, but eventually the dissatisfaction makes you contemplate whether or not you’re having fun and should keep playing. All you know is you want to see the end. So you click and you click, click click click, click your fingers into carpal tunnel, when all of a sudden, the meter is full!
Did you win? It doesn’t feel like you won. So you keep clicking, and then, you reach that next exponential number, and look! something changed color! Now you have to click an insane amount of times more to fill THAT meter, and make everything in the room colorful! And hey, this game has unlockables, too! In the menu! 4 things to unlock! Gotta get all the things, decorate them, and unlock all the stuff! That’s all you know to do.
That’s all there is to the leveling system. Sad, isn’t it? Well you know what happens at the end? You know what happens when you reach that ten-thousandth click? Well, Edmund wanted to keep it secret. Just more of the social experiment. Wouldn’t you like to know what happens at the end? Gonna have to play the game to find out.
So, I did. I sat for an hour and clicked that thing to the final click. I knew what was going to happen and I dove right into it.
However, as soon as all those things started popping up onto the screen, I faded from facetious playing to genuinely wanting to keep clicking. I’m not a clean man, I made it to level 40-something on FarmVille, added people I never knew from places I’d never heard of speaking languages I couldn’t understand just to get that extra edge. The addiction exists within me, easy to take advantage of if I’m not vigilant or suspicious.
And what did I feel on that last click you might ask? What was my reward?
Well, I’ll keep it a secret, too. That is, what you get as a reward.
But I’ll tell you right now, I felt the same thing as when I hit level 81 in Skyrim, went to the perks screen, and finished that last perk…
…excitement! I’d finally done it! I pumped my fist in victory. And I thought to myself: All that time I spent starting over and over to get here! All that time…yeah, all that…all that time…
But it’s over now! And now, I have-!
I…I have this character, maxed out. And I can show it to-
…well, no one else would care. In fact, I don’t really care all that much. But now I can destroy everything in my path as an overpowered character of destruction!
WHICH…I…could’ve already done.
And…have been doing, to get here.
In fact, after level 10, I stopped needing to fight anything. Everything was just fodder. Huh.
I don’t really feel like fighting I guess. And I’ve read all the books.
Covered most of the land.
Don’t feel like questing, nah, I’m pretty spent on lore and story-line, don’t feel like fighting anything, either.
Even if I got to go somewhere new or get some kind of magical power or something, it probably wouldn’t be all that fun anyways.
But hey, at least…well, no, I guess I don’t really gain anything for this besides being able to get back to my life.
Didn’t really learn anything.
I’ve got a fantasy story to tell my kids one day, I guess.
But then they’ll know their dad wasted all that time. I don’t want to mislead my kids, but I don’t want them to think their dad is lame.
But…*long pause*…but then why…what was so…
I kid you not, that’s pretty much everything I thought. I cogitated it all in about the span of 8 seconds up until the 15 second pause there at the end. My countenance went from a hint of confusion to a blank expression to the very definition of emotionless. I just ran around in circles, swinging Dragonbane around near the Legendary Dragon I got my last level in archery and the achievement I’d wanted for so long. And that’s all I did. For probably an entire minute after all those thoughts, my mind was empty, and so was I.
I felt so empty. Emptier than I’d ever felt. Because I’d realized what I’d done.
Not only had I done hours upon days of pointless work, skipping meals, walks outside, dance practice, looking at my lines that I’d just recently gotten to memorize and practice them, all these good things I could’ve been doing for myself, things that made me happy, that I needed to do. Not only had I neglected to do all that.
I had created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Everything I ever believed about the leveling system and how easily it deceives, I had proven it to myself. But this was not proving the existence of the Higgs Boson. This was dropping a pencil and proving the Theory of Gravity.
I already knew it would happen. I gained nothing for doing it, and lost much more time than it takes to drop a pencil, time which was wasted taking time off of my life, both in practice, and in preparation.
