It’s such a familiar phrase to me now. One that makes my heart sink a little and my eyes roll deep into the back of my head. Want to know why? It’s because every time I see that phrase – or something like it – flash up on my screen I am reminded that I’ve got a problem. “Hello, my name is Basementkat, and I’m a junk hoarder.” Not in real life mind you; in real life I am fairly low-clutter. But in video games, I’m a compulsive collector of all things not nailed down.
And often when I encounter this infuriating observation it’s not deep into the game, no, it’s within the first couple of minutes of the opening sequence. While I’m being told to run, and fight, and pick up armour. Which I do. I’m really good at that part. I pick up all the armour and all the weapons. But if I can also manage to score 16 baskets, 8 buckets, 8 cast iron pots, 2 brooms, 2 kettles, an assortment of books, some potatoes, eggs, and also some rabbit and pheasant meat, then I am absolutely going to do that too. I don’t have any idea what the stuff is worth yet and I don’t want to leave it to chance. So I trudge on through the opening sequence, walking – rather than charging – into battle as I go. I keep picking up everything I can because let’s face it, I’m already encumbered so I figure I may as well make the most of it and sell it all at the first vendor I come to. And the way I see it is, if all that stuff was going to make me encumbered so quickly – before I can get anywhere near a bank or a vendor – then why put it there? Don’t the game developers realise what they’re doing? Are they doing it on purpose?
But that thought doesn’t enter my head in that moment as I’m sifting through rolls of linen, broken crockery, and wicker baskets. No, I’m thinking to myself: This is mint! (while I’m already crippled by the weight of my hoard) I’m going to be rich! I’m going to march myself straight to the first town – very slowly – sell all of my baskets and cast iron pots and I’ll be rolling in dough. And thinking back on this I now wonder if the developers are laughing at my expense because often by the time I finally make it to the first town and find a vendor, I learn that each one will only buy some things from me – and they have limited cash to spend. Or they don’t want to buy stolen items. And that parts a laugh isn’t it? How do they know I stole it?
This was precisely my experience with Skyrim. So there I was, at the first town, with enough gear to start a trade caravan and a vendor who was offering me precisely zero coins for my stack of 27 carrots. I was deflated and still heavily encumbered – but I sold what I could and walked to Whiterun, collecting bees, butterflies, flowers, and wolf pelts along the way. Whiterun was where I planned to buy my house, and my horse. When I got there, I discovered that I would need 7000 coins all up to get both of those things. That was also when I learned I’d have to complete a long dungeon quest to even be eligible for my house. I pictured deep cave networks crammed full of treasure, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself.
On a positive note, the 7000 gold total actually seemed quite plausible given at that stage the weight of my collection was over 800 and the weight allocation is 300 so I figured I’d be cleaning up just as soon as I could find a vendor who needed a truckload of buckets. So before I set out on my next quest, I found a group of vendors to hock my stuff to, only to find the first vendor only had 160 coins to spend. Come on! I sold him a few stacks of bread rolls and wine and that was about all he could afford. Then I went to the next vendor who had 300 or so to spend. After offloading all I could to two more vendors I had made over 1500 gold and my weight was down to 275. I was finally unencumbered! I ran a few rings of that market square just to feel the wind in my hair.
I sobered up when I realised I didn’t have anywhere to offload my unsellable hoard before going on my first big quest and I was practically encumbered before I even left the Whiterun gates. And in fact I hadn’t even left the castle grounds when I stumbled upon a farm with some cabbages and potatoes that were ready to harvest (what? Clearly you can see I’ve got a problem here. You think I was going to learn from my first hour of walking around encumbered? That crop would be worth around 15 bucks!) and so I continued on my way with a weight of 290. Now I know what you’re thinking. Why didn’t I go back and sell my cabbages and potatoes and then go again? Well, really, let’s face it, that wouldn’t do me much good in the long run would it, so I ran – while I still could – to the next location.
During my dungeon run I collected everything that wasn’t bolted down. Even the same sort of stuff I knew I hadn’t been able to sell in Whiterun the first time. It almost became a game in itself, and I wondered if there was a trophy for carrying epic amounts of phat lootz. My weight got to a whopping 1100 and after I sold all of that I actually had enough gold to buy my house AND all of the associated upgrades. I still had plenty of junk that no vendors apparently wanted and considered trying to open my own homewares store. When that didn’t seem possible I just dumped all the crap in the middle of the floor of my house and went about my business.
On a side note, do you want to know how many hours I clocked doing this? 75 hours. And after 75 hours of this completely insane behaviour I had literally forgotten that there are DRAGONS in this game.