Skyrim Memories, Part 1: The Most Open Open World

5 years ago this month, I discovered The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and I’ve never stopped playing it since.

Traditionally we celebrate Thanksgiving by going to their beach house in Lincoln City and spend the whole four-day weekend, and that year, Bill and Max had brought their XBox down because they were both addicted to Skyrim, which had been released just a couple of weeks earlier. I watched them play, and I played a little bit myself, and it was impressive as Hell.

At one point Max decided he wanted to fight two dragons at the same time, as a way to up the challenge. So he fast-travelled to somewhere near Darkwater Crossing, hoping to trigger a random dragon on top of the one that lived in the hot springs of Eastmarch.

He got his wish, and the dragon fighting music started up, and the fight began.

And somehow, somehow, another dragon showed up. Two dragons are a challenge. Three dragons was epic. I cheered Max on as he died several times before eventually bringing defeat and stealing the souls of those three dragons.

My Turn to Play Skyrim

When I got home from the trip, I went out and bought a used Playstation 3 and a copy of Skyrim to play on my giant plasma TV, and promptly fell headlong into the game for that entire winter. And then some.

I would play all night and drag myself to work on a complete lack of sleep and try not to regale my co-workers with Skyrim stories. Meeting the talking dog. Going on a cross-province adventure retracing my steps after blacking out from a drinking contest with the demigod of debauchery. Meeting the mind behind the mysterious and reclusive hermits that train you to shout as a weapon. The spooky night I finally explored a Dwemer ruin and saw the pathetic creatures that had been their slaves, the Falmer.

And plenty of dragons. Always an awesome battle to fight dragons. I never had the bad luck Max did; one at a time was always plenty for me. But the game didn’t run so well on Playstation. There were memory leaks and for such a huge, open world, it pushed the hardware much further than it had any right to.

Is that dragonfly… carrying my horse?

I had about 250+ hours on my first character, a Redguard with no backstory (because I didn’t really know that was a thing to do yet), when I got my first, and last, dragon spawn inside a city. Poor Riften. I assumed so many people were going to die that day, decimating that town. What I couldn’t foresee was that it was my hardware that wouldn’t survive. The game slowed to a crawl, becoming a slideshow, and finally the whole thing just shut down completely. My used PS3 would never start up again. Skyrim killed it dead.

So Good I Bought It Twice

But I still had more Skyrim to play. It wasn’t too long after that I purchased a Windows 7 license and installed it on a BootCamp partition on my MacBook Pro, just to see if I could get Skyrim to run. I bought the game a second time, this time from Steam. It ran on medium display settings, even though the fans on my laptop would run up to jet-airliner-taking-off sound levels. I found someone who could break the Sony DRM on my PS3 save files and kept playing my original character, finishing every quest, visiting every named location, and becoming leader of every single guild. He became a dragon-riding all-conquering badass.

Matla is pleased

So I started new characters, to do it all over again. I installed mods to make it run better, fix problems, and add new items, clothing, characters, and locations to the game. And when Skyrim Special Edition came out last month, I started a brand-new character, this time with a backstory and a goal, and I’ve added another 100+ hours to my total play time, which is now approaching 1,200.

I’ve defeated Alduin, the world-eater, several times. I’ve played the DLCs through at least twice each, discovering the island of Solstheim and the beautiful Forgotten Vale, and I’ve built my own home from quarried stone and lumber I’ve chopped myself. All in simulation.

A Short Skyrim Series

There’s always something to do in Skyrim, some place to explore, some story to tease out of the left-behind books or notes or snippets of conversation, or some new thing to craft from found materials. I can spend time just gathering butterfly wings and blue mountain flowers for a potion, or go hunting dragons, or anything in between.

Over the next several posts, just for fun, I’m going to write about some of the funny, sad, and touching moments I’ve had playing this silly game. I can’t believe how much I’ve gotten out of wandering around the snowy frozen norther province of Tamriel, home of Men, Mer, Khajiit, Argonians, and other even stranger beasties.