Since Ashley’s been away on an internship for the past month or so, you would think my evenings would be about as boring as sitting through an extended cut of You’ve Got Mail. And you’d be right…if I hadn’t bought Skyrim just before she left.
I’ll start off by stating the obvious: Skyrim is awesome. I have easily spent more time playing this game than any game ever, and that’s counting the hours my friends and I logged trying to get pixelatedly lucky in Leisure Suit Larry back in 1988. It’s been a wholly entertaining and engrossing diversion from real life these past few weeks. And I’m grateful, because otherwise I’d just be me having way-too-deep conversations with kittens too spastic to care.
In fact, Skyrim is so awesome that there are a few things from the game that, when I turn it off,(1) I really wish didn’t go away. And it’s not the stuff you’d think: the big-breasted barmaids and hotel clerks, the tactical-nuke-powerful weaponry that can take out a throng of rebels with a single swipe, the ability to use Force lightening shock spells on all who oppose you or just get in your way, or the bottles of ale and wine just lying around all over the place.(2) No, the objects of my desire are far more complicated than that.
Instantaneous Floral Taxonomy
I have lived on this planet for just about 37 years now.(3) I have, in fact, lived most of that time in the same relatively small corner of it. I’ve only been playing Skyrim for about a month, so that makes the ratio of Skyrim-time to Earth-time roughly 1:442. Yet I can identify more plants by sight in Skyrim that I can even on the route I walk twice a day between my apartment and work. It’s sad, yes, and I used to blame myself. Now, though, I blame reality. Let me show you.
See that? Now, if you’re like me you’re looking at the above picture going, “Wow, those are some nice flowers.” But you have no idea which kind of flowers they are. This is where reality is failing us. You’re thinking that because you don’t know what you’re missing. It turns out that reality, unlike Skyrim, is missing a heads-up display.
In Skyrim you’d see something like this:
I have no clue what Jazbay is or if it even exists IRL. But the next time I see it in the game, I’ll recognize it. I’ll think, “Oh, that’s Jazbay. Maybe I’ll just take a bit of that.” That’s far different from plain old reality: “Oh, wow. What a pretty flower. I wish I could identify it, but I never learned. If only I had a heads-up display that would show me these kinds of things. Then I’d know what it is and whether it’s safe to eat.” As it stands though, I recognize more plants by sight in a video game than I do in daily life. That’s not okay.
And speaking of heads-up display…
The Compass of Knowing
Skyrim is a game of many, many quests. Rumor(4) has it that the quests, in fact, never end. In this it’s not dissimilar to work: the pointless completion of tasks that other people seem unwilling or unprepared to do. Except that in Skyrim the tasks are more fun. And there’s a system of organizing the tasks that makes sense instead of the random whims of any of your eight bosses. And then there’s also what I call the Compass of Knowing.
See the grey bar at the top of the above image? That’s the compass. The compass itself is nice because it’s always showing you north, south, east and west. But that’s not a big deal. If you spend enough time looking at the sky you can figure out what direction you’re heading. But what the sky won’t tell you is where you’re supposed to be heading.
That’s what the arrow is for up there on the grey bar. Whichever task you choose to work on, the arrow shows you which way you need to go in order to complete the next step. Think about how useful this would be. It would save so much time at work. I won’t know what’s going on any more than I do now, but I’ll at least know where I’m supposed to go. I can trust that I’ll figure it out when I get there or else someone will fill me in. If I show up at the right place.
The same is true in non-work situations. Can’t find your keys? Select ‘find keys’ from your task list and the arrow will show you where they ended up after the kittens grabbed them while you were sleeping. Lazy husband won’t help you make dinner? Ask him to help make dinner and his arrow will point him right to the kitchen since all new tasks are active by default. Caught in a strange part of town and need to pee? Select ‘pee’ from the list and there you go.
Every day as I walk around I think Man, I wish there was a single solution to all the world’s diseases. Well okay. I’ve never really once thought that. But it would be nice. Skyrim, being awesome, has just the thing.
At first I thought this was the solution. But then I realized that we have this in real life. We just call it NyQuil.
Then I came across this:
Yep, you read that correctly. All diseases cured. Contracted gonorrhea? Find yourself a shrine. Coming down with a cold? Hie thee to a shrine anon! It works for everything! AIDS, herpes, athlete’s foot, poison, Poison, reality TV. All the world’s ailments solved in one convenient place.
