The Environment at Play

Confronting Nature in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and the “Frostfall” Mod

  • Dennis Jansen Utrecht University


In this paper, I argue that the natural environment in the base game of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is devoid of agency and power in the face of the player’s colonialist endeavours to explore, conquer and master that environment. Weaving together insights about spatiality in digital games from (ecocritical and postcolonial) game studies, as well as performance studies, the paper problematizes some of the most basic elements of digital games in general: navigation and movement. It then moves to a discussion of the “Frostfall” mod as one possible option to counteract the destructive and oppositional relationship between the player and nature in Skyrim. “Frostfall” is a mod that adds weather survival elements to the game, by which the player can freeze and die from hypothermia if they do not take the appropriate measures to cope with Skyrim’s harsh climate. In this way, the ‘power fantasy’ set up in the base game becomes somewhat limited, as the player’s agency encounters nature’s newfound agency and must find ways to negotiate the gameworld while taking seriously the environment as an agent in/of that gameworld.


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March 11, 2019