By Braden Godley
Is Skyrim, an open-world roleplaying game set in The Elder Scrolls world of Tamriel, helping reinforce bad life habits in our youth? A children’s therapist asserts that this may be the case.
In the game, you play as a Dragonborn: a person born with the soul of a dragon. One of the main draws of the game is its combat, in which the game gives full agency to the player. As yet another one of today’s violent video games, Skyrim has put a bad taste in parents’ mouths.
However, children’s therapist Dr. Mary Arnheist claims that the game doesn’t only lead to violent behavior. “In my days as a therapist, I’ve observed hundreds of children that have undoubtedly been affected by games like Skyrim. I don’t believe that the range of the effects ends at violent tendencies, however. Many of these children have taken notes from the other aspects of the game.”
She continued, “For example, I helped one child through a crippling case of insomnia. ‘I don’t need to sleep,’ the boy said, ‘All it does is give a 5% XP bonus! I can just wait for an hour if I need to regain health.’ The child was obviously delusional, and influenced by the unrealistic mechanics of the game.”
Arnheist went on, explaining more cases, “There was another boy who had been getting into a lot of fights at school. If this weren’t bad enough, he was trying to eat as much food as he possibly could during the brawls. In the game, eating food restores health. He said that the food was making him stronger.”
“But there was one case that I found to be the most harrowing. A high school student was frequently going to pet shops and buying bearded dragons. She’d then take them home and fight them. When she claimed that after she won she had absorbed the lizard’s dragon soul, I was shocked. The ideas that these games give children are terrifyingly barbarous.”
The therapist recounted many other cases, including one boy who had developed kleptomania, and a girl who punched a store clerk and then proceeded to try to fight the local authorities. Arnheist described a peculiar case, “There was a boy who whenever he spoke to people, would insist that they skip the sentence they were speaking and move to the next one. I don’t understand how anybody could think that the game’s dialogue skipping mechanic could be translated into real life, but this boy did.”
Arnheist explained what concerned parents could do to try to lead their children away from developing dangerous behaviors from Skyrim. “I’ve always recommended that parents sit with their child and discuss the child’s actions in-game. Ask questions like, ‘Why did you murder Ralof after he saved you from the dragon?’ or ‘What did you gain from stealing every cheese wheel from the East Empire Company’s warehouse?’ I believe that when the children are made to explain their actions, it can help them understand what they did wrong.”
The same method can be used if the child is displaying bad tendencies from other video games, Arnheist claimed. “For example, if your child only plays Torbjörn in Overwatch’s competitive mode, ask them to explain themselves. ‘How can Torbjörn help make a push work on Hanamura A?’ Working through these issues with your child will help them integrate into the real world.”