The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is probably one of the most re-released games. After all, you can play it on PC, Switch, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, and it is now released on next-gen consoles. Most hear the name at this point and either chuckle or groan. Everybody’s about ready to move on. So why can’t I?
I’ve purchased Skyrim with every re-release and, at this point, every console except for the Xbox One. Although with Game Pass, I have technically purchased every version of the game I care about. I fully intend to buy the Anniversary Edition and will probably put another hundred hours into it easily. So again, why can’t I just let it go?
I think to answer that question. We need to go back in time. To the lawless land of 2011, where most of the people I knew wore hoodies in hundred-degree weather, and it wasn’t cool to listen to My Chemical Romance, but I still did it anyway.
I had just graduated from high school and was unsure what I should do with my life. College wasn’t on my mind at that point, and the last year of high school was the most draining experience I’ve encountered so far.
I quickly became a sponge on society, living with my mother, who had worked various jobs to keep us afloat. Funnily enough, I was content just doing nothing and playing video games. I was ready to give up, and school just wasn’t something I could afford without putting myself into debt. A fact that remained true even after I started attending college.
I had played earlier entries in the Elder Scrolls series with most of my time in Oblivion. I was ready for the next experience that would be Skyrim. I remember talking with my mom and having her pay for it as an early birthday present. Yes, a soon-to-be nineteen-year-old still begging his mom for a game because he couldn’t get it himself.
I visibly remember sitting down in front of my PS3 and getting ready to sit through a wagon ride I would continue to sit through for years to come. The anticipation was killing me. What kind of character would I play? Would I save Skyrim or eradicate it? Who would I even marry?
My first character was essentially a Male Dark Elf Rogue who liked to sneak by enemies but get close and personal when the need arose. I spent nearly every day with him as we explored Skyrim, killing bandits and others along the way. I didn’t stop until the day came where my save file was just too bloated for my poor PS3, and my game just stopped loading.
Weirdly, it felt like I had lost a friend. But, of course, there were other factors to my obsession with Skyrim at the time. I had lost several friends in the years prior. So my way of coping was to get lost in this fantasy world.
However, to an admittedly over-emotional teenager, I had felt that I was being abandoned at every stage in my life. My peers were leaving me for better things. Whether that be marriage or college, it didn’t matter. I no longer fit into anyone else’s life.
During this stage of my life, you could argue that I was alive in name only. A shell of a person who was only motivated by fleeting pleasures, my addiction just happened to be video games.
So why was Skyrim such an integral part of my life at this point? The main reason was that I was essential to every NPC in some way. They would never abandon me; in turn, I was their protector, ready to face down every dragon that dared to harm my people.
It wasn’t long until I was my character. My every waking moment was about going back to get a few more hours into my save. I was like a zombie, and my mood would visibly darken whenever I wasn’t playing the game. I needed to go back Lydia, my housecarl, and the rest of Skyrim needed me by extension.
The game became a surrogate for everything I perceived as a failure on my end. I couldn’t save my friend, so I compensated by trying to save everyone in Skyrim. I was unimportant to most, so I became important to an entire world.
It was exhilarating at the time and looking back on it. It was my ultimate power fantasy. I finally belonged somewhere, a feeling I admit that I don’t get from most aspects of my life. It’s an addicting feeling and one that I still get back into when I boot up Skyrim. Nothing ever matches that first time, my first high, I suppose you could call it.
As I stated above, eventually, the denizens of Skyrim had to leave me too. My save file had bloated to the point of crashing upon loading. Looking back on it, it was a weird calming moment, though. I stopped playing Skyrim for a year or so. I wasn’t ready to go back, and honestly, I needed time to process what had happened to me as I played.
I was so self-destructive as I played that I often got into trouble for not eating or forgetting to do simple tasks. I was absorbed in the game to the point that the real world just didn’t matter. Even though it was unhealthy at the time, some good did come out of it.
Not long after my stint with the game, I went into college, deciding that I needed to do something with my life. Skyrim had changed my perspective, and I made it a goal to try and learn to become a game developer.
I wanted to craft an experience like the one I had with Skyrim. A dream to this day that hasn’t died, and I am working towards nearly every day. Looking back on it, that is the only reason I can write about my experience with the game and be a professional software engineer at the same time. I even applied to Bethesda a few times to become a part of the experience I loved so much.
Skyrim had become a place of unhealthy obsession, but when I came out of it. I look back and can only remember the good times and how much I loved the world I was immersed in. It had changed my life for the better in a way that I didn’t think possible.
Even now, when I started delving back into old habits and have reached another low point in life, Skyrim is ready to give me a new experience. Perhaps this is a regression, but I am looking forward to delving back into Skyrim and will probably do so long as the game exists.
It’s become a part of me, and I will forever be grateful for the joy and hardships the game had brought me. So here is to another release of Skyrim, even if it has become a joke to most. I will never see it as one.
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