The Fantasy Paradox

Posted by patrickklepek (6019 posts) -

Skyrim. Skyrim. Skyrim. Skyrim! Skyrim.

I kept whispering "Skyrim" on the Bombcast because, you know, I'm so subtle. We're still many weeks from Bethesda Game Studios releasing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game that, based on personal history, I should have zero interest in. Yet, it's my most anticipated release of the year, a game that will most likely prompt me to tell my fiancee I'm disappearing for a week.

A number of readers have asked me about one specific comment, in which I profess a strong distaste for fantasy. That wasn't an off-hand, misplaced joke--it remains true. We moved on rather quickly, so I thought about explaining that a bit further.

But let's backtrack a little bit.

Part of my open world fear was fueled by the randomness of it all. I was partially out of control.

While reporting for MTV Multiplayer, I confronted my aversion to open world games. I just avoided anything like it. I had nothing against the concept of open world, but for the longest time, even in the most linear of games, I'd freeze up over simple decisions. Presented with the option of going left or right, I'd always head a few steps down the left before second guessing myself and heading right. The open world exponentially increases the moments where decisions like this have to be made. I'd convinced myself this was simply an argument against games asking you to make your own fun within a sandbox--but that was flimsy.

There came an opportunity to play Fallout 3 ahead of its release. This was a unique opportunity, too, as it was basically an all-day play session. Bethesda was allowing writers to come to a hotel and play something like five or six hours of Fallout 3. Bestheda's latest was shaping up to be one of the year's biggest games, so purely from a reporter's perspective, I could not pass this up.

And so I found myself playing Fallout 3 for five straight hours. Oh, and that early moment in Fallout 3 that everyone calls amazing, when you exit the vault? My palms were full of sweat, my heart racing. Quickly, I was totally overwhelmed.

Hours (and many deaths) later, it started to click, largely in part to Fallout 3's rather ingenius (and subtle) navigational arrows at the bottom of the screen, giving players like myself a sense of purpose. Fallout 3's world involves much more than choosing left or right, but the arrows provided a grounded sense of place in an environment with seemingly infinite possibilities.

This is where I learned the joy of the open world game, and how a landscape filled with interconnected systems can provide more fun than anything the developers themselves intended. It helped the writing for Fallout 3's side quests was far superior and more interesting than the main one, and I don't mean that sarcastically. Learning that encouraged me to keep digging in.

All told, DLC included, I spent nearly 100 hours roaming inside Fallout 3, easily the most time I've dedicated to a game since maxing out Final Fantasy VIII's game clock at 99:99:99. FFVIII, also known as the best of the PlayStation Final Fantasy games. Haters of the Junction system can take a hike, thank ya.

I'm secretly hoping Skyrim will actually end up turning my feelings around on fantasy in general.

Besides the same studio, what's this have to do with Skyrim?

Partially as thanks for opening my eyes, largely because I've been desperate to get engrossed in a world as much as Fallout 3's, I'll play anything Bethesda puts out, even set within worlds that aren't appealing. Elves, orcs--snore. Dragons are cool. Giant spiders are not. I'm unable to fully articulate what doesn't grab me about a fantasy setting, outside of just finding the whole thing silly. At least within a science fiction context you're albe to imagine humanity evolving into that direction one day.

I won't expect to have convinced anyone with the perceived realism argument, but I have to imagine you all have at least one particular setting, look or style that simply rubs you the wrong way, no?

The caveat I'll make in modern fiction is Game of Thrones, but that's better described as hard fantasy.

I can't wait to see how Bethesda has evolved the world systems. I continue to chuckle at the prospect of walking by a humble villager hacking at trees to drum up firewood for his family, burning the town's forest when he walks away, and knowing I've destroyed his way of life. Will I actually end up doing that in the game? Probably not; I'm more evil in my mind than in practice.

But, man, I could.

#1 Posted by patrickklepek (6019 posts) -

Skyrim. Skyrim. Skyrim. Skyrim! Skyrim.

I kept whispering "Skyrim" on the Bombcast because, you know, I'm so subtle. We're still many weeks from Bethesda Game Studios releasing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, a game that, based on personal history, I should have zero interest in. Yet, it's my most anticipated release of the year, a game that will most likely prompt me to tell my fiancee I'm disappearing for a week.

A number of readers have asked me about one specific comment, in which I profess a strong distaste for fantasy. That wasn't an off-hand, misplaced joke--it remains true. We moved on rather quickly, so I thought about explaining that a bit further.

But let's backtrack a little bit.

Part of my open world fear was fueled by the randomness of it all. I was partially out of control.

