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Community (Misc.) => General => Debates/Serious Discussions => Topic started by: fenzil on May 05, 2018, 10:05:31 PM

Title: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: fenzil on May 05, 2018, 10:05:31 PM
Every time I've played Skyrim, from 2011 to now, I've seen the Skyrim Civil War as a dichotomy between idealistic right-wing nationalism and imperial cosmopolitanism (i.e. that of the Roman Empire at its peak).

Recently I was discussing the game with a friend who is quite opposed to nationalism in real life, and he said something to the effect of "Stormcloaks for life! Die Imperial scum!" I said I was surprised that he supported an ethnonationalist movement, and he said he had never looked at it that way.

Certainly, the Empire represents more of a Roman type than a genocidal late colonial empire. The emperors tend to be capable and wise, although through the Fourth Era this has been less true. As with Rome, the Third Empire avoids racist policies (for the most part) out of self-interest, benefiting more from working together than marginalization.

In opposition are the Stormcloaks, whose constant rally cry is "Skyrim belongs to the Nords!" A visit to Windhelm shows the slum area where Dark Elves live. If you play a Dark Elf character, you will be greeted at the city gates on your first visit by a man jeering racial obscenities at you.

That being said, the Stormcloak leadership can't be entirely held responsible for what their rank-and-file say. In their own terms, Ulfric and his crew claim (correctly) that the Empire has conceded too much to the Thalmor (see: White-Gold Concordat) and that the Emperor is essentially a Thalmor puppet. It is easy to compare this rationale to similar statements in real life where racists will come up with something else to avoid the topic of prejudice, but in Skyrim racial prejudice is common enough that Ulfric is probably not gaining anything from avoiding its mention.

So, are they? :platquack:
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: EgotisticalRaven on May 05, 2018, 11:45:30 PM
This is a big reason I stopped playing Skyrim, because I never knew which side to be on....

I have heard that the Stormcloaks are racist.

A lot of the Elder Scrolls games seem to like to discuss racism. From what I remember, Morrowind had some discussion in it about racism towards Dark Elves. But it's been a while since I have played Morrowind, so I could be wrong.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: Mobbstar on May 11, 2018, 12:59:04 AM
Skyrim is a fundamentally racist game. Its gameplay mechanics, right when you start the game, say things like "Imperial is a race and they have a magic coin boost and inherently are better at barter".

My advice: Don't play - or care about - Skyrim. Just don't. It's a bad game in every way.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: EgotisticalRaven on May 11, 2018, 10:02:36 AM
Skyrim is a fundamentally racist game. Its gameplay mechanics, right when you start the game, say things like "Imperial is a race and they have a magic coin boost and inherently are better at barter".

My advice: Don't play - or care about - Skyrim. Just don't. It's a bad game in every way.

Good point. Although personally, when I played any of the Elder Scrolls games, I just ignored all that junk about the traits, and either played Argonians or played Khajiits, because I like cats.  :fezesarecool:

But yeah, I can see what you're saying, but I think this problem is not just plaguing The Elder Scrolls games, but also the fantasy genre in general. As Elder Scrolls was not the first to do this, but just copied the whole, "Every race is inherently one way" from other fantasy medias that came before it.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: fenzil on May 12, 2018, 12:16:39 AM
Yeah the race traits in games bother me but it's pretty subdued in Skyrim compared to previous/other games. IIRC only the Dunmer one is noticeable in normal gameplay. It's different enough from the real world to not be a huge issue for me but I can see how some gamers might take that style of thinking and apply it to the real world.

There are worse cases though, like in Stargate where the Goa'uld are genetically determined to be power-hungry and evil.

A lot of the Elder Scrolls games seem to like to discuss racism. From what I remember, Morrowind had some discussion in it about racism towards Dark Elves. But it's been a while since I have played Morrowind, so I could be wrong.

The other way around actually. In Morrowind the Dunmer (dark elves) are the majority population and they enslave Argonians (lizard people). A weakness of the Elder Scrolls (and fantasy in general) is that no population is actually marginalized long-term. You don't end up with entire continents pillaged for resources, enslaved and bombed. Instead you end up with The Hist (https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Hist), some magical construct that prevents colonization of the Argonian homeland and feels like a way of avoiding representation of the difficult issues involved in colonialism.

