Playing it Well: Skyrim

Skyrim was a great game experience. Having recently come off the high of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion I was skeptical of the gameplay at first. Controls were altered, my role in story arc was drastically different, and the graphics were improved so much that I wonder if the developers had decided to shirk the story to make it happen.

I did eventually warm up to Skyrim when I continued playing. There were even clear improvements on enemy generations that added new decision options into my fighting strategy (such as being forced to retreat from enemies that were too powerful to encounter in early game). But what really warmed me up to the game were the exploits and the “not-really-a-bug” bugs. For example, you can pick an NPC’s pockets to look through them and see if there’s anything worth stealing. Even if guards saw you do this they wouldn’t stop you. It wasn’t until you actually robbed an NPC of goods that guards would arrest you.

Pick-Pocket logic in Skyrim

Pick-Pocket logic in Skyrim

But my absolute favorite part of my entire gameplay experience was blasting allies with a Fus Ro Dah off the high cliffs of Hrothgar. Mind you, I saved the game beforehand so I could fully enjoy the pain I was about to inflict on some NPCs. I had the idea that since my allies (the Blades) were invincible to damage I may as well test out whether or not they were Highlanders.

As I aligned my friends along the cliffside I had the giddy pleasure of knowing their impending fate. And when I finally Fus Ro Dah’d them over the cliff I was overcome with joy. The shockwave of my avatar’s voice lifted my allies off their feet and hurdled them over the edge. I watched as they flailed out into a star shape as they began to fall, and I leapt after them. We were all plummeting, myself and my would-be allies. And the whole way down the Blades looked as if they were making snow angles in the air, all the way until they impacted the ground and their bodies sledded rapidly away; I of course followed with a quick splat.

It was even better than I could have imagined. The fall could have been made realistic with my allies screaming as they fell to their death, but that would have just been grim. I replayed that same scene dozens of time; different angles, different allies, and I found it absolutely hilarious every time. I believe this is what Katie Salen and Eric Zimmerman would call a second order design feature, and I tip my hat to Bethesda for that great moment.

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