Editor's Choice

Editor's Choice
Second-Hand Elf

Jonas Kyratzes | 4 Jan 2011 11:52
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But there is hope for us yet, even in the realm of digital storytelling - perhaps especially so. Have you ever wandered from Caldera to Gnisis and seen a Netch float overhead? Have you seen Ald'ruhn? Have you travelled from city to city by silt strider? When the Elder Scrolls series began, the Dunmer were just Dark Elves, slaves to cliché as so many of their kind. But someone made the decision to change that, to give us a world that functioned on its own terms, to give the Dunmer the dignity that will make them a real people. The result is flawed in many ways, perhaps too many to be considered truly great, but there must be some reason that so many years after its release, I still gaze longingly at the map of Vvardenfell and remember my journeys through that land.


In another world, there is a mining colony in a valley near the city of Khorinis. I remember walking down into that valley, seeing the castle that stood by a river. I remember fighting strange bird-like creatures called Scavengers, and their distinctive call. I remember the miners and working people, their dry humor, their gruff friendship, their triumphs and tragedies. And I remember the streets of Khorinis itself, from the houses of the nobles to the gutters of the poor. I've been there.

I also remember - and too few people do - the history of the Soulbringer and his struggle for the freedom of Rathenna. I remember him as a young, innocent man arriving in the town of Madrigal to find his uncle Andrus, and as a wise, powerful being fighting the Revenants themselves. I remember his friend and ally, Chant. I remember because he was my friend.

Never before in the history of the humanity have storytellers had a medium like videogames. Never has there been a medium so uniquely fit for the making of worlds. Books, films, poems, all these are linear forms, and in them our exploration of the world must serve the story. But in games, the world is the story - and we are right there. Every detail of the world can be a part of our experience, and that experience is a direct one: hence I have walked through Khorinis myself, and fought alongside Chant, and seen the Netch float.

Let us leave the Elves in Middle-earth; we will not improve upon Tolkien's masterpiece. We have a new medium, an interactive medium. We do not need these pale imitations, these second-hand elves and used dwarves. The gift of digital subcreation allows us to dream of new lands, and make those lands real - every inch of them. If we do not recognize how truly, deeply, awe-inspiringly amazing this is, we will never find out what adventures we might have had there. And what is the world without adventures?

Jonas Kyratzes is a writer, director and independent game designer. When he's not working, he plots with a small black feline and rides the solar wind. He also has a website (http://www.jonas-kyratzes.net), but it smells of mushrooms.

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