I first played Morrowind at a sleepover at my best friend’s dad’s house when I was about ten or eleven. I wasn’t the bravest child growing up when it came to TV and movies, often being too scared to watch past the opening five minutes, and while that was starting to wear off by my tweens, I was still terrified of video games. Specifically being killed in video games. Or being jump scared in video games. Or doing something that might lead to something bad happening in video games. Games were pretty much just filled with pressure and fear for tiny me, and despite all this, I loved them. I loved watching them, and playing them in my own weird, scared way and nowhere was my way of playing more weird or scared than in Morrowind.
I was really paranoid about being killed, thanks to being taken out by a Nix Hound on my first attempt to walk to Balmora from Sedya Neen (that’s being taken out by one of the easiest enemies while walking somewhere I could have fast travelled, for those of you who have never played the game). That meant that I spent most of my time in Sedya Neen or stealing stuff in Balmora during my half-an-hour turns on the Xbox, much to the frustration of my friends watching over my shoulder. At one point my best friends brother gave me a whole ten dollars (all his pocket money for the week!) to jump off the tallest tower in Balmora, purely so I would leave the city limits. To be fair, I did survive…only to be killed by a rat ten seconds later.
Despite my somewhat limited experience, my memory of Morrowind has always been one of my best ones of gaming and I’ve tried to play it at every chance I’ve got. When I, more years later than I’d like to admit, got a computer with gaming capabilities one of the first things I bought was the five Elder Scrolls games, intending to play Morrowind immediately. It didn’t happen for three reasons; firstly, that pack contained Skyrim (the world’s best distraction), secondly, when I played Morrowind it looked awful (tiny screen plus old graphics) and thirdly, suddenly I discovered the wide open world of games that were only on PC (I had been very Xbox based until then). Also about six months into having the computer I spilt beer all over it, being the classy woman I am, and broke it.
Lucky for me, thanks to a new laptop and the Morrowind Sounds and Graphics Overhaul mod, Morrowind has become available for me again and finally I have the guts to venture outside Balmora. And what a world it is! I remember again why I was so happy to explore a world where I was too scared to venture outside the starting city. Morrowind is full of complex characters and shady deals. Here is a country that has legal slavery for every race that isn’t elven, two warring thieves guilds (#teamthievesguild, screw the Morag Tong) and enough great house rivalry to make any Game of Thrones fan have a happy. I’m currently playing as an Imperial Bard who spends most of her time either stealing things or convincing people to give her things that she otherwise would be stealing. Also jumping. ALL OF THE JUMPING.
One of the things I’m enjoying best about Morrowind though is the distinctively cohesive feel of the country. Skyrim has always felt like distinctive regions with not much in common other than Nords and guards telling me about their knee injuries. Morrowind has a bonding in culture across its cities, towns and weird fishing shacks in the middle of nowhere. Whether the city is influenced by the Imperial House Hlalaau or snobby, pro-slavery House Telvanni, there’s a shared culture; a respect for the new gods and an acknowledgement of old ones. There’s also a shared distrust of anyone who does make the effort to fit in and acknowledge the general feel and culture. Even the main story itself actually gives you missions where you have to integrate yourself as part of the culture, telling you to get a reputation for yourself by joining a guild or great house.
I love the Elder Scrolls games in general, but playing Morrowind, in particular, is total escapism for me. It’s like travelling to another place, and like travelling to somewhere you’ve never been before, it can be scary, but I am so glad I plucked up the courage to look around it properly. It’s truly one of my favourite fantasy landscapes.