|A vista from Skyrim|
I think the dungeons are where I have the most fun. Crawling along, experiencing the weird ambient lighting and sounds (especially when something howls, crashes, or moans out of the back-channel speakers on the surround system) is totally immersive for me. The sense of tension is palpable, and it truly captures the best moments of past play experiences at the table in "traditional" RPGs. As a result, I find myself wondering if the play experience is richer for me because I grew up reading and playing at the table, as opposed to having access to CRPGs as they've evolved over the last 20 years.
I've played CRPGs in various forms, from the text-based ZORK, and various MUDs like Medievia, to basic graphical games like the Baldur's Gate series, to MMOs like World of Warcraft. But all of that came after fairly rich literary and gaming experiences that occurred almost exclusively in my imagination, and that of my friends. Because of that, I think I'm pretty forgiving of game mechanics, and I easily get involved in the story and scenery (whether in text or image form) of the game. That's not to say I've never played a crappy game, as I recall more than a few with ridiculous graphics, mechanics, or story elements that put me off. For the most part, however, my CRPG gaming experiences have been good.
Oblivion and Skyrim have been something different though. They are not perfect games. And I think the Bioshock and Mass Effect are examples of games that explore more provocative stories. But I find myself most drawn to the classic fantasy tropes that Bethesda has explored with their Elder Scrolls series. The open adventuring environments (notable even in the graphically-simpler Morrowind) and level of detail just make these games complete for me. It's the sort of feeling that inspires my campaign creation. Building a world that continually unfolds as my players explore is my aspiration.
Capturing some of the tension and excitement that I experience in Skyrim, and bringing that to the tabletop for my players to experience is part of the challenge of GMing for me. A creative goal. Whether or not I'm successful, I have fun trying, and I'm inspired to keep at it by games such as Skyrim. What inspires your gaming experiences?