While reporting for MTV Multiplayer, I confronted my aversion to open world games. I just avoided anything like it. I had nothing against the concept of open world, but for the longest time, even in the most linear of games, I'd freeze up over simple decisions. Presented with the option of going left or right, I'd always head a few steps down the left before second guessing myself and heading right. The open world exponentially increases the moments where decisions like this have to be made. I'd convinced myself this was simply an argument against games asking you to make your own fun within a sandbox--but that was flimsy.

There came an opportunity to play Fallout 3 ahead of its release. This was a unique opportunity, too, as it was basically an all-day play session. Bethesda was allowing writers to come to a hotel and play something like five or six hours of Fallout 3. Bestheda's latest was shaping up to be one of the year's biggest games, so purely from a reporter's perspective, I could not pass this up.

And so I found myself playing Fallout 3 for five straight hours. Oh, and that early moment in Fallout 3 that everyone calls amazing, when you exit the vault? My palms were full of sweat, my heart racing. Quickly, I was totally overwhelmed.

Hours (and many deaths) later, it started to click, largely in part to Fallout 3's rather ingenius (and subtle) navigational arrows at the bottom of the screen, giving players like myself a sense of purpose. Fallout 3's world involves much more than choosing left or right, but the arrows provided a grounded sense of place in an environment with seemingly infinite possibilities.

This is where I learned the joy of the open world game, and how a landscape filled with interconnected systems can provide more fun than anything the developers themselves intended. It helped the writing for Fallout 3's side quests was far superior and more interesting than the main one, and I don't mean that sarcastically. Learning that encouraged me to keep digging in.

All told, DLC included, I spent nearly 100 hours roaming inside Fallout 3, easily the most time I've dedicated to a game since maxing out Final Fantasy VIII's game clock at 99:99:99. FFVIII, also known as the best of the PlayStation Final Fantasy games. Haters of the Junction system can take a hike, thank ya.

I'm secretly hoping Skyrim will actually end up turning my feelings around on fantasy in general.

Besides the same studio, what's this have to do with Skyrim?

Partially as thanks for opening my eyes, largely because I've been desperate to get engrossed in a world as much as Fallout 3's, I'll play anything Bethesda puts out, even set within worlds that aren't appealing. Elves, orcs--snore. Dragons are cool. Giant spiders are not. I'm unable to fully articulate what doesn't grab me about a fantasy setting, outside of just finding the whole thing silly. At least within a science fiction context you're albe to imagine humanity evolving into that direction one day.

I won't expect to have convinced anyone with the perceived realism argument, but I have to imagine you all have at least one particular setting, look or style that simply rubs you the wrong way, no?

The caveat I'll make in modern fiction is Game of Thrones, but that's better described as hard fantasy.

I can't wait to see how Bethesda has evolved the world systems. I continue to chuckle at the prospect of walking by a humble villager hacking at trees to drum up firewood for his family, burning the town's forest when he walks away, and knowing I've destroyed his way of life. Will I actually end up doing that in the game? Probably not; I'm more evil in my mind than in practice.

But, man, I could.

#2 Posted by Masha2932 (1242 posts) -

Skyrim!

#3 Posted by raise_thesparks (4 posts) -

so close!

#4 Posted by BlitzKriegJezus (12 posts) -

But I remember FFVIII being on the Playstation...not the Playstation 2...

#5 Posted by Animasta (14718 posts) -

if only bethesda could write worth a damn!

#6 Posted by BBQBram (2282 posts) -

Patrick get your shit together. Fantasy!

Online
#7 Edited by bloodsoul5 (193 posts) -

@BlitzKriegJezus said:

But I remember FFVIII being on the Playstation...not the Playstation 2...

Thats funny, So do I. Patrick you don goofed.

Also, "when you exit the fault?"

#8 Posted by Shuborno (938 posts) -

I can understand this sentiment. I also have an aversion to fantasy.

I got over it to play Dragon Age: Origins. I love the Mass Effect series, so I thought I'd check out BioWare's other big franchise and I loved it in spite of the fantasy setting.

#9 Posted by TehFlan (1944 posts) -

@BlitzKriegJezus said:

But I remember FFVIII being on the Playstation...not the Playstation 2...

Yeah, I'm pretty sure that's the case.

#10 Posted by TekZero (2686 posts) -

I feel the same way about Gears of War. It has everything I would like in a game, but just doesn't appeal to me. I have no interest in playing it.

#11 Posted by kilaen (16 posts) -

Fantasy is silly? And the premise of Fallout 3, Mass Effect, or Dead Space wasn't silly? You can imagine that happening? Really? Puhleeeze.

