*SPOILERS REGARDING SIDEQUESTS IN OBLIVION AND FALLOUT 3*
Bethesda is a developer I really didn't become familiar with until 8th grade, when my brother-in-law brought over his Xbox. At first we were content with screwing around in Pirates!
and Baldur's Gate
. Then he bought Morrowind
; my perception of RPG's has never been the same.
Though I could shamelessly jerk-off Bethesda for hours, this month we are musing about the untapped potential in our favorite games, so I suppose
I should get on with it.
One thing that simultaneously impressed and annoyed me with Morrowind
was the treatment of different races. On the one hand, by having characters who would let racial slurs fly with reckless abandon and even having the more prominent and influential races of Vvardenfell (IE: Imperials, Dunmer) own slaves, Bethesda created a very compelling and dramatic world. On the other hand, having merchants screw me over and not being able to wear shoes because I was an Argonian started to piss me off after a while.
But really, isn't that the effect that sociology and race relations have on people in real life? There's a fascination behind the collective perception of a group of people and the anger towards the injustices that come from it.
I thought Bethesda had laid the groundwork for a complex system of racial perceptions and interactions for games they would make on their next-generation consoles. Instead what was given to us in Oblivion
was a pissy Dark Elf who made fun of our respective races from the comfort of his jail cell. Our response to these jabs? Shadier characters would eventually get to come back and cap his ass.
Bravo Bethesda, you just taught us that benign pseudo-racism begets murderous vengeance. Glad to see that complex system of race relations at work.
It really wasn't until this year when I downloaded The Elder Scrolls: Arena
that I saw the slow decline in Bethesda's use of race relations in the Elder Scrolls
wasn't giving a peak into a world of racism and bigotry, it was helping to usher in an age of racial prosperity to Tamriel!
Okay, that might be an over-exaggeration. Oblivion had a few
cases of palpable racial tension. For instance, a Thieves Guild early-on takes you to the border city of Leyawiin, where the Countess's "Argonian Torture-Chamber" serves as a secret passage into her bedroom. As any Argonian player (like myself) will tell you, seeing the bloody tools that racist bitch used to interrogate your fellow marsh-brothers makes you pretty pissed off.
Good news though, you get to steal a worthless ring from her! Kill her? Nonsense, she's obviously an essential character because you have about 4 lines of optional
dialogue with her.
Apparently in Tamriel, vague stereotypes earn an uneducated convict a death sentence, whereas an over-privileged Imperial woman gets a "Murderproof" tag despite her penchant for torturing minorities.
It's not as if I'm implying that she realistically
would've been charged and tried for her crimes, her power and influence prevents that. I'm saying that when given the opportunity to let us enact vigilante justice on a character who actually deserved it, a character who felt no remorse for torturing the innocent, Bethesda got lazy because they potentially would've had to rewrite a couple lines of dialogue for a different character.
If Fallout 3
is any indicator, it doesn't seem as though Bethesda plans on putting in any race relations in their games any time soon. The thing about Fallout is, I can easily forgive the lack of racism between humans of different skin colors. It actually makes sense in context. These people were forced to work, live and breed together because of their apocalyptic circumstances. Both inside and outside of the Vaults.
What I was disappointed with was how they have dropped the ball with Ghouls, characters who are almost instantly sympathetic just by looking at them. I suppose on paper, Bethesda did everything right with the Ghouls and their relation to the wasteland.
They are horrifically and tragically deformed. They have seen horrors over the past 200 years that would make our smooth-skin crawl. Some of them were sad, once beautiful women who just wanted someone to look at them without disgust or fear. Some of them were bitter, once decent men driven to do terrible things. Too many of them were driven to a state of feral madness, completely devoid of humanity.
Of course, it can be hard to sympathize with them when they're always accusing you of being some smooth-skin asshole (which, by the way, sounds like a much filthier insult than how it's intended).
It isn't that I don't understand the bitterness and distrust some Ghouls have towards normal Humans, it's just hard to find empathy for someone who accuses me of being a racist because I don't look in desperate need of Neutrogena.
I'm sure adding a Ghoul race to Fallout 3
would have been an insane undertaking on the part of Bethesda, but they could have tempered that by having more than a few Ghouls treat me with the same respect I showed them.
Of course, maybe it isn't hopeless. Fallout 3's Tenpenny Tower
side quest allows you to do what Oblivion didn't; serve justice to the murderous tyrant...both of them actually. Allistair Tenpenny and Roy Phillips are both violent sociopaths, seemingly devoid of empathy. If it weren't for their inherent bigotry towards the other's race, one might think they would be best of friends.
It is only when your character does the impossible and comes up with a peace agreement between the two men and enable Ghouls and Humans to live in Tenpenny Tower together, that Roy Phillips shows his true colors.
Tenpenny is a racist second and a greedy old man first, so he happily allows the ghouls in his Tower so long as his tenants are happy and he's flooded with caps. Phillips on the other hand decides that the Human residents have to die in spite of the peace agreement, and kills every last human in the tower.
By this point, the quest is already over. There's no real reward or incentive to getting yourself re-involved in this conflict, but Bethesda allows you that option. Roy Phillips can get his comeuppance if you please, but it will cost you a bit of karma. Is that an oversight on the part of Bethesda? Or does it symbolize a bit of cynicism gripping your soul, due to the fact that the fears the racists had about the Ghouls turned out to be true?
Alright, maybe those honky's at Bethesda do
know what they're doing. read