I’d rendered myself a hypocrite. A big fat hypocrite. An empty, empty hypocrite.
After a minute of swinging that sword around and attempting to feel or think anything but nothing, I shut the game down, and I went to bed.
This is the reason concepts like the leveling system live on, they’re so tedious to complete but so addicting to the idea of finishing, that everyone who plays them will either play it in small margins until they’re done, or they’ll play it a bunch, start over, and never finish it.
But what of them? What of those who never finish the game, or are able to keep from getting sucked into it and play it piece by piece until they finish it?
They sit it down, and they move on, not caring about anything that happened. Then they regard it a cherished memory to go back to, and go spout about how great of a game it is.
The leveling system of Skyrim is a core mechanic of its gameplay. To me, when a leveling system is a pivotal part of any game, that means you don’t get to be the authority on how good the game is until you do everything it wants you to do. Side quests take a long time, too, but side quests are there just to give you something to do. It’s okay not to do them all, especially considering they’re literally infinite. Levels aren’t. They’re important to the Skyrim experience. And the Skyrim experience is a big fat waste of time.
This is why I believe not enough people denounce the leveling system. I never want to play a game with levels in it ever again. I might just never buy another game that features anything relating to experience-based gameplay in any way, shape, or form.
Even if it was “Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Stephen Colbert, Jon Stewart; The Game Grumps, NormalBoots, FarFromSubtle, AVGN, and ThatGuyWithTheGlasses crews; Brentalfloss, Smooth Mcgroove, Markiplier, The Ghostbusters feat. The Ghost of Egon, Shigeru Miyamoto, Daft Punk, The Beatles feat. The Ghosts of John Lennon and George Harrison, And A Big Fat Pot Of Tater-Tot Casserole Travel To Norway And Fight The Evil Space Fox News And Save The World From The Ignorance Of American News Media”.
If that was a game, and I found out it used experience-based statistics as any level of importance as a mechanic, I would not play it, and I would cry.
Mount & Blade’s leveling system? Yeah, it’s shitty. They all are, and when it’s experience-based it’s specifically shit.
But Mount & Blade is fun. I don’t really care about leveling up my character, because no matter what I do, at the end of the day, I’ll still just be fighting a diverse amount of battles with tons of different strategies depending on the circumstance, and I’m not hindered to unreasonable extents due to the system being well-balanced and the gameplay being based on my own skill and ability in doing something fun.
And as I watch my army trail behind me riding horseback just in front of my fellow knights on the fields, I’ll feel like a general valiantly riding into battle.
And when I gather together peasants and train them until I can no longer afford more safety, I’ll storm castles with my best infantry-men first, and let the weaker take out the leftovers that the stronger have broken down, and I’ll feel like a war-strategist.
And, at the end of the battle, if my own struggles have been in vain, all of my men slaughtered, I will slice down every last man that comes toward me, and for every one of my men’s cold heads, I’ll take a warmer one in their name, and I’ll feel like a valiant hero.
Should I succeed, I hire more peasants to join my efforts, and continue my endless march.
But, should I fail, I will rot in prison until the day I find a crack in their security, and escape on horseback with the speed that only someone with nothing but a stolen horse and their own famished body to carry can achieve, outracing anyone who can find me before I’ve escaped to a safe haven within my own faction, or another, and I’ll start anew.
Then, I’ll ride for the tournaments, and earn thousands betting with the confidence earned to my my
Jack-of-all-Trades weapon skills, and I will once again ride to the villages to hire more men to my cause, and I will feel like a king.
An experienced king, who’s seen death to all around him, all that he had, everyone he called friend, and that will be prepared with wisdom and strategy the next time someone dare to oppose my rightful place to the throne.
I will feel: Alive.