I'm still gonna play Skyrim though  :P
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: EgotisticalRaven on May 12, 2018, 03:06:13 AM
Yeah the race traits in games bother me but it's pretty subdued in Skyrim compared to previous/other games. IIRC only the Dunmer one is noticeable in normal gameplay. It's different enough from the real world to not be a huge issue for me but I can see how some gamers might take that style of thinking and apply it to the real world.

There are worse cases though, like in Stargate where the Goa'uld are genetically determined to be power-hungry and evil.

A lot of the Elder Scrolls games seem to like to discuss racism. From what I remember, Morrowind had some discussion in it about racism towards Dark Elves. But it's been a while since I have played Morrowind, so I could be wrong.

The other way around actually. In Morrowind the Dunmer (dark elves) are the majority population and they enslave Argonians (lizard people). A weakness of the Elder Scrolls (and fantasy in general) is that no population is actually marginalized long-term. You don't end up with entire continents pillaged for resources, enslaved and bombed. Instead you end up with The Hist (https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Hist), some magical construct that prevents colonization of the Argonian homeland and feels like a way of avoiding representation of the difficult issues involved in colonialism.

I'm still gonna play Skyrim though  :P

Oh, is it the other way around? I guess I forgot. As I said, it's been a while since I have really played Morrowind. I knew it had something to do with the Dark Elves....
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: Sun on May 12, 2018, 06:28:03 AM
I never even played Skyrim and I don't intend to, but a few of the statements in this discussion make me go "huh?".
Like, that it's racist to have made-up races that have different traits. Sounds like a game mechanism to me that is intended to give you a slightly different experience depending on what you play. In other games like Mass Effect or Team Fortress, the same mechanism exists, but there it's called classes. Isn't that part of a role-playing game, that you can pick between different roles and that those roles are different to each other? Are people really taking offense to this because it is anchored to species in the game world?
As for parts of the game's story that might be considered racist, I obviously am not familiar with them.

The other way around actually. In Morrowind the Dunmer (dark elves) are the majority population and they enslave Argonians (lizard people). A weakness of the Elder Scrolls (and fantasy in general) is that no population is actually marginalized long-term. You don't end up with entire continents pillaged for resources, enslaved and bombed. Instead you end up with The Hist (https://en.uesp.net/wiki/Lore:Hist), some magical construct that prevents colonization of the Argonian homeland and feels like a way of avoiding representation of the difficult issues involved in colonialism.
Which also makes me wonder: If you take inspiration from a thing in the real world, are you then obliged to portray everything in the real world that can be counted under this term? Or can you choose to work with certain aspects only? And if you say "the first", then why? The same demand is not made in regard to other aspects of stories. Like, when vehicles exist in the story world, nobody expects to see every type of vehicle man has created in that story.

Yes, I'm taking your thread even further away from the question you originally posted, fenzil. You can call me out on that and I will delete it.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: fenzil on May 12, 2018, 04:08:00 PM
I never even played Skyrim and I don't intend to, but a few of the statements in this discussion make me go "huh?".
Like, that it's racist to have made-up races that have different traits. Sounds like a game mechanism to me that is intended to give you a slightly different experience depending on what you play. In other games like Mass Effect or Team Fortress, the same mechanism exists, but there it's called classes. Isn't that part of a role-playing game, that you can pick between different roles and that those roles are different to each other? Are people really taking offense to this because it is anchored to species in the game world?

The Elder Scrolls games also have classes (except for Skyrim which dumbed down its character generation), which are occupation-based categories. It's normal for a trained archer to have increased Dexterity and lower Magicka, but that's because they trained a certain way, not due to genetics. In the first four games you'd choose a race then a class, and it's common to choose an optimal race/class combination for metagaming.

Skyrim features races in their real-world socially-constructed sense too. The Bretons, Imperials, Nords, and Redguards are all human and their distinctions are geographical and appearance-based. The same goes for the various types of elves (which includes Falmer, who are considered degenerated and not people anymore). Yet in all the games each one gets different abilities; the Bretons are the magic people, the Imperials are the lucky/charming people, etc. It's not "taking offense" to acknowledge that certain aspects of media we love can uphold real-life prejudices. The same goes for Mario's damsels in distress, the weird racism in Arthur C. Clarke stories, and all sorts of stuff in my favorite 1800s novels. Loving something doesn't mean you have to ignore its faults.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: Kyo on May 13, 2018, 12:33:33 AM
Skyrim is a fundamentally racist game.
Yeah, most RPGs hate hack'n'slashes. In fact, once I installed Skyrim and later found the words "aRPG master race" and "Diablo sucks!" written on my desktop with bloody letters.

