When Skyrim came out in late 2011, I wanted it but I was forced to wait until school let out. At the time I was finishing my second-to-last semester of college. With projects, papers, and finals to attend to, I knew adding a game on top of that all would do me no good. More troublesome, I was not long away from answering the question of where I’d when school ended for good, whether I’d move to Illinois with my girlfriend or end up back home with my parents. That December was the calm before a storm of decisions and Skyrim was the refuge I chose to take.
In my time with Morrowind, I was young and innocent. I had no real worries or serious responsibilities. School was a joke to me and my parents weren’t very strict – I could spend every day playing video games like Morrowind without consequences.
With Skyrim, my life was completely different; I was less innocent. I had all sorts of responsibilities to take care of: work, college, relationships. My girlfriend and I were doing well enough, but she left at the end of the semester to visit her family in Illinois and I stayed behind before I planned to return home to my own family. She was gone, schoolwork was done, and my job was on hold for the holiday. I was left completely alone.
Perhaps I should have gone home immediately when my semester was over, but I stayed in the apartment for a solid week. During that week, I did nothing play Skyrim, drink rum and Coke, and order take-out. This was effectively my final holiday break as a human being. The days of getting out for the summer or for Christmas only to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted were at an end. Once summer hits, I would be a graduated adult beginning the long, arduous journey of making myself into someone.
For that week, I was only interested in being Mage, Thief, and Warrior. My only concern was getting enough loot to kit myself out with powerful weapons. The only thing I wanted to progress toward was kicking some dragon asses and finding some daedric artifacts.
The friends who were there to trade secrets with about Morrowind had all gone. They were in business or graduate school. Some were on their way to being married, some were on their way to great careers. Some were still at home or nearby. It was hard to keep up: I had fallen out of touch with most of them already.
But I was on my way to assassinate the Emperor. I was drunk and full of bad Chinese food.
I had so many decisions to make. Where will I go? What companion will I choose? What will be my profession? I answered those questions only within Skyrim. Real life could wait while I saved the world – a fictional one but seemingly just as important.
I sunk a hundred hours into Skyrim over the break, most of them coming in that first week. It was absolutely fantastic. More than the game itself, it was everything my brain needed at the time to step away from my troubles, step into the troubles of some other place, and escape. Some of us cry for more objective reviews of games; we want the subject removed from the subject-object relationship in some useless quest for fairness or objectivity. Nothing we experience can ever be broken clean away from the entanglement of our emotions and perceptions. Regardless of Skyrim’s absolute merit as an incredible game, in that moment, it was my safe harbor from a life of fraught with choices far more permanent than those within the game.
It was my refuge and in it, I stared at the lights in the night sky above Skyrim’s frozen wasteland and pondered, wondered, and wished.
This month, I’m doing a retrospective series about my life as a gamer to celebrate my 27th birthday. Each post will be written and published in a loosely chronological order. I am calling this series Murf Versus 27.