Skyrim is the very definition of sandbox

Skyrim’s choices are at the very core of what it means to be sandbox. Not only is it an expansive world where you can tackle your quests in any order, but you also chose how your character plays on a philosophical level as well. Do you save before you try and open that master lock? Or would you consider that breaking that forth wall, and if a lock pick breaks it should stay broken? You must self regulate and decide what he would consider to be fair on a regular basis. The game does allow you to completely cheat it’s own design if you choose too, but it up to you on where to draw the line.
There are many options of travel in Skyrim. One of the most widely used would be “quick travel”. With a click of a button you can “warp” to a destination you’ve previously been. There’s also a wagon system where you can talk to the wagon guy and he’ll take you to your select destination, and of course you can always just walk or ride a horse and get there the old fashion way. The game re-enforced the “Sandbox” design by giving each form of transportation advantages and disadvantages. If you quick travel you can finish quests faster and speed up productivity, but you miss out on the random encounters and discoveries you would find if you were to travel the old fashion way. Also, if you quick travel it adds a few more hours to your player’s age in the game, than if you were to horse back it. Choosing how you traverse Skyrim will even affect how you will prioritize your time and resources. If you quick travel you may never purchase a horse through out the entire game, as it would seem redundant, but if you chose not to quick travel, a horse is indispensable and most likely be acquired as early in the game as possible. It will also affect how you will progress through the world, as quick travellers will be able to tackle any quests on any part of the map in an instant, but players who chose the old fashion way would have to consider which quest s/he tackles carefully, often tackling quests close to you and slowly progress through the over world since travelling through Skyrim can be lengthy and even dangerous.
You must also regulate how often, and how appropriate you save. Skyrim features many game play elements where if you save before hand, you can redo with out facing any consequences. For example, pickpocketing allows you to steal goods and money from NPCs, but if caught it’ll result in either a fight with the person or penalties from the town guards. If you wish, you can save your game before your attempt and if failed, you can reload and try again, avoiding all penalties and able to repeat this until you get a successful attempt. The “save and reload” philosophy can be applied to many elements of the game, like quest choices, lock picking, and party member and horse deaths. Saving and reloading will save the player much headaches, but the game constantly ask “but will you?”. Some will claim that doing so break the game’s very design, since you can theoretically play a perfect game where you’ve never broken a single lock pick, failed a pick pocket, died, and made every “right” story choices in the game. But if it does, would the developers allow you to make new saves virtually any time you want? It comes down to what each individual want out of the game. Some players will want to feel immerse in the world, meaning facing the consequences of their actions, these players will more than likely not reload their game, but there are many players who want to have their character to reach it’s maximum potential. Often times, in order to create this kind of character, you must reload every now and then, since maximizing a character also means collecting even the smallest bonuses available, not allowing a single opportunity slip you by. If Skyrim really wanted you to always face the game’s designed penalties it would of adopted a similar save system like “Dark Souls”, where the game will auto save often, and always over the same file, taking the “save and reload” completely out of the equation. But instead Skyrim allows the player to make multiple saves, at almost any time, further reinforcing player choice.
Skyrim allow you to role play your character to any degree. It will allow you to create any type of character you chose from an assortment of fantasy races, and can adopt a large variety of play styles, wither it be a hulking warrior, a nimble assassin, a cunning mage, or any combination of these archetypes. Not only can you personalize your character’s RPG stats, but you also personalize your character’s personality, his/her’s morality, and even his/her’s demeanor. You may chose to play a good character, never kill an innocent, perhaps never to even steal an item. Where as if you were an evil character you might go around town killing every one just for the fun of it. You may even go as far as walking instead of running when in town, and even switching to town cloths from your heavy armoured adventuring gear. But you might just want to play Skyrim for it’s wonderfully designed game play, and not care for taking on the role at all, focusing on development of the character rather than the immersion of the character. It’s all about how far you chose to take on the role. Choosing what degree of role playing will affect how you progress and experience the game, since many quests will have obvious “good” or “evil” motifs. For those who chose to fully dive into their role , the game also offer just as much “grey” choices, where good and evil is blurred, and you must make considerations before making the choice. The game also let you decide on how serious to take it, giving you plenty of opportunities to role play a “prankster” type of personality if you chose so. Doing foolish things like manipulating the cast magic animation so it looks like your dancing, play tag and hide and seek with kids, put baskets and pots on NPC’s heads like a hat, and the game comes with it’s own share of funny dialogue, quests, and Easter eggs.
Below is a video of how it’s possible to role play a “prankster” personality in Skyrim. The bits of text that flashes on the screen are good examples of the possible thought process a player may have while role playing this type of character.
Notice how most of the character’s actions does not develop the character to be better from a stats perspective, but instead, the player chose to play his character as he would react if he was in the situation his character is.

You can chose to completely cheat the game’s system, or even play in a style the game was never designed to play and have tons of fun with it. Since good game design is about having fun above all else, then one can conclude in a round about kind of way, that playing against Skyrim’s original design, is apart of it’s original design. There is no wrong way to adventure through the world of Skyrim, truly it is sandbox.

-Aldershot
Video by: Elliottslingsby

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