Loving something doesn't mean you have to ignore its faults.
I also don't like it when something bad happens in my books, games and anime. Really, authors shouldn't be allowed to portray things like violence, sex, racism, drugs, alcohol and swearing in their works.



But seriously, this thread. Nowadays people will go to such lengths just to get offended, I'm kind of impressed.

Spoiler: show
(https://i.imgur.com/LEKO2xs.jpg)
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: Sun on May 13, 2018, 01:46:18 AM
Funny, I actually came here to say something similar to Kyo, just in less scathing words.
Fenzil, I'm still not convinced by you argument. In Skyrim, you can pick different species to play, right? Orcs and elves are not the same species and so it would be reasonable that they might be good at different things, the way that dogs are enduring runners and cats have excellent night vision. And if it's among one species, cultures can train different aspects; e.g. the Chinese are better at remembering images because they have to remember thousands of characters for reading and writing.  Yup, playing the devil's advocate here.

Back to the Kyo part:
From what Raven wrote above, it sounded like he thinks it's a racist game because it portrays instances of racism. Is that all though? Or in other words, if you want to think about a theme in a story, you have to portray it, too. What else happens? Does the world justify that racism entirely? Or does it show you another side as well?
I can only speak for Fallout here, the other big series from Bethesda (yeah, yeah, internet, they only bought it from another studio). In that series, you see racism against ghouls (horribly irradiated humans), super mutants (huge green mutated humans) and synths (synthetically created humans). The picture that the game paints is complex: Ghouls come in two forms, feral and with full mental capacities. Ferals will tear you limb from limb for merely getting close to them. The other form are reasonable but still feared and hated because they look different, but also because they may turn feral at some point - there is no guarantee. A ghoul in your settlement might just be a ticking bomb. Or stay their human self forever.
Super mutants are dumb brutes for the most part who kill and eat humans and think they are the superior race since they can survive just fine in the irradiated post-nuclear world. Some are not like that and even have their own settlements away from humans ... who feel antsy having them so close. When you go into that settlement and find that even here, things are not simple and some mutants are on the verge of a hostile takeover of said place, it once more paints a world where peace is hard work.
And synths are mostly unwitting pawns of a scientist group that created them to infiltrate and spy on the wastelanders. For them to live in a village, a human has to die so they can replace them. There is a group that sets them free and then they usually live peaceful lives, but we also meet one who has turned to raiding and killing.  Free will also means the freedom to choose to harm others, after all. Should one not free synths to be sure? Should one kill them so they can't spy? Because your common wastelander has no means of deprogramming a synth like the aforementioned group. What to choose? So in sum, a lot of racism portrayed but the game paints a broad picture. In the end, they leave the choice to you, and you can even pick the most racist faction. Or the most do-gooder one. I think it's pretty cool they layered this stuff so much, although I'll also admit that in the end, it's way too obvious what the"right" answer is - you never have to regret trusting in people's good in this game; ghouls that you invite into your settlements never turn, nor do synths or friendly mutants.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: EgotisticalRaven on May 13, 2018, 07:04:35 AM
From what Raven wrote above, it sounded like he thinks it's a racist game because it portrays instances of racism. Is that all though? Or in other words, if you want to think about a theme in a story, you have to portray it, too. What else happens? Does the world justify that racism entirely? Or does it show you another side as well?

No, I don't think it's racist JUST because it discusses racism. I was bringing something else up entirely. I should have made that clear, that I wasn't saying that Morrowind was racist JUST because it discussed racism. I was bringing up that Morrowind talks about it.

The reason I see the Elder Scrolls games as racist because they perpetuate the idea that different races of peoples are fundamentally different in a tangible way that makes them skilful or superior compared to other races.

When I say that The Elder Scrolls are racist, I am not saying that I hate them, I love the Elder Scrolls games! But it's necessary to enjoy and at the same time criticise the media that you love.

When we say that the Elder Scrolls might be racist, we are saying that not to demonise the games in general, but to recognise that they are dated, they have things in them that may not be entirely correct. It's important to do this, so we can move on and progress with making these types of media, and excluding the things that were bad.

