Dr. Dovahkiin: How I Learned to Stop Modding and Play the Game

Do you want to know the long version of why I created this website? Do you want to know more of my life history? Do you want to know what games I played as a child? No? Well, then you probably don’t want to read this post. But if you do (or are bored), read on!

(Yes I stole this title from my own Reddit post)

When you play the game of videos, you win or you give the controller to your brother so that he can fight that boss that you can never seem to finish off.

I grew up in a very technology-forward family. My father earned one of the first degrees in computer science from his alma mater; he regularly built computers and always worked in the field of IT. My brother and sister and I all played video games from a young age, from floppy discs (Yay Dosbox for emulating!) and cd-roms to a variety of consoles. The only person that doesn’t really game is my mom (but we play a lot of card/board games, which she always seems to win). At some point in my life, my family or I have had had more PCs than we can count, a Super NES, a GameCube, multiple Gameboy Colors, a Gameboy Advance, a PS2, an N64, a Wii, an Xbox, an Xbox 360, an Xbox One, a DS, a 3DS, and a Switch.

Living in the Northeast of the US, many afternoons, especially in the colder months (so like 8 of them) were spent playing video games. We were all big readers and we did play quite a few board and card games, but we kept coming back to the living room computer, or if we owned one, whatever console we had. My brother and I spent hours watching my sister, but since she was quite a bit older than us, pretty soon it was just the two of us, which meant that finally…finally I could watch him play. But seriously, I loved watching them play. I have a theory that Twitch is so popular because everyone with siblings grew up watching others play video games.

I did play a decent amount. Ready for a trip down memory lane? On PC, some of games we played were all the King’s Quests, all the Space Quests, all the Commander Keens, all the Sims (like SimCity/SimTower/SimPark), Jill Underground, Jill of the Jungle, Lemmings, The Incredible Machine, I.M. Meen, Toonstruck, Dr. Brain, Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Amazon River, Kyrandia, Quest for Glory, Storybook Weaver, Sonic Racing, Zoombinis, Riven, Myst, The Dig, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Duke Nukem, and Jason Storm in Space Chase. (Also, if you love these too, check out myabandonware.comv. You are welcome.)

We also played Mario on SNES and all the Pokemon and Zelda games on Gameboy. Eventually, we played Spyro and Tony Hawk and Guitar Hero on Playstation, and a few Pokemon games on Gamecube/Nintendo 64 (but only really cared about Pokemon Snap). Playing all these games, and watching each other play, brought my brother and I closer together.

I find your lack of replayability disturbing.

Fast forward about a decade (*cough* or two *cough*): I live in a different state than my brother and we’re both married with lives that don’t intersect all that often. We keep in touch, but live different lives. I knew that he kept in touch with a lot of his friends via games like Destiny, but I hadn’t really played a video game in many, many years. This brings me to about 2018. I found my old DS and Pokemon White 2 in a drawer while cleaning, I figured I would play a bit. (My brother is the biggest pokemon player I know; not just Pokemon Go, but like REAL pokemon. And I’m not talking past tense here. He shiny hunts as a grown adult. It’s really rather inspiring to see his hard work and dedication. And it’s something that he is starting to show his toddler son who is now also obsessed with pokemon and has started playing.) Anyway, the last time I had played on an actual console was honestly longer than I could remember. I played around with emulators a lot in college and replayed some pokemon games and legend of zelda (link’s awakening, oracle of seasons, and oracle of ages), but hadn’t even played those in years. My husband plays a lot of games on his Xbox (Witcher 3, all Mass Effects, Overwatch, Star Wars Fallen Order) and I like to watch him while I read or paint or whatever. So I decided I would start playing pokemon instead.

Well, it all came back to me. I became fairly obsessed. I had spreadsheets and apps on my phone, and I started finding older/newer pokemon games and played those. My brother, very excited to share this with me, inundated me with how to get pokemon with these EVs and with that hidden ability. It wasn’t long until I shelled out the money for a 3DS and Alpha Sapphire and Ultra Sun (and later Moon). And I finished my national dex on Alpha Sapphire and Ultra Sun.

Then I stopped. I was done. I could do some shiny hunting, but I don’t have the patience (unlike my brother who did over 2500 soft resets while shiny hunting Rayquaza in Emerald; no joke), even if I’m sitting watching my husband play games or watching Netflix together. Pokemon doesn’t have the same replay-ability if you don’t want to lose your save file. (My husband and I do play Pokemon Go regularly still, but that is apples and oranges honestly).

