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May 6, 2013 | by  | in Arts Games |
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Review – Skyrim

You’ve potentially heard of this one. Beautiful vistas, hundreds of hours of gameplay, deep character-creation systems and the ability to yell at bears so hard they fall off cliffs—it’s got all of the usual things you’d expect from a blockbuster role-playing game. However, there’s also a complex political environment worthy of taking a look at.

The dominant power in the game is the Empire, a political organisation with colonial holdings throughout the game’s world. This imperial structure allows the game to consider issues like the effects of civil war on different parts of society or the economic effects of colonialism. Then there’s the refugee politics, wherein victims of a catastrophic natural disaster are ghettoised and not permitted to integrate into society. This political stuff is always accompanied by no-brainer bandit-punching, but it’s certainly there.

Skyrim also looks at how religion and politics cross. In a postwar treaty with the Empire, an outside power eliminated the worship of Talos, a god of particular significance to the indigenous population of Skyrim. This allows the game to explore religious dissent and persecution, and how this can generate divided societies that are impossible to govern. Religion also contributes to the civil war in a realistic portrayal of the historical causes of conflict (alongside dragons, which are a slightly less historical cause of conflict).

The socio-political aspects of Skyrim are not worn on its cardboard sleeve. It’s possible to stab every dude, climb every mountain and open every treasure chest without once having politics thrust upon you. Skyrim’s world demands closer examination by the politically minded, however. Okay, perhaps not in a POLS112 lecture, but certainly by bored students sitting in the back rows.

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