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  • Invisible Library in Skyrim March 28, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback

    ***dedicated to Larry K***

    Beach’s nightmare week continues and the search for the aupair proceeds a pace.  In an attempt then to relax in these brutish hours as the Beachcombings try and put their lives back together Beach thought that he would offer up another invisible library: libraries that have only ever existed in the imagination of authors. This time though an invisible library with a difference: a library found, against all the odds, in a modern video game.

    Beach was inspired in this search by the always stimulating Larry K whose sons had informed him that the new game Skyrim ‘has thousands of actual books that you can open up and read’.

    Skyrim in case you are wondering is a province of Tamriel in the world of Nirn. Larry perhaps says it better: ‘Skyrim takes place in one of those Tolkien mythical places that are vaguely Nordic, but they have two moons in the sky so it cannot be Middle Earth.’

    Beach was naturally sceptical but he was soon press-ganged into astounded silence by various youtube videos and online lists. It seems – Beach waits to be corrected here – that scattered through the video games world there are books, with concentrations in libraries and in other player’s knapsacks: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com

    Now as to the Skyrim books, titles include such epics as

    Advance in Lock Pickings

    Before the Ages of Man

    Bravil: Daughter of the Neben

    Disaster at Ionith

    Fall of the Snow Prince

    Forsworn Note

    Frost’s Identity Papers

    Have Need of Cynric

    Hired Thug’s Missive

    Letter from Solitude

    On Lycanthropy

    Reports of a Disturbance

    Sven’s Fake Letter from Faendal

    The Cabin in the Woods

    The Pig Children

    The Lusty Argonian Maiden (parts one and two)

    There Be Dragons

    Vlad’s Debt

    Ysmir Collective

    This is a just a sample of close to a thousand books. Note that pedants might say that this is not a true invisible library in that you can read the books. But it would be truer to say that you can read parts of the book. For example, here is the first couple of pages from the Lusty Argonian Maiden: making use of the penis=rising bread joke found in the Anglo-Saxon riddles. But the pages are tasters rarely the whole thing. Though even there, Beach can see exceptions where you would take half an hour to read a book properly.

    Thanks Larry and more importantly thanks to Larry’s sons.


    Wade writes: I’m not sure who started including books within video games, but from its beginning World of Warcraft, like Skyrim, has had books scattered throughout the game, most dealing with WoW lore. Someone should be able to identify the Ur-game that started this. I looked online, but had no luck. Here though some real experts step in. Howard writes: It never occurred to me that your “Invisible Libraries” series might include videogames/computer games. I’m not sure where you draw the line, but I’d draw your attention to The Sims 3 suite of games. Now, The Sims 3 is the largest-selling computer game franchise in history, but most players tend to be adolescent girls, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re not familiar with it. The library in The Sims 3 is a true invisible library, in that you can’t actually read the books, but your characters and the non-playing, in-game characters can. Here’s a partial list of books that characters can read in-game. It’s in an ugly table format, and I can’t easily copy it into an email. Many of the book titles contain in-jokes and pop-culture references. For example, Grant Rodiek, Point Farmer, is a reference to the lead software developer for the series. Game of Thorns is a reference to Game of Thrones. For “Jimmy Sprocket” read “Harry Potter.” And so on. I believe there’s a TV Tropes article about this, but I know better than to look that up. Unlike most other invisible libraries I’ve seen, The Sims 3 also includes cookbooks, how-to and self-help books, sheet music, and other books which actually help your in-game character achieve higher skills. Progressing in the game actually requires reading books, either to gain skills or simply to keep your character entertained enough that they don’t become depressed and pee on themselves. Also, your in-game character can learn “writing skill,” and create new books that you can add to the invisible library. If your character sells these to the bookstore, you can subsequently find NPCs reading the books you’ve written. On the subject of literary invisible libraries, I don’t believe you’ve mentioned The Book of Hali, (an ancient disquisition on soul, mind, and body, and the clear inspiration for the Necronomicon) which appears in several tales by Ambrose Bierce, got namechecked by Dunsany, Chambers, Lovecraft, et al, and is consistently ignored by the legions of Lovecraft scholars who seem to have sprung up like eldritch, rugose mushrooms in the last few years. Tony also adds an angle to this: Having readable books in-game is actually a fairly well established mechanism for establishing the ‘lore’ of a gameworld in computer role playing games (cRPGs). It has the advantage of allowing players who are interested in such things to read the neato backstory, and allows the players who want to just hack at goblins to get on with business. Here is a list from Baldur’s Gate (BioWare, 1998) the books labelled ‘History’ were all readable: Here is the list from Morrowind (Bethesda, 2003)… Morrowind was installment 3 in the Elder Scrolls series, of which Skyrim is V.  I’m not sure what the first game to have used in-game literature would have been. If you get too deep into the ’80s, storage limitations made what could be put on disk fairly limited. When a game had a more text than could be packaged in software, a separate manual would be published and when some event happened, the player would be instructed to “Read paragraph 27”. A good example is Wasteland (Interplay, 1988). Apparently at least one book item in that game triggered a direction to read a specific paragraph. I suspect Might and Magic IV (New World Computing, 1993) would have had in-game readable lore (probably packaged as scrolls rather than books though), but I haven’t been able to find a list of non-combat items for that game. And Ultima probably had them by Ultima VII (Origin, 1990), but same problem. (Not that I’ve devoted ton’s of time to looking for item lists for cRPGs that were published two decades ago… they’re probably out there somewhere) There’s probably an interesting phylogenic tree of the cRPGs that could be drawn, but I don’t think I could get funding for it. 🙂‘ SY finally notes: I was thinking how many strategy games – this moves beyond invisible libraries – actually include rule books as ‘trading guides’ etc in the box. The most dramatic example of this was the novella The Dark Wheel, included in that hoary old classic Elite.’ Thanks to Howard, Tony, SY and Wade!!