There are many games that have given me great satisfaction and wonderful experiences. I could write down a long list of games that have really had an impact on me – one way or the other. I have enjoyed fierce multiplayer matches with my friends at Goldeneye. I have traversed the endless Dune Seas of Tatooine in Knights of the Old Republic. I have taken a walk in the light summer rain in Animal Crossing. These games, and many more, have invoked powerful feelings in me.

Still, there is one game that stands out. One game the touched me far more than the others. One game that stands completely alone in terms of emotions, feelings and memory.

That one game is The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

I will not talk very much of the game in the strict informative matter – you’ll have to find that out by yourself. Let me just say that Morrowind is an open, sandbox-styled roleplaying game developed by Bethesda Softworks and released in 2002.

Let me instead talk of it in a quite personal matter. About what it meant to me. About how and why it touched me like it did.

It is not uncommon that I start up the soundtrack to Morrowind and start listening; the main theme with its muffled drums and building power or the songs of exploration that gives me a great sense of adventure and unexplored lands. I think it is here that I must start – with the music. It is through the music that I have come to realize the amount of memories and emotions this game has stored in me.

Every time that I listen to the soundtrack I am immediately transported back to Morrowind and the harsh, cold island of Vvardenfell. I can see the swamps of the Bitter Coast region, I hear the crickets playing by the murky waters, I see myself walking into Balmora in search of someone and I get a glimpse of Vivec – the grand city on the water.

And.

It feels real. My body reacts to it with a sense of both joy, sadness, awe and inspiration. It is like all my memories and experiences with the game suddenly come back – concentrated, focused and physical.

No other game has managed to bury itself so deep within me (with perhaps one exception: Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magic Obscura). The question though remains. Why? Why Morrowind?

The game is very powerful regarding suspension of disbelief and immersion. The large world, the unrestricted freedom, the amount of quests and lore and the original feel of the world all add up to this. The island of Vvardenfell is not a scene on which to play linear theater. No, it is a world that exists of and in itself without the need for any player heroes. It gives me the same feeling that reading Lord of the Rings gave me; Middle-earth is a real world and the story of the books is only one of many stories. The world is not dependent of the stories.

Still, to be honest I’m not convinced that the game would have the same impact on me if I were to play it for the first time today. I would probably enjoy it but not with the same extreme sense of immersion. I believe this has to do with me. I feel that I’m having a hard time getting as immersed in experiences, and especially games, as when I was younger. I still enjoy the escapism but unfortunately age has created some kind of barrier that is harder to climb. Morrowind hit me at the perfect time; the barrier was very weak, almost non-existent. And so I could easily jump over it and fall into Vvardenfell. I think that this “barrier of immersion” is a quite interesting concept though hard to pin-point. That is also why I enjoyed the first Fallout-game without getting really excited – I couldn’t climb the barrier in ways many others could. Morrowind on the other hand helped me to stray further away from the barrier than ever before and I don’t think that this feeling will ever leave me; the bitter coast region, the frozen hills of Solstheim, the great city of Vivec and the soft summer rain will always have a place within me.

I would like to take a closer look at the barrier of immersion someday for it is quite recurring when looking at which games and experiences have stayed with me and which haven’t.

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July 16, 2011

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