And then…we got the trailer for Sword and Shield. And I was so excited! We didn’t have a switch, but we had time to save up for one before the game came out. I waited pretty patiently for fall 2019. While I was waiting, I played Spyro on Xbox when that came out and loved it, but again, not the replay-ability that I remembered. I also got LoZ Link’s Awakening, LoZ Oracle of Seasons, LoZ Oracle of Ages, and Wario 3 (don’t ask; I loved this growing up and still do) as downloads on my 3DS and played through all of those. Again, a lot of fun, but not too long-lasting. (Also, I no longer needed my brother to defeat the bosses, which was a great feeling, but made me realize that I maybe needed to expand my gaming experience.)

I swear by my pretty floral Bellossom, I will end you.

November 1st 2019: I go to Best Buy to pick up a Switch and Breath of the Wild (my husband mentioned he thought he might like to play it). I had pre-ordered Pokemon Shield, but wanted to get everything set up so that the day it came out, I would be ready. I originally was going to get a Switch Lite, but my husband doesn’t really like handhelds and since he wanted to play these games too, I figured we would get the regular so we could switch (yeah I know) to whichever style we liked. I get home and get the Switch set up. I only have Breath of the Wild (which, remember, I only really got because my husband expressed interest in it and I used to love the old Zelda games), so that is what I put in to see how the console worked. (One more thing: I had some idea of the what the game looked like because I had watched my brother play for a bit when we visited him, and my husband and I love Youtube videos, so we had watched the Honest Trailer and Dunkey’s video).

I don’t even know how to describe the first day I played this. I played from 6 PM that night until 6 AM. Fell asleep for two hours and went to work. Got home, immediately started playing until the wee hours of the morning. Rinse and repeat until the weekend. Then I basically played straight through without sleeping.

I thought I was obsessed with catching them all in Pokemon. That barely scratched the surface of obsession. When I wasn’t playing (i.e. at work), I was listening to the soundtrack and browsing reddit or making spreadsheets/lists. When I was home, I was playing. My poor husband thought it was funny at first, but then he realized that since I had first played on the TV with the controller, and thus that was how I would forever prefer to play, he wouldn’t be able to use the TV. No more Overwatch. For weeks, this went on. Shield release date came and went, and other than a few hours when I took a break to play through the game (didn’t finish the dex, just the story), I went right back to BotW.

I literally bought a brand new console for Shield and I have played maybe a dozen hours total. I have hundreds of hours into BotW. When I finished (literally everything except for all the korok seeds, but I swear one day!), I started Master Mode, and in about 10 hours, I had left the Great Plateau, done a couple dozen shrines, and a few towers, but it was stressing me out a bit. So, I started a new profile on normal mode and set a rule that I would only use Pro-HUD. I made it through a decent percentage of the story with that playthrough.

So, why did I love BotW so much? Another redditor (can’t remember who or I would credit them) commented that BotW is “Spyro with a sword” and that made a lot sense to me. I love puzzles and minor combat; I like a good story that makes me emotional (still get goosebumps and a little teary-eyed during some cut scenes). I am a VERY nostalgic person, so moments like the first time I went to the castle and heard the music, I got an almost high off of how awesome that felt. I love collecting things, so armor/koroks/etc. I love exploring. I love climbing and gliding. (My second time playing, I almost died a bunch on the Great Plateau because my muscle memory was so used to being able to glide off of everything!). I love the music and the scenery and how terrifying and yet playful everything is. I love Kass and Sidon and Link and so many other characters. I loved finding the memories (and have an idea to do my own scavenger hunt or something). I ended up buying the book that goes along with the game and devoured that. I can’t wait until BotW 2 is released.

There is a way out of every shrine, a seed to every korok; it’s just a matter of finding it.

But that’s just it; BotW 2 hasn’t been released and as much as I have tried, I never made it very far with replaying the game. But, the gaming itch that had been satisfied with a scratch here and there for most of my life was a full-fledged poison-ivy-and-chicken-pox-under-a-wooly-sweater-in-100-degree-heat situation. So, for Christmas 2019, I asked for Skyrim for Switch (you can get the Champion’s tunic, master sword, and Hylian shield!) because I knew that I would eventually have to try other games and it seemed like a somewhat (very very loosely) similar style. I played for an hour or so in early January, but the first time I died (in Bleak Falls Barrow), I abandoned it to go back to BotW. Then a few days later, my husband was working nights, so I played BotW (my new no fast travel/Pro-HUD playthrough) for 8 hours straight on a Friday night and got up and continued to play on Saturday. By about 4 or 5, I realized that I was slouching in my chair barely paying attention, which worried me. I didn’t want to lose my love of the game. So, I switched to Skyrim. I played for an hour or two and then…for the first time in months, I put a TV show on. I fell asleep at a reasonable hour (again not common in my life right now). Sunday morning, I am up and about at maybe 10. I decide to keep playing Skyrim because I want to play something. And I guess third time was the charm for me. Here is a literal quote from a post I made on Reddit that day:

