Video(games) killed the storyteller
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim”
Voice acting: 7.5/10 Story: 7/10 Digestibility of story: 10/10
I may be new to columns, but I am not new to video games. I’m currently studying English, and I constantly analyze movies and video games for the comprehensiveness of their storytelling while watching and playing them. Many games make me irritated with their simplicity and lack of originality, whereas others take me aback with how effectively they capture a narrative. My goal in this column is an honest analysis of video games—specifically their ability (or inability) to tell a story. Have video games really killed the storyteller? Let’s analyze.
“The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” is approaching its sixth year anniversary of release this Saturday. The game is still releasing new updates, mods (game modifications), and console compatibility updates, including a release to the Nintendo Switch console on Nov. 17. The game’s popularity and fanbase are still going strong years after the release, but why? Is it the storytelling perhaps? I think yes.
In “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim,” you wake up on a horse-drawn wagon; you are then swiftly informed that you are a criminal who tried to cross the boarder and are now going to be beheaded by the Imperial Legion. This is what is called “in medias res” which means “into the middle of a narrative.” Bethesda, the company that released the game, appears to immensely enjoy this type of storytelling, and will use it over and over again. This doesn’t necessarily count as a cliche, however, because Bethesda has solidified in medias res as their signature introduction in many games.
After a character-editing screen, a dragon named Alduin is introduced moments later and you are given full operation of your character. You escape the burning town and then you can do whatever you please: continue onward to save Tamriel or pick flowers and start fist-fighting bears.
This story is rather convincing for the setting, and I feel that it does motivate you to complete it. I rate the digestibility of this story a 10/10. I understood the goal fully, and without having played any previous “Elder Scrolls” games, I felt confident playing it.
I rate the overall story as a 7/10. This is because the story isn’t particularly unique in aspects of story arc, and I felt no real big payoff at the end of the main quest. You defeat Alduin (that’s nice and dandy), then no one really acknowledges that you did this, and the game continues treating you like a commoner. Not completing the main quest is not very detrimental to the game in general, and you can get away with never truly finishing the main storyline.
Voice acting is important for atmosphere in a game, because it brings immersion into the game and allows for believability. I give the voice acting a 7.5/10, because the voice actors are limited for the sheer quantity of NPC (non-player characters) in-game. The developers have placed many characters into the game, but they only rotate out a handful of voice actors for the less important characters. This is understandable, but it felt lacking.
So has “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim” killed the storyteller? No, it hasn’t; it’s just lulled the concept of narrative into the peaceful sleep of familiarity. It’s comfortable, and at times pretty fantastical, but it is not revolutionary.