Hello there! My name is Alex and I blog over at Haifisch. I have followed Mariko for a long time now and offered to write a little something for her–she mentioned a memorable game moment and one immediately popped into my head. And then another (and then ten more) but the first two memories were both in Skyrim, and I really want to share those with you today. But before I get to that, I wanted to talk for a moment about one of the things that makes gaming special to me (and I think, to a lot of us) …how they make us feel.
Video game characters tend to suffer from the same affliction as superheroes–most of them are either orphans, or the games have little mention of their home life. Link was raised in the Kokiri forest… the Dragonborn was a prisoner awaiting execution… Sephiroth was made from a bunch of terrible experiments and ended up with some legit mommy issues… the list goes on. And even in games where there is no insinuation of being abandoned or neglected, the character’s families are usually not an important aspect of the plot the majority of the time.
I think that the lack of family, especially in more modern games, is mostly made for role-playing purposes. The player can decide those details and it makes the experience a little more personal. Also, characters with perfect home lives would probably be pretty boring compared to their adventurous, lone-wolf counterparts, right? Then the game would consist of washing dishes and that’s what the Sims series is for. The breathtakingly gorgeous and epic world of dragons in Skyrim is for the bold and the brave!
Anyway, Skyrim is no exception to this rule; no background is chosen and your character can be as family-oriented as they wish. Games like this are really soothing for me because as a foster kid and someone from an abusive home, the sense of “escaping” my background is very real. It makes me feel like I don’t need a family support system to change the world. In most games, you do a hell of a lot of world-changing! You make your own connections and have your own power. We all escape into games for our own reasons, but the ability to feel unhindered by a lack of family is a huge reason for me. It’s like the real-life crutches and pain are off.
So, with all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that I also take what other characters say to my video game character into consideration; they’re my artificial-self’s support network. A lot of characters offer advice or have bits of wisdom or their own opinions, and some of them are really fantastic. And so we arrive at the set up for my first memorable experience. I was geared up to go investigate the Mage college, one of the first “bigger” quest lines in the game. I distinctly remember getting the information about what I would be facing, and looking up at this huge, foreboding building like “uhhh, okay, we’ll see.”
While trying to get my bearings, one of the aforementioned wise sage characters (who was, in addition, a spirit) went off on his tangent, you know the “it’s dangerous out there, take this” speech. I was listening to his tips about how to fight whatever monster(s) awaited me…. but then, right before he vanished, he said this, and it struck me as so elegantly beautiful:
So simple, but so gorgeous, right? I was touched. I think that was the moment when I really noticed just how small a support network I had in real life. Part of that was my own fault because I’m a hermit who shuns human contact, but the other part came from the years of abuse, not trusting adults, and not developing good relationships.
If any of you have been abused you have probably experienced the feeling that comes with a very simple compliment. It’s almost an overwhelming gratitude and a kind of shock that someone believes in you. It’s a game changer. Here now comes me plugging a reminder–if someone is doing something good or worthy, throw them a compliment. A sincere appreciative comment can really make a difference, to everyone. We’re all human! So, thanks random ghost dude, for that virtual support.
My second moment, the original “memorable event” that popped into my head when Mariko asked me to post, is pretty similar in origin and style. It was something that a Skyrim character said to my character in passing, but it affected me way more.
I was jogging through Whiterun, probably doing something stupid like looking for flawless sapphires for Madesi (haha, oh Skyrim, I love you) but I passed one of the townspeople you have the option of helping with a mini-quest. I’d passed this old lady like a million times, but today was the day she decided to break my heart. When I ran past her, she said in a super kind old lady voice….
No shame in admitting that I immediately burst into tears. Usually when I tell people about my past I get stares of horror or the usual “how could they/that’s awful/good for you for escaping” you know, I appreciate every kind word, but this lady hit me right where it hurt.
My parents are not, and never have been proud of me. But the way this was worded was a compliment anyway. I just can’t put into words how hearing something like that made me feel, even if it was a game. Years later just reading it makes me misty-eyed. I hold that comment very dear, I’ll have you guys know. They have a lot of reason to be.
I guess my point here is that yes, atmosphere and action and story are very important elements to memorable game moments. But I didn’t talk about the time I took on six super mutants, the Gunners, and a flaming Vertibird in Fallout 4, or when Luis Sera and I were holed up in that village house fighting hoards of not-zombies in Resident Evil 4–those are exciting and wonderful “good old times” I’ll always think highly of, but just like in real life, it’s the small, possibly offhand things people say to you that mean the most and have the most impact. And that is one of my favorite things about gaming.
Thanks for reading, and find me over there if you want to hear more long-winded rants about emotion!