I am now almost as obsessed as I was with BotW! I love the open world and the collecting and combat and the quests. I do wish I could climb and for-the-love-of-Hylia, I wish I could glide (could you imagine gliding down those mountains?!). (Also I can’t mod because I will not jailbreak my switch and that is the only way currently) (Also Also I guess my lifelong dream of having a gaming computer should happen sooner rather than later) (Also Also Also I already have SO many games on steam because “Steam Summer Sale” including Skyrim). I wish I read less hints/tips/tricks/etc when I played BotW, so I am trying to go into Skyrim more blindly. You would think that would be difficult since the game is as old as my relationship with my husband (no joke; it came out the month we started dating), but I mostly only know the songs and a few memes. It is my first RPG and I am loving it. BotW must be my gateway gaming drug.

And I played, just as obsessively: I finished almost every main quest/DLC/guild quest and so many other random quests and collected SO much, that by level 80, I was ready to start a new character. And this was where the first big change in video game experience hit me: I could replay this game and there were actual possibilities of it playing out differently. I could be a mage instead of a warrior. I could be a Nord instead of a Bosmer. I could become and stay a werewolf, or not do the Dark Brotherhood quests, or I could join the Dawnguard instead of becoming a vampire. This was a whole new territory for me. So I created a second character and had quite a lot of fun, but I won’t lie, I got distracted by about level 40. My distraction? Witcher 3.

Don’t blink. Don’t even think about going to the bathroom. Blink and you get attacked by Water Hags.

I loved watching my husband play this game on the Xbox, so when it saw it was on the Switch, I decided I would try and play. It was a lot of fun. The combat mechanics were different, but really fun to learn. I loved the collecting (sensing a theme?). I loved (and hated) that my choices had consequences. And as much as I thought I remembered from when I watched my husband play, either he picked completely different options, or it just is that amazing a game that it seemed all brand new to me. It was gorgeous and I loved the characters and storyline and DLC…and then it was over. I wanted more! So I tried to play Mass Effect on the Xbox (since that is also very choice-driven and my husband loves it). I couldn’t get through 5 minutes. I have always been more of a fantasy kind of gal than a sci-fi. Give me Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings over Battlestar any day. (Although I do love Star Wars, Star Trek, and Firefly; but those are really more Space Fantasy, Space Adventure, and Space Western).

I considered doing a second playthrough of Witcher, but abandoned that idea. I started another playthrough of Breath of the Wild, but that didn’t last very long. I was reading more again, which is obviously great, but I was feeling a bit bereft. Like a binge watcher in a show-hole, I needed my next fix.

Pandemic hits. (Which still feels like something out of video game.) I now REALLY need something to occupy all the time we have spending inside.  I pulled out my crappy laptop and decided to see if it could handle a slightly modded Skyrim LE. I started fairly small with maybe half a dozen mods. I loved (and still do) Legacy of the Dragonborn and Elysium Estate. I played for a while and it was fun, but I kept wanting to add more mods that I would see recommended on here and Nexus. I knew that I would probably mess everything up by adding more, so I made a spreadsheet for a future playthrough.

In April, I made the mistake (?) of checking what my average FPS was. 15. I was averaging 15 FPS with NO graphics mods and maybe a dozen mods, and this was on Oldrim. I decided that for my birthday, I was going to buy a nice laptop that I could play on at a higher FPS and with more mods. So I asked my brother to help me pick one out. Of course, he ended up talking me into building a custom desktop instead, which he helped me do over the phone from halfway across the country. And I started over with a brand new computer, eventually switching from LE to SE, and Vortex to Mod Organizer 2. I’ve had half a dozen playthroughs and tried out Wabbajack. I’ve learned some things to do and a LOT of things not to do.

There were many many MANY ups and downs (and I don’t really know why I am speaking in past tense; I still have much to learn, but I’m trying to learn from my mistakes!). At the end of July, I decided I wanted to start writing down some of what I had learned because I figured maybe someone else would find it helpful. At the very least, I could point other newbies out to the things I found along the way. And that is how this site was born. I really hope it continues to grow and that the Skyrim modding community continues to create and contribute and communicate. Thanks for reading!

Skyrim, you’ve got all the makings of a real great role playing game, and that’s what I appreciates about you.