|Part of the map of Skyrim.|
Game designers now are increasingly exploring the sublime possibilities of gameplay. Bethesda's 2011 game The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is the latest installment of The Elder Scrolls series which, like WoW, also emerged in 1994 (although this is not an online multi-player game). Like WoW, The Elder Scrolls series is formed around a central epic narrative which stretches back thousands of years. Like WoW, too, it has its own impressive Wiki. Skyrim takes advantage of the rapid graphical developments of the last few years; the player may go almost anywhere on the vast map, and the mind of the Skyrim player is, in Burkean terms, "bounded by the bounds of the object" - in this case, the map. Skyrim re-imagines the sublime mountainous landscapes of the northern hemisphere into this virtual world: the natural experiences of the Romantic poets are transfigured into the virtual experiences of the modern gamer.
|Caspar David Friedrich, Wanderer above a Sea of Fog.|
This image became iconic for Romantic explorations
of the sublime.
|Ikmik the High Elf surveying the Skyrim landscape.|
There I beheld the emblem of a mindThe awe-inspiring landscape ignites similarly vast thought's in the poet's mind; his imagination becomes "mighty" through its contemplation of this "awful and sublime" sight. The mountain is sublime because it excites sentiments of eternity: the mind "feeds upon infinity", and the poet can look into "the dark abyss"; that is, his mind can reach inestimable heights and unfathomable depths, and the fear inspired by both is sublimely terrible. The poet's mind is formed through its experiences of the natural world.
That feeds upon infinity, that broods
Over the dark abyss, intent to hear
Its voices issuing forth to silent light
In one continuous stream; a mind sustained
By recognitions of transcendent power,
In sense conducting to ideal form,
In soul of more than mortal privilege.
One function, above all, of such a mind
Had Nature shadowed there, by putting forth,
'Mid circumstances awful and sublime,
That mutual domination which she loves
To exert upon the face of outward things,
So moulded, joined, abstracted, so endowed
With interchangeable supremacy,
That men, least sensitive, see, hear, perceive,
And cannot choose but feel.
|More scenes from Skyrim.|
If, as McGonigal suggests, gamers partake in these worlds because there they can become the best they can be, then they can also use these worlds to engage in experiences they will probably never have in their own, real lives. The modern gamer does not need to leave their home in order to experience the "mode of terror" which, Burke argues, "is always the cause of the sublime". Games developers can involve them in a world whereby they can access both the vast landscapes of the natural world, and those of their own "mighty mind[s]".