I’m embarrassed to admit this.
But, really, we all wish we could solve our problems this way.
Have you ever heard of Skyrim? If you have, you’ll get what I’m about to say, and if you haven’t I shall bring you into a dark brotherhood.
You know how there’s literature around that’s fascinating and full of interesting images that really seem to say, “dude, how many balls can a guy trip”? Or literature that’s so crisp and intelligent that you get paper cuts by looking at the cover?
You know those kinds of literature? Really excellent, trend-setting literature, that you love to leave lying out in your apartment so that people are impressed when they see your bookmarks in it. Placed at random right before they arrived. The kind of literature that’s so good that the mere act of talking about it makes you feel confused and begin to wonder exactly how much bullshit the world really contains.
Big “L” literature, in short. Literature, with the schwa vowel in the second syllable barely implied — lit-racher — just to demonstrate how la-dee-da it all is.
You know the kind. Brainy stuff. Stuff that makes you feel confident enough to say, “Ah, you say that, but…” at opportune points in conversation.
Well, Skyrim is not that kind of literature.
Skyrim is the other kind of literature.
Skyrim is the kind of literature full of “twists,” and you call them that because you predicted them. No Literature worth the big L has “twists.” You predicted them from the first hints of “plot.” No self-respecting Literature has “plot.
Skyrim is the kind of literature that thinks “original” is something you keep at the back of your spice cabinet so you can sprinkle dust on your chicken sometimes, because apparently that’s how to be classy.
Skyrim is not breaking any new ground, all right? It is the post-punk, pre-reruns Red Hot Chili Peppers of the literature world: reliable, consistent, predictable, and catchy enough that you’re pretty sure you heard it that one time, even if you don’t know all the words, and you’re secretly suspicious “it was Jimmy Eat World, wasn’t it?” not that you’ll say so.
Basically, it’s a story about becoming a dragon slayer. That’s pretty much the starting and ending point of it.
What’s more, it’s a video game.
There are so many automatic disqualifications here that this sentence ought to cause this page to catch fire: Skyrim and In Search of Lost Time could, conceivably, be stored on the same shelf.
If I had any self respect as a storyteller and a writer, I would never propose to enjoy Skyrim, right? It would be like hearing a recording of Ernest Hemingway saying, “Robert E. Howard? Dude! I love that guy! Conan the Barbarian is the shiz, yo.”
Just like Ernest Hemingway, I could never be such a nerd. If he were known to say things like that, you’d have to make jokes like, “Ernest Hemingway? More like Half-ass Hemingwould’vegonethatway. Ooh! Cold! Ironic, since it is such a burn!”
And no one would ever make that joke.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is Skyrim is not winning a Nobel Prize for literature any time soon.
And I find it…so satisfying.
You can have your books that leave your eyes turned sideways. There’s a place for them in the universe. Of course there is.
But there’s something to be said for literature that never even tries to mess with your head. Something to be said for literature driving you so hard around familiar curves that, even though you’ve felt that particular sway a thousand times already, you find yourself leaning into it with a mad grin because even though the car behind you is trying madly to find a new line you know — you KNOW — that this is the only way to travel. Top down, still half tipsy from yesterday’s shindig, and looking forward to skinny dipping and margaritas at the lake.
That metaphor got a little away from me, but never mind! Let it go.
Look, I’m talking about classics here. You don’t have to understand any of the lyrics of “Thriller” to get that it’s suggestive squeaking has echoed from Los Angeles to the Mongolian Steppe. You don’t need to understand or agree with it to experience the unsettling influence of “cute” things. And even if you hate everything about The Big Lebowski, you kind of get people who quote it all the time, even if you want to trip them when they’re walking downstairs.
Some things just suit our species. We don’t know why. We will never be able to fully explain how they fit. They just fit.
Which is why Skyrim works, you see? It appeals to a realm of instinct so deeply repressed that we would need a lot of cherry-pineapple cosmos to even begin to talk about it. I don’t care who you are, I don’t care how deeply you keep this side of yourself buried. I know it’s there.
I don’t care who you are or how old you’ve grown to be, every single one of us, somewhere deep inside, wishes that we could solve our problems by proving that we’re more bad ass than dragons.
Know what? I’m not embarrassed.
Let me hear you say it!
Dovakhiin, Dovakhiin, naal ok zin los vahriin!