Ashfield, Tamriel & Beyond

Screenshot from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Special Edition on the PlayStation 4. Taken by me.

The last few weeks have been some of the most surreal of my life. We all know what I’m talking about. At the moment, life has been put on hold and we’re all becoming well-acquainted to our bedrooms and homes. Days on end without seeing much of the outside world.

I wish I could say this was a new experience for me, but it really isn’t. This takes me back to what my life was like for a long time – stuck indoors for days on end, often with only myself and my family for company.

I was diagnosed at age 2 with Crohn’s disease – inflammatory bowel disease. I was a sickly child and missed out on the majority of schooling from age 10 onward. Stomach pain, hospital visits, and mental health stopped me from ever really having a normal childhood.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very deprived of outside world interaction and adventure.

When I was 12 years old in 2013, I had my first major surgery done. A right hemicollectomy – removing half of my colon and reconnecting it. It meant a month in hospital, in a shared room with typically 3 other kids. I think it was the toughest month of my life. Unable to do anything really but lye down in an uncomfortable bed.

After a certain point, I was allowed to head home for small intervals – unconnected from my IV drip and my “pickline” drip which was fattening me up for surgery. What did I do when I got home for those brief periods, usually no longer than an hour or two? Play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the PlayStation 3. When I was in horrible pain or discomfort I was waiting until I could be back home and in the world of Skyrim. It was my escape from the harsh reality.

Skyrim is the fifth main entry in the Elder Scrolls series, launched in 2011. A fantasy epic series which is set across the continent of Tamriel, which has 9 different provinces, each home to its own races and culture. The province of Skyrim is heavily based off Nordic culture and vikings.

TES: V was also my first foray into the the world of Tamriel. At age 12 it was pretty well the most amazing thing I’d come across in my life. An entire open world to explore, ability to roleplay as basically anything or anyone, and a sense of purpose.

I needed these things more than anything at that point.

Well after surgery, Skyrim remained my go-to game for escapism. In Year 7 I ended up missing 3/4 of the school year and was home a lot. So I played a lot of Skyrim. Across the PlayStation 3, PC, and PlayStation 4 releases of Skyrim I have at least 10,000 hours spent in that world. That’s at least 416 days. Yes that does sound concerning, but I’ve been playing it since 2012.

416 hours that saved me from the pits of despair. The hardest times in my life, always had Skyrim. People always ask me how I don’t get bored of Skyrim, and I think there’s a few elements to it.

One, would be the intense feeling of nostalgia and happy memories stored on there. Second, it’s that I know that world like the back of my hand. I know my way around the map so well and I don’t even need guides to find any of the 459 marked locations. It’s all muscle memory. And most importantly, it’s home. Skyrim feels like home. I load it up and I immediately feel more at ease.

I think it’s fair to say without Skyrim I wouldn’t be the person I am today, or perhaps even here.

When I struggled for outside social interaction, I had that world – which boasts around 600 NPCs (non-player characters). Characters like J’zargo, Serana, Nazeem, and the dragon Paarthurnaxx all taking up my head space.

I can’t really sum up what being home alone all the time was like for me mentally other than taxing and depressing. Waking up with no routine or schedule made me lost in the sea of my own thoughts.

During these uncertain and scary times, I’m definitely going to be revisiting the worlds presented in the Elder Scrolls series, soaking up every moment I can, and probably obnoxiously sharing screenshots on my twitter. It’s a ridiculously beautiful world, as well. Stunning sunsets, mountain ranges, deep valleys, ancient ruins, and beautiful northern lights.

I’d highly suggest an open world game like Skyrim to keep your mind occupied and busy feeling whenever you’re down or stuck indoors. It’s been immensely important to my development and growth.

The entire series has been there for me in my lowest points. Every game. Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Elder Scrolls Online… all an on-demand therapy. The online community for the series has also gotten me to meet some amazing people and even speak to the game developers in the past. I’ve been lucky enough to beta test a few Elder Scrolls spin-offs due to them knowing how mad I am for the series.

When the HD remaster of Skyrim was announced for the PlayStation 4, I was pretty close to tears. When I first loaded it up again on the PS4 I was choking up a bit as the soundtrack loaded and the ambient music flowed in the background, thinking about the adventures I’d had in the past, what it meant to me, and the adventures yet to come.

There hasn’t been a date released yet for the launch of The Elder Scrolls VI, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be getting it on launch day, spending another set of thousands of hours exploring it. Happy, sad, in between, I have Skyrim, and I’m deeply thankful for that.

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