I've opened so many doors since I picked up this game.
Iron doors. Wooden doors. Locked doors that led to locked chests, doors
opened by pictograph riddles and lever manipulation. Doors to cities and
dungeons. Doors made out of rocks. Doors guarded by robots.
Nothing prepared me for this door, though. No, nothing prepared me for the
I bought Skyrim feverishly. Payday and an evening listening to hype
forced my hand. This has happened before. I'm only so strong a person - I can
only hear so many good reviews before I have to blow 60 dollars or so on some
sequel to some game series I either have not played or have actively disliked.
(I rented Oblivion a few months after its initial release; after
escaping to the overworld from my near execution, I wandered into a city,
opened the wooden door to a house, and accidentally stole a plate. This action
threw me in jail. I removed the disc and promptly rented some manner of Star
But by God, Skyrim was something else. I decided to roll Bosmer and became
immediately engrossed. I imagined myself as an orphan who'd spent his life
grifting on the street, caught trying to immigrate to Skyrim. Though initially
bewildered by the lack of a class system, I found that if I stopped trying
to "game" it and just started making decisions that made sense, the
game would unfold before me. I wasn't trying to figure out how to make my Rogue
character more magick-y; I was leveling up in the skills that I actually used,
the ones that came up naturally in my gameplay. It's the memory-foam-mattress
approach versus something like the sleep-number system; the former moves around
my natural motion, whereas the latter makes me choose ahead of time with some
imagined vision of what I want to be.
So there I was, traveling somewhere in the southwest, completely ignoring
the main questline. More than that, I had no idea what the main questline was, because I was just
doing the quests that made sense to me, instead of feeling pressured by the
whims of the world. Yes, I knew the Winged Death known as Alduin threatened to
end the realm at any given moment, but that wasn't important to me. I was the
dragon born, and I had to fuck up some beehives (or something, or something).
Always in the mood for a new Dragon shout, I ventured down the nearest dungeon,
hoping that the winged linguists had a way to translate hate into yelling.
The first few rooms were innocuous enough. Nothing unusual, save for the
fact that the Conjurers had already been run through. No big - the mobs are
dead. Still lootable? Still lootable.
I didn't notice the cages. A false floor almost killed me. Switches in every
hallway threw out traps that threaten to take my last bit of health (or, they
would, if I hadn't had my sneak-spec high enough so as to avoid triggering
them, natch). I pulled one chain. A fire came out of the ground and into
a cage, charring an already-charred corpse inside. Cute accoutrements, I'm
sure, to make me feel like I was in a bad, mean place.
But I shouldn't have opened that door.
The room that made my 24 level Rogue-ish mage Bosmir stand still. More a
closet than a room. A closet filled, to the brim, with shoes. Different shoes.
Iron shoes, elvish shoes, hide boots. Commoner shoes of three different styles.
There were easily thirty pairs here, unceremoniously thrown into this room,
presumably pried off the feet of the poor souls who wandered here before.
According to the save timestamp, I stood there pondering exactly how
horrifying this was for five actual minutes. Then, I saved, put down the
controller, and called my mom. You know. Just to hear her voice.
Let me be clear: there is nothing inherently terrifying about the room of
shoes. You have to go a level deeper. Somewhere at Bethesda Softworks, there is
a human. This person brought up this idea in a meeting. "Let me fill a
room with shoes." I wonder if the shoes came first, or if the dungeon did.
At any rate, this idea got approved. A team presumably approved this. A room
full of shoes to frighten a 23 year old man and a 24 year old Wood Elf. This
was just a thing they decided. The room, full of shoes. Behind a door. In a
dungeon. In the gorgeous, expansive world of Skyrim, full of dozens of
dungeons, each with their own doors, each with their own potential for hundreds
of shoes. A group of people crafted each one, down to the detail, down to the
room full of nondescript footwear, for our entertainment.
These people exist in real life.
May God help us all.
Alex Jarvis is a typist. He has written for Wired's Geekdad, Profhacker, himself, and most recently, his own Comic Book review website, Spandexless. Yes, he does want to hear from you, but not right now. He's busy.
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