— “January 3, 2022”
Like a lot of Elder Scrolls fans, I’ve been hungering for the release of The Elder Scrolls 6 for years. I love Oblivion, which came out in 2006, and I love Skyrim, which arrived in 2011. There were only five years between those two games, but we’re now 11 years into the gap between TES5 and 6. And we’ve still got at least a few years to go. The wait for more singleplayer Elder Scrolls has been fairly excruciating.
So for the past couple years I’ve been a bit annoyed about Starfield coming ahead of TES6 on Bethesda’s schedule. I was definitely interested in a Bethesda game with spaceships and planets instead of horses and cities, but what I wanted more than anything was more Elder Scrolls. Give us that first, I thought, and then make your little space game.
But something funny happened when I saw the trailer for Starfield last June. I suddenly realized: Oh. Never mind. I’ll take Starfield first, actually. And the more I thought about it, the more I realised I’m perfectly happy to keep waiting for TES6. Even if I have to wait another five or ten years.
The reason is, simply, that I want a fresh start. I want to step into a new game world that isn’t tied to a half-dozen games that came before it. I want to read a journal and see a name and not immediately Google it to see if it’s a name from another game that came out years ago. I want to see something on a map and not have to alt-tab out and read a bunch of wiki pages to refresh my memory on what that place is and why it’s significant. I think I’ve come down with a condition called Fictional Lore And History Fatigue (FLAHF). I want a game set in a completely new place, with a clean slate, where it’s not drenched in references to a ton of other things that came before.
This is something I’ve been feeling a lot lately, and not just with games. I consider myself a Star Wars fan, but when I watch an episode of The Mandolarian I always wind up seeing videos a couple days later titled “781 Things You Missed In That Episode Of The Mandalorian, You Dumb Shit!” And I’m like, what? What did I miss? The Mandalorian shot some guys and Baby Yoda ate something he shouldn’t have. Was there more?
And what I missed was something like, oh, the guy in the bar drinking the purple drink in that one scene? That was Buttso Glarblort! You know Buttso, who appeared in the 1993 Star Wars novel Heir to the Ewok and was referenced in a deleted scene from Season 3, Episode 4 of Clone Wars where he was also drinking a purple drink in the same bar! And he’s a Sith or something! It’s a delightful easter egg every fan of Star Wars immediately recognized, and if you didn’t, you’re not a real Star Wars fan.
With these decade-spanning fictional universes, be they Marvel, Star Wars, or The Elder Scrolls, those of us who haven’t consumed and digested and memorized every last scrap of entertainment from the past 30 or so years, I wind up feeling like a bit like a stranger in the worlds I love. And often when the creators of these universes try to tie everything together it’s so clunky and cumbersome, like when they felt a need to explain—in perhaps the dumbest scene ever put to film—where Han Solo got his last name. Sure, it can be satisfying to catch a reference in a game or show or film that only longtime fans will spot, but there’s something to be said for loosening the stranglehold on the past and just forging ahead with something completely new.
I’ve spent over 200 hours in both Oblivion and Skyrim, but when it comes to the overwhelming amount of lore and history of the world, I’ve forgotten far more than I remember. The idea of stepping into The Elder Scrolls 6 and having to once again take a refresher course on the geography and the eras and the seasons and the races and languages and everything else that’s piled up over the years feels exhausting. I’m happy to delay that exhaustion in favor of an entirely new setting in Starfield. (It doesn’t hurt that the new setting will have spaceships and robots.)
I want a fresh start in a new world, where I know exactly what every other player knows, which is little to nothing. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be stoked if TES6 had a surprise launch today. I’m sure I’d play the shit out of it and forget Starfield was even a thing. (I’m also pretty sure Starfield is going to be brimming with easter eggs for other Bethesda games.) But I’m far more interested in absorbing new lore in a new world if it means I don’t have to recall all the old lore from the old world that goes along with it.
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