Survival Mode

Paul Fidalgo
9 min readMar 7, 2021

It’s freezing. I can’t stop shivering. I’m in the middle of a snow-blighted wasteland, and everything is white, and it would be hard to tell day from night if not for the fact that night is much colder. My only source of heat is some threadbare clothing recently issued to me, that at least includes a hood. I’m exhausted, badly needing sleep, and starving, but carrying precious little food. There’s a school-my school, actually-that’s really not all that far off, but the last time I tried to take shelter there, a mob of criminals tried to kill me. I barely escaped with my life. I know they’re waiting for me back there. There is a world of other places I could go-safe places, warm places-but I am on foot in this blizzard, and I don’t think I would survive the walk.

It doesn’t help matters that we reptilians are especially sensitive to cold.

I’m obviously not describing real life, but a scenario from a video game. I’m playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but with a twist: I’ve activated its official “survival mode,” which adds a slew of extra hinderances to the normal game experience. My character can not only be hurt by the usual melee blows, magic attacks, and dragon bites, but by much more banal forces: hunger, fatigue, and extreme temperatures. Skyrim ‘s survival mode requires one’, would-be dragonslaying adventurer to eat at regular intervals, keep cold and heat at bay, and sleep-leveling up actually requires shuteye.

Okay, fine, so you carry a lot of food, bundle up, and rest whenever you can. Except that survival mode also significantly reduces your character’s maximum carrying capacity, so inventory management becomes an even bigger headache than it normally is. And one can only sleep in specially designated places that are not owned by somebody else. You can’t just plop down on the ground and sleep, you have to find an inn or a friendly house or eventually learn how to craft camping supplies-supplies which, of course, use up carry weight.

And honestly, one’s Skyrim character is supposed to be the Dragonborn, the prophesied savior of all Tamriel (the major continent and empire of the Elder Scrolls franchise). You’d think they’d be a little more, you know, hardy.

I am not usually a fan of survival type games; keeping myself alive seems difficult enough without having to worry about a fictional…

Paul Fidalgo

Odd duck. Opinions do not reflect those of my employers, nor likely anyone else.