Also, it's not JUST about discussing or portraying something, it's about whether or not the thing you are discussing is something you endorse. The Elder Scrolls endorse different races being skilled at different things, because it makes it a good thing for you to use in the game, and it never challenges the idea. You can have something in your game or book, that is bad, but you can also not endorse it, by challenging it, making something bad happen because of it, or have it portrayed as silly or 'stupid', or even outright say it's bad.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: Sun on May 13, 2018, 11:53:00 AM
It's a pity you didn't mention your thoughts about the "they are different species" thing. It seems pretty obvious to me that a muscular species is better at melee, a dainty one better at sneaking and all that.

Anyway:
The reason I see the Elder Scrolls games as racist because they perpetuate the idea that different races of peoples are fundamentally different in a tangible way that makes them skilful or superior compared to other races.
Does that mean the games would NOT be racist if it didn't make any difference who you play - every species is basically the same with just a different exterior? Nobody is better in one thing, everybody has precisely the same skillset?
From your statement, it sounds like two steps in thought are required to reach this kind of judgement:
Step 1: One group is good at this thing, another group is good at another and yet another group is good at another thing.
Step 2: These things are not of equal value, therefore the order of their value determines how valuable each group is.
So the problem here lies not in them being different, but in how that being a thing is judged by the observer (you, the player).
Is it something the NPCs tell you? If that is the case, do you reach a more rounded picture that even contradicts them when you listen to other NPCs, when you observe the events of the story etc.? Then we'd be back at the argument that this game might be discussing racism to some degree and offering you several ideas/observations so you can come to your own conclusion on what you want to subscribe to.

Or am I getting you wrong again and you don't like the concept itself that there are differences between the groups? Because ... isn't that what we call diversity? Everyone has something to contribute, and with one group falling out of the picture, something is missing.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: EgotisticalRaven on May 13, 2018, 04:44:04 PM
It's a pity you didn't mention your thoughts about the "they are different species" thing. It seems pretty obvious to me that a muscular species is better at melee, a dainty one better at sneaking and all that.

Anyway:
The reason I see the Elder Scrolls games as racist because they perpetuate the idea that different races of peoples are fundamentally different in a tangible way that makes them skilful or superior compared to other races.
Does that mean the games would NOT be racist if it didn't make any difference who you play - every species is basically the same with just a different exterior? Nobody is better in one thing, everybody has precisely the same skillset?
From your statement, it sounds like two steps in thought are required to reach this kind of judgement:
Step 1: One group is good at this thing, another group is good at another and yet another group is good at another thing.
Step 2: These things are not of equal value, therefore the order of their value determines how valuable each group is.
So the problem here lies not in them being different, but in how that being a thing is judged by the observer (you, the player).
Is it something the NPCs tell you? If that is the case, do you reach a more rounded picture that even contradicts them when you listen to other NPCs, when you observe the events of the story etc.? Then we'd be back at the argument that this game might be discussing racism to some degree and offering you several ideas/observations so you can come to your own conclusion on what you want to subscribe to.

Or am I getting you wrong again and you don't like the concept itself that there are differences between the groups? Because ... isn't that what we call diversity? Everyone has something to contribute, and with one group falling out of the picture, something is missing.
There are differences between individuals, but on a whole, between races in the real world, there's not much of a difference besides skin colour. The fact is less of the traits given at the start, but the fact that in the game, it categorises Khajiits as all thieves and drug users, the game doesn't challenge this, but instead it backs up that notion by making Khajiits literally better at stealing things! (As well as having almost every Khajiit NPC being a thief or a skooma user) And there are many more examples of that kind of stuff throughout the entire series.

It's been a while since I have played any Elder Scrolls game, so I probably shouldn't have commented on this thread anyway... Because I can barely remember anything about Skyrim...
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: Sun on May 14, 2018, 11:07:37 AM
Aw, come on. We are not really having a discussion because while it seems you think my arguments are invalid, or at least you don't say that you agree with them (both of which are totally fine, maybe there are good reasons), you don't give counterarguments.

There are differences between individuals, but on a whole, between races in the real world, there's not much of a difference besides skin colour.
And my argument was that in the game, you can apparently pick between different species, not truly different races. In other words: "There are differences between individual sparrows and trouts, but on a whole, there's not much of a difference between them besides feathers."