#12 Posted by omghisam (308 posts) -

RESPECTFULLY, MY OPINION DIFFERS FROM YOURS. I HOPE WE CAN STILL BE FRIENDS.

#13 Posted by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

I'm the same way about mass effect. It is filled with tons of things I love in video games, but by the time I started exploring planets I was bored to tears.

#14 Posted by AuthenticM (3791 posts) -

Final Fantasy VIII IS the best! Yeah!!!

Seriously, with its European-inspired world and culture, the characters, the fate-driven story, the junction system, the soundtrack, the ending... everything about the game was the perfect fit for me. One of the best games ever made.

#15 Edited by krabboss (312 posts) -

I can't help but feel many people will be underwhelmed by Skyrim. It is being put on way too high a pedestal.

Oh and FF8 isn't as good as 9.

#16 Posted by Soulstoner (38 posts) -

ALBE!

"At least within a science fiction context you're albe to imagine humanity evolving into that direction one day."

#17 Posted by Shimakaze (166 posts) -

Hell yea FF8!

#18 Posted by Skanker (254 posts) -

Soon as you got sucked into Triple Triad (the best mini-game in an RPG to date harrumph) it was easy to clock out at 99:99:99 if you wanted to get all cards without a guide. Oh the nostalgia.

#19 Posted by Frostwolf (21 posts) -

this dude has some brain malfunctions lol. It's easy to allow your brain to accept the fantasy premise by just accepting that its a different universe all together.

#20 Posted by Arker101 (1474 posts) -

Well, I think I know what race Patrick will play as.

#21 Posted by smellylettuce (133 posts) -

The only thing worse about fantasy than orcs and elves are dire badgers, cats, wolves, mice etc.

#22 Edited by mutha3 (4986 posts) -

  I'm unable to fully articulate what doesn't grab me about a fantasy setting,

As a fellow disliker of fantasy, let me help you out:
 
Fantasy is dumb.
 
srsly, though, my issue with fantasy is mostly that the entire genre might as well be called "Tolkien knockoffs". From the visuals, to the lore, to the characters...I am almost never able to shake the feeling of "been there, done that."
 
Fuck, you'll find more original ideas in a goddamn moe loli anime than in most fantasy works.There are exceptions, of course.
#23 Posted by mike28212 (38 posts) -

Excellent article Patrick. I used to have some the same issues myself with open world game play but have really come around in recent years. I'm looking forward to Skyrim. In the meantime, I think I'll dive back into Fallout 3.

#24 Edited by onan (1286 posts) -

@bloodsoul5 said:

@BlitzKriegJezus said:

But I remember FFVIII being on the Playstation...not the Playstation 2...

Thats funny, So do I. Patrick you don goofed.

Also, "when you exit the fault?"

I thought I heard that the interns or someone proofs reviews and things from either Jeff or Ryan... is it just that a second pair of eyes don't check news articles? Because it seems like any intern worth his salt would have caught the PS1/PS2 thing.

edit: Not to make this entirely about nitpicking, I'll agree with Patrick, I don't like Fantasy stuff either. I think it's because I'm very much a city boy and enjoy the convenience of living in a big urban area and the complexities of city living. The Tolkien-esque stuff seems boring because nothing really happens. Conflict happens because of what people/things are, not for any really good motivation. Things are black and white, there are legitimately "good" and "evil" beings. People aren't curious about others and even though they're within spitting distance of each other, the different races stick to their own closed communities and rarely venture out. Also, the cheesy accents. I like Dragon Age: Origins even though it had many of the same tropes because of the moral gray areas, the forward thinking in terms of social structures, and the blessed lack of High English, or whatever it is they love to use in Fantasy settings.

#25 Posted by Rongaryen (281 posts) -

So, uh, Final Fantasy VIII is not a good game. Story was fine but, the actual game part was garbage. With that said, I can see why you find the fantasy setting totally dumb. I'm the opposite in that I see the space science fiction setting to be stupid. Science Fiction like Fallout, Borderlands, and what I've seen of Prey 2 is cool, stuff like Star Wars, Star Trek, and Mass Effect are pretty dumb to me.

#26 Posted by Vorbis (2750 posts) -

Boiling fantasy down to "orcs and elves" is pretty simplified. That's like me saying I hate horror because of slasher flicks.

