One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2018 was to keep up a daily blog, something that lasted for about the first week of January. Perhaps trying to maintain seven weekly columns was too ambitious, or maybe it was that the length of each post got away from me–I thought the posts would average about 500 words but they consistently came in at 1500+.
Timothy Ferriss, my role model whose books and podcast are responsible for most of what is good about my life, frequently asks “What would this look like if it were easy?” Sticking to one column would definitely help, but which subject would consistently generate enough thoughts for a daily blog? Turns out the answer is obvious: my Ridiculously Slow Skyrim Let’s Play. It doesn’t take much convincing to get me to sit down and play video games, and every time I play I find myself waxing philosophical about dragons or mindfulness or whether Nords practice Lagom.
I’m not abandoning the other columns. The goal is to focus on the habit of daily blogging first, then mix up the content second. If you’re not that interested in Skyrim, well, neither am I. As I said when I began my playthrough, Skyrim is more of a vehicle for discussion than an end in itself.
And so, the adventure begins.
A Rational Alchemist
Although my Rational Alchemist column will be on hiatus for a while, my irrational love of all things alchemy hasn’t gone anywhere. Upon leveling up for the very first time, most players probably spend their perk on some kind of weapon skill, school of magic, or sneak, defining their hero’s chosen combat style. Aemilian has many battles ahead of him, I’m sure, but he is first and foremost an alchemist.
As an aspiring alchemist, the trek from Riverwood to Whiterun was full of delightful opportunities to harvest red, blue, and purple mountain flowers, along with the occasional lavender or tundra cotton. Already I am gaining a deeper appreciation of the game this time around; when I dabbled in Skyrim before I hardly noticed the flora, but now it is clear that a lot of care went into defining Skyrim’s biomes and the flora native to each.
Graymane or Battle-Born?
Upon entering the city, I quickly learned that not many residents shared my resolution to stay out of Skyrim’s civil war. Idolaf Battle-Born, the first person I spoke to, demanded I pick a side in his family’s feud with the Graymanes. He explained that the Battle-Borns support the Empire, whereas their rivals side with the Stormcloak uprising. Even though I tentatively sided with a Stormcloak during my escape from Helgen, he made some good points about building a better future rather than being stuck in the past.
Yet no sooner had I agreed with Idolaf that his family had the right of it than I ran into Heimskr, the resident priest of Talos. He’s a bit, um, enthusiastic for my taste, but I sympathize with his plight: the Empire has outlawed the worship of Talos due to an agreement with the elvish Aldmeri Dominion. This is a complicated war, and I’m not about to take sides.
Much Ado About Dragons
Now we get into my philosophical musings for the day. The whole reason I’m here is to talk to the jarl about the dragon attack, which as a player I recognize is the game’s central story. Yet I’m somehow more interested in Ysolda, a woman I met on the stairs up to the jarl’s palace of Dragonsreach. Ysolda is saving up to buy the local inn by trading with the khajiit caravan that hangs around the gates, and asks me to retrieve a mammoth tusk, which she believes will make a powerful bargaining chip. This errand is so trivial in the overall scope of the game that it is listed in the quest journal as a miscellaneous objective, rather than being its own quest. Despite that, I’m more invested in this than the main story. Why? Because the main story is forced on me, whereas helping Ysolda is a choice that lets me define my own story.
In real life, plenty of people are going to tell you what’s important, what’s fulfilling, what you were put here on this earth to do. You might agree. You might not. It’s up to you, although it may not even be your decision. I don’t remember consciously deciding to have a weird obsession with alchemy. It just sort of happened. Yet whether you control it or not, you can’t force yourself to be fulfilled by someone else’s Main Story. You have to explore the side quests, and when you find one that sets your heart on fire, you’ll know the adventure has truly begun.