At 10 hours into Skyrim, you’d think that I would be a walking bad ass by now. Townspeople would weep or cry out in joy at my passing. Animals would steer clear of my manly musk. Dragons would swoop down to bow before me in reverent awe. My weapons would sing with the crackle of lightning and the sharp hiss of steel and silver. In short, you would think that I’ve already started bending the world of Skyrim to my digital will.
Actually, I’m picking flowers just outside of Whiterun. You see, I’m trying to learn some new recipes and the properties of various ingredients for alchemy, just so I can sell some potions and make enough money on the side to buy a house. You know the type: a starter home, with a nice view of the Jarl’s place up on the hill. It’s quaint, but it’ll get me by long enough to stow all of my stolen items until I can contact someone in the Thieves’ Guild to purchase them for me. I might get around to that once I’ve searched the nearby brewery or taken a few more Smithing lessons up at the Skyforge. That’s just how I roll.
While none of those things sounds particularly exciting, they’ve somehow gotten me totally snared by Elder Scrolls V’s dark and fantastical clutches. Every preview of the game showed spellcasting, shield bashing, dragon shouting and dragon fighting. Yet all I’m doing is the mundane, the ordinary, the stuff that nobody in their right mind would do.
And I love it.
You see, I’ve got certain triggers when it comes to video games. Certain things that scratch just the right spot or catch me at just the right moment. This happens from time to time, and even though it shouldn’t surprise me, it still totally does. I wrote just a few weeks back about how Batman: Arkham City made me feel like a kid again. Skyrim is sort of similar, but there’s something more to it: it just has my attention.
I can’t really describe what it means when I say that a game has gotten my attention. The only mental image I have is of a small child, with a street performer snapping in front of him to hold his gaze while he does a sleight of hand routine. And I guess that’s what video games do to us. The best ones leave us transfixed, totally beholden to whatever spectacles are playing themselves out on the screen. I won’t declare Skyrim game of the year or say that it’s one of my favorites. But I will say that it’s already put me under its spell.
So my question to you guys is this: what does a game have to do to get your attention? What kinds of things tend to really suck you into a game and keep you from doing anything else? Does it have to have a good intro? A great story? Great mechanics? A combination of those things? What types of games tend to leave you obsessed? Go!