Skyrim, You Bore Me

Games GeekMom
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda Game Studios

I am not a good console gamer. Sure, I play board games and card games and I have a wonderful time, but, put a controller in my hands and it’s all over. I’ve tried, really, because there’s nothing worse than being a geek who’s an inept gamer. I hear about the latest and greatest game that sounds amazing and is set in a universe I love, but when it comes out I know there’s no chance I’ll be able to enjoy it because I’ll be too busy getting fragged. That’s why I’m a Backseat Gamer.

You can only be a Backseat Gamer if someone in your home actually knows the difference between an assault rifle and a sniper rifle and is able to simultaneously fire said weapon, call for reinforcements and run backwards to the only cover within fifty clicks. In my home, this is my husband but I am certain it will soon be my kids, too. Lest you think I’m just gushing over what a good gamer he is, let me clarify that I am insanely jealous and frustrated that he’s better at it than me.

I’ve tried to play with him, but it’s the same sad story every time.  Once that split screen pops up, he runs off to kill insert-bad-guy-here and I stand there trying to switch views to something other than my feet because I’ve hit the wrong button and I don’t know how to undo what I’ve done. It’s at about that time that I get fragged by something I can’t see, and now my view is many feet, alien and otherwise, running past my helmet.

Despite my bitterness about my lack of skills, I have come to terms with this by becoming a Backseat Gamer. Instead of holding a controller in my hands, I enjoy watching the action and giving my two cents about what we should do next. The best games have involved stories rife with moral dilemmas, and depending on how your character behaves he can be a good guy or a bad guy.  If, for example, you shoot everything that moves including the nun cowering in the corner, your endgame is going to  be very different than if you’d thrown yourself in front of her like a human shield.

Mass Effect 3 by BioWare

We have a lot of fun debating what to do next, and both sit rapt through the cut scenes as the story develops and we see the consequences of our actions. I’ve been a Backseat Gamer through Mass Effect, Red Dead Redemption and Assassin’s Creed and am counting the days until the Mass Effect 3 release next year when Commander Shepard returns. That’s still a ways off, though, so for the last few months I have been looking forward to Skyrim, a tale of dragons and sorcery and all things fantasy.

Skyrim not only looked beautiful but it held the promise of dragons so how could it not be fantastic? I’ll tell you how. This has to be the slowest moving game I’ve ever witnessed. I know, I know, you’re all screaming at me because this is the “it” game of the moment, but it’s boring. It’s so boring, I’ve given up on the whole thing. I did come running into the living room to see him slay a dragon, but that lasted about twenty seconds and then it was back to walking around and, um, walking around. There’s a lot of walking in Skyrim.

There’s also a lot of shopping. I better never hear anyone laugh about how much time women spend tricking out their avatars when guys are waxing poetic about the cool fur boots and feathered helm that they just purchased for their lizardman. Really, they ought to be investing in a good pair of sneakers because in this game, as I mentioned, there is a lot of walking around doing absolutely nothing. Except walking. Yawn.

My husband thinks this game is the best thing since sliced bread, but I just don’t get it. Last night, he used his powers of necromancy to create an Undead Zombie Wolf.  It didn’t look like a zombie but glowed kinda blue like something out of Tron. It’s not exciting and it’s definitely not for me. So, I’m resigned to just checking in when he’s about to slay a dragon and then he’s on his own to wander through yet another field, the feathers on his helmet blowing ever so softly in the warm breeze. He can wake me when Commander Shepard returns.

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11 thoughts on “Skyrim, You Bore Me

  1. You know, the best way to get past Bad Console Gamer Syndrome is to pick a game you’re interested in, and a time of day when no one is home (either because of work/school, or because you sent them out to see a movie/get ice cream/wash the car, etc.) and just… sit down and noodle around with the game. Seriously. Read the manuals, or go through a tutorial on YouTube first, but just sit down and play the game. Don’t worry about how well you’re doing, or whether you’re “doing it right.” Just play the game and damn the torpedoes. With no pressure, and no one watching you, it’s a lot easier to figure things out. Keep doing this, and you’ll start getting better.

    After all, the very first time you used a computer, you didn’t know what you were doing automatically. You played around, and you figured it out, right? Same principle with gaming. Just… noodle around by yourself. Figure it out.

    So far, it’s working for me when playing games with my kids!