Oh, and that was an awesome point to underline your argumentation:
[...] in the game, it categorises Khajiits as all thieves and drug users, the game doesn't challenge this, but instead it backs up that notion by making Khajiits literally better at stealing things! (As well as having almost every Khajiit NPC being a thief or a skooma user) And there are many more examples of that kind of stuff throughout the entire series.
If there's truly never a challenge to the idea that a whole group are criminals (which I cannot verify, as I don't know the games), well, yeah, that's oversimplifying things quite some.

It's been a while since I have played any Elder Scrolls game, so I probably shouldn't have commented on this thread anyway... Because I can barely remember anything about Skyrim...
Bruh, I don't even know the games ...
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: fenzil on May 14, 2018, 12:23:10 PM
In Skyrim there are basically two different species for player-characters: man (humans) and mer (elves and their relatives). Every further distinction is a race as it is defined in the real world. Even the Orcs are considered elves, but they're a bit of an exception due to the interference of gods/magic. Further exceptions are Khajits and Argonians, who are considered beast-folk.

Positive stereotypes have a mostly negative impact. Here is a good article about that: https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/02/17/586181350/strong-black-woman-smart-asian-man-the-downside-to-positive-stereotypes (https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2018/02/17/586181350/strong-black-woman-smart-asian-man-the-downside-to-positive-stereotypes)

The idea of different racial groups being good at certain things dehumanizes (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Positive_stereotype#Depersonalization) people - they're reduced to their stereotype. It also puts pressure on people to do things that fit their stereotypes, and pulls people away from doing things that don't fit.

It seems like you think we're saying the game is bad, when that's not the point at all. The Elder Scrolls is my favorite series of video games and I'm a huge lore nerd. But part of advancing as a society is the ability to critically analyze the media we produce. It doesn't involve the quality of the work but rather the way it reflects social values. It's unlikely that anyone at Bethesda decided "okay, we're gonna make a game that promotes 18th century ideas of scientific racism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_racism)." But they are working within a particular culture, both the general Western culture and the traditional framework of fantasy stories that has standardized this kind of racial typology and made it an expected trope in any high fantasy story.
Title: Re: Are Skyrim's Stormcloaks a right-wing nationalist movement?
Post by: EgotisticalRaven on May 14, 2018, 04:41:51 PM
Aw, come on. We are not really having a discussion because while it seems you think my arguments are invalid, or at least you don't say that you agree with them (both of which are totally fine, maybe there are good reasons), you don't give counterarguments.

There are differences between individuals, but on a whole, between races in the real world, there's not much of a difference besides skin colour.
And my argument was that in the game, you can apparently pick between different species, not truly different races. In other words: "There are differences between individual sparrows and trouts, but on a whole, there's not much of a difference between them besides feathers."

Oh, and that was an awesome point to underline your argumentation:
[...] in the game, it categorises Khajiits as all thieves and drug users, the game doesn't challenge this, but instead it backs up that notion by making Khajiits literally better at stealing things! (As well as having almost every Khajiit NPC being a thief or a skooma user) And there are many more examples of that kind of stuff throughout the entire series.
If there's truly never a challenge to the idea that a whole group are criminals (which I cannot verify, as I don't know the games), well, yeah, that's oversimplifying things quite some.

It's been a while since I have played any Elder Scrolls game, so I probably shouldn't have commented on this thread anyway... Because I can barely remember anything about Skyrim...
Bruh, I don't even know the games ...

Even if they were supposed to be different species, I doubt that many people who are playing the game will pick up on the nuances of that difference, and will just compare the different 'species' in the game to being comparable to different races.

I wasn't giving counter arguments to some things, because you didn't quite represent my arguments correctly. Or do you mean I didn't counter the whole "Does that mean the games would NOT be racist if it didn't make any difference who you play" thing?

If so, here's a counter to that, it's not so much about the 'species' being all the same, it's more of, it's racist because of the certain 'species' being good at sneaking, charm, athletics, etc. In the game Khajiits can see in the dark and Argonians can breath underwater, and that's fine, because it's an actual biological thing, but the whole 'this group is more charming' thing, is racist garbage. It's about how they are different, not the fact that they are different. Like how POC have black skin, and that's a biological difference, that doesn't have any effect on much else, but saying that POC are more or less charming or something, would be a problem.

And yeah, pretty much what Fenzil said was pretty spot on.

I don't see your arguments as invalid or anything. If I don't respond to something properly, it may be that I didn't read it correctly and responded in a different way, or I didn't see it as the most important point. But, that being said, that I still find your arguments valid, it might make them more valid if you played some of the games, they are very fun!