Of course, if this did exist in the real world, either warring religions would be fighting over it or it’d be owned by Donald Trump and you’d have to swear that you believe President Obama was not born on U.S. soil. But whatever. I’d become a birther in seconds if it meant I could get this Hootie and the Blowfish song out of my head.
When the Jarl of Whiterun first awarded me a housecarl after doing some task for him, I didn’t know what to think. Not knowing what a housecarl was, I assumed naturally that housecarl was Nord for sex slave.
And a lot of nerds out there wish I were right.
She’s not a sex slave, of course, because this isn’t Grand Theft Skyrim. But I’m still not clear on what a housecarl does. There are cobwebs in my house so she’s not a maid.(5) When I drop stuff on the floor and leave she doesn’t pick up after me. She doesn’t cook my meals nor tailor my robes.
But she does one thing that makes me wish I had a housecarl in real life. Whenever I stop by ye ol’ hizzouse and head upstairs, she’s always sitting at the table in my bedroom eating.(6) And whenever I walk in, or whenever I wake up, she says, “What do you need, my thane?”
That’s it. That’s the one thing. I don’t care if she’s really the shittiest housecarl this side of Winterhold. That she says that to me every single time makes me stop by to see her every time I’m in town. At first I thought I should try to marry her, but then I figured there’s no way a wife would maintain that level of loyal flattery.(7)
Besides, our relationship is perfect as it is. She stays in my house and eats my food that she never cooks any of for me, and when I come home she says, “What do you need, my thane?” I’ve never even answered the question; I just want her to ask. This says all kinds of things about me that I’d prefer not to delve into, which is why I’m sort of grateful this one only exists in the game. But still, if given the chance, I’d have a housecarl. If Ashley were okay with that.
Until I started playing Skyrim I had no idea how much I love slaying dragons. I don’t kill dragons because that’s the point of the game. I don’t kill them for their scales or because I can make armor out of their bones. I don’t even kill them so I can take their souls. I kill dragons because fuck dragons.
Every time I see one I just go bat-shit crazy and drop everything. I’m like a cat at a laser-pointer, except I can catch the red dot and make it wish it’d never been born. I have never run from a dragon fight, no matter how many times I die. Once I come back, I head right back into the breech, Wolverine-berzerker style.
Sometimes in Skyrim you know there’s a dragon at a certain place. And that’s cool. But what I really enjoy is when I’m just walking around and suddenly see a dragon-shaped shadow on the ground. Some music kicks in and the dragon roars and I go all honey badger on it.
That’s what I wish would happen in real life. Imagine showing up late to work and saying, “Oh, sorry I’m late. I had to killing a frigging dragon on my way here.” If you can beat a dragon, your boss isn’t going to say shit.
Or you’re heading out to dinner and you have to stop and save the whole town from instant incineration. You’d be all like, “Yeah give me the steak. Killing a dragon and saving the whole town really makes me hungry.” And if you order it well done and it comes out medium, you’d be like, “Oh no it’s okay. Lemme just go find a dragon to heat this up a bit for me. Be right back.” And when they want you to pay you just go on about how slaying dragons is a thankless job. “No one pays me, you know. I just do it because it’s the right thing to do.” I’ll bet you can stretch one dragon-slaying into like a month of free grub all over town.
Or maybe you let the dragon eat a few of the people you don’t like do much and then kill it. You get a few wankers out of your way and you’re still a hero! Like maybe the town council won’t let you carry weapons within city limits. Just point out that you’ll be unarmed in the event that a dragon shows up and, boom! weapons okay. DEA sniffing around the opium patch you got out back? Bring the dragon fight to your backyard and then bury the charred husks formerly known as agents. Don’t like the boy your daughter’s brought home? Take him for a stroll about the land and prepare a story about how you tried to slay the dragon before it got to him but the giant safety pin in the boyfriend’s cheek got caught on the dragon’s teeth.
Basically there’s no problem that killing a dragon won’t solve. As long as you can actually kill the dragon. I’m not sure that I’d be able to, but with all that’s at stake you can bet I’d try like hell.
- Or doze off with the controller in hand…
- That happens in the game, right? Or am I confusing that with my living room?
- Or rumour if you’re across the pond.
- Or at least not a good one.
- Seriously. She eats like a goat and never gains a pound. I guess I kinda wish that existed in real life too.
- There’s a wife in Whiterun who constantly tells me I can find her husband up the Jarl’s ass. No word on whether she’s speaking literally, though I’m incredibly curious.