    1. What Jo J. said.

      I picked up Dragon Age Origins when it came out with the intention of backseat gaming with my husband but I encountered a small problem-he didn’t like it. My son told me to set the gameplay on easy, consult the DA wiki, ask questions in the bioware forums, and just go play it. My first playthrough was a rough ride, and my character limped to the finish line, but I had so much fun just learning how to play the game. I ran through it several more times, upping the difficulty each time as my playing improved, and was eventually able to play in nightmare mode without getting stomped on too often. It helps that it’s a user-friendly game, too.

      I’ve been playing Skyrim, and I like it pretty well. The walking can be a bit boring at first, until enough fast travel options have opened up. My only big gripe is every time I buy a horse, it gets killed. There can be several horses involved in a skirmish, and I guarantee my PC’s horse will be the one to die. I’m playing a sneaky archer assassin type because I’m not so great at up close melee combat, and she’s holding up really well.

      Of the two games, I would recommend DAO for a beginner, if you thinking about trying one out. The story is fun, and the NPC dialogue and be pretty humorous at times.

  2. YES! Yes, yes, yes!!!

    I am the ultimate backseat gamer, too. The only one I’ve played on my own is Fable III, because it doesn’t seem to need the same level of hand-eye coordination that most of them do. Once my husband finished, though, I kind of gave up on my own play, because I’d already seen the ending.

    SKYRIM IS BORING. Beautiful, but boring. My husband is enamored, too. In fact, at this moment, his follower is shooting arrows at and cursing a goat, and he’s exploring a waterfall. Really? Bring on the dragons!

    So, I sit and sort of backseat drive when interesting things start to happen, while I play on my netbook or knit. But I also leave the room a lot, because it’s BORING. (Have we established the level of boring that is Skyrim yet?)

    Have you and your husband played L.A. Noire yet? That is a good one for backseating. Different setting, lots of thought. I quite liked it.

  3. @Aimee My husband is now wandering through a meadow, in the rain, and appears to have a mission that involves saving a tree?! I loved LA Noire because there was a nice mystery to it all. It had a slow pace, too, but the story was much more engaging. I’d play that over Skyrim anyday!

  4. I like to backseat game as well, and enjoy watching my husband play. But I am also a gamer. I watch my husband play Skyrim as well as have my own game going. I will agree with you, it is not terribly fun to watch, but it is a very exciting game to play.

  5. I agree, Skyrim does look boring to watch, but it is an rpg, and often the fun is in the journey.

    I am a bit disappointed in the Backseat Gamer theme you have going. There are soooo many good games in every genre and across a dozen platformes, both casuall and hardcore, multiplayer or individual, action or not. There is no excuse not to find games to enjoy. If all your husband wants to play is Xbox and fps or popular titles at that, it’s unortunate.

    Some games can be boring to watch, I am sitting here on a tablet watching my wife mow grass with a sword in the new Zelda, but that game does move long pretty well.

    We choose games we can play together, which means, yes, I don’t always get to play whatever I want and force her into backseat mode. Rpg’s are nice as they often don’t have as much action and one of us can assist with maps and tips and things.

    Playing Starcraft together is better, or an adventure game with the whole family like the new Monkey Island. My wife likes Minecraft, but I is boringly watch, however it is fun to play, especially cooperatively so I might get a copy to join her.

    Don’t be a backseat gamer, if it’s boring, don’t play it, or find something that matches you skill set (not fps games). There are games I do and don’t play, because it’s more in to join in… Or get your own game on, even if it’s just on you laptop or pone.

  6. Good call. I held off buying Skyrim as I bought the last one (oblivion) and was bored with walking around. Seems as if the formula is the same. Pretty to look at but that only lasts so long.

  7. I agree, I’m bored to death with this RPG. Funnily enough when I see people mention this around the internet I see tons of responses such as “maybe sandbox RPG’s aren’t your kind of thing yadda yadda yadda” pathetic.

    In fact, vast and expansive sandbox RPG’s is what I’m all about, they make up about 80% of the games I play nowadays, and I enjoyed every single one I played in the past four years immensely.

    Skyrim however is just plain-out bland. This has to be the first RPG I’ve played in my life that never evoked so much as a single giggle from me in any of the conversations had with other characters, nothing about the environment seems to transcend its stereotype, the conversations are shallow, character building is shallow, storyline is pretty mediocre, dragon fights aren’t epic (alright, I’ll confess, the very first one was, but that’s where it ended) mounts are pointless (seriously, use a mount that’s more cumbersome to steer that travels exactly as fast as you do on foot, and comes with the extra hassle of having to dismount every time a wolf decides he wants you for dinner? I thought mounts were supposed to make things easier and not be redundant and cumbersome, which skyrim mounts certainly are…)

    All the characters are as boring as their dialogue, they’re all of the stale, seen-it-all-before kind, shallow, predictable and unsatisfying. Quests seem bland as hell, mostly because you know you’re really only crawling that boring linear dungeon for that one “wow really needed this, thank you, gotta go now, toodloo” line at the end of it, and pathetic rewards.

