Please read this first.

Welcome! This blog is devoted to considerations of morality in the The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim by Bethesda. Rather than a fansite, review, or walkthrough, it is a serious attempt to examine the game through a moral lens. Please note that the purpose of this blog is to discuss morality within the context of the game, not to determine whether playing the game is immoral in and of itself; the latter type of "discussion" tends toward tedium and inhibits, rather than promotes, a meaningful conversation.

If you have not visited this blog before, it might be helpful to read the posts labeled "Orientation," most of which are the first few entries in the blog archive (see right). These posts include a short introduction to this project, a content-specific author bio, and a few other pieces that explain key concepts relevant to this study. These posts are of particular use to those readers less familiar with Skyrim (or video games in general).


If you have visited this blog before, thanks and welcome back!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

QuizUp: Skyrim

Just wanted to let everyone know that my Skyrim questions went live on QuizUp this morning!  If you have not already done so, download this app!  It's a lot of fun, and now it's just that much better.  Be sure to thank me when you reach Dragonborn status!

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Second Anniversary Update

I’ve been playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for about two years now, and while I’ve documented most of my thoughts on the moral aspect of the game on this blog, I find that every so often an issue will come up that, while interesting, does not really belong in a typical post.  Here are a few of those developments:

In case you haven’t heard of it yet, QuizUp is the trivia game app that is currently distracting most of my students on their school-issued iPads.  I began playing myself when a student challenged me publicly in Word Definitions; how could I not pick up that gauntlet?  Anyway, I noticed that the developers were inviting players to contribute content to the game, and seeing how there was no Skyrim category, I offered to write the questions for them.  The good folks at PlainVanilla accepted, and I spent the better part of my vacation creating the quiz.  I have submitted the questions, and according to QuizUp, the Skyrim category should be live in a few weeks.  I’ll post again when it’s up and running.

If you read last year’s update, you’ll recall that when my son began playing, he adopted a different type of character with a different moral profile from mine, which led to some really entertaining arguments between us.  Since that time, he has played Skyrim less frequently, preferring to invest his screen time in Minecraft. This Christmas, while Santa brought him a good lot of Minecraft merchandise, my son bought me Dishonored.  I had not really expressed a desire for the game, although I did say some months ago that it looked like something I’d enjoy, owning to its opportunities for moral agency.

Those of you who have played Dishonored know that, while it does offer some binary choices (takedown or assassination?), it is not as robust from either a moral or a role-playing perspective; this statement is not a criticism, but rather an observation – I am really enjoying the game so far.  What I find funny, though, is that when my son observes me play, he spends most of the time making fun of my non-lethal playstyle, even going so far as to reiterate his previous “it’s just a game” argument from the East Empire Warehouse debate.  What follows is an approximate transcript of the exchange that followed:

Me: “So, if it’s just a game, why do you care how I’m playing it?”

Him: “Because it’s annoying to watch you restart every time you have to kill a guard so that you can play the ‘moral’ way.”

Me: “Look, the guards think I assassinated the Empress, so I can’t really kill them for doing their jobs.  In their heads, they’re fighting the villain of the story.  If it bothers you that much, don’t watch.  Besides, you know how I play; I’ll finish playing this way, then play a more lethal way, just like I’m doing in Skyrim.  I’m interested in different playstyles.”

Him: “Yeah, but which style do you always do first?  Which one do you care about more?”

Boom.  He had me dead to rights.  If I’m being honest, I do care most about the first playthrough – the one that most closely reflects my own worldview.  While this might be irritating for my son (who, I think, actually enjoys watching me play so that he can needle me about everything I’m doing “wrong”), it is even more troubling for me.  If I accept that my first playthough is usually the one that I’m the most invested in, what does it say that, even though I took down or sleep-darted everyone in Dr. Galvani’s house, I still let the rats out of the pantry, know full well that they would devour the sleeping guards?

The Continuing Adventures of Katnys Evyrdene
I’ve slacked a bit in posting about my second playthrough (see QuizUp above), but I will pick it up again soon.  The posts on the Civil War and the Dark Brotherhood will likely be substantial, given that they are the primary raison d'ĂȘtre for this character.  I appreciate those of you who have been commenting on this second moral profile, and if I haven’t responded to your individual comments, I will get to them very soon.