But for now, I feel empty. Fancy magic, dragons, pre-existing stories and lore; it can’t suffice. Not with all the boredom, the time-wasting labor, and jarring transitions from emotional investment to pining for the video-editing software to create comedy out of my situation, not drama, not happiness, but the escape from pain that is laughter. To laugh at myself, and to laugh at the sad fiction before my eyes, which constitutes for me, a sad reality.
So, is there really anything left? Is it time to make the list, then divulge what little left can be said about what could’ve been done right?
I don’t think I have the energy right now. Perhaps in the future, I may pour more of my heart into this, but I have been typing on this screen for far too long now. This entire post, made in the span of the daylight of today. When I began, the sun faced the back of my neck. It now sits just above the brim of my hat, obscuring the upper fourth of my vision, in a downward facing position.
If I do, I’ll leave a note here:
But as of now, nothing is changed.
It’s time for the final verdict.
I will split it into my own ten categories, each worth their own 1/10, which cover all basis that I feel should be covered, then average them together to get my final rating.
Visual Design, the look of the game.
Sound Design, the sounds of the game.
World Design, the layout of the total area of the game.
Tutorial, how the player learns what to do.
Mechanics, how the player plays.
Characters, who we meet/get to know about.
Story, what happens/has happened.
Immersion, how complete and constant the satisfaction and experience of playing.
Programming, how everything keeps together. (How many and how severe the crashes/bugs/anomalies).
General Feel, how it feels to play/to finish.
I don’t generally like doing this, because it’s not like all these things don’t work together and therefore affect each others’ ratings. By doing them independently, it creates the possibility of a game with 1/10 Programming being a 9/10 game, a ludicrous statement. But, I think we can all agree it’s the most anti-bias system we’ve got, even if it is imperfect.
So, here we go.
Visual Design: 7/10
I’d give it a much higher score, but I have graphical mods up the butt that just add little things. The right mods make the visual design of Skyrim a no-question 10/10, but what we were given was another ugly game that simulated as much variations of gray, blue, and brown that it could muster. But, it did manage to inspire some unforgettable awe, especially the sky in Sovngarde.
Sound Design: 6/10
I absolutely loved everything about the sounds of Skyrim ever since I heard the theme we all experienced together in that trailer. Except…a few things…for example, why such little music? I hadn’t realized it until I looked at how many songs are actually in the game. However, that’s all I can say for Skyrim’s sound design. Everything has two sounds it makes. Weapons make this clank or this clank when hitting another weapon or shield, and this sound or this sound when hitting anything else. My character gasps in an inhale and exhale like this, or an inhale and exhale like that. My character’s footsteps sound like this or this on grass, this or this on stone, and blah blah blah you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong, hearing Jim Cummings and all the actors’ best Schwarzenegger was cool, but could you have spread out the voices just a bit more? You didn’t have hundreds of people to do voices, sure, and you want to keep the accent, but good lord, why does EVERY RACE SOUND EXACTLY ALIKE. I don’t sound like Danny freakin’ DeVito, and Morgan Freeman doesn’t sound like Kenan freakin’ Thompson. That’s racist. Oh, and why are people talking to me from where I can’t possibly hear them? I’m even out of range of their subtitles! That’s not just bad sound design, but lazy programming.
World Design: 9/10
I said it once, I’ll say it again: What a world to explore. Diverse areas, diverse treasures, diverse hostiles, diverse friendlies, diverse settlements, dynamic climates, diverse skies, diverse ways to travel, diverse ways to arrive, diverse entries, diverse exits; pure and simple, it’s a dynamic world that feels as big as it truly is.
Cool intro sequence. Oh, what are all these dialog boxes I don’t have to read and don’t want to? Gee, I wish I was forced into an interesting situation where I had to figure out how to overcome it and therefore gain experience in playing the game at the same time as learning how to play the game, giving the me excitement of overcoming obstacles. Y’know, instead of RANDOM BOXES OF TEXT THAT ONLY POP UP WHEN I OPEN THIS PART OF THE MENU, AND NEVER SHOW UP AGAIN. But who cares, the game’s so simple you don’t even need to be taught what to do, remember? Clickity-clackety!
