Storytelling In Video Games. Or Why I Dislike Skyrim

Jeff Cannata (two N's one T) from Weekend Confirmed (or from TRS if you're one of those people) was talking about what type of gamer he was and that got me thinking about what kind of gamer I am. Now if you know me, you'd know that I frown upon thinking of any sort, but just like masturbating, you gotta get the poison out once in a while. This thinking led me down a dark, deep and sometimes horny path of self-discovery and I'm here to talk about this enlightenment (I use the term loosely since I'm too lazy to open a thesaurus and find the actual word I'm looking for). 
 
One thing that has bugged me for a few years is the love and admiration people give to the Elder Scrolls games. As much as I tried, I just couldn't get into them, which is weird since they have all the elements that are up my alley. Sure, there are little things here and there that nagged me (like the atrocious amount of bugs) but the root of the issue lied somewhere else. Forward to this morning when I was listening to the Irrational Interviews between Ken Levine and Guillermo del Toro when it finally hit me: it's the storytelling. If you haven't listened to the interviews already, I highly suggest you do so here because they're quite fascinating. The thing that struck a nerve was when Guillermo (or should I call him Toro? Guilly? Mr. T?) said that when he played game and a cutscene happened, he skipped it because he was playing a game and he wanted to play not watch. He doesn't want games to take control from him in order to tell a story.
 
This is the crux of my problem. Perhaps it stems from my intense childish love of books (started reading when I was 4 and haven't stopped since) but I'd rather be told a story than craft one on  my own. This is party because I know that whatever I create in the 20-30 hours I pour into a game will be inferior to the story someone spent months or years writing. Furthermore, it sounds like more work than it's worth the trouble and if I'm one thing above all others, it's being goddamn lazy!  

It's like -40 outside. How is he not cold? 
It's like -40 outside. How is he not cold? 
So lets bring this full circle and talk about Skyrim. After all that's the only reason you're here. I know it, you know it, even your mom knows it (tell her I said hi). My problem with Skyrim is a fundamental one. Because it's so broad and it tries to give you so much choice, it looses out on the one thing that matters to me the most: great storytelling. Sure you may say you have had great stories like punching a dragon to death with your bare fists or dumping 10,00 cheese wheels from a mountain peak, but those aren't really stories. No, they are experiences. The stories Skyrim does tell are the ones in it's quests; the Companions, the Thief's Guild, the Stormcloak rebellion and the rise of the Dovahkiin. Yet none of these are engaging or deep enough for me. I simply can't get attached to a voiceless character or the supporting cast of characters around him. The terrible, in-game cutscenes and bad scripting don't help either. It all just feels soulless. 
 
You may be asking yourself: "Were you dropped on your head as a baby? Why the hell are you playing games for the stories?" And yes, I was, but most people don't like to mention it, you asshole. But that's neither here nor there. I will use the Witcher 2 as an example here. As another sword and sorcery game, I think it's a direct opposite to Skyrim. You play as Geralt of Rivia, a named character with an established origin and personality. Although his journey is heavily influenced by the choices you make as a player, it's ultimately still his journey, not yours. As such, I can connect to the character a lot more. Not to mention that the storytelling in general is much better, the side characters are more likable and have a greater presence and the story itself feels like it has more impact and gravity. A large part of that is because of the cinematics and the fact that you have a larger investment in the world and characters.    
A man with a past... and lots of amnesia. Like a lot.     
A man with a past... and lots of amnesia. Like a lot.     
 I'm not trying to degrade Skyrim. It's a well-made game with a lot of great things going for it and some epic, epic music. It's just not for me. That said, I still enjoy fisting dragons, but it's a shallow fun rather than the deep emotional experiences I expect from my RPGs
 
A second point I want to make is an appeal for cutscenes. I've never understood the negativity cutscenes get from the gaming crowd. There's the infamous MGS4 example. You know what? I enjoyed every goddamn second of those cutscenes (plus you can make Rose's boobs jiggle so there's that). Not only do they offer you a break and help with the pacing, but goddamn it some are just fucking awesome to watch! My thumbs will not fall off if I set down the controller for five minutes! Plus I'll take a full cutscene over a QTE any day of the week. It makes me sad that the industry is trying to move away from them and into more "interactive" storytelling. 
*shake shake shake* 
*shake shake shake* 
 In short, Skyrim sucks, screw the Jews and I've got free candy for your kids in my van. ;)
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