Race and Gender in Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim- Matt F.

Race and Gender in the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Race and gender are not confined simply to the real world, perceptions of race and gender seep into every aspect of life, including video games. Everything that makes people different in the real world makes characters different in games. Skyrim is no exception. If Skyrim could be summed up in one word, it would be “choice”. From the moment one begins Skyrim, one must make a choice: What is one’s name? What is one’s race? What is one’s gender? Skyrim is game based upon the choices a player makes in the pseudo-medieval province of Skyrim. The Dovahkiin’s, the player character, goal is to defeat Alduin and save Skyrim. The player character may also choose whether he joins the Imperials or the rebel Stormcloaks, as he decides the fate of Skyrim. The player character is also free to choose to do many hundreds of quests in order to become as strong as possible. The game features ten playable races (Races (Skyrim)), as well as allowing players to choose between male and female. Skyrim is popular because it allows for players to enter a fantasy world and escape from reality. Skyrim is popular mostly due to its engaging gameplay and high scores amongst reviewers, and has sold over ten million copies (Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim).

Skyrim is not perfect, however, and has several shortcomings that affect the way races and genders interact in the game. Every race in Skyrim has certain attributes which help to differentiate itself from the races aside from pure aesthetics. However, training certain skills or placing points into different attributes, such as health and stamina, can equalize the races as the game goes on. In addition, some races are actively against each other, notable examples being the “Gray Quarter” in Windhelm (Gray Quarter), where the Dark Elves are kept, and the resentment against the High Elven Aldmeri Dominion. In addition, it displays scenes of racial segregation by not allowing the Khajiit caravans inside the cities of Skyrim. It does however, fail to make the player character subject to the trials and tribulations of other races. For example, a Khajiit player character is allowed to go freely in and out of the cities, whilst the computer controlled Khajiit must stay outside of the city. In addition, if a player controls a High Elf, those who harbor resentment towards the Aldmeri Dominion will not make a comment to the High Elf player character. Lastly, the anti-Dark Elf Nords in Windhelm will not act in a racist manner towards a Dark Elf player character, as well as having the Argonians of Windhelm living in the docks outside of the city.The only time the character’s race is brought up is in the very beginning, where a guard makes a brief statement about your race. The game is successful at making each race play differently, but not at making each race cause different outcomes in the game. Gender in Skyrim is handled much worse than race is. Gender in Skyrim has no effect on the player character aside from looks. Males and Females of a race have the exact same set of attributes and skills. When interacting with the world, the only evidence that one is male or female is the use of pronouns. While clothes look different on males and females, they have the same armor rating. What Skyrim does well however, is that it does not force female players to dress in less armor than than their male counterparts. In the vast majority of Role-Playing Games, female armor tends to cover much less of the body than the male equivalent does, Skyrim averts this RPG cliche, and cements itself as being much more gender equal than most other RPGs. The only time gender is brought up in gameplay is in the Temple of Dibella, where Male players are not allowed into a inner chambers (Temple of Dibella). This shows that in the entire game, there is only one place in all of Skyrim where gender is an issue, and even then, when male players enter that area, all they get is a reprimand. Skyrim may have gender equality, it just isn’t realistic.

The issues of race and gender in Skyrim can be fixed by modifying the game to make player characters have different interactions with the world based on race. This mod would make the game almost ten games in one, by changing how people react based upon the race of the character. For example, the game could be modified in order for Nordic non-player characters (NPCs) to be derogatory towards High Elves, due to the hatred of the Aldmeri Dominion. In addition, the game could be modified in way that makes Khajiit unable to enter cities without first performing tasks in order to gain the trust of the cities. Another possible mod would be to make Nords in Windhelm dislike Dark Elves and Argonians, and make prices higher in the Nord run Windhelm shops. At a certain part in the game, the player character must meet with a member of The Blades, a group who is fighting against the Aldmeri Dominion. The game could be changed in a way that makes the Blade member the player encounters mistrustful of a High Elf player character and make them prove their worth and trustworthiness. Also, Wood Elves in Skyrim are typically viewed as thieves, so by changing the game so that shopkeepers are more cautious around Wood Elves, and adding a few lines of dialogue that would say something to the effect of “Keep you hands off the merchandise” would help to cement the players race in the game, this stereotype of Wood Elves could also change the way the thieves guild quests play out, by having NPCs comment with remarks about the Wood Elf being born for it. Another possible change could be the way Orcish player characters are treated. In the game, the NPC Orcs are shown living on the fringes of society, typically in their own strongholds, and are also characterized as being violent, having guards be more alert around Orcs would be a good step towards making Skyrim a realistic portrait of the world it claims to be. For the Imperials, simply making the rebel Stormcloaks more antagonistic towards the Imperial race would suffice. Lastly, making NPCs aware of the players race and bringing it up in conversation and in interactions would help to make Skyrim’s portrayal of race more realistic. These changes would help to bring a more realistic sense of the racial troubles in Skyrim being making the player character a part in all of the racial discrimination, instead of just an observer who watches the NPCs of Skyrim bicker along racial lines. These changes would help to show the player the consequences of the choice he made when selecting his race.

Not only does race need work, but gender in Skyrim would also need to be changed in order to be more realistic. In order to make gender more realistic, first clothing and armor would have to be available in both male and female sets, allowing female players to dress as males and vice versa, this would allow for players who are one sex to express the gender traits of the other. This would help to show how certain people in the world do not conform to their sex’s gender traits, and how their are transgendered people in the world. In addition, the game should try to make the game at least slightly different based upon gender by having characters that are either misogynistic or anti-male, instead of having every character seem to ignore gender when it comes to interactions between characters. While this modification would make the game less gender equal, it would also make it more realistic by showing how some people view one sex as being better than the other. In addition, by making the game be more true to the way genders were treated during that time, such as having the imperial army be for men only, as the Roman Legion, which the Imperial Army was based off of, was formed of only men. In addition, the game could have comments about how odd it is for a woman to be adventuring alone, this would serve to make the game a more accurate representation of the way genders worked back in the middle ages.

To be concise, Skyrim is rife with racial and gender equality that actually undermines the realism of the game. Not only does the race and gender of the player character have minimal effect on the gameplay of Skyrim, but it has no effect on the outcomes of any quests or storylines in the game. By making the gameplay different for every race, and making characters actually comment on races, and by making the places that are described as racially segregated actually involve the player character in that segregation, would help to make the races in Skyrim more realistic. As for gender, by making the province of Skyrim less gender equal by adding areas of gender discrimination and sexist groups and characters, as well as having characters comment on the player’s gender would help to make the portrayal of gender in Skyrim more true to the time period it attempted to emulate. Races and genders in Skyrim are equal, but that equality is far from realistic.

Argonians in Windhelm are forced to stay out of the main city of Windhelm.

The Dark Elves in Windhelm try to stay out of the Nords’ problems

Discrimination towards the Dark Elves is blatant- with the Dark Elves being forced into the “Grey Quarter”

Works Cited

"The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 26 Nov. 2012. Web. 26 Nov.

2012. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Elder_Scrolls_V:_Skyrim>.

"Gray Quarter." Elderscrolls.wikia.com. Elder Scrolls Wiki, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.


“Races (Skyrim)." Http://elderscrolls.wikia.com. Elder Scrolls Wiki, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.


"Temple of Dibella." Elderscrolls.wikia.com. Elder Scrolls Wiki, n.d. Web. 26 Nov. 2012.