This is one of those weeks that I’ve wanted to escape reality. Its a week where far too many scary things from my past and future have come to haunt and re-haunt me. If you’ve been going through the same week that I have, here’s a few Awesome ways I’ve found to escape reality this week. Feel free to post your own in the comments!
Video Game: Skyrim
Where did I find it? In the hands of my loving husband after I made puppy dog eyes at him in Best Buy. Best Valentines Day gift E-V-A-H!
Details: Fifth Game in the Elder Scroll Series by Bethesda Games (Series also includes Morrowind (good) and Oblivion (okay). The fifty-five million dollar question is who in the world played Elder Scrolls I and II???
Awards: Most recently, Game of the Year at the Interactive Achievement Awards
You’ll probably like Skyrim if you geek out about: RPG-style video games, the Elder Scrolls series, Vikings, Puzzle solving, chopping things with really cool swords, great CG
Why its awesome: You’ll be able to find multiple reviews of Skyrim extolling its graphics or game play, so I’ll keep this brief. In my book Skyrim gets an ‘A’ for Awesome for me solely on its storytelling format. Skyrim, like all the other Elder Scroll games, is a sandbox game. This means that, although all players start at a certain story point, from the beginning event the story framework spreads out like a web and the user is able to pick an almost infinite variety of quests, occupations, allegiances, ect. I have one friend who spent over 200 hours playing Morrowind without even completing the first step of the main story quest!
Skyrim, however, takes this format to another level. As a player I feel totally immersed in the Skyrim world, that the story is happening around me rather than being triggered by my actions. Mostly I chalk this up to Bethesda’s sparse use of cut scenes– during most important story points you are allowed to look around the room and completely ignore the speaker, or even walk away. The characters talk to each other to carry the story along, not just your character. And throughout the first few quests that I’ve done I’ve found myself with a growing apprehension that major plot points will (or won’t) happen if I don’t complete my given tasks in time. That maybe if I arrived at my destination just a little sooner I could have saved that poor dead traveler that I just looted for 10 gold. Plot tension in a video game! Perfect!
At the same time, the game play is directed. You can only have a full conversation with characters who are important to your quests–unlike Morrowind, where you could stop and ask every townsperson how they felt about the weather. And, unlike Oblivion, it is almost impossible to get transported directly to the hardest portion of the game at the very beginning. Hooray!
I only have two criticisms: 1) I now need a new TV, the high-def graphics are terrible on my huge circa 1999 rolling tube box. 2) I wish I could zoom out a little more in third person mode. I hate first person games, and Skyrim’s ‘over-the-shoulder’ third person compromise really doesn’t work for me. I like to be able to see my feet and pan around without accidentally falling into first person again.
Activity: Taking the Long Way Home
You’ll probably love this if you love: Driving, avoiding traffic, meditation
Why Its Awesome: I really hate traffic, and, with gas prices going up and the week I’ve had I’ve needed to feel like I’m getting the most for my $4.00 gallon of gas. So, I’ve started taking the long way home. (Time, not miles)
After high school I decided to commute from La Crescenta to Santa Monica. 45 minutes without traffic, up to 3 hours with traffic. So my friends and I got creative. We started taking the surface streets, winding through the canyons, finding every narrow and uncrowded street in Los Angeles. Since then I’ve found it a challenge to take surface streets through LA. With the various theater jobs I’ve held I’ve had to drive from Glendale to West Hollywood to Downtown to Northridge and beyond. I’ve never feared getting lost. As long as I stay north of the 10 and west of the 110 I’m fine, right?
A few nights ago though, as I was driving back from a friends house, I made the conscious decision to take surface streets. It was about midnight, so the freeways were clear, but I decided to wind through the canyons with the radio up, just lost in thought and admiring the views from up above. The rest of this week I’ve always taken a slightly different route home, whether its getting off one stop early or starting one stop late. I put my mind in the nowhere to go mode and enjoy the sights as I drive. I didn’t realize before what a meditative experience driving could be.
So, I challenge you. Next time you’re driving back from a familiar destination put that GPS on an alternative route, flip the music on (or NPR– I recommend Snap Judgement, an Awesome storytelling show on KPCC Saturdays 4-5pm and Sundays 9-10pm), and cruise down Sunset, or Coldwater, or Mulholland, or Sierra Highway (if you’re not in LA). See what Awesomeness you can discover.
And see you next week!