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.