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Actual Replay Value in Skyrim

Skyrim

I’ve owned quite a few games of which I believed the replay value to be enormous. For example, I thought that Fable III would hold a great replay value. That never happened. I finished the game and never touched it again.

For both Fallout 2 and Fallout New Vegas, I was certain that I’d play the whole thing again and make different decisions. That, as well, never happened.

The Mass Effect series has, up until last week, been the only game series that I actually did start over once I finished it the first time around. I didn’t get far, though. Playing a different class didn’t add much novelty the second time around and playing the full out renegade path wasn’t fun at all. I just didn’t feel comfortable playing something against my nature.

Enter Skyrim. Queue epic chorus.

This weekend I started my second play-through of the game. Right from the start things were different. On my first character, after escaping execution and almost being roasted by a dragon, I decided to split paths with my imperial benefactor. I just ran off into a different direction and never saw him again. Not even later when I eventually did make it to Riverwood. This decision resulted in me not getting into early contact with the Imperial Legion. I ended up joining the Stormcloaks and helped Ulfric wage his wars.

This time around, I followed Hadvar down the mountain path and we both arrived in Riverwood together. Events unfolded entirely different from last time. Once he meets his uncle, the blacksmith, they invite me into the house and I immediately learn something about the Imperial Legion. Something that made me immediately sympathetic to their cause. When I played Skyrim the first time around, the initial choices I made, must have caused the game to automatically tailor certain NPC appearances to my progress in the story. I never really got to know much about the Imperial Legion. My impression of the story was very biased towards the Stormcloak’s side of the war.

Now things are off to a different start. This will open up a huge storyline of the game that I haven’t seen anything of until now. That’s huge. On my last playthrough I chose to be a battlemage. This time around I am going for a Sneak/Archery build. In only 2 hours of play I started to notice the difference. My approach to the game is entirely different and I am seeing and noticing things I haven’t seen before.

Before Skyrim there were only two game series that I ever played through twice - The LucasFilm/Arts adventures from the early 90’s and Sierra’s “Quest” games. Now, over 20 years later, Skyrim will join them in my personal hall of re-playable fame.

I Can Handle Myself In Video Games

I fondly remember the days of my early youth when, on our way home from school, my friend and I would get excited over a new video game. Instead of thinking about a bad grade or a huge pile of homework, we talked about the game like there was nothing else in the world to worry about.

We’d skip lunch, to the growing dismay of our parents, and immediately retreat to his or my room, turn on the console or PC and play for hours. The rules of playing video games together were pretty clear and simple:

1. Let me have fun.
2. I let you have fun.

No further rules were needed. This worked as well as it did for a number of reasons.

We didn’t have a large budget to supply ourselves with more and more games. Each game had to be squeezed for everything it had to offer.

In the early to mid-90’s, playing video games together happened locally, in the same room with the other person. Either by playing split screen or by taking turns. This made gaming a highly social event. You had to mind the needs of the other person. Otherwise you’d risk souring the mood.

The combination of the above made us into very cooperative, sharing and supportive gaming partners.

Fast forward to 2012. Online multiplayer is now ubiquitous. People spend more time alone in front of their screens, connected to other players only by voice and on-screen chat. With nobody else in the room to worry about, players have become more egocentric and impatient.

Today, when I have a friend over and we pop in a new game, the old childhood rules have changed slightly:

1. Let me show you how to have fun.
2. No wait, let me show you how to have fun.

"Do this, do that, ignore this objective, focus on that, play the game the way I tell you to because I have to impose my personal opinion of a good time on you."

I have been playing video games since the mid 80’s at the age of 6. I know how to handle myself in a video game.

I find that the people who are absolutely the worst with this kind of behavior are some Battlefield 3 players I know. That game is all about giving and receiving instructions. I have found that players who have spent several hundred hours with the game, can’t help but dictate everyone’s behavior in gaming.

They won’t allow you a single second of autonomous interaction within BF3, constantly rushing you through their privately and quietly devised strategy for winning. They also project this behavior to any other game you play with them. At the end of a gaming session I feel like I just played someone else’s game. It certainly wasn’t me making the decisions for my own character.

For this reason I can’t stand hearing friends discussing Battlefield 3, anymore. They don’t share their knowledge in order to increase my fun with the game. They share knowledge with the purpose of making me play THEIR game.

Butthurt Gamers and Review Scores

Boo hoo.

About butthurt gamers that throw a fit if their game of choice doesn’t get a perfect 10/10 in reviews: When people are invested in a game, they often feel a need to justify and defend their decision to buy that game. Anything other than a 10/10 would cast a slight shadow of doubt on their choice to buy the game.

Even if they didn’t purchase the game yet, other factors may replace the monetary investment. It could be accumulated skill they have acquired over time in a series of previous games. It could simply be brand loyalty and a related emotional investment.

It makes them incapable of unbiased appreciation of the game. A 7/10 rating on a game is like a personal attack because it questions the investment they have in the game. Even if the scoring system clearly explains that 7/10 is a good score, it is still 3 points short of perfect. When money is on the line, “less than perfect” is not a good investment.

I keep seeing gaming sites constantly explain to distraught fans why a specific game got a 7/10 instead of a 10/10++++++++ with cherries on top. Nobody really cares about the reviewer’s methodology, reasoning and professional appraisal of a game. All they want is for someone to tell them “Yes, you spent those 60$ the best way possible.”