Transit in Videogames


While reading chapter 6 entitled Transit of Ian Bogost’s How to Do Things in Videogames, I found it interesting that as he discusses transportation and travelling as parts of journeys, he neglected to mention what I think is the game series most representational to this idea of transit: The Elder Scrolls, which I think lessens the point he’s trying to make. Bogost describes transit in videogames as, “solving a problem [that] amounts to moving successfully through the obstacles of an environment.” He then goes on to mention GTA and Animal Crossing and the various ways that one interacts with the environment, including driving or meandering around to obtain and complete quests. He describes it as experiencing a “space between points” but in regards to the games he uses as examples, I’m not impressed. Granted, I’ve never played the two games he mentioned, though I have played Saints Row III and IV which I hear are parodies of GTA and in that experience, I could care less about the scenery. In Saints Row driving through the clustered city streets is more to get to a destination or show off my customized car. I can’t say that while driving around I ever thought, “Wow, they put nice detail into that Freckle Bitch’s” (An in-game fast food chain, for those who were wondering.) 

A more appropriate game that involves transit  as integral would be The Elder Scrolls series, specifically Skyrim as it is the most recent release. In Skyrim, not only is the world vastly more expansive than GTA, but there’s so much more to take in and do to it. Bogost says, “For these locations to simulate remoteness effectively, they must start out entirely unfamiliar, inviting the player to come to understand them through slow transit rather than the speed of transportation technologies.” I can understand how that might apply to Animal Crossing but GTA for all intents and purposes, is the epitome of transportation technologies. Sure, we might not know the city, but we know how to drive so as to avoid cops, and eventually certain buildings or bridges will look familiar and in no time we’ll have a general idea of how this world works. Such is not the case with Skyrim where the terrain is wild and largely never before discovered. Not only that, but in the beginning of the game, the player doesn’t have the luxury of a gun or a car or even a homie to help them navigate this new world, but a cheap bow, weak iron sword or magician level magic. In fact, right outside of the first town there is a giant so much more overpowered than you are, the lesson of caution is learned immediately. I think that’s what makes Skyrim much more palpable as an open world game. 

The fact that there’s so much more to do in this open world is also key to this idea of exploration. In Skyrim there is a fast travel option, but it can only be achieved once an area has been discovered. Therefore, if you need to get across the map and you have no discovered destinations, you’re walking. But whereas that may get tiresome in other games, Skyrim offers continuous things to see and do on your journey such as admire the breathtaking landscape, clear out a nearby cave, trade with a small fishing village, kill the bandits on the road, or do a  small quest for a blacksmith. It gets to the point where you’ve explored so much, you’ve forgotten what your original quest was, effectively solidifying the case for the journey being the entire experience. Skyrim incorporates the fear of survival with the thrill of exploration and by doing this makes lengthy journeys the favored ones, returning us back to the days of a new frontier and perhaps satiating a bit of the wanderlust that might linger within us all. 



2 thoughts on “Transit in Videogames”

  1. I too was also surprised Bogost didn’t mention an Elder Scrolls title, or even one of the newer Fallout titles (3 or New Vegas). I really liked this chapter because I never really thought about what It must have been like for people in the 1800’s to all of a sudden have the ability to use a railway. Today we take traveling for granted and our main goal is to get where were going the fastest. And Its true, It’s bridged all the gaps in the world, but It’s shrunk it by cutting out the middle man, the act of actually exploring. I traveled to Singapore recently and I was in New York, Japan (23 hour Layover), and Singapore all within 48 hours basically, Its absurd how we can do that today. Although admittedly I wish the planes went faster, because I hate flying. But back to what you were saying about Skyrim. Skyrim is a game that encourages you to walk around and explore, and Its often rewarding. I’m not as much into Elder Scrolls (Skyrim) as I am Fallout, mainly because I prefer Sci Fi over fantasy, but one of my biggest mistakes was using “fast travel”. This is almost identical to what Bogost was talking about. The railway was a method of “fast travel” in the real world, and It ruined the journey in a sense. Within Skyrim and Fallout, after you discover like 5 locations, you have the ability to open up your map and just travel to any place you’ve found instantly, and in doing so you miss A LOT of stuff in between. I did this with Skyrim, abused fast travel, and honestly it took its toll, I felt disconnected from this gorgeous game world that Bethesda worked so hard on. When (and if) Fallout 4 ever does come out, I swear I will not use fast travel first time through.

    1. Bethesda has a great concept for their fast travel systems. In playing Fallout 3 and being an achievement hunter, I’ve crawled all over the map looking for new places to explore. The one that took me the most time to find was Oasis. For those that haven’t played the game, Oasis is a settlement that was untouched by the Nuclear war. Typically the color theme in Fallout 3 is muted and dull, in order to accentuate the damage done by the war. Being able to spend the time traveling (and dying), gave me a greater appreciation for the beauty of Oasis once I entered.

      It’s good that this game gives us an open ended gameplay and the ability to travel to other locations. I remember leaving the Vault for the first time. I had to call a friend and as: now what? I look forward to Bethesda’s next release in the Fallout Series.

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