Those of you who've been following me for the last month should be well aware of A Month in Skyrim, my ubiquitous series of thirty daily journal-styled blogs about my first experiences with the latest Elder Scrolls game. Those of you who don't follow me have probably had the misfortune of encountering it floating around on the Giant Bomb forums. Well, that series came to an end yesterday, and so I figured that today I'd take a look back at the last thirty days, try to articulate how the whole process made me feel, what I might have done differently, and what my plans are for Skyrim now that the journals have come to an end. It should be a fun episode of reflection, and I hope you'll join me for it.
I guess I should note here that even if you haven't read any part of A Month in Skyrim, that shouldn't impede your enjoyment of this retrospective. For anybody who wants to read any of the thirty entries, though, I've thrown together links to all of them in a handy table below. I really should have done this in the blogs themselves, you know. Looks so much neater than the never-ending list the 'Previous Episodes' section became...
It's also been brought to my attention (specifically by user Legend) that an alternative version might be more practical to those wanting to read the entire work on an e-reader, or in some other capacity away from the internet. To that end, I've compiled every journal entry into a PDF file, which can be downloaded here.
The idea for A Month in Skyrim was born out of a few different places. When the game was first announced way back at the end of 2010, I knew that I'd want to find some special way of covering my time with it on this blog - something unique, and more substantial than a standard opinions blog or even a detailed break-down. The inspiration for the journal approach came from fellow Giant Bomb blogger AndyMacneil, who began writing a series of journal-styled blogs about returning to Morrowind before (much to my chagrin) suddenly disappearing from the blogging scene. If you get a chance, be sure to check out Andy's nine Morrowind journals - their influence on my approach is pretty telling. The final piece of the puzzle came from Warming Up, a daily blog written by British comedian Richard Herring. Thought to be the second-longest-running daily blog in the world, Richard began it in the hopes that forcing himself to write something every day would increase his productivity as a writer. Given that I too was hoping to take my own writing up a gear, I decided to borrow his daily approach, forcing myself to submit a new entry every single day between January 5th and February 3rd. So I'd just like to take this opportunity to credit both of those sources - thanks very much for inspiring the project!
If I had to sum the whole ordeal up in two words, I think they'd be 'mostly pleased'. When I look back at the last month, I remember it first and foremost as an incredibly draining experience. Playing at least two hours of Skyrim every day, and then having to spend another two hours reliving that play session as I wrote about it, was a lot more taxing on my mind than I ever thought it would be. I've lived and breathed Skyrim for around four hours a day, every day, for the last thirty days - it's literally taken up a sixth of my life since January 5th. It's a wonder I'm not sick of it (more on that later). It's also been a very rewarding experience, though. Picking up readers along the way who've shared their own experiences and told me how their playthroughs differed from mine was great, and it's something I'm really going to miss. I also know for a fact that I've helped to sell at least one copy of Skyrim off the back of this endeavour - reading these entries stirred up some interest in one of my friends, who's since bought a copy of the game for himself and is loving it. That's an incredibly rewarding feeling, too.
As a writer, the project has been a resounding success in two major ways. For a start, it's been a great exercise in placing myself inside the mind of a character, and thinking about how they would react in a variety of situations. This is something I've always felt is a bit of a weakness in my writing style, as I have a tendency to place my own mind into my characters instead, and think about what I would do in any given scenario. Before embarking on this series of blogs, I outlined three key traits that defined character and made him distinctly different from myself, and challenged myself to stick to them - as a Nord, he would be patriotic without being too nationalistic, fearful of the power and influence of the gods on his life, and above all, honest without exception. I kept these attitudes in mind when writing every entry, and I think the result is, for the first time, a character who isn't just a slight variation of myself. It's a technique I plan to carry over into other writing projects, most notably the novel I'm working on.
The other thing it serves as is proof that I can commit myself to writing a substantial amount every day. There were a couple of points where I almost faltered, through illness or having to commit to other things (and on one occasion, even drunkenness), but without fail, every single one of those thirty entries made it up onto the site on the corresponding day, and I'm incredibly proud of myself for that. The majority of the blogs took me between one and two hours to write, and with the whole compiled work totalling just over 28,000 words, equate to an average of just under a thousand words each. That's an amazing work rate for me, and rock solid proof that I can write every day if I'm determined and commit myself. As with the character-development technique above, this is something that I hope to transfer back to my novel - suddenly, the prospect of finishing it by the end of June doesn't seem quite so distant any more.
Having said that, if I were to start the whole process again, there are a few things I would have done differently. One of them, highlighted by user Napalm in a comment on one of the later entries, would have been posting less frequently to avoid overkill. I definitely would have still written something every day, but I probably would have chosen to put it out in longer, weekly instalments rather than spamming the Skyrim forum and throwing up individual entries every day. In another reflective shake-up, I probably would have created a character of weaker moral fibre. Lenah'd isn't perfect, but he still endeavours to do the right thing most of the time, and a less chivalrous character might have been a bit more fun both to write and to read about. The final thing I think I would have done is stuck more rigidly to one of the quest lines, preferably one other than the main quest. I opted to do a lot of side-stuff because I wanted to see as much of the game-world as possible, and that seemed like the best way to do it. Instead, I felt like I ended up moving from ancient Nordic barrow to ancient Nordic barrow, occasionally stopping via Whiterun to empty my inventory. Perhaps if I'd stuck with the College of Winterhold, or the Civil War quest line, I would have seen a wider variety of content while also covering a decent portion of the game's map.
So now that the blog series is over, where do I go from here? Surprisingly (and trust me, I'm surprising nobody more than myself here), I think the answer is going to be 'play more Skyrim'. I'm seventy hours in at this point, and I still haven't had anywhere near my fill of Bethesda's latest fantasy epic. Despite what the journal suggests, Lenah'd's adventures are far from over - I plan to put him through the main quest, the Companions quest-line, the College of Winterhold's quest line, and the Civil War's quest line before quietly retiring him and putting the game down for a bit. By then I anticipate I'll have reached my burn-out point with Skyrim, especially if I continue to explore a healthy amount of the miscellaneous quest content as I go. Towards the end of 2012, though, I plan to return to Skyrim and create a new character (most likely an amoral Khajiit with a focus on stealth) to take through the Thieves Guild, Dark Brotherhood and Daedric quests. And don't worry - when I do make my return trip to Tamriel, I won't be embarking on another thirty-day blog series!
All that remains for me to say here at the end is a great big thank-you. Thanks to everyone who read or commented - whether you just joined me once or twice, or saw the whole thing through, I'm truly grateful and hope it brought you some enjoyment. Special thanks in particular go to Storms and Sparky_Buzzsaw, for seeing the project through with me from beginning to end and spurring me on with your regular comments - your readership, opinions and anecdotes were all very much appreciated. A quick thanks too to my friend Duncan, a non-GB user who's nonetheless been reading and offering me feedback on every entry - cheers mate! To the thirty or so users who've followed me since beginning the journals, I implore you to stick around now they're done - I do write other blogs too, and I'd like to think they're usually worth reading, if a little less regular. Take care all of you, and I'll see you around.
Currently playing - The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (X360)