'Tis the last rose of winter,
Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone.
— Talsgar the Wanderer (h/t Thomas Moore)
If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that Skyrim is a single-player game.
Skyrim pours tall drafts of "YOU are the most important person in the world," which Bethesda brews by the industrial vatload. It's got a punchy, solipsistic tang, but there's a nagging aftertaste: loneliness. It sneaks up on me the longer I play. At first I am giddy with the excitement of having Disneyland all to myself, but after a while I want someone to share it with. This hits me hardest during the frequent loading screens. As I watch ominous mist undulating over darkest darkness, existential pangs gnaw at the corners of my heart.
Solitude is such a prominent motif in Skyrim, they named a town after it.
Like the winemaker who throws a cigar in the barrel to counteract the hints of dead rat, Bethesda introduced followers to Skyrim to take the edge off the loneliness. Hard-nosed utilitarian players look upon these digital buddies simply as pack mules and meat shields, but for me they were also an emotional balm. Now that my latest DLC-inspired sojourn to the wintry wilderness is done, I think it befitting to remember these companions.