Fus Ro Dah - How Skyrim Ruined Gaming For Me

Skyrim Dragonborn
Credit: Bethesda

Skyrim Dragonborn
Credit: Bethesda

Okay, you have watched countless YouTube videos and heard everyone's opinion on the game more times than Spider-Man and Batman have had origin movies. But this is my story, a story about how a little game called The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ruined all other games for me forever.

It was November 2011, 11/11/11, and the post arrived just before I had to go to work. Clattered through the door at 8:30 a.m. was a padded envelope of dreams. Little did I know that the contents would ruin my gaming life forever, as inside that package was my first copy of Skyrim.

This was a copy of the game I would never see again after returning home from work, but more on that later.

I had played The Elder Scrolls franchise a few years earlier. A random purchase of Oblivion from my local game store (remember those) was my first outing into the wild landscapes of Tamriel, and I had enjoyed the game, but it didn't hit me properly at the time.

It could have panned out that I never tried the series again after Oblivion. However, there was something special about the release of Skyrim. It felt like a moment.

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Credit: Bethesda

Skyrim is a game that became part of a running joke that it will be ported to every console ever due to the seemingly endless re-releases of the game from Bethesda. See for yourself; here is a list of all the different versions of Skyrim released to date:

  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PC)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Xbox 360)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Nintendo Switch)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (Free PC upgrade)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (Xbox One)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (PS4)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition (PC Upgrade)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition (Xbox One)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition (PS4)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition (Xbox Series X/S)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition (PS5)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition (Nintendo Switch)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Anniversary Edition (PC, DRM-free via GOG)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR (PSVR)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR (PC VR)
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (Alexa)

And I own every single one of them (excluding the VR versions).

skyrim opening
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Credit: Bethesda

I remember clearly the first time I played the game. In the opening, your character is on the back of a cart, sentenced to death, when suddenly a dragon appears, and lies waste to the town of Helgen—it instantly imprinted onto my soul.

Related: Redditors Vote Skyrim As Best Game Of All Time

As you frantically escape from the flames and destruction, you get your first choice: follow Ralof or Hadvar. It was a minor decision that had little repercussion on the rest of the game, but having such a dynamic decision to make during the frantic rush to find shelter resonated with me.

I knew Skyrim would be different, but I didn't realise at that moment just how different it was.

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Credit: Bethesda

The other night, I had internet issues and could not play my evening game of Fallout 76 because it is an online-reliant experience. Instead, I decided to fire up Skyrim (Anniversary Edition on my Series X) and lost 4 hours before heading to bed with half-shut eyes at 3 a.m.

It was then that I started firing on all cylinders. Why was Skyrim still able to hold my attention even in 2024? What was it about the game that saw me return time after time, always finding new adventures? And why don't newer games capture my imagination like this classic from 2011?

You can't boil it down to any singular reason. The freedom you get after the escape at Helgen, the NPCs with daily routines, the seamlessly integrated side quests, and the wonder of roaming the snow-drenched landscapes are only part of this magical dish Todd Howard and his team cooked up in the Bethesda kitchen.

I'm not a big fan of fantasy. I don't hate it, but I gave up on Game of Thrones after Season 1, and I would watch Star Wars over Lord of the Rings any day of the week. Yet something in Skyrim spoke to me: everything in the game comes together like a perfect mosaic.

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Credit: Bethesda

If you want to be a lone wanderer who never faces the main quest, you can do it. Fancy living out your days as a bandit by the road attacking passers-by? Go for it. With the newer Anniversary Edition - you can even live as a fisherman rising at dawn, selling your catches before heading to the local tavern for a beer after a hard day lakeside. There is simply nothing like it.

The funny thing is that some games offer similar freedom but not quite the same. The wonderful Witcher 3 from CD Projekt Red is the closest I can compare it to. Sure, it is similar to Skyrim with its open fantasy RPG setting and even has plenty of options in how I shape the game, but I see the world through the eyes of Geralt no matter what freedom is given. In Skyrim, I am whoever I want to be.

That's what nails it for me. I can load up the game on whichever platform is nearest and either reload an old save or start afresh with the guarantee of doing what I want and how I want. This feeling has never been matched before or after Skyrim was released, and in my mind, it can never be replicated or bested.

Related: Skyrim vs Oblivion

Skyrim is my story; I can share the choices I make with others, and while they may have seen similar things, they will never have played my story, they will have never seen the exact same events in the wild, and they won't have made the same choices.

Whenever you dive into the main story or a quest line, Skyrim is so engaging that it makes you want to know more about the mysteries throughout the land. In addition to the freedom and choice-making, this only adds to the immersion.

Sure, some accuse Skyrim of dumbing down the RPG formula, and that may stand true when compared to older Elder Scrolls titles, but for me, it’s the perfect blend of accessibility and role-playing that results in a beautiful experience each time you start a new adventure.

