For this week’s blog post, I decided to analyze a game which I have put more hours into than I would care to think about, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Skyrim is a first-person open-world role-playing game wherein you play as a character known as the Dragonborn, gifted with special powers. The game features a main quest and side quests which both feature the opportunity to make choices regarding your character’s allegiance and storyline ending. I analyzed the game’s morality in terms of the five aspects described in Jonathan Haidt’s TED Talk
In Skyrim, the player is obliged to take care of their Dragonborn character as well as the Dragonborn’s followers.Often, the player has to choose to kill enemies before their character is harmed. Additionally, the Dragonborn is tasked to save the realm of Skyrim from a dragon threat, which is an additional example of the care morality aspect featured in the game.
Like most RPGs featuring quests, fairness and reciprocity features greatly in Skyrim. The Dragonborn must help other characters in return for their aid or rewards. In order to benefit from others, the Dragonborn must reciprocate and provide benefit to them first. In this way, Skyrim features the fairness/reciprocity morality aspect as well.
In the course of the Skyrim main quests, the Dragonborn has the option to join two factions – the Stormcloaks or the Imperials – or neither. In this way, the player can choose to join a large group and align themselves to the group’s ideals and services, or to continue acting out of self-interest.
Skyrim also features a simplified hierarchy of authority. At the beginning, the Skyrim is an escaped prisoner, but by choosing to help the Jarls (lords) of various cities, the Dragonborn can move up in society, becoming a Thane, which carries perks, such as immunity from crimes and different conversation options when conversing with characters of lower classes. In this way, Skyrim also features Authority and Respect aspects of morality.
The only way that I could connect Skyrim to Purity/Sanctity was in the game’s marriage mechanic, wherein a player can choose a computer-controlled character of the opposite sex to marry. This gives the player a home and income from their spouse’s work, but also forces the player to commit to their chosen other and prevents them from marrying anyone else, thus keeping the sanctity of marriage (in a way). This may be a bit of a stretch, but it was the only way that I could find a connection.