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A history of global Britain in Skyrim, by Dave Hurst: games writer

Skyrim can tell us so much about our history, if you look for it.

November 2011. Skyrim is released to an Elder Scrolls thirsty public. Many consider it a role-playing masterpiece (those who haven’t played Demon’s Souls, anyway).

June/July 2012. Skyrim’s dominance of the gaming world shows no signs of stopping as Bethesda releases its first DLC, Dawnguard, about a sect of horrid, bloodthirsty vampires, leeching off an unsuspecting public (this is a metaphor). Some weeks later, the London 2012 Olympic ceremony brings tears to eyes across the land. Unbeknown to us at the time, it would come to be the last triumph of Britain as a decent, liberal society.

June 2016. Bethesda announces Skyrim Remastered. It’s Skyrim, with nicer textures and godrays. We greet it with eyebrows raised and lips bent into sneers. “It’s just Skyrim, with nicer textures and godrays”, I announce to the rest of the office, to rapturous laughter. If we only knew how little we would laugh for the rest of the decade.

June 2016. Britain votes to leave the European Union. The sense of grief is palpable. I’m ploughing every last penny I have into crypto as the pound slides into chaos, because in the chaos of total societal collapse, the smart bet is on decentralised digital currency. The building’s toilets are jammed with queues as our Eurogamer colleagues take turns vomiting.

Because of some horrid idiots in, I don’t know, some northern shithole like Essex, it’s going to be more hassle for us to attend continental press trips. No more hopping on the Eurostar with a load of Gamer Network colleagues from our network of eight-billion websites about the same hobby, and other, less important people from The Telegraph or whatever it is dim people read.

Probably. We don’t know yet. At this point, it’s all idle speculation. Because those horrid idiots in Crewe or something chose to embark on a fantasy into the unknown, because they don’t like seeing Polski Skelps opening next door to Ladbrokes, or wherever it is people in Northern Shitholes like to waste their undeclared earnings from plastering, or whatever pointless nonsense people in Northern Shitholes like to pretend is “work”.

Some of the more even-handed (dim), less liberal (dim) people around me start to rationalise the result. We’re told to understand that, for many in this country, the status quo was failing, and the Brexit vote was a cry for meaningful change. That’s all very well, but why does it mean I have to put up with it being more expensive to attend Gamescom? People in Hartlepool, or wherever, don’t understand the real world. I want to understand it less.

October 2016. Skyrim: Remastered is released on 8th gen consoles. We are once again invited to “live another life in another world”, as the back-of-box blurb from Oblivion once beckoned. I apply for an Irish passport.

November 2016. Donald Trump narrowly wins the US presidential election on a technicality. For a people still reeling from the devastating prospect of fewer Ubisoft press trips (they always put us in the best hotels), this latest affront to decency is too much. And suddenly, escaping to the world of Tamriel becomes necessary. Essential.

Skyrim isn’t a proper video game. It doesn’t advance the medium in any meaningful way. It contains no study of fatherhood, no allegories for cancer or coming of age. It isn’t even on itch.io.

But it has a working economy. Snigger. And, if you choose the correct path of siding with the empire, it has a sense of national cohesion. Skyrim’s deepest, most intoxicating fantasy is that through a series of clear, binary choices, a nation can avoid disaster, and a people may heal.

December 2016. Ireland’s government reject my passport application on the frankly pedantic grounds that I’m not Irish. I love The Pogues, and I’ve seen every episode of Ballykissangel, but I’m told that a “cultural affinity with Ireland does not constitute a claim for citizenship”. For a brief moment, my faith in the european project begins to falter. My mate Clive got one just because his grandad is from Limerick. How do they know mine isn’t?

November 2017. Skyrim releases on Nintendo’s Switch, inflicting a final, humiliating irony: we are free to roam Tamriel from any room in the house, including the bog, but we are not free to roam the continent. For more than ninety days visa-free. Other metaphors include: coddling an empire while sitting on a throne of shit. Yeah. That’s good. Jeremy Peel couldn’t come up with that.

September 2021. A crisis-weary Britain finds itself in a fuel shortage, brought on by a HGV driver shortage, brought on by a political savvy shortage, brought on by an empathy shortage. My 18th of a Bitcoin is now worth £1770.

November 2021: Skyrim: Anniversary Edition is due in November.

I’m laughing again.

Disclaimer: Dave Hurst lived through 10 years of life in Britain to tell this story. In that time he received one copy of Skyrim from the game's publisher. He didn't review the game. He gave it to his mate to review instead. He's now one of the country's leading Skyrim experts - Dave, not his mate.

About the Author

Dave Hurst avatar

Dave Hurst


Dave Hurst is a 23-year-old games journalist based in northern England (Luton). He's been active in the scene for 10 years, but has spent almost all of that time working on one decade-long feature about Skyrim. He also failed to get commissioned for pitches on the favourite games of Conservative MPs 1980-2000.

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