This past weekend I had the house to myself. From that you can read that I had the TV to myself, and from that you can safely assume that I invested as much time into my gaming as I possibly could. When I wasn't typing away on the computer, or failing miserably to do the Christmas shopping that I needed to do, I was plugged into my Xbox. And what a jolly time I had.
I spent a good chunk of time playing Modern Warfare 3. The ‘Kill Confirmed' playlist is fast turning into my favourite way to play the game. I also dabbled in some Hardcore Ricochet (that's when friendly fire is returned back on the aggressor), and after the initial beatings my scores stabilised and I found it to be an enjoyable experience.
But this weekend was never supposed to be about Modern Warfare 3. Oh no no no. This weekend was a Skyrim weekend. Everything was set for it; there were no distractions, I had a couple of pizzas in the fridge and, most importantly, I had the time to really involve myself with the story and that's exactly what I did.
I know that some people like to complete a game like Skyrim in one sitting. They can't relax until every single quest and side mission has been finished. Not me, I don't roll that way. I figure that if a game is good enough, and big enough, there is no point souring the experience by trying to cram too much into one play-through: You can always play it again.
Oblivion is a game that I played through twice. The first time I concentrated on the main quest (and a couple of side missions that seemed relevant and/or potentially helpful), all the while savoring the epic plot line and the unique setting provided for me by Bethesda. During the second play-through I completely ignored the main quest, went off and joined the Brotherhood and made a career for myself as a killing machine.
Having the choice to go and do whatever you want in a game world is a great thing, and it takes a brave developer to make a game with this sort of mechanic in mind. But for me, taking on a variety of interesting and diverse side quests when there is a central storyline being told, makes for a distracting experience. It's almost like saying "So, the world is falling apart, there are demons coming through gates dotted across the countryside, they're killing the people and threatening life as we know it, and I am in a unique position to stop it all and make myself a hero, but you know what? Who cares! I'm going to go picking Nirnroots from the banks of rivers and then I'll go looking in the local dungeons for a slightly better sword".
I understand that you shouldn't turn your nose up at good content, it would be criminal to do so, but for me there is a time and a place for the different gaming experiences offered by side quests. I'm going to wander through the world of Skyrim, helping people on my way (or maybe assassinating them - I haven't made my mind up yet) and hoovering up the side missions, but first, there's some dragons to kill and I'm in a unique position to stop them all and make myself a hero. Running errands and looking for plants will just have to wait.