Yes, there could be worse. As passionately as I talked about how crappy the mechanics of Skyrim were, I can take off my ego cap to admit, it could be worse. Yes, the game manipulated me into doing something deceiving that wasn’t fun and ultimately lead to me feeling empty inside, yes, I can’t say that me continuing to play is a good thing as I’ve stated clearly multiple times that addiction and what little lore fun I got to squeeze out were my only solace in the boredom. However, combat wasn’t all there was. There were other skills, skills I didn’t cover and just kinda glanced over as accessories to combat. Speech, Lockpicking, and Pickpocket have nothing to do with combat. (Unless you fail or get caught abusing them.) Talking to people was important sometimes. People weren’t always just the vessel to start the next waypoint, sometimes you needed to say the right thing. That is, you needed to watch for the option to persuade/intimidate/give gold, in case you had the skill or gold to get things done quicker, to get to the next waypoint. Lame. Lockpicking and Pickpocket, also lame. Combat system, lame. Leveling system, inherently lame. Questing, just gives you places you have to go instead of the freedom of mind to explore, lame. Oh, I didn’t mention, the amount you could turn the sensitivity up? Super lame. Now I get to feel how slow the game is at the same time as having my max turning speed slower than my max
waking-up-and-getting-out-of-bed-after-sleeping-on-a-rock speed. Lame. Were lore and story not explicitly put in as a mechanic of the game to make the game more interesting, I may very well have given it a 1/10, at least a 1.5/10.
This one was hard to decide. Really, I was bouncing all over the spectrum with this, but ended up deciding to keep it on the positive side of indifference. So many characters were so stupid and annoying, and yet so common throughout the game. Like the kids. I don’t know about you, but when I did that Dark Brotherhood quest where you kill the babysitter, I felt wrong, like I’d done something terrible. Skyrim has the brattiest children alive. why would I ever want to pay $5 to have the opportunity to adopt them? I’ll keep just the house, thanks. And they’re not all, and where some characters lack stupidity or vapidity, they excel in droning on. And on. And on. And on. And for god’s sake, get to the point, I don’t care what you have to say because I know there’ll be a scripted way out of any consequences you throw at me, usually one that I was going to end up going through anyways. But, all the characters that were a part of the main/big quests? So cool and diverse. Made me wish there were books about all of them, and those Daedric lords are masters at being Disney villains you want to know about. So I guess there’s no way but to see it positively. Where I don’t give a shit, everyone sucks, but where I do give a shit, everyone’s awesome. It’s like my real life.
Now, I’m not basing that off the lore. In fact, none of these categories include the lore. You wanna know why? Because if I wanted to read, I’d read a book written by an actual person with an interesting real human life, not a virtual one by a programmer who wrote some name you’ll never see again in it. I’m basing this on the Main Quest, and to a lesser extent, side quests. How good was the story of quests? Well, if you subtract all the boring running around and fighting in-between, which is only fair to do in this context, it’s pretty great, actually. There are some plot-holes in a lot of side quests, and a few in the main quest, but they’re not glaring and don’t really ruin anything for me. The 2 subtracted points come from not finding any quests without plot-holes, and by how truly short and boring they are once you subtract all the filler. “I went to a place, and swung my sword at some things, then listened to a guy say 15 sentences. I said about 4. Then I went to the next place and did a unique thing, then listened to a guy say 15 sentences. I said 4.” Repeat until quest is finished. But still pretty enchanting due to them putting good-great characters where it counted.
Shocking, right? I’m sure you saw this coming, so I won’t go into detail. I’ve said enough. +1 point for potential and ambition.
