Kim and I have completely different philosophies when it comes to saving in video games. I like to rely on auto saves, only really making a manual save when I’m about to come off a game or when I know I’m in a part that can get messed up easily (via my own incompetence or glitches that have made it through quality assurance). This has resulted in occasions when I’ve lost a few hours of progress in the past, including the near-infamous incident when a power cut occurred just as I reached a save point after an hour and a half boss fight in a Final Fantasy game. That incident is known only as The Scream Heard Around The World. It’s safe to say I don’t manually save often enough. Kim, on the other hand, saves too often in games. It’s not unknown for her to pick someone’s pocket and save after each and every item stolen, which kind of explains why she has made over four hundred Skyrim saves while I’m just shy of my first century despite having racked up a hundred and thirty hours of gametime so far (with so very much still to do in the game).
In a way this reflects our playstyles and aims in the video game worlds we inhabit. I like to lose myself in the world as much as possible and inhabit the character, making decisions the character would make. Kim likes to steal the clothes from everyone in a town while they’re wearing them and leave an entire town wandering around in their underwear, which she managed somewhere around save 400 and hour 80. Bizarrely they don’t seem to have noticed the extra chill or even the fact that everyone else is nude too. I put it down to them fearing the early onset of a mental illness and trying to ignore it as much as possible. It’s the Emperor’s New Clothes, with the entire town of Whiterun cast as the Emperor. Kim also spends an amazing amount of time arranging dead bodies into sexual positions while the most I’ll do is throw an enemy’s dead comrade at them or leave a dead husband in bed with his living wife. See, I’m not above playing pranks at all; I’m just more selective of my victims. The man screaming out everyday in the town centre about worshipping his chosen deity had a poison administered to him which made him attack a guard and then I watched with glee as the entire city guard descended on him like wolves. On the subject of wolves, I’m also not averse to becoming a werewolf and using my wolfman form to chase Khajiit (humanoid cats in the game series). These are the sorts of pranks I adore as they seem to fit the character I’m playing.
Both of these approaches are equally valid ways to play Skyrim, both are fun in different ways and both are somewhat explainable within the context of the world. I suppose that’s the true power of Bethesda’s open world games – you find yourself explaining things in ways the designers may not have anticipated. For example, the religious nutcase I killed had a small following in the town and occasionally people would stop to watch him and listen. After I killed him this obviously stopped, except for one old woman who still stops to listen despite there being no-one there. This is just a slight data mishap where a certain switch hasn’t been toggled the right way, but that’s not the first explanation that leapt to mind. To me, this old woman had lived through the war thirty years ago and had lost the right to worship her chosen deity as a result. She was now living through a civil war which brought back painful memories and, as she lived alone and made no mention of living relatives, I think those memories have something to do with the loss of a child in the war. In my mind this woman took great comfort in her friends, especially those who spoke out against the loss of the god Talos. Her mind must have reeled at the news of his death, especially the bizarre way he lost control and uncharacteristically attacked people. Each time I see her stop at that shrine I know that she’s wondering why this had to happen and how much more must she lose?
And I feel guilty for her loss.
It never ceases to amaze me when a game has a complete enough world that you start filling in the few gaps yourself, almost allowing what is right to act like a get out of jail free card for what goes wrong. Arkham City is another recent example. A wonderfully created game with brilliant gameplay and one small glitch. One feature has Bats beating up groups of thugs around the city while keeping one conscious so they can be interrogated for information afterwards. Bats descends on the last man like a demon, holds him in the air by his throat and questions him… sometimes. Other times the thug is somehow removed from the game before the interrogation scene and Bats questions then knocks out thin air. I put this down to him practising, much like the infamous De Niro mirror scene in Taxi Driver. “You talkin’ to me?” Bats asks, trying to get the perfect gravelly voiced threatening tone to inspire fear when he meets real life criminals. “I don’t see anyone else here.” intones the caped and cowled Travis Bickle before punching nobody in the throat. BAM! “And now you’re asleep!” Whether he’s or this is another expression of the psychological condition that made him dress as a bat in the first place is irrelevant. This is a prime example of a game glitch that enhances the story rather than breaking it, and a phenomenon that occurs only during the better games that are released. That we’ve had two in the space of a month that can get away with glitches in this way can only be good for gamers, as it speaks to the quality of what’s out there right now and the talents of those creating it.