    Guh. This game is a CHORE. It’s beautiful, definitely. It’s vast and expansive, but of what benefit is that when all who inhabit this world are chewed out, stale, unimaginative and the farthest thing from witty or surprising that could possibly be? Your character of course, fits in with the populace nicely, seemingly having been cursed with the wit and spontaneity of a piece of toast.

    If RPG’s are about character building, why doesn’t your character have a character to build? No, being led down a pre-defined road of quests and side quests in which the character goes from doing what he’s told to do by person A to doing what he’s being told to do by person B isn’t what I call ‘character building,’ that’s just pushing a pixel toon’s progression. Your character is never witty or surprising, or deep and interesting. Next to no backstory to your character and an utter lack of coherence concerning just why the fuck your character is taking the chores imposed by the game upon himself / herself for longer than say a day, and not say just disappearing into the ether is lacking.

    Last but not least, it’s a forgettable game. Not a single scene calls for being remembered or re-lived in one’s mind, the whole thing’s starting to feel a lot like World of Warcraft with better graphics. The entire game feels like you’re an autist who’s been dropped into a world full of autists. Nothing’s colorful or ingraciating, it’s all dreary, monotone, devoid of emotion and surprise, and feels very, very old.

    Bethesda, remember Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas? Remember those games actually made you laugh from time to time and surprised you with things? Non-linear underground crawls and companions and options that are actually funny / unique? Guess you didn’t. Nothing in Skyrim evidences even only a scrap of wit, inginuity or creativity, it’s a dismal effort IMO, despite all the glitz and expansiveness.

  8. While it is true that there is a lot of walking in this game, once you’ve been playing it for a few hours, the “fast travel” mode speeds things up a lot. Anytime you discover a new location, check your compass for anything else nearby and go find that so it shows up as a fast-travel location, and before you know it, you’ll hardly need to walk anywhere.

  9. The problem with Skyrim is the piss poor level system. All the quests are a waste of time because they don’t actually give you any experience. None of them give you any perks either. There’s not much in the way of weapons or armor either because you generally have to craft that stuff yourself.

    Skyrim is okay enough the first playthrough, provided you pick the right areas to focus on. Since the combat is so bad and killing your companions is a real threat, the only good style is really to use Conjuration (for a sword/2 swords as well as Dremora Lord/Atronach or Necromancer), Restoration in a pinch, and that’s pretty much it. Then you just craft a couple of hundred iron daggers so you can actually make good armor, and capture about 200 souls to enchant those daggers with so you finally reach a high enough enchanting level to make useful enchantments on your armor (and essentially make conjuration and restoration free…since the other enchantments all kind of suck anyway).

    Completing quests won’t raise your level. You also can’t raise a skill without directly increasing it, so if you want to increase sneak prepare to waste hours sneaking before it’s even useable for you.

    Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas used the tried and tested experience system for leveling up, which gives you a purpose in RPGs to kill things and complete quests. You don’t want me to get experience? Fine, then don’t have levels or any of that at all, just give me access to everything at the beginning with me finding some powerups at most as I play through the game, but otherwise having pretty much full access to my moves and such like in most action games.

    I “finished” Skyrim once and can’t force myself to play through it again. I just don’t want to forge another 300 iron daggers ugh. I don’t want to capture hundreds of petty souls to then enchant those stupid daggers to make money and raise my enchanting skill slowly.

    You are right that the story is boring, the locations are pretty boring and there’s really nothing memorable about the game.

    What an epic fail of a game, I want it to succeed but it’s a mess.

    Also the game wasn’t even optimized, and already needed lots of mods just to make it playable for PC since it was designed purely for console. There wasn’t even a high res pack until earlier this month, which is ridiculous.

    1. Well, you don’t have to level smithing and enchanting if you don’t want to. Actually, what’s the point in spending several hours on a boring repetitive activity, which trivializes the rest of the game?

      You can use alchemy+smithing+enchanting to make a 1000 damage sword, but again, what’s the point?

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