This is a thought exercise I saw in Rock, Paper, Shotgun a while ago. It is one of those posts I’ve been meaning to write for a long time but… uh…I kept getting distracted and didn’t do it.
Anyway! Here is the hypothetical situation: Imagine that one day there is some weird cosmic event that wipes all games from existence. Not only that, anything related to those games is also wiped: game boxes, manuals, magazine articles, sites, etc. Even people’s memories of those games existance are gone. Except you are given the choice of saving one game from this gamepocalypse.
Now think carefully about which game you want to choose. First because it will probably be the only game we’ll have to play for a while. Secondly since it will be the “first video-game in the history of humans” it will influence a lot of developers in the short term as they try to figure out this new medium and on the players as they come to expect games to have features like that one.
I gave a lot of thought about which game I would choose but right now the only one I can think of is Morrowind.
Yes, I know there are lot of other games who do story or gameplay better. But I have quite a few reasons why I’d choose to save it from annihilation.
One of the reasons I heard that people have a hard time getting into Morrowind is that the world feels too alien. Although I can see that to a certain point, to me that can also be a plus.
I always felt that the fantasy genre isn’t just about a pseudo-medieval Europe with elves, dwarves and mages with pointy hats throwing fireballs. It is also about entering a fantastical world with some whimsy, mystery and magical wonder. Although Morrowind certainly didn’t have whimsy, it did feel like it had a sense of mystery and magical wonder to me.
The world of Morrowind had creatures that seemed to defy my expectations of evolution (granted, evolution in our own world can be pretty weird already). Tombs that felt like actual tombs to old families and not just some place to raid for loot. There were some creepy looking places where dark gods were worshiped and people warned about its dangers. God-like beings that seemed actually powerful and that did feel like they saw mortals as just ants to be played with. Cities with architectures I’d never seem anywhere else before built with materials that felt unfamiliar to me.
In short it felt more like a world to be explored than just getting into some place, kill everything in sight, loot all the treasure and then go to the next one. When you entered some place in Morrowind we never knew what to expect. It could be just some bandits with treasure to loot. It could be some crazy cultists doing some dark deeds. It could even have some side-quest you would never know about unless you decided to step inside.
It wasn’t only through the world design they managed that. The story too contributed in a large part to it. Whereas a lot of games are happy to tell you in the first 5 minutes that you are the “Chosen One” and then call it a day, Morrowind took it is time. The first quests don’t feel like there isn’t anything that big going on while the main quest giver at the time encourages you to go out, explore the world and get to know it. Then by the time it decides to tell you what is actually going on and your role in it you are already immersed in the game world.
For all that Morrowind always felt to me that it wasn’t so much as playing a game as much as living in a fantastical world.
While other games of the time in the RPG genre were happy to keep modding as something outside their main campaign or requiring some technical knowledge, Morrowind came with a powerful (for the time) tool to mod the game and change things in the game world.
To me this was a fantastical experience as it not only meant it was possible to change things in the game that annoyed me but also opened my eyes to all the cool things that could be added to make it even better.
One example would be player housing. Although Morrowind did have a kind of player housing in the form of fortresses, once you got to a point the Great Houses questline, they were all in the middle of nowhere and didn’t offer any conveniences.
Modders not only created (and shared) their own houses which were beautiful but they also had great conveniences like auto-sorting and storage for alchemy ingredients, mannequins and trophy cases for all those pieces of armor and weapons you collected in your journeys and more depending on the house.
Vampires were also another good example. In the base game if you became a vampire you joined one of the three vampire clans, got a few unique spells and all you could do was a handful of quests for them. That was it. You couldn’t even continue on the main quest as everybody refused to talk to you, if not attacking outright. The only exception were the Mage’s Guild who had an “Eh, whatever” attitude towards vampires. If you wanted to go back and continue to do the main quest (or pretty much anything else outside your vampire clan) you had to get cured.
Modders not only changed it to allow vampires to continue the main quest but they also added a lot of depth to the system, like turning others into your own thralls or vampires, needing to drink blood from time to time, receiving damage when entering holy places like temples and so on. There were even configuration options in case you didn’t like some of those options.
Even mounts, something that wasn’t part of the game, the modders attempted to introduce to Morrowind. Although I never felt it worked quite well due to the engines limitations it was a pretty nice effort and as always they tried to add a whole system to it with different horse breeds, with different traits, and a system where you could breed your own.
I could go on and on about Morrowind all day. But I think you get the idea of why I love it to pieces and chose it for this post. 🙂
Now it is your turn: what game would you choose to save if all others suddenly disappeared? You can just write your choice in the comments below or if you want to make a blog post about it (or anything else really) just feel free to leave the link there too. 🙂