#27 Posted by EnchantedEcho (740 posts) -

'But I don't even like fantasy games'

#28 Edited by MajorToms (395 posts) -

A week, Patrick? More like a month lol. I totally get not liking Fantasy. I'm not big on the FPS "Realistic War Shooter," myself. As good looking as Battlefield 3 is, I have almost zero interest in actually playing through the campaign, and less on the Multiplayer. I am very interested in playing Skyrim though, lots of it. I put about 300 hours into Oblivion multiple times and the only games I think I played more than Oblivion (Edit: in recent years) are TF2 and FF11.

I agree about FF8 being a great game. One of my favorites along with 2 and 11. 11 was great, but I think people just hated it because it was an MMO FF game. It did a lot of things differently than the mold that WoW has set as a standard among MMO Developers. The UI and macros were made to be flexible, which made it truly unique. I grow tired of seeing the exact same UI for every new MMO, and nothing has come close to working as well as FF11 did. Keeping in mind that they also had an active translation tool for North American and Japanese players to communicate with each other; it made the experience really interesting to say the least.

Back to 8 though. I didn't like most of the characters, especially the 2 main characters. Squall was a little bitch and his woman was too slow in the head. I loved Zell "Chicken Wuss" Dincht, and Irvine Kinneas was great, too.

#29 Posted by kingzetta (4307 posts) -

You think it looks cool.
 
I'm going to go out on a limb here and just say that.

#30 Posted by Magmaniac (5 posts) -

I'm not a huge fan of the fantasy genre but I've always liked the Elder Scrolls games. Bethesda don't always tell great stories when it comes to the main quests but they usually manage to create interesting universes with some good NPCs. I'm hopeful, based on what I've seen, that Skyrim has a level of polish that has been lacking in previous entries in the series.

Also vault not fault!

#31 Edited by Kixxi (31 posts) -

the only thing this article was about was you. not even a question thrown in to invite members to chat about it.

#32 Posted by darkjester74 (1592 posts) -

At this moment, I am listening to the Bombcast, in which Patrick says he dislikes fantasy. Then, a SECOND later, this article appears in my RSS feed. BLACK ARTS AND MAGICKS I TELL YOU!!!!!!

#33 Edited by Chop (2000 posts) -

Meh, I get having a random distaste for certain settings. I personally find anything space related unbearably boring, so yeah. 

#34 Edited by mutha3 (4986 posts) -
@Vorbis said:

Boiling fantasy down to "orcs and elves" is pretty simplified. That's like me saying I hate horror because of slasher flicks.

Well, sure, only problem is tolkien knock-offs don't have a convient moniker. And there's so many of 'em, its almost synonymous with the genre itself.

Besides, people say "I hate horror" when they mean I hate "I hate slasher flicks" plenty 'o times.
 @Kixxi said:

the only thing this article was about was you. not even a question thrown in to invite members to chat about it.

Yeah, sort of, huh. Should have been a blog entry, not a article.
#35 Posted by WileyS (106 posts) -

My question is if you loved fallout so much, why did you not want to go back and play Oblivion?

#36 Posted by GuyIncognito (445 posts) -

>  Dragons are cool.  
 
Klepek, I'm a dragon.  u jelly?

#37 Posted by MajorToms (395 posts) -

@Skanker: harrumph!

#38 Posted by Abendlaender (2867 posts) -

Well I like Fantasy but have zero interest in Skyrim, so I guess were even?

#39 Posted by HBK619 (162 posts) -

I'm not quite sure I get what Patrick is saying in how Fallout 3 fixed his Open World-phobia.

Personally I have no aversion to Open World games, some of my favourite games are the most obvious Open World titles (GTA: VC and AC:B). But I couldn't do Fallout 3, it just overwhelmed me with too much of the 'left or right' decisions that Patrick was talking about.

Yes there was always an objective to potentially follow but the lure of just going through a building for whatever random shit I could loot out was too strong and eventually I put the game down about 10-15 hours in knowing that I wasn't going to find myself finishing the game (I had just gone past the 'radio' story mission).

If anything for me any other Open World game just offers a far greater linearity to them. My assumption is that Patrick isn't exactly talking about the linearity and the fact that it's so open that makes it good? I dunno, tbh I don't really get what Patrick is trying to get across as to why this cured his hate/dislike for Open World titles. If anything I would've thought this would've bogged him down into even more of an aversion to such a genre. Anyone else able to explain?

#40 Posted by MagusMaleficus (1048 posts) -

Patrick, I think you need to reconsider your definition of fantasy. Some of the finest fantasy literature of the last 20 years is devoid of elves, dragons, etc. Fantasy isn't just Tolkien-esque adventure tales of good versus evil. You might want to look into the works of China Miéville, Patrick Rothfuss (a relative newcomer), or Neil Gaiman, to name but a few.

