One thing that made it really hard not only to finish my essays, but to want to finish them; that thing would be Skyrim. Kieran recently took pity on me and the fact that I’ve never upgraded past a PS2 and let me borrow his Xbox, complete with all his Xbox games:

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I was amazed.

I love all the nostalgic childhood games I had on my PS2 like ‘Ratchet and Clank’ and ‘Spyro’ (loved Spyro) but I’d never encountered games like this before. The first one I tried was ‘Red Dead Redemption’ and it was immediately my new favourite game. And not just because I love horses and it was awesome the amount of detail they included for them: not only did they actually look like horses instead of the weird square box animals masquerading as horses that PS2 usually produced, there were different varieties with different attributes that you could level up during the game. Plus, the detail in this game was crazy; in older games, if you tried to make a quick getaway on a horse in the middle of a fight and made the character sprint madly up to the horse, when you pressed the command button to get him on the thing, he would very calmly stop to put away his weapon before slowly mounting in the correct fashion. Not so in Red Dead- not only did he jump on straightaway but there were actually different ways that he did it. I realise how easily impressed (and simple) that makes me sound, but I thought it was great. Anyways, that wasn’t the only reason it was my favourite; the plot line was awesome and the game itself was beautiful, I couldn’t get over the graphics- Kieran came in after ten minutes and found me staring in awe at a cactus.

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And then came Skyrim.

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I’d thought Red Dead was more complex; I’d never played a game where there was so much you could do, and where you could wander off the path. That was a concept I’d never comprehended before- all the games I’d ever played had an invisible wall along the path which meant you couldn’t walk off it. Like in Ikea, where you stick to the path if you know what’s good for you and wandering off could mean you never found the way back.

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However, I had some slight issues with the sudden introduction to newer games.

First of all, I couldn’t get used to the controls/how quickly the camera/the character/everything moved. Yes I know that makes me sound like an old person, and Yes I know you can adjust those kind of things on the settings, but I refused to be beaten by the Xbox. Which created quite a few problems. Red Dead starts you off quite slow; not slow enough for me. Minutes after the first shooting event and I couldn’t figure out how to look up, let alone aim where I was shooting; John Marston was spinning around on the spot and staring at his feet. The same thing happened on Skyrim- all I had to do was follow some dude up the stairs. But they were spiral stairs. I didn’t stand a chance. It took me half an hour to aim the character’s viewpoint up and straight and to get him up the stairs, and even then I fell off halfway up.

When Kieran taught me how to look around, I still had no idea how to aim on Red Dead (“why is the aim spot so tiny” “why is everything moving so quickly” “why can’t he stand still for me to shoot him”)- and that was another thing. Enemies on the Xbox games weren’t kind enough to stand still for you to aim. And they shot back fast. Cut to me trying to make John hide behind a rock and being unable to figure out how to crouch and being shot repeatedly. Something that hadn’t even occured to me was that other characters might react to a weapon being drawn and pointed at their faces- in PS2 games, you have all the time in the world to get the gun out, stand steady, aim it at the right place, and shoot, and the enemies don’t react until they’re hit. Apparently this isn’t the case in Red Dead (“why is everyone screaming and shooting at me what do I do HELP ME”). The fact that they react immediately means you have to shoot pretty quick, and this wasn’t helpful when I still couldn’t figure out the camera; not only could I not get out my gun and aim it, I couldn’t understand why everyone was firing at me, and couldn’t even aim the camera up to see who it might be. I had the same problem in Skyrim- I was still trying to figure out how to use my weapons, and decided in the first village I came to that a chicken would be a worthy opponent to test my skills on. I killed it in one shot and was feeling pretty pleased with myself, until all the guards set upon me again (“why are they attacking me” “it’s just a chicken” “did they really see that?!”), and then it was back to get shot at, panic, die. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the other characters can interact with you.

This was again a problem in Red Dead, where I struggled big time with the horses. First of all I couldn’t figure out how to get on- the instructions are telling you to “mount your horse and follow that dude” and 20 minutes later he’d ridden off into the sunset and I was still getting on the horse, pressing the wrong button, and immediately getting off again. Plus, when I finally managed it, I couldn’t control the damn thing- it was veering all over the place and this led to Problem With Horses No.2: if you ride the horse over someone, they will react. On PS2 games, the other characters are so rigidly unable to interact with you that if you happen to bump into them, they just sort of glitch out of the way. But not so in Red Dead- you guessed it: get shot at, panic, die.

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