I have 150 hours in Skyrim. That seems low.
Probably because of how much time I spent outside of the game simply thinking about it; getting myself caught up in the hype pre-release and then obsessively poring over any bit of information I could find during my playthrough. When I’d finally seen everything, I then started breaking it as much as I could with mods, populating the world with Randy Savage dragons, companions that looked like Kate Beckinsale, and slightly better looking flora that I’d never actually look at.
I, like a lot of people tend to do, convinced myself for a while that Skyrim would be the only game I would ever need for the rest of my life. The community actually sort of bore that out in a way, though if you don’t care about sweet ENB effects or nudity, you will eventually see everything. Trying to salvage my save so long after the fact and return to something resembling the base game was a task in and of itself, but I wanted to see the grim reality of what I remembered.
As expected, it maybe isn’t as pretty as it was in 2011. I suppose the incoming upgrade will fix that, but that never mattered too much to me. For all of Bethesda’s faults, it was always about the breadth of the experience, not so much how it all looked. Unlike with Oblivion, there wasn’t that one standout mission or location that I felt the need to revisit. When I spawned into the world, I was in my house. In front of me was my adopted son, who I hadn’t spoken to in years. He seemed upset, possibly due to his absentee father and the fact that he still hasn’t hit a growth spurt after all this time. Actually, now that I think about it, I killed his pet crab accidentally.
Yes, it’s all coming back to me now.
I spent more time simply walking around that house, looking at all of the loot I just left around, obviously not caring for material things once I’d become the leader of every guild. It was pretty clear to me at that point why I stopped playing – there was nothing left to change in the world. My son wasn’t going to get any older. My character, the brooding Khajit that conveniently turned good once he was done with the Thieves Guild and Dark Brotherhood, had (quite literally) no more dragons to slay. My wife, that I allowed to die for my redemptive head-canon to make any sense, wasn’t going to come back.
I wandered for a bit after that, but never bothered fighting anything. There was no point. I certainly didn’t need a wolf pelt, that’s for sure. I just sort of… walked. Then this feeling of overwhelming futility came over me; the reality of conquering what was once a living world. Obviously, games are designed more for the journey than the destination, and rightly so. Game endings as a whole are usually unsatisfying, but in a series where the ending reward is simply the ability to continue existing, I do wish I had something to keep existing for, not a procedural side quest or collectible to hunt so much as the feeling that I’d be missed if I didn’t.
As it stands, I don’t really think my son will be too bothered if he never sees me again.