10: This post has to come with a disclaimer. I LOVE Skyrim. I adore it. I am in love with it. I would grab an Amulet of Mara and romance it if I could.
Skyrim was, when it was released on 11.11.11 a few years ago, one of those games that just had so much hype; to me, it seemed like everyone had it or was going to get it soon. Bethesda, the company that produces the series of games to which Skyrim belongs (based in Bethesda, Maryland, close to American University’s campus) said that if any baby born on 11.11.11 was named “Dovahkiin” they would supply that child with all Bethesda/ZeniMax games ‘past, present, future’ for life. The challenge was accepted, and there is a child named Dovahkiin out there in the world.
Dovahkiin is the name of the Dragonborn, the main character. In Skyrim the player can create a customizeable character from a variety of races–including Orc, Argonian (similar to a giant lizard), Khajit (similar to a giant cat), Wood Elf, High Elf, Dark Elf, and various humanoid races. You can also select your character’s gender (‘M’ and ‘F’ being the only options). This is one game without a point; it represents more of a Western RPG format than a JRPG, with a less linear storyline. You can really just… do what you want. There are two loose storylines, one involving the return of the dragons to Tamriel, the world, and another involving a civil war that has broken out in Skyrim between the local Stormcloaks and the foreign Empire.
In Skyrim you can take up archery, become a bard, steal things, lead an assassin’s guild, go trekking through crypts filled with zombie-like creatures called Draugr, make friends and enlist the help of followers (a departure from other Elder Scrolls games), and also… get married.
The setup is similar to that of Dragon Age: Origins, discussed in my last post. The player cannot marry everyone in the game, but there are a set number of NPCs, or Non-Player-Characters that are marry-able. Every character is thus ‘bisexual,’ or at the very least seems uncaring of the gender of the player-character. You marry characters by wearing an in-game item called an Amulet of Mara. When wearing it marryable characters (there are 15 men and 15 women) will flirt with you, usually after you have done them some sort of favor in the form of a short quest.
You get married at a Temple of Mara in a town called Riften. Any friends you have made during your journey will show up. It is a heartwarming event–and it gets better. You can live together in a house, and with the release of the DLC (Downloadable Content) Hearthfire you can build your own homestead from the ground up and adopt up to two children.
All at once Skyrim has made it possible for same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption. This is more than is available for LGBTQ people in many places around the world. No one in Skyrim seems to mind that my male Dark Elf married the only other marry-able male Dark Elf, or that we got married at a Temple with only a beggar and a friend, a Wood Elf, present. We have a house with two Nord (white) children.
While Skyrim is no amazing step for LGBTQ Representation (they could have created openly gay characters but did not; everyone is uncaring about sexuality or gender) it is indeed better than many other game titles out there. When the news was released that you could marry a character of the same sex some groups like this one on facebook popped up: ‘VOTE No to Gay Marriage in Skyrim.’ Fans started to tweet the hashtag #skyrimjobs (a combination of skyrim + rimjobs (NSFW link: for those who do not know what it means)). Oh No They Didn’t! had this to say about it (NSFW, satiric but homophobic language content warning below):
Skyrim Jobs – Skyrimming is a street term the gays use when talking about applying their tongues to the outer rim part of another man’s sewer spout, while that man is being hung upside down. See the gays have weird fetishes and are close to Satan. Satan speaks to them and tells them news ways on how to experience demonic orgasmic sin. . .
If you notice your son has become more light headed around the house, this is a definite warning that he has been Skyrim jobbing.
This is clearly a joke, but it points to Skyrim getting attention for including same-sex affectation in its games. On the one hand, this is a wonderful thing. In this post I discussed how video games are ‘interactive fiction’ where a player becomes immersed into the game due to its interactive nature. A game that has the ability to be in first-person, like Skyrim, only increases that effect. A player’s corporeal body is out of sight and the player sees through the eyes of their player-character instead.
It is powerful, is it not, that an experience that is so immersive, and one that players get so invested in and spend 200+ hours on (as I have in my own file) features the ability to get married to someone of the same sex, and adopt children with them too?
Same-sex marriage and joint same-sex adoption are just two issues faced by LGBTQ individuals out of many. In the real world, people face discrimination, increased rates of bullying, suicide, and assault compared to their cisgender and heterosexual peers. Often it is marriage and adoption that are the worries of a privileged upper class and not the immediate concerns of those people of color, those who may be trans, and undocumented peoples. As much as I am glad that Skyrim features the things it does, we cannot overlook where it falls short – video games need to create a safer space for many types of people.
Next time: wrapping it all up.