Learning to Play

For full effect, please play this.

A lot of people have games that they consider integral parts of their childhood.  As we have discussed in class, for a lot of people this game was Pokemon.  For others, Super Mario Bros or the Zelda series were the cornerstones in their gaming careers.  For me, that game was Morrowind.

For those who are not familiar with Morrowind, it is the third game in The Elder Scrolls series, and the first that was (and still is) widely discussed online.  The Elder Scrolls games are a set of fantasy RPG’s with immersive lore, a fully fleshed out game world, and multiple races (based on, but not copying, standard RPG races) you could play as.  Released by Bethesda in 2002, Morrowind served as a bridge between the first two games, which were both incredibly hard and not very user friendly, and the last two games, which, while still occasionally challenging, adopted standard RPG aids like a compass and quest markers.  Instead of these, Morrowind had a quest journal the player can consult, but besides that must find their way to quests through good old directions given by NPC’s.  As such, this seems like a very odd game for a young teenager like myself, especially one not well versed in games, to choose.

An example of the stunning graphics Morrowind had to offer.  Source

I think the reason Morrowind, and for that matter gaming in general, ended up being so important to me was because it represented time I got to spend with my father.  My dad was in the military, so he was sometimes deployed for months at a time and frequently called away to meetings for a few days at a time.  As such, I didn’t really get to spend as much time with him as I would have liked.  However, when he was home, one of the things we loved to do together was for him to play a game and for me and my twin sister to watch him play it.  I know it sounds like kind of a weird thing to do, but since he loved lore-heavy RPGs like Morrowind it was kind of like watching a really, really long movie where you could kind of, sort of convince the main character to do what you wanted him to do.

I’m sure we made quite the picture: a gruff army man sitting in his chair, staring intently at the computer he was playing on, with two excitable children bouncing around behind him, telling him to go do this quest or go talk to this person.  Eventually, however, just watching my dad play these games wasn’t really enough for me.  I wanted to play these games for myself.

Ironically, as a kid I wasn’t really allowed to play too many video games, and my parents (mainly my mom) weren’t about to support a possible gaming habit by buying me a console (Luckily, they later changed their minds).  As such, instead of the child-friendly Nintendo games many grew up with, I ended up mostly playing old PC games that my dad was done with on our family computer.  This is where I truly fell in love with Morrowind.

The beautiful character creation screen found in Morrowind. Source

When I first started playing Morrowind, I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.  The good thing was I didn’t need to. Vvardenfell, an island that makes up the majority of the province of Morrowind and the main setting of the game, was so immersive that I was simply content to wander around, talking to literally everyone I saw and generally getting nothing done. In all honesty, I had probably created at least two or three characters, starting over the game each time, before I even left the starting city of Seyda Neen.

Seyda Neen wasn’t exactly a big town… Source

Once I got into it, though, I really got into it.  Because even my tiny child self was a completionist, I tried to get every single side quest in the game done, ignoring the main quest in the process.  I wandered from town to town, joining all of the guilds and collecting all of the quests, dying frequently and leveling up in a way that hardcore gamers would probably have cringed at.  I never did finish the main quest line, but that didn’t really matter to me.  What mattered was that my character, and by extension me, really felt like a part of that world, a world that was shared by both me and my father.

Morrowind is still one of my favorite games, and I feel like I would not have developed as much as a love for RPG’s as I have without it.  In all honesty, writing this while listening to its awesome soundtrack has made me really want to play it again, but this time actually try to beat it.  What about you guys-what games would you consider to be an integral part of your childhood?  Why do you think that is?  Thank you for reading and I look forward to reading your comments below!

3 thoughts on “Learning to Play”

  1. Great post! I can really relate to a lot of your feelings towards this universe, as Oblivion was one of my biggest favorites growing up. Though Pokemon, Legend of Zelda, Diablo II, and Starcraft probably shaped my early gaming preferences more than anything, I remember many hours poured in to Tamriel. As you mentioned, it’s really easy to get lost in this world, and it’s one of the things I enjoyed most. However, you talked about the absolute freedom given to characters, and I certainly noticed it during Oblivion and, of course, Skyrim. This freedom is probably the most defining quality of these games as I remember them, and it’s certainly my favorite part. It’s hard to describe. We certainly are asked to do tasks and complete standard RPG quests, but we don’t have to. More than that though, there are often times that I didn’t even feel compelled to do these quests. I’ve played other games where I was free to do whatever I wanted, but this series is the first one where it really felt like it was a valid option. Until I played this series, I couldn’t say that I’d ever felt so committed to killing demons one minute, and organizing my house or hunting animals the next. It was extremely relaxing in its own way, and a nice break from other games that I get way too involved in. It’s always neat seeing other gamers with similar experiences, especially with the same games that I grew up with!

    1. I completely agree! Oblivion and Skyrim did have a great sense of self-agency, and I really enjoyed those games because of that, although in Oblivion’s case the leveling was so broken that I ended up not playing through the whole main questline, since I did all of the other quests that I could before delving into that. If you liked that sense of freedom that exists in the other Elder Scrolls games, you should really give Morrowind a try. The GOTY edition is available on Steam for $14.99, and while the fighting and graphics are a bit dated, the entire world is, in my opinion, the most immersive and entrancing one I have ever played in. I encourage you to give it a shot!

  2. Hello, thank you for sharing your memories of Morrowind! I listened to the soundtrack for full effect, and hearing the theme to the Elder Scrolls took me back to my own first experience in the world of Tamriel: Skyrim. I still admire the depth and immersive quality of that game, and now I’m even more curious about Morrowind. My first game was, like so many others’, the Pokemon series: Pokemon Blue for Gameboy Color and Pokemon Stadium for the Nintendo 64. I thought it was interesting how you mentioned that completing the main quest was unnecessary to your enjoyment. I too never completed the main story in Pokemon Blue, and I didn’t even have the excuse of side quests to excuse me – I apparently just enjoyed the early game and would restart frequently. Paper Mario for the Nintendo 64 was another game I enjoyed as a child but never completed until high school; I was too afraid of the second boss and would instead return to the town hub and spend all of the coins earned from adventures on pet “L’il Oinks.” Though my examples sound pretty silly now, fifteen years after the fact, I played the games in such a way that I got the most enjoyment out of them. Regardless of how linear or tempting a game’s plot may be, players will always find other pursuits within the game’s world -even if they are a “dead end.”

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