And so we come to my problem - how can I ever be satisfied with any other game after experiencing the wonders of Skyrim?

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Credit: Bethesda

I play all types of games, and sure, Bethesda games, in general, I revisit over and over, but none of them come close to Skyrim. The issue for me is that I might be playing a round or two in Halo and start drifting off, thinking about exploring the new mine I discovered last time I was on Skyrim. I could be playing the latest Street Fighter or Tekken and start thinking about whether I should have chosen to be a Vampire Lord over partial soul-trapping. Or I could even be enjoying the latest Mario with my kids, and my brain reminds me that I should get back to my save on the Switch, where I am roleplaying as Link (The Switch version has Links tunic, Hyrulian shield, and the Master Sword).

All these games have nothing to do with Skyrim, but even while playing RPG delights like Final Fantasy, Cyberpunk or Dragon Quest, I think about raising my blacksmithing to make Daedric, Ebony, and Glass armor sets.

It seems that the game will cast a shadow on all future games I play for eternity, and I’ve not even mentioned mods yet, mostly because I don’t feel that Skyrim needs them. Now, before you light the torches and take up arms to hunt me down, hear me out.

I like mods; I really do. They can enhance the games in ways the developers would never attempt, whether due to their vision or budget constraints. What mods give us are new ways to enjoy a game - but I feel vanilla Skyrim, well, anniversary edition anyway, has more than enough content for years or even decades of playtime.

Yes, I have enjoyed modding Skyrim in the past, especially the wonderful Falskaar—seriously, check it out. But on reflection, I decided unmodded was my preferred way to play. Sure, some enhance the game, but there’s something beautiful about a Bethesda game's raw and sometimes buggy nature.

No, for me, I prefer playing without mods. Another reason for this was that despite owning almost every version released since launch, I had never played the main story on any of my characters. I played Skyrim by heading where I liked, not where I was told; the adventure turned out how I decided. Yes, I had allied with both Imperial and Stormcloak and played the whole war storyline, but never once had I followed the true path of the Dragonborn and slayed Alduin—until last year.

Alduin Skyrim
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Credit: Bethesda

So why did I decide to play through the game's story just last year? Well, for one, I was competing against my friend to see how many games we could finish in a year (a contest I’m sure I win every year). Also, if I were to give a true insight into Bethesda games with this website, I had to complete the story that Bethesda intended us to play through.

While I did not feel that the main quest was my favourite part of the game, and I still believe it was not necessary to enhance my enjoyment—having never touched it before after earning the first of the shouts—I think it is a worthwhile adventure for all players, although not a mandatory one.

The two main story DLC Dawnguard and Dragonborn, which are now part of the main package for the base game, are also worth trying out. A quest involving ancient prophecies, vampire lords and mystic new lands only gives more life and depth to this almost decade-and-a-half-old game. The other gives you a chance to take on an evil seemingly more deadly than even Alduin himself in a twisted Lovecraftian hellscape constructed with forbidden books and filled with moving passageways. The expansions are fantastic, and their storylines will only help increase your love for this game once it clicks.

Related: Starfield Hate May Not Define Its Destiny

Talking of the game clicking, back to that Winter day of November 2011. Returning from work, I went to get my copy of the game to put straight in my Xbox 360 with full intent to pull an all-nighter (pre-child days, a distant memory) only to find that my brother-in-law, who was staying with us at the time, had swiped it and loaded it into his own console.

Apologising while refusing to stop playing, he offered to pause the game and drive me to a local store where he purchased a second copy for me to play as he was “too far into some Dwemer ruins" he had found to stop; I don’t think he turned his Xbox off for three days straight following launch day. As mad as I was, I got it; he loved Bethesda, had played Fallout 3 and New Vegas to death, and was gripped by Skyrim from the first moment, as was I.

However, I did swipe back my preorder canvas map, as the second copy did not have one in the box.

Skyrim Map
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Credit: Bethesda

I'll never find a game to replace Skyrim; at this point, I think I have absorbed the game like a dragon soul, and it is now a part of my daily life.

Today, I spoke to our Social Media Executive about this article and said I would like Skyrim on my phone. I have a problem, I acknowledge it, and I am okay with it. Skyrim is there for me when I have a tough day or need to unwind. Skyrim is there for me if I want to do some dungeon-crawling exploration. Even when I remember to use my Amazon Echo Dot, that's right; Skyrim is there for me.

That sums it up: Skyrim is there for me, and I am for it. While the next entry of the franchise will, I'm sure, be amazing, it has a highly set bar for it from a 13-year-old game from the same studio. Other games may never scratch the same itch as Skyrim does for me, but that is ok; I will always have the mountains and valleys covered with blankets of snow to dive back into whenever I see fit.

Maybe it’s finally time for me to try out Skyrim VR while I wait patiently for The Elder Scrolls VI to be released.

Thanks for reading, Adventurer.

READ MORE: Starfield vs Skyrim

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