The Censorship of TES: A Lament

The Elder Scrolls, like any truly great fantasy epic, is defined by a certain degree of filth. This is a series that once featured topless female humanoids as a matter of routine. Newer TES fans might not even be aware of the TES: Daggerfall book series King Edward, which featured a child overhearing two adults engaging in sexual intercourse. It’s conveyed by implication and innuendo, but if the makers of a future TES game actually have the balls to include something like that again, I’ll chop off my toe. Alas, TES has been thoroughly Disney-fied.
Nudity and strong language have been getting toned down in TES over the years, presumably to make the games more suitable for children (who shouldn’t be playing games rated Mature by the ESRB in the first place). Besides the infamous censored passage of The Real Barenziah, there has been a litany of smaller revisions to take the adult out of this adult series, such as the removal of one of my favorite words from Feyfolken.
But as we’ve been combing through literature available in TES: Online, I can’t help but feel that Zenimax has taken it to a new level. Molag Bal isn’t the “King of Rape” anymore, he’s the “King of Brutality”. Even slightly lascivious portions of books have been carefully censored (an exception being Opusculus Lamae Bal ta Mezzamortie, though it isn’t too explicit in the first place).
This is a problem. First of all, it detrimentally affects immersion, which is what should be the end all-be all for any RPG. The affect a little bit of sex and obscenity can have on bringing a fantasy world to life is incalculable. Secondly, it reeks of cowardly artistic compromise. I’m of the opinion that entertainment is generally better the closer it sticks to the artists’ vision, and when pencil-pushing number-crunchers, frightened attorneys, and integrity-bankrupt marketers get their hands on it, they tend to strip away the flavor and uniqueness of the work in order to make it appealable to the lowest common denominator. And when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one. At least, not me. Art can’t be afraid to piss people off!
Some might wonder, “The game has a mature rating, so why are they afraid to make a mature game?” The answer is that some people have very immature definitions of maturity. The popularity of videogames has been increasing all over the world. While I would like to view this as a good thing, some countries, notably Australia, have relatively inflated yet still nebulous standards of propriety which businesses are afraid of violating. The ambiguity has a chilling effect on pieces of art (people aren’t sure where the line is, so they overcompensate), but more importantly, companies attempting an international release of their product don’t want to lose money by making more than one version.
The result is that oppressive standards of decency in other nations affects the quality of games I can play in my country. Which just goes to show the truth of Dr. King’s words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Free expression is sancrosanct, folks. All we ever really get in life are our opinions. Put yours to use.

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