Scale of Skyrim
Videogames, as they mature and grow as an entertainment medium, and some would say an artform, are expanding exponentially in scope, to the point where seeing a statistic along the lines of say, "72% percent of households in America play videogames", actually does not inform you in any significant way, because of the myriad subcategories inherent. Cell phone games, smartphone games, educational games, console games, camera games, etc can all fall under the umbrella of videogames. And then there are the porous borders of the term: does Windows solitaire count? What about online poker? Scene-It? They're certainly games, displayed on video screens, and they react to player input. By all the denotative limits of the term, yes, they do count. But many a person would argue against their inclusion. The term "videogame" holds no inherent meaning nowadays to the general culture, other than as a broad umbrella. And so we see fracturing and categorization- the list I gave before. All videogames, all different enough to deserve a named category, without descending into enthusiast jargon. All these videogames, with their common heritage and characteristics, and herded apart and divided, mostly according to one thing: scale.
To our particular subculture-- which for shorthand's sake I'll call hardcore gamers (although I am certainly not ignorant of the connotation and conflict that surrounds the terminology, in this case simply consider it an easy way to separate the community that concerns itself primarily with console games and things like Game Of The Year awards from the unwashed smartphone and Wii Sports masses)-- the highest-level attribute of a videogame is its scale. Before platform, before developer, before influences, before even genre, the defining characteristic is scale. Scale, scope and ambition hold sway over the imaginations of our community. The much lauded "depth" of a game is a natural subset of this scale. A man more secure in his audience's attention might meander about whether that obsession is culturally-induced and what it reflects about our community, but for today, we'll simply content ourselves with the fact that it does, indeed, exist.
Minecraft Legos. Now your virtual building blocks can be more constrained physical building blocks!
What's a "real game"? Skyrim's a real game; that's a statement you wouldn't find much challenge on. Kinectimals? Maybe there's a bit more discussion there. There's less to do, it's more of a virtual pet. It's a simulator. Is such a thing worth our time? There's no scale to the endeavor. Rayman Origins? By all accounts one of the most excellent, tight, creative and polished games to come out of a major studio in a while? Dropped to $19.99 already. Not near enough scale and perceived value in that project to survive in a retail market against a juggernaut like Skyrim. Forget about even trying to bring a portable game or a smartphone game into that discussion. Even to professionals, scale and scope are kings. It couldn't possibly match up. Minecraft? That's an interesting one: the potential for amazing scale is there, but the onus is on the player, not the developer. Thus it attracts a different audience, creators instead of consumers, and to consumers it has perhaps the least scope out of all of these. Minecraft is a blank page, not a completed manuscript. Minecraft is a LEGO set, not a cathedral (I think it's absolutely hilarious that they're making physical Minecraft LEGO, when Minecraft was pretty much a virtual LEGO set).
So scale matters. It matters most, on a meta-level, to the categorization of games, and what we see is that the largest games, those with the most scope and scale and ambition become the games. They become the games that matter, they become the top ten games to look forward to in 2012, they become the future of gaming. They become, ultimately, the game of the year.
We Come To Skyrim
We come to Skyrim to drown ourselves in fantasy. We come to Skyrim to get lost. We come to Skyrim for the scale.
And here's what's so clever about Skyrim: it uses that scale to distract you from the fact that it actually spends a good 80% of it's time being a pretty mediocre first-person combat game. The role-playing elements are simply trappings: they hang around, colouring and contextualizing the combat in a clever display of sleight-of-hand. And the combat's simply not that good. Better than we've seen in Elder Scrolls previously, no doubt, but the combat in Skyrim is not by any stretch of the imagination, the strong suit of the game. Yet that is where the meat of the game lies, elements of story and world stringing you along from combat to combat. Combat is your only method of SIGNIFICANT interaction with the world of Skyrim. And herein is the issue.
The categorization of Skyrim as a role-playing game is almost disingenuous. I can't say it's a lie, but there's an element of tilt to the statement: it's an action game with extremely complicated and interactive interludes between levels. Which, ultimately, appears to be the direction the modern RPG is moving in, so perhaps I'm spilling words into an issue everyone already knows about. But for a game to get this level of acclaim solely for scale is ridiculous. What you spend your time doing in Skyrim is fighting. Fighting clunky controls and heavily scaling enemies. Sure, you have the option of fighting with magic or swords or archery, but none of those systems are as good as they would be if the scale of the game was less. Ultimately, I don't understand why we should praise Bethesda for managing to cram a bunch of mediocre gameplay systems into one game. Sure, it's an undertaking of impressive scale, but the scale doesn't excuse the mediocrity of the actual gameplay. If what you're doing for a good 80% of the game is simply average (if anyone here will argue that Skyrim's combat is great, I will fight you), does scale really excuse it?
According to Metacritic it does. And I don't know; it seems ridiculous to me. Am I crazy? Or are Bethesda just some of the greatest sleight-of-hand artists our industry has ever seen?
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Re: Scale of Skyrim
But for a game to get this level of acclaim solely for scale is ridiculous. What you spend your time doing in Skyrim is fighting. Fighting clunky controls and heavily scaling enemies. Sure, you have the option of fighting with magic or swords or archery, but none of those systems are as good as they would be if the scale of the game was less. Ultimately, I don't understand why we should praise Bethesda for managing to cram a bunch of mediocre gameplay systems into one game.
I have to say I agree with this the fighting is quite lame with
and using magic is better than previous Elder Scrolls games but I've kind of lost interest in playing because of the controls and menu system.clunky controls and heavily scaling enemies
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Re: Scale of Skyrim
Unless you are a very specific kind of roleplayer that enjoys meta-game aspects and make belief; you be left wondering what all the deal about this game was about, and get bored early on at around level 20-25 or even earlier if you manage to see all the "good spots". A lot of people bring up the argument of "being able to do whatever you want". Unless you are a roleplayer/LARPer you will never see this and be disappointed.
Skyrim really does fail as a game in most traditional RPG and action oriented gameplay aspects. I think GoTY has totally lost any value, kinda like academy awards for movies. There were definitely a lot of really good games with good gameplay in 2011.
Now that the creation kit has been released I imagine there will be a ton of mods that will salvage the gameplay and RPG aspects, hard to say really.
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Re: Scale of Skyrim
Last edited by Naalu Naiglemez on January 20th, 2013, 10:13 am, edited 17 times in total.
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Re: Scale of Skyrim
I got the game the day it was released, and im still only level 42... I have put the game on countless times since i got it and cant seem to do more than a quest or two before i get bored.
Somehow this doesnt affect how i feel about the game, even though i know it could be better, i know i could like it even more than i do. I think im suspicious that what has happened is Bethesda have made a game and taken the 2 or 3 BIG planned DLC's out of it and released Skyrim, which to all intents and purposes is a really good game but with 'something missing'.
I hope that when the DLC's are in it will feel more complete.
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