I wish I didn’t hate you, winter

Winter. Like a bully she elbows her way into my life each year, her brutish stride destroying so many of the things I find pleasant. She turns my world monochrome, dark and cold, and I am once again left without any options but to curse her. And I curse her – over and over again – for Winter’s stay is far too long here in the north, and I grow increasingly sick of her presence with each passing year. Sweden, I ask myself, why the hell do I live in Sweden?

Many Swedes tend to talk about their love of Winter, but these people are deluded. They are her victims, suffering from Stockholm Syndrome, and they cannot be argued with. Yeah, skiing is pretty nice, but I can’t see any ski boots on your feet.  True, the snow can be beautiful, but once we leave the office it’s already far too dark to see. Indeed, Winter makes us appreciate Summer more, but like a disease makes us long for health I’d still prefer to stay healthy.

I wish I didn’t hate you, Winter, but you are misery.

 

51 words for snow

The eskimos are said to have fifty different words for snow. It’s not remotely true of course, but so goes the modern legend that we love to retell. I guess it’s a romanticization of the relationship to a natural phenomenon (and of the idea of indigenous people in tune with nature), probably saying less about eskimos and more about the people repeating the saying. We want to be closer to nature.

I think it’s often true that the modern human, with her apartment complexes and information feeds, secretly longs after the woods, mountains and rivers she has organized away. She desires a deeper sense of snow.

Perhaps those of us up here in the northern part of the world ought to have a slimmer version of the same myth, with our long winters. Thirty words for snow? Twenty? I probably have no more than a handful, but I sure know snow.

Truth to be told, I am sick of winter. See, we Swedes have a short summer. Spring comes late, and autumn always seem to arrive too early. Then we face many months of snow, cold and darkness. We count the day as blessed whenever our pale skin gets some sunshine, and we huddle in our brightly lit homes to keep the cold and the dark away. This winter I started longing for spring already in october.

Funny, then, that I enjoy the winterous landscapes of Skyrim so much.

Perhaps it is the contrast between sitting comfortably in a warm and bright apartment while exploring a steep mountain in an intense snow storm. Perhaps it is all the mysteries awaiting the curious who chooses to leave the beaten path. Or maybe it is the diversity of environments – the many variations on the theme “snow”.

Most of Skyrim is clad in snow, and yet it never ceases to surprise you. Moving from area to area, you encounter one unique snow landscape after another. The intense snow storm that seems to drown the world in white, the strong cold wind that blows newly-fallen snow from nearby ridges, the green grove that receives the year’s first snow, the…

Even as a swede, I have no words for many of the types of snow Bethesda has captured. That is not a reflection on my vocabulary but a celebration of Bethesda’s world design. If the saying about the eskimos had not been false, it’s easy to believe that even they would run out of words. I don’t know what strange country Skyrim’s art director comes from, but wherever that might be his people must speak a language with 51 words for snow.

It’s not only the variation. Each type of snow filled environment has been carefully crafted, giving you a rare sense of climate and weather. It genuinely surprised me how cold I felt when I climbed the game’s first mountain. Not only do the areas immerse you, but they evoke specific feelings. You will feel cold, but also melancholic, hopeful, filled with awe and so on. Couple the strong artistic vision of each landscape with the variation of environments and you experience an ever-changing emotional state as you walk the land.

With my dislike of winter, I would not have expected Skyrim’s defining feature – the one that made me fall in love with the game – to be snow.

Playing Skyrim

The move to Sweden was an ordeal. It should have been fairly easy – Norway is a neighbouring country, and I am Swedish after all (although with 50% Finnish sisu). But the completely insane housing market in Sweden (good luck trying to find an apartment without renting one from someone already renting it or paying a bribe of half a year’s salary), and the fact that we were defrauded gave us more than one headache.

Yes – defrauded. We we’re royally screwed on an apartment by a sociopath. It’s long story that I might tell another time, but for now I’ll just conclude that the parasite is doing time.

Anyway. Games.

The ordeal meant that most of our stuff waited for us in a warehouse, in the twilight zone between the previous apartment and the next one, and we had to wait until early December until we got it back. That translates to a lot of time without my PC or my Xbox 360. My already intimidating games backlog continued to grow and grow.

But it’s been well over a month since my hardware returned, so the backlog should surely have been reduced by now. Right?

Well, Skyrim happened. It’s not like I don’t want to finish Deux Ex: Human Revolution, it’s not like I don’t want to try out Battlefield 3, but…

I was never that impressed by Oblivion. And Skyrim is not a perfect game. But by god was it a long time since a game captured my imagination like this. When I’ve played it, I keep thinking about it even when I should be sound asleep. I think about the things I might want to try, and potential scenarios that might unfold the next time I enter its captivating world.

The game lives in the mind, and it was years since that happened to me. I remember having games stay with me during downtime when I was a kid, but these days it’s very rare… and I treasure whenever it happens.

Hi Sweden. It’s been a while

Since a bit over a month and a half, I’m back in Sweden. Kind of. I’m writing this from my flat in Oslo.

Me and Lena had thought about moving to Sweden for some time, and one of the reasons I decided to take the plunge now was the opportunity to join Machinegames. A fairly new studio in central Uppsala, founded by industry veterans. Two stylish floors of very talented and experienced artists, designers, engineers and other crazies. To get the chance to work with what I see as one of the best teams in the games industry makes me very pleased. I can do good work here.

Uppsala. It means “oops” in german, but it’s no mistake. This time I trusted my intuition.

I spend many of my weekends in Oslo. My girlfriend and most of my things are still in the old apartment, and will remain there until late October (Lena is currently busy as one of the coordinators of the Film fra Sør movie festival). Then, when the festival is over and we have the keys, we will move into our own place in downtown Uppsala. But for now this is the state of things, so I tend to fly a lot to Oslo.

It feels like coming home. Because it is. Kind of. How confusing.

I’m currently sharing a flat with someone in Uppsala. It’s easy on the wallet until me and Lena live together again, and I haven’t had to worry about a bed, cutlery and all that. Still. I used to say that I never wanted to live in any kind of collective, and I still stand by that statement. It’s just not for me.

But it will do until October. Then I have a proper home again.