While I so wish in my heart to such a great extent I could give it a big fat 1/10 for the crap-fest of bugs it has, I will admit, that though the scale of the game being the sole reason that it deceives people into making it seem passably programmed, it is a step in the right direction in terms of what else could’ve gone wrong. The game could be inoperable in any case, not just potentially for many. But I think that cuts just as deep. “Your programming is only a margin above making something that simply does not work at all for any reason.” I say that honestly, and will defend it with my dignity.
General Feel: 3/10
Skyrim is not a totally broken game. And if I’m going to act like I have any credibility as a writer and as a critic, I can’t sit here and just shit on it all the time. There is so much that is there, and so much potential for something wonderful. But it’s not, alright? It’s just not. The ‘General Feel’ of Skyrim can be equated to: “I can’t remember how I felt until it was either really bad or really good, because everything in-between was just me completely ignoring all of my feelings and going through a bunch of hoops and routines completely brain-dead”, which I equate to a 3/10.
Why such a high score if this entire blog was based on shitting on it? Am I trying to seem more humble and reasonable than I am?
No, I agree with that score. Y’know why? Because at the end of the day, even something that’s shit can still be nice.
In Skyrim’s case, underneath that thick layer of feces, there is a diamond that is shaped-and-capable-of-function as a transportation vehicle that runs on sex.
Again, it is now all daylight hours after I began typing this blog, and it has been all I’ve done in all that time. I need to leave this, but I’m so close to ending it, I don’t want to leave it for editing. I can still feel these feelings, and I want to have a hold of them while I’m typing this.
It’s time to clear up the 2nd half of the title of this blog, how Skyrim could’ve been great.
CHARLES’ GUIDE TO FIXING SKYRIM:
You can have your Dragonborn. You can have your Elder Scrolls ties. Personally, this is what I see when I think of how Skyrim could be better.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Charles Edition:
*Music and narration begin soft, and slowly builds in intensity through time*
Fight in intense and realistic battles that make your heart skip a beat at every thrust and tell.
Explore the world and learn about its origins and the magical energies which keep it alive.
Delve into the deepest dungeons, climb the highest mountaintops, explore the densest forests, the muggiest swamps, the endless grasslands, and mystical places of this realm and others, to find treasures to make you rich or mystical weapons and armors.
Don’t like getting your hands too dirty? Have an old weapon, and need a new one? Sell your treasures, compete in tournaments, labor for the townsfolk, or follow the paths of ancient lore or the tales of Jarls, scholars, or even the common folk, to obtain upgrades, special potions, enchantments, new powers, and much more!
Get lost in a world parallel to our own. Talk to the common tavern gentleman, learn of his woes and deliver unto him your most charitable humanitarianism, or perhaps help him celebrate his recent luck as his honored guest to an unexpected visit at the most ritzy areas of the land, or maybe you just might make a friend that lasts a lifetime, a companion into battle, or into bed.
So become the man, the warrior, the mage, the deadly assassin, the civic leader, the drinking buddy, the hope in the corners of despair, the hot product, the dungeon-diver, the keeper of ancient secrets and powers, the explorer that has seen not just the highest, the lowest, the deepest, the darkest, but the man who has seen beyond this very plane of existence.
Create a truly dynamic new life, and go from a low and meaningless statistic of the rabble, to the most skilled, powerful, wise, wealthy, and beloved High King of the land of Skyrim, in this, the Elder Scrolls V!
*Music builds into pay-off*
*Music plays through and fades into silence*
I hear rumors of dragons…
*Orchestral Drum Hits*
*Logo and console/legal information appears*
*Fade to black*
A man can dream.
Hey, thanks for reading this. On top of spending countless hours wasting my time with a game, I also spent countless hours wasting my body away writing this blog post.
There’s tons of share links below to every social media or otherwise out there, so if you could share this around with your friends, it’d make me feel like sustaining myself on snacks and cereal for the past few days in trying to fine-tune this post was worth it.
Thank you! Feel free to comment or reply with your thoughts, feelings, experiences, dreams, favorite kinds of fruit, etc.
