In response to my post on the Geology of Skyrim, which managed a whopping 60,000 views in the first week it was posted (thanks guys!) I thought it would be good to take a closer look at some of the great comments left about the article. I also did an interview for Bethesda Softworks and this was posted on their blog, and I am really glad to see this also received a large majority of positive comments.
It was great to see so many positive comments (also some lovely emails which I greatly appreciate for the time and effort those people have taken to read my article and compose something in response too – thank you!), and I have to say that out of the 60,000 people who read my blog not one was a troll!
Having so many positive comments is a great thing, and shows the willingness of such a diverse range of people to learn, and crucially, as I will demonstrate in this post, engage with science.
So here I will provide a breakdown of some of the key comments from the article that broadly demonstrates the kind of reception this type of science communication can generate as well as the level of engagement it can encourage. I have separated the types of comments into several themes, which I will discuss separately.
Inspiring a new interest in geology
Some of the comments were from readers who liked the game but had either actively disliked geology before or had not come across the discipline.
“I hated geology in college, but I do believe you just made it more interesting for me. Thanks!”
“THANKS! I hated geology, but now it’s much MUCH more interesting thank you! thank you!”
“I’m not much a fan of geology, but this was an interesting read. Would love to see a breakdown of all of [the continent that Skyrim is a part of] when [The Elder Scrolls] Online is released.”
This was one of my primary aims when I began the mapping Skyrim project and wrote the transcript. Helping people become interested in geology in the first place and realising how exciting it can be is also one of my top aims as a science communicator.
New approach to gaming
Some readers subsequently wanted to engage even more with geology, either through a new approach to the game itself or in other aspects of their life.
“Wow, another aspect of this wonderful world that makes me love it so much! I love that your scientific, geological approach, just makes the game even more real. life-like for me!”
“My god, this article was so good! As a student of Geology, I found it to be very well written and explained a fair bit of things in a logical way”
“Your work has inspired many! Thank you for taking the time to share this with us. I look forward to reading more about this. For science!”
“Great article, great science….as a chemist, you’ve inspired me to look at the biochemistry/chemistry involved in the game’s alchemy! I applaud the work.”
“As an author in the process of creating my own fictional world, this not only interesting, but useful. I really want my world to make geological sense and there’s some good info in here to help me understand how to do so.”
“From this day on, I shall never wander around Skyrim without paying attention to rock formations, ore veins and other means of geological activities. Thank you for this most interesting read!”
For these commenters the article not only was an interesting read but actually has encouraged them to take this new interest and use it to their benefit – either educational or for fun. This is great, as it shows a passion for learning as well as the potential for games to form the basis of deeper learning, where people can take knowledge and apply it to their own lives and worlds.
A few readers were already fans of geology and Skyim, and it was great to see these people enjoy the article as well. I have had some emails and comments from geologists who have enjoyed the work and this is great for me as it helps to ensure that I got my facts right!
“As a geology major and a computer gamer, I thank you for connecting two things I love.”
“Thank you so much for this. Geology and The Elder Scrolls series are two things I love and you combined the two artfully, tastefully, and most importantly, in a very exciting manner. This was a great read! I will share it with my friends.”
Connecting disciplines is very important in modern science and research, as well as in science communication. Finding new ways to engage people through disciplines they like as well as recreational activities they enjoy is a great way to engage and enthuse people.
What I really liked about a lot of the comments was that so many people wanted to know more.
“Loved this! A whole new perspective on skyrim. It would be cool if you could add in some fictional science for how the likes of ebony ore and others are formed”
“While I’m not sure it’s the same in [continent], in our world, quicksilver is the old-fashioned name for mercury, so I don’t know if that would change any of your conclusions?”
“Now here is a hard one. Based on your findings can you produce a map that shows what Skyrim will look like based on further geological actively?”
“I have been fascinated in Skyrim and please try to solve the mystery about the arch rock in Solitude, where the Blue Palace sitting. It’s odd how that happened.”
“Great analysis. I would definitely subscribe to a mod that makes Skyrim more scientifically realistic. I am also curious to see how the new area in the Dragonborn DLC will present its ore distribution. Wonder if the nearby volcano will produce an abundance of moonstone. Also I am pretty sure there are going to be more armour types coming, meaning more ore selection? How safe do you think it was to build an entire city (Solitude) on that kind of arch over the sea?”
“I think you did a marvelous job interpreting the possible history that the likely wasn’t considered when creating the terrain. Did you look only at what we know about Skryim, or did you take into account the surrounding areas? For example,Vvardenfell being dominated by an enormous volcano or the terrain we saw in Cyrodil in Oblivion? I’d love to see your take on possible plate boundaries on the world map.”
The best thing about these comments is that they show a deeper interest and understanding of the subject matter from reading the post. The fact that readers are asking further questions means that they have really understood what is going on and can use this knowledge to think in more depth about other problems. Even if they are not going to use the knowledge to actively try to solve their questions themselves, the urge to learn more is really promising.
Such positive feedback on the project means that I really want to continue with making a mod for the game that incorporates the geology and learning into live gameplay, and hopefully can then reach an even wider audience and result in a much more educational experience (if done correctly!) than just reading an article.
Yes, there were some comments that were obviously from super Skyrim fans that pull me up for not being technically correct with respect to The Elder Scrolls lore (the set of games that include Skyrim), but this isn’t trolling, this is just ‘dedicated fanaticism’. I did respond to these comments when posted, and stated my intention when starting the project to make an educational and fun resource that therefore has to include real geology – where Skyrim was a useful analogy to the real world. However, these were the only kinds of negative comments I received.
They do however demonstrate some of the difficulties that I may come across when I finally develop a mod for the game and provide a useful insight into the communication barriers I will encounter. What I will take from these comments is that I need to ensure I am clear about the purpose of my project, and that ensuring readers know the boundaries and limitations of my interpretations is important. The ratio of bad to good comments is also very low, and I don’t believe they affect the conclusion that this project was a success.
My next steps will be to further define the objectives of the geology of Skyrim project: what kind of learning do I want to achieve (i.e. I believe teaching the questions to ask in order to understand the geology is more important than singular facts)? What is the best way to go about achieving these objectives? For this I may want to take a look at some other science gaming projects such as the Wellcome Trust’s games for inspiration. What is the actual in-game experience going to be like (i.e. how will an in-game quest play out and how will I ensure that it is still fun)? And finally how can I ensure that the mod is accessible to all and that the quest is completable by even those with no knowledge of geology at all?
Hopefully, what my post on the geology of Skrim has taught me is that geology can be interesting to everyone, that games are a good way of engaging people with science, and that everyone can find science accessible if it is communicated effectively.