Once, when I crawled out of a tent, I bumped my head on an electric fence and got electrocuted. It taught me that tent doors should not necessarily be pointed in the direction of an electric fence. Also, I’m sure I haven’t been able to write decent introductions since.
Another day, I climbed an electric fence with a friend without sending my brain into electrifying turmoil. We climbed over the fence because we were lost in a forest, hoping that somewhere along this cow pasture, that suddenly appeared before us, was a path that would lead us back toward civilization. We decided to stand in the middle of the pasture and look around. We were subsequently chased by angry cows, jumped back over the fence in a panic, and realized it was safer to just walk around the pasture.
I have never been lost in a forest since. In reality, this is because I no longer feel the need to leave forest trails. Video games, on the other hand, rarely give you the chance to get lost, because you’re always being taken by the hand wherever you go.
In Skyrim, for example, there is a world map. Also, Skyrim is just too crowded. On the way to the tower ten meters away, you stumble across eight caves, three bandit camps and two capitals. You can’t get lost, because you never have the chance to walk undisturbed at all.
I’ve gotten lost several times in Minecraft. What I like about Minecraft is that you have to make your own maps. Otherwise, you have to memorize your surroundings or make signposts. This way you get to know your surroundings and orient yourself to them. Unfortunately, Minecraft doesn’t have beautiful forests.
And then there’s Valheim, one of the few video games with realistic and scary forests. Valheim’s forests are scary because they’re huge. And full of trees. There are trees everywhere! Standing ones. Fallen ones. Small ones, still growing. Gigantic ones. Trees, trees, trees. The woods in Valheim are woods as I remember them.
The feeling of being lost in a forest as a child is oppressive. I probably won’t forget it anytime soon. Valheim could evoke that feeling in me again if it weren’t for that stupid mini-map that ruins part of what is otherwise a really good game. No matter where I’m standing, I always know where I am. I don’t even have to open the big overview map first to get my bearings. I have everything in view.
I wish I had the option to completely disable both the mini map and the overview map. I want to get lost in the woods of Valheim. I want to be forced to memorize my surroundings. The river that leads me home. The fallen tree that juts toward my outlying camp. I want to create paths to show me where to go. I want to be afraid of losing my bearings if I carelessly turn off somewhere.
Valheim’s forests are dreamlike. And I dream of being able to be afraid of them.
In Valheim, you walk through untouched nature as a Viking and touch it to cut down trees, kill deer or break rocks. From the materials obtained you create houses, clothes, weapons or food. Electric fences cannot be built. Instead, the permanently raging wild boars are a great substitute for the cows that once hunted me.
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