While I love George Carlin to death, I’m also not stupid and know that what comedians say isn’t always the truth or totally agreeable just because it’s funny.
One of his trademark comedy bits about how time is a construct of human imagination and doesn’t truly exist is a concept that I’m seeing pop up a lot more often, and I feel it time to denounce this.
Let me tell you why time isn’t a totally BS system:
First of all, it IS practical and useful. Yes, by measuring the amount of revolutions and rotations there are around the sun, we know our own mortality and live by a schedule rather than by complete freedom, but hey, guess what?
That’s totally fine.
It’s healthy to live by day and not by night, because you get more sun which is an important thing for your body and skin. It makes you live longer. Knowing our own mortality is what makes us live so damn long.
“But I work a crappy 9am-5pm job every day all because somebody wanted to know when they didn’t have to worry about their village getting attacked at night!”
-An Ignorant Person
No, you work a crappy 9am-5pm job because you either had no other options, or you listened to all the assholes all your life that told you that you shouldn’t do what you wanted and should go for a much safer route than a route that has anything to do with your own independent wants. The reason you work a crappy job is either failure of environment or failure of self, not time.
“But knowing my mortality means I know when I’m going to die, and that’s scary! Animals don’t know when to tell time, so they can just enjoy their lives forever!”
-A 12 Year-Old That Never Grew Up
Being afraid to die is called primal fear. It’s a thing that all animals have. Because we’re at the top of the food chain and have things like modern medicine, architecture, agriculture, and literally places you can just go and receive food with no hassle, we have much less primal fear. Every other animal in the world has to deal with being under the top of the food chain, and as such, is always in danger of being freakin’ eaten, and worse, most of the time while they’re still alive. Animals don’t get to enjoy life all the time, they have to be afraid all the time. Fear is built off of things you don’t understand or have no control over, and even as stupid as a lot of people credit to the human race, if there’s one thing for sure is that we understand a metric butt-ton more than any animal on the Earth, and as a whole quite literally have control over the existence of everything we know.
No one wants to die, but especially not young people. It’s much more common to be afraid to die the younger you are because older people have lived out their lives, and have had a lot of time to ACCEPT that they’re going to die, which is a very important thing in life. If you’re going to keep up with modern society and enjoy your life, you have to excise your fear of death. I’m not saying you should go jump off a cliff into a 20-foot pool filled with sharks, anthrax, and your taxes, just don’t let the fear of death control your life. THAT’S what people are allowing to control them, either being afraid to die, or not coming to terms with their mortality.
So, they either end up sitting inside in their safe little habitat from human experience anxious and afraid all their life, or they end up working a dead-end job that meets said dead-end before they can realize that they’ve wasted their youth and can’t enjoy life how they thought they wanted to.
Time isn’t a BS system, it’s a system that teaches you to accept death.
Say what you want about systems and statistics, but I know for a fact if there was no such thing as a projected time at which I was probably going to die, and statistics to back up what the longest life is, I would kick back like life went on forever and miss out on it.
When George Carlin did his famous bit about time, he was merely pointing out the hypocrisies of people, and of the system. But there is such a thing as a fallacy fallacy, meaning that just because there is an error in logic doesn’t make an argument or concept wrong. Just because I say “People wanting to be happy is self-interest.” may be a technically right, but that does not mean that all happiness is is people being selfish.
And to close off, time isn’t ‘fake’. The sun’s light takes 8 minutes to get here, so when we see the sun in the sky, it’s actually just an image of where the sun was 8 minutes ago. That means that there IS a natural system of time, because if there wasn’t, everything would happen instantly, but it doesn’t. In fact, there’s a limit to how fast things can happen, it’s called the speed of light.
So time isn’t some fantasy or fake religion, it’s a provable system by which things work, and is an important part of not just daily life, but of science. Putting a label on it doesn’t make it exist more, it just makes us more aware of something that truly and definitely exists.