Last week, Skyrim was free to play for the weekend. Despite previous reservations I decided to give it a go, using the opportunity to do so without buyer’s regret. I’ve been, in the past, disappointed by the bland emptiness of Oblivion and maintained the conviction that Elder Scrolls games were just not for me. Although I like open world games, I felt that the minimal narrative and complete lack of cinematography was just taking things a bit too far. Elder Scrolls leans on the strength of its scale, depth of RPG mechanics and the ability to craft your own adventures. Everything else comes second; including story, characters, aesthetics and animation.
But Skyrim was brushed up for current generation consoles, I was told the story was way better than Oblivion’s and a recent gameplay video I watched looked rather amusing. So I thought: why the heck not? And I wasn’t disappointed. The refurbished textures and lightning do make the game a lot more atmospheric and from the get-go the world feels indeed a lot more immersive than Oblivion’s. I played over the weekend and although I wasn’t tripping over myself with enthusiasm; it definitely felt like something I should keep on a shortlist in case it would ever be on sale.
But there was one particular factor that made the game click for me: and it was something that became known in my household as “The Fable effect.” – Something that requires a little explanation, but let me first describe the situation where it dawned to me that I found a game that triggered this Fable effect. Saturday, the second day of my Skyrim weekend, I went out with my wife and a friend to see a movie. We ended up not watching it, because we were stuck in a restaurant were we had coffee before the movie. In the meantime it had started raining so bad, we figured by the time we’d walk to the movie theatre we’d be soaked and had to watch the movie dripping wet. So instead we rebooked it for the next day, had a few drinks and went home. We returned home, all cold, wet and disappointed. I had a hot shower, made myself tea, got in my pyjamas and settled down for more Skyrim.
Skyrim is the best when you are warm and comfortable and listen to the rain outside. The snowy hills, glowing fire places in the taverns, dark skies and dungeons full of treasures are the perfect backdrop for an evening like that. “Is this going to be your Christmas game?” my wife asked. She meant to ask if this was the Fable effect game. So, the Fable effect is a sense of cosiness and warmth that a videogame can evoke if you play it in the autumn or winter. It has to be a game that depicts a world with a wintery atmosphere and a overall feel of romanticism and joyfulness; unlike most modern games that love their grim and gritty worlds. My wife said “Christmas game” because the perfect time to play such game is the holidays, when it’s dark early and you don’t have work or school and lazily play games while eating chocolate and the house smells with cinnamon and bread.
The Day After Tomorrow
It also reminded me of another non-game related incident. Roughly ten years ago I went from my dingy student’s room to stay a weekend at my parents. It was November, dark and freezing. I missed the bus, then walked to the next stop and missed the next one too. Then I thought I’d walk to another stop to get on a different line, before realising that line didn’t go after 6 pm and gave up. I went back home, phoned my parents to tell I’d come tomorrow. In the mailbox I found a rental DVD I forgot I ordered: The Day After Tomorrow. I cranked up the heating, settled down on the sofa with coffee and watched New York freezing over whilst warming up from my misadventures in the cold.
Gaming During Christmas
Since then I’m always looking for my new Winter Wonder Game. Preferably a game, but films or series are also nice, you want to come home to after a cold, rainy day. Games that have snow, and cold and darkness in them and maybe some adventuring and fighting but nothing to realistic and serious. That’s why the Fable franchise is so perfect for Christmas. The storybook version of England with its hobbes and hollowmen and towns named Bowerstone and Wraithmarsh. It’s about kicking chickens and digging up treasures and Stephen Fry voicing a pansexual pirate who doesn’t age because of a magical stone. It has campfires in the snow and talking chests.
Now that the R is in the month again; I’m on the lookout for games like these. So when Christmas approaches, the days get shorter and the temperature drops, I might just get that copy of Skyrim after all.