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‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’ and the Case for Real Roleplaying in RPGs



When playing an RPG that relies heavily on stats, it is easy to get caught up in a numbers game. A “+3 DEX” here, a “+5 STR” there, the Internet is flooded with optimal builds to create a capable character. These builds emphasize game crushing efficiency, and often result in-game fashion nightmares. Yes fashion nightmares, those Elven Boots go terribly with that Skaal Coat, and you know it but you don’t care do you? You stat hungry, min-maxing monster!

“Roleplaying,” the name says it all. Instead of looking at a game as a challenge to conquer at any cost (even the rules of basic fashion), roleplaying can involve, you know, actually playing a role. When creating your character in a game like Skyrim, attempt to not only define your character’s physical appearance, but make yourself a list of this character’s personality traits, ambitions, and fears. Be as detailed as you like, but pretend to be someone else. Pick a name to match their story, and to constantly remind yourself that you are this character.

Maybe you are a Khajiit who loves alchemy because both your parents were alchemists. You were on the hunt for a rare flower in Skyrim when you were captured by imperials along with some Stormcloaks. You want nothing to do with dragons, every penny you make you put into your work to create the perfect invisibility potion, because all you really want is to be left alone. Maybe instead you are an Orc, a merchant searching caves for loot to sell in the hopes of one-day opening your own store. You aren’t the brightest, but you are money hungry, selling every good piece of armour that comes your way. You instead choose to wear regular street clothes when adventuring because, as you repeatedly tell yourself, you are really a merchant, not a warrior.

In more rigid games like The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, try to stick to one Geralt that makes choices based on his own predispositions. Not always the optimal and not what you as a player in that situation would choose. Make mistakes because your Geralt is a lover, or break hearts because yours is a fighter. Try to be consistent.

Some people even choose to play through less rigid RPGs as famous characters. One of the best examples of this is a list of rules to play as Sterling Malory Archer of Archer fame, in Fallout 4. These characters can be fun and easier to get into the spirit of, but definitely loose out on creativity points.

The possibilities are only limited by your imagination. When you find yourself thinking “my character is too nice to do this,” or “my character doesn’t care, or have time for this,” then you are on the right track.

Approaching every game as a mountain to overcome is limiting. Slowly, every game begins to feel the same. Get better armour, get better weapon, steal everything that isn’t nailed down, and move forward. Certain games like the Fallout Series, Elder Scrolls series and No Man’s Sky, are a canvas of creative potential for you to truly play in, and not conquer. Be characters that you have nothing in common with, or someone you aspire to being, or just be some weirdo who collects carrots. Be bold, be scared, live a life, play a role.


Justinas Staskevicius is a freelance writer based in Montreal, Canada. His stories about antifascists, eSports and benefit concerts have graced publications including Goomba Stomp, GigSoup and CULT MTL