There is a computer game which you may have heard of, if not played, called “The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion”. The game is a fantasy role-playing game set in a landscape which is not too dissimilar to Europe (in the sense that the game has trees and mountains and rivers, not in the sense that Europe is crawling with goblins, trolls and other unspeakable monsters). The game mechanics are largely tangential to this blog post, but it does have a feature called “fast-travel”. Basically, you can call up a map and click on a location you have already visited, and the game will take you there regardless of your current location, and adjust the time accordingly.
Now, one of the great features of the game is the way the landscape has been mapped out. There are rolling forests with believable positioning of trees, as well as the aforementioned rivers and mountains. A big part of the game is adventure and exploration. Occasionally you may come across a path which leads into the trees, and you think to yourself, I’ll follow this path and see where it leads. I mean, it could lead to treasure, or an undiscovered ruin, or an encounter with some local miscreants, but regardless, it is sure to be an exhilarating experience. And so you follow the path.
After a while, you may often find that the path just sort of ends. It becomes overgrown, less well defined. You continue anyway, as you think that it must have been leading somewhere and you think you can tell where it would go if it hadn’t vanished. And so you keep trekking through tall grass and trees, scrub and under-brush. After a while however, you realise that the path is genuinely going nowhere, so you decide to head back to town. Unfortunately, you’ve been wandering around in the wilderness for so long that you have absolutely no idea where you are, nor and clue how to get back to the path you originally followed to bring you to this point.
Never mind though, right, as you have fast-travel. Pop up that map, and click click, back in town you find yourself. It might be dark, but it was no hassle getting there.
Now, there are a number of woods near my home, with a number of streams therein, flowing into the river Avon which cuts through the landscape hereabouts. The woods look beautiful this time of year, and it was a gorgeous morning, so I decided to go for a run and explore the area around my new home. I found a path which led from close by my house into the woods, and ran along it. After a while it branched, with a large path heading up towards the road and a smaller path leading beneath the overpass and into the woods beyond. Guess which one I followed.
After a while the path became overgrown with long grass and nettles, but I could sort of make out the direction it was leading me in, so I carried on following it. The landscape was breathtaking, and it had been a while since I had been on an adventure. Ever onwards I charged, into the Lime trees that skirted the Avon.
Eventually, the path completely vanished. The nettles were waist high, and I had no idea where I was heading. Never mind, I thought, I’ll just head back the way I came. You can guess where this is heading, right? As I turned round, I realised that I had been traipsing through the wilderness for so long, I was completely disoriented, and there was no sign of the route that I had taken to get here.
But It’s OK, because I can just fast-travel… Oh wait. You can’t do that in real life, can you? Huh.
And so I made the decision to persevere through the nettles. On and on I pushed, legs screaming angrily from the welts which were appearing all over my shins. Eventually the venomous assault of the plants abated, and I climbed a small ridge which threw me out next to the road. I was a long way from home, but I knew where I was. What’s more, I had begun to mentally map out a nice morning cross-country training route. Better than any gym membership, for sure.
I took a more leisurely walk back through town, interspersed with a few bouts of faster running. Eventually I arrived home and collapsed into the welcoming arms of a tepid shower.
I think I like living here.