#41 Posted by Humanity (9875 posts) -

Patrick has a pretty weird taste in games so this shouldn't be a big surprise that he's all messed up in the head about fantasy etc.

It's funny that out of all those games out there, Fallout 3, a relatively static, repetitive game helped him overcome a fear of the sandbox.

Online
#42 Posted by skrutop (3615 posts) -

I had no interest in first-person RPGs at all until my boss convinced me to try out Morrowind, which was cheap on the Xbox by that point. The game blew me away and I've been all about Bethesda's games ever since.

#43 Posted by onan (1286 posts) -

@WileyS said:

My question is if you loved fallout so much, why did you not want to go back and play Oblivion?

I'm in the exact same boat. I had no interest in Fantasy but picked up Oblivion when it came out because it was the biggest, most impressive thing being released on 360 at the time and heard so many good things, but ultimately after I got out of the first dungeon and made it to the first town, I got impossibly bored with it. There really was no real reason to move forward because of all the freedom they gave you.

I tried Fallout 3 and couldn't believe it was made by the same people. It had really interesting sidequests, great dynamic combat, the works. Also, it was genuinely funny, something that Fantasy (including much of what I played of Oblivion) lacks desperately. I put over 150 hours into Fallout 3 before I finished the main quest, and I'm still savoring and working my way through the DLC.

Yet oddly, I got the same level of bored with New Vegas as Oblivion. That was Obsidian though, so I don't know what to expect with Skyrim. Not a day one purchase for me, but I'll definitely play it at some point and hope it's an evolution of what they did with Fallout 3.

#44 Edited by Superfriend (1579 posts) -

It´s an Elder Scrolls game. That should be enough for anyone to be at least a little bit interested. They always try way too much stuff and most of the time only half of it works.. it still makes for great entertainment. For me, this game could be anything- open world, linear, a rail-shooter- I would still play it. Because I know Bethesda would do something crazy with it and because I love the ES world more than any other videogame fantasy world ever created.

And to those calling every fantasy game/story a Tolkien ripoff... you guys have no idea what you´re talking about and I seriously doubt you have ever even read Lord of the Rings or any other fiction from that universe.

What you´re seeing on the screen, the visual interpretation of the fiction- yes that might take more than a few cues from other fantasy works. But whats under the hood? No, not at all.

Try to play the games and understand the stories before you pass judgement. Or continue just reading the back of the book and be ignorant about everything- I don´t really care. I´m gonna enjoy me some nice fantasy pretty soon though.

#45 Posted by Mento (2736 posts) -

If you spent that long playing FFVIII of course you're going to hate fantasy.

Moderator
#46 Posted by Zanthox (238 posts) -

I'm the exact opposite. I am in love with high fantasy but can't force myself to care about Skyrim, but cannot stop playing Fallout 3 and New Vegas.

#47 Posted by Thor_Molecules (732 posts) -

Man, i'm the complete opposite. I always love me some high fantasy with orcs and elves, but Skyrim just fails to excite me, while Morrowind and Oblivion are on my top 15 favorite games list.

I'm just irked about their complete and utter devotion to the consoles, with the PC version sounding like a mere afterthought. Feels like i'm being left out in the cold.

#48 Posted by Sputty (143 posts) -

I don't see why people who are afraid of spiders are afraid of giant spiders. It loses the characteristics of a spider that are really trouble; their small size, scurrying and venomous bite aren't an issue with a spider the size of a grizzly bear.

#49 Posted by Vorbis (2750 posts) -

@mutha3 said:

@Vorbis said:

Boiling fantasy down to "orcs and elves" is pretty simplified. That's like me saying I hate horror because of slasher flicks.

Well, sure, only problem is tolkien knock-offs don't have a convient moniker. And there's so many of 'em, its almost synonymous with the genre itself.

Besides, people say "I hate horror" when they mean I hate "I hate slasher flicks" plenty 'o times.

Then you hate tolkien knock-offs, not every Fantasy novel is Orcs and Elves. Fantasy is a massive genre, hell even Harry Potter is fantasy.

#50 Posted by zombie007 (102 posts) -

Dear diary... wait, is this news?

This edit will also create new pages on Giant Bomb for:

Beware, you are proposing to add brand new pages to the wiki along with your edits. Make sure this is what you intended. This will likely increase the time it takes for your changes to go live.

Comment and Save

Until you earn 1000 points all your submissions need to be vetted by other Giant Bomb users. This process takes no more than a few hours and we'll send you an email once approved.