Fellow gamers: We have free will!

So you may have heard, Skyrim launched. I’ve been playing every spare minute this weekend and so far, it’s quite fun, but like any other open world game there’s gonna be some quirks.

This one was making the rounds even before the game launched:

Silly, huh? I kind of love it when people weird stuff like this.

Not everyone finds it amusing though. I’ve encountered at least one person, a game designer at a major developer, who is calling on Bethesda to “for the love of god” fix the issue. When someone else asked him why, he said that it breaks the illusion that it is a functioning world and turns the game into a farce.

(I’m not mentioned names or linking to the discussion because that last time I did that the person who I linked to got very upset and has since stopped interacting with me, and anyway I’m just using this one incident as an example.)

I thought this outlook was a little bit extreme, given that the issue is easily avoided and in fact if this video hadn’t been making the rounds very few people would have ever considered putting a bucket on the head of an NPC. Full disclosure: I’ve been playing since Friday and I’m not sure how the person you made this video picked up the item to move it like that. My interaction with things has been limited to ‘click to put it in inventory’ or ‘click to drop it from inventory.’ [According to the YouTube comments shudder you hold down the ‘pick up’ button…haven’t tested it yet.]

If Skyrim was a multiplayer game I’d be more sympathetic to the idea that this is something Bethesda has to fix ASAP, but it isn’t. It’s a completely single player game with not even so much as a leaderboard to compare your progress to that of friends. You should play it the way that you enjoy, and if using the old ‘bucket over the head’ trick breaks the game for you: just don’t do it!

This isn’t the first or the last time that this kind of an issue comes up, and the person I’m referring to isn’t alone. It seems to be a compulsion among video gamers that every corner that can be cut must be cut, and every exploit uncovered must be used. Why is that?

When did we lose the ability to create our own rules and follow them? Who didn’t have ‘house rules’ for Monopoly back in the day? Pen & Paper RPGers make up complete rulesets for themselves. Boardgamers do the same thing. If something about a game bothers them, they come up with a house rule to make it more to their liking.

But as soon as a game turns electronic and starts enforcing the rules for us, we seem to forget we have free will and can layer our own ‘house rules’ over the rules the machine enforces. So make a ‘house rule’ that says “No buckets on the heads of NPCs” and enjoy the damned game!

5 thoughts on “Fellow gamers: We have free will!

  1. Blast it, deleted my own comment by mistake. Anyhow.

    I completely agree, and I don’t see this as a ‘bug’ at all. I haven’t put any buckets on any heads because my character has absolutely no reason to. It’s really easy to just not do it. I’m pretty sure that by everyone else’ standards I’m probably ‘playing the game wrong’, I spent an hour trailing after some random hunter in the woods that had nothing to do with anything just because I thought it was hilarious the way he kept cursing at a fox that evaded all of his arrows. I love the number of choices I have, and I’m having a blast playing it the way I want to play.

  2. Well said. I guess we sometimes forget that we can choose to not do something if we don’t want to. 😉 Especially when there aren’t even other players around.

    I think it was Oblivion that really annoyed me because I sneaked into a house – nobody had seen me – I stole something, put it into my bags and left the house. Again, nobody had seen me. Then I went on my merry way and met some guards on a street far away from said house. They immediately recognised me as the thief and put me into prison for a night. THAT annoyed me as well. I then switched to a non-sneaking character and stayed away from stealing. Still, I would’ve liked to have the choice to do some more realistic stealing.

    Either way, I still had fun in the game, just not the way I’d originally intended. 😉

  3. Surely a more valid point is that corpses don’t degrade over time or the very least disappear. Instead each time I visit locations where combat has occurred, I find the same lifeless victims of my handy work. For me this breaks my immersion much more, as I have no control over the outcome.

  4. The cutting corners point is the reason I like Wurm online so much, no way to cut corners and you have to work for things. It also lends itself to creating a closer group with those you play with for that reason.

    I’m not playing Skyrim as I just can’t get excited about any single player game since playing my first MMO. 🙂 I do agree that it shouldn’t matter that there is the exploit above as it doesn’t interfere with anyone’s game but the player doing it.

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