The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has sold 30 million copies, which makes it a hit on the scale of Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, Mario. They joked about the game on an episode of NCIS. You can't get more mainstream than that. What did that kind of success mean for you as a creator?
Each of our games has found a larger and larger audience, which we never take for granted. A lot of us have worked together for 10, 15, 20 years - in many respects, making the same game. Skyrim was kind of this tipping point. It seemed to hit an audience that we had never had before.
It didn't change us. But it did make us aware that some of the things we do speak to people who don't traditionally play games, or don't traditionally play role-playing games. They make it their own experience, and that was what was most important to us. Putting somebody in a world where they can do what they want. I think that's what's special about video games as entertainment.
Of all your games, I feel like Skyrim is the one that gets closest to delivering that experience, which you talk about a lot. It's a game with a lot of "verbs" for the player, a lot of different ways to approach situations, lots of multi-part side quests that feel just as important as the main quest.
I think that's true. The game has really good flow. When I sit down and play it again, even I get kind of lost. It's giving you choices at a nice pace.
In 2012 you said the design document for Skyrim was a Conan action figure. Really?
I'm looking at him on my desk right now. We start with tone. This is it. This is the tone.