Playing with my Depression: Skyrim

I ain’t been writing much the past two weeks. The words escape me. All that comes so easy to me seems lost the the void that seems to be occupying half of my head. I don’t mind my moods, I just dislike what they do to me.

I’ve been playing a lot of Skyrim. Something I’ve never really done before. I’ve managed to rack up almost forty hours since I just stopped. I brought it a few years ago I think, in some sale, and tried to sink into it then. There’s that complaint that you hear about it on every website’s comment section: as wide as an ocean, as deep as a puddle. Play The Witcher or Fallout: New Vegas, it’ll engage.

Maybe if I wanna look into it there’s a connection between Tamriel’s frozen north and my emotional state.  It can feel like my mind holds the monopoly on sadness, Whitechapel through Mayfair, too poetry. I don’t think films become memes, at least in the modern sense, nor do books, tv can I guess but your engagement of that can be modulated depending on how you choose to engage with the discourse. Video game communities are like the most monstrous self indulgent book club. Course they’re going to be memeier.

The game came out on 11/11/11 and I remember someone at school who I thought wouldn’t be so interested be enthused that ‘you can play as a f**king orc!’ but I guess we were all really nerds back then. I think it was when Halo Reach came out that games seemed to invade into the school’s concoiusness in the same way. Came out at the end of the summer holidays, people chatting at skiving on lauch day, not sure if it actually happened but that’s where the talk was. I never had an Xbox of my own.

I’m too far on now to remember if Skyrim ever inspired anything great. I know by the time I approached it the critical consensus had shifted. you could tell by how people were now talking about Oblivion and how the cooler people were talking about Morrowind. Between those and the Arena and Daggerfall you gotta wonder if The Elder Scrolls is one of the most successful series that nobody really ever liked. The shapes it takes are too weird, but when it tries to crystallise into something normal people don’t like that neither.

People hate Oblivion’s dungeons, they’re poorly designed, repetitive. People hate Skyrim’s dungeons, poorly designed, repetitive, but you know, in a totally different way. Morrwind’s combat is archaic and nonsensical, Oblivion’s lifeless and boring, Skyrim’s simple and boorish. We are impossible to satisfy.

Skyrim is almost the perfect meme game in a way. It finds itself trapped within these repeating cycles. When arrow to the knee became a thing, sure it was just a thing that a whole lot of people said unbidden all the time to you, but it was emblematic of the game’s deeper identity. The game’s focus on easity replicable experiences. The experience of a barrow or a mine or a fort or a cave or, yes, dungeons. These nice structured narratives, revealing themselves over, say, 20-40 minutes.

People got dissolusioned of this. I know my problem when I approach is always the space. Y’all walk so much, such a big world and all the interesting stuff underground, you just looking for the holes in that cheese, cos there don’t be too much on the surface. I get a quest that tells me to go halfway across the map, sigh, I trudge my way there.

In my current state I feel useless, I walked out of a film screening and realised I could not articulate my thoughts, I just didn’t know what my reaction was. Sometimes I’ll stop and just stare into space for a short while and I’m not sure why, happenings are taking place in my head that I ain’t privvy to. Feel a passenger to the strange forms my body takes.

I’m playing the game on the easiest difficulty. I keep the wiki open on my phone. There is no space for the game to surprise or intrigue me. I am privvy to all its secrets, in general if not the specifics. It’s the right way to play: a game offers hundreds of hours of that sweet sweet content, easy to feel minimised in its design, overwhelmed by the possibilities. I so often just want to sample the best shit, hop around, skim the cream, until all the unvisited locations are reality’s footnotes to the magical world explored.

By ruining the game for myself I reduce the whole world to the banality of the overall experience. That anxiety disappears. A roadside cave is allowed to be as meaningful as the most elaborate quest. It may seem counterintuitive. I am deliberately choosing to play in a manner that strips the game of its best aspects, its awe and wonder, reducing everything to the same predictable banality.

Dear God is it comforting. It unsurprising that in an overwhelming and and opressive world you take on the tasks that let you fit. It’s why I write so much, instead of practising other art, and when the world gets too much even for that the bar to entry gets lower and lower. Previously it has been marathoning shitty anime while in bed or going back through enitre webcomics decade long runs. Anything that would allow me to masquerade a fear of the world as self care. This time I fell into Skyrim. It by no means the worst.

I’m doing a bit better now though, gon be writing more.

Thanks for holding on through the hiatus.

One response to “Playing with my Depression: Skyrim”

  1. […] explore. Its a frictionless experience, but one that does not stand up to thorough interrogation. Read my whole old article for more detail on that, and why such a design ain’t necessarily a bad […]


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