I've now spent 20 hours with Skyrim and 20 hours with Oblivion and 20 hours with Morrowind, and I have to say - 60 hours with the Elder Scrolls series passes really, really fast. I don't know how to describe the sensation of playing it except to say that, after you've been playing awhile, there comes a point when the world just seems to matter. You have a list of places to go and people to talk to, and each of them has a problem and a reward, and you start to feel like you can solve those problems, and that the rewards will genuinely help you. Or, maybe, you just want to see what would happen.
So you go to one more cave, or talk to one more NPC, or grind up one more skill, and suddenly, an hour has passed, and you can't really account for it, but it doesn't matter, because there is still more to see and do and learn.
For example, the Elder Scrolls games have, in addition to the normal gamey-type stuff (monsters, dungeons, magic spells, etc) a whole internal literature. Dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of books you can pick up and read, which range from "non-fiction" that tells about the setting's history or its religions' theology, to less serious fare, like riddles or jokes. There is even, in Bleak Falls Barrow (near the beginning of the game), a fantasy novel. As in, some person in the Elder Scrolls universe decided that they wanted to write a piece of fiction about a beggar who had a series of adventures and became a king, and nothing in the book has anything to do with the game's real history, but it was included purely as an example of what people in the setting consumed as entertainment.
It's like there's no bottom. It's like, no matter how much you play, there's always more. Every time I play Skyrim, I tell myself that this is going to be the time that I finally finish my book collection. I promise myself that I will grab one copy of each of the game's insane number of books, and I will read them all. Yet, if I've actually read even a tenth of the available literature, I will eat my controller. There's just so much of it, and there's never really a lull in your character's schedule, where sitting down and reading a book seems like a better use of their time than fighting monsters of discovering treasure.
So, you know, I like this game a lot.
It's actually quite amazing, in 3 out of 3 Elder Scrolls games, I've managed to reach 20 hours without getting to the end of a Guild quest-chain and without completing more than the barest minimum of the main quest (indeed, in modded Oblivion and Skyrim I completed exactly zero main quest missions; in Morrowind, I finished one.) It's quite exhilarating, but in a way, it's also frustrating, because I feel like in both this blog and my rpg.net thread, I haven't really finished any of the games. And granted, it was never my goal, per se, but it kind of makes me feel flighty, like, instead of documenting a whole game, I just chose an arbitrary point to quit; like I'm giving up on them half (or more accurately 10-20%) of the way through.
I suppose I am, but then again, they'll always be there. I think the Elder Scrolls games, more than any other single factor, are why I started this blog. I bought a whole bunch of new games during this year's Steam Summer Sale, and while I was deciding which one to play first, it struck me that I hadn't even finished the games I already owned.
And then I thought of the Elder Scrolls games and despaired.
And that is how my 20-hour deadline came to be.