Alas Vvardenfall (A guest post)

If you would kind readers, please welcome blogger C. T. Murphy and one of his gaming memories! I’ve never played the game which he waxes nostalgic about here; and that’s a crying shame, because he makes it sound like a grand time of exploration that led beyond the game itself. If you like what you see here (and I don’t know why you wouldn’t), then you should check his wonderful blog The Delver and follow him on Twitter (@murficity). My thanks go out to him for taking the time to write up this great post!

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The ship creeks as the ocean tosses it up and down. My surroundings are a dark, muddy brown array of simple wood textures. A man approaches me, asks me my name, and sends me off to my fate. Opening the door, the light hits me, at first bright before its sharpness dulls and I get first real glimpse of an entirely new world: Morrowind. Or at least that’s how I wish I had experienced my first and still favorite Elder Scrolls game.

Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind cover art © Bethesda
Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind cover art © Bethesda (source)

One of the easiest ways for me to bond with other people is through shared experiences, particularly those found in videogames. Growing up, I was always a fairly shy and reserved kid. I wasn’t big into sports nor was I any sort of artist. My social life consisted mostly of solo gaming adventures or reading books rather than partying or dating (which is still more or less the case). While I had always found myself buying the big trending game (trending in my school’s cafeteria at least, this was pre-Twitter), few of those games provided the depth of shared experience that Morrowind brought to my circle of friends.

Morrowind was not a great experience in the very beginning for me, however. Though I was already a veteran of open RPGs games like Everquest and Ultima Online, my single player experience was still grounded in classic, far more linear JRPGs.  Even having had played WRPGs like Baldur’s Gate and Fallout, I was not prepared for the world of Morrowind. After the lengthy load times of my Xbox finally left me alone and free in Seyda Neen, I was completely and utterly lost.

Compared to Oblivion and Skyrim, Morrowind’s opening is a short, swift affair where you’re literally kicked off a boat into some backwater town, and told to go your own way. The game does begin with some vague cut scene about a prophecy and you do have a quest to go to Balmora before completing the character creation sequence, but neither seems overwhelmingly important. If you are anything like I was, you more than likely just wandered around outside of the city, admiring the horrible, bow-legged animations while you suffered the games horrible interface, hoping to not die to a murder of cliffracers.

It is funny looking back on my first exposure to Morrowind. I remember being so lost and confused and perplexed by the game’s freedom that I debated returning it to EB. Given my fairly robust collection of horrible JRPGs on my Playstation at the time, me even considering returning a game was a pretty big deal.

After months of hype built up by my favorite gaming magazines and one evening of complete disappointment, I walked into school saddened and defeated. Only, when I got to talking to my friends who had also bought the game with similar levels of excitement, a pattern began emerging. We were all lost, confused, and disappointed. As we began talking about our biggest complaints and our few successes though, we began piecing together the broader picture: we had each began the game in entirely different ways.

One friend nearly had a wizard fall on his head, another had found a really cool weapon in a log, and yet another was already in Balmora while the rest of us were still wandering aimlessly hoping to find it. We talked about our characters, each one even more different than the last. In that first big lunchtime discussion, my opinion on Morrowind began changing dramatically.

From almost giving up on it entirely to now considering it one of my favorite games (and game series) of all time, sharing my experiences and listening to my friend’s stories of their own experiences completely changed my approach to the game. Instead of yet another game to be beaten, it was a game to explore on my own terms. Every hour I sank into Morrowind was another chapter of my own story that I had written, a story that I freely shared with anyone who cared to listen (even my mother, though she had absolutely no clue what I was talking about).

While some games are meant to be played with other people and some games are meant to be played by yourself, Morrowind is one of those rare games that is meant to be played alone and then shared with others. Sharing stories with my friends (some of which I can still remember) brought us closer together as gamers and even more importantly, as friends. Morrowind proved to me once and for all that any game can be a community activity.

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