Dear friends, and especially my beloved lady wife, I need to make a confession. I … um … I’m not quite sure how to say this. But the title of today’s blog slightly gives it away.
I have been dabbling with bigamy. And a menage a trois. A spot of reversed voyeurism.
But before you reach for the dislike button – and before my long suffering legal wife starts googling “vicious divorce lawyers” – I should explain.
It’s in a computer game. Honest. Wife number two is a computer character. And we haven’t actually … you know … done the naughty. Well, we might have done but I wasn’t conscious at the time. Probably.
You might think that you can switch off at this point. Computer games don’t interest you and you wouldn’t be caught dead playing one. Yes but your teenage kids probably do, especially the boys. And those kids grow up and get proper jobs. Trust me, you need to know that this stuff is going on.
The game in question is called Skyrim. It is a few years old now, so the kids will have moved on to something else. It is now mostly played by 51 year old writers who are researching their next book on sword and sorcery stories. Honest.
Skyrim is your basic story of heroic Vikings battling dragons with magic, unfeasibly large axes and bows and arrows. It’s Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit, Game of Thrones … that sort of thing. You spend your time killing, getting hurt, healing yourself, and killing some more. And just about every person you meet in the game wants you to get something for them or take thing A to place B. At times it feels like a medieval UPS simulator.
And then it starts to get weird.
The first bit of weirdness comes when you the Lord of the town gives you a housecarl. That is a fancy Viking word for a servant. This is my housecarl, a fetching Valkyrie of a woman known as Lydia.
Hmm, yes, designer armour and leather breeches. That’s all very exciting if you like that sort of thing, but it doesn’t really light my candle. It is a little too much Germanic lederhosen and large hairy men slapping thighs. Their own and those belonging to other large hairy men.
So the Lord gave me Lydia as a housecarl. I don’t assume that she had much say in the matter. To start with, I ignored her. I left her standing in the Lord’s mead hall and went off to have other adventures.
Lydia, if you felt rejected by this I am truly sorry. It wasn’t you, it was me. I just wasn’t ready for the sort of commitment that a thane makes to his housecarl.
Let’s park Lydia in the meadhall. Because the next exciting thing that happened was the I was allowed to buy a house.
Oh yes, my very own dwelling. For 5,000 gold septims I could buy the deeds to Breezehome, a cosy little detached two bedroom cottage in the less desirable retail end of town. Close to amenities, with the local blacksmith just next door. So I did. This, my friends, is Breezehome:
You can do all sorts of wonderful things in your own house. You can store your books on bookshelves, hide your loot in chests, cook meals on an open fire. You can even go to sleep in your very own bed.
You don’t have to do any of this. As far as I can tell, you can play Skyrim without ever sleeping. Entirely optional. If you want to, you can lay your weary head on a bed and let several hours of game time elapse. Night becomes day.
You do get some bonus for sleeping. In the complicated statistics that are hidden in the game, a night’s sleep gives you an extra … something or other. I don’t know. If you sleep in any old bed, you get the “rested” bonus. If you sleep in a bed you own, you get the “well rested” bonus. Which is better. Somehow.
Don’t ask me how. I am not a teenager.
I must confess that I was more than a little giddy when I bought Breezehome. I skipped from room to room marvelling in the details. The fruit and bread stored on shelves. A little corner to practice my alchemy. I couldn’t find the en-suite or the little boys’ room, which is probably just as well. That would have been taking realism a little too far.
Of course, I had to take a kip in my new bed. Twelve hours of blissful repose. Just me, living the life of a bachelor adventurer in my bijou starter home. As they say in the vernacular, I was chilling in my crib.
I had a bit of a shock when I woke up. Sitting in a corner of the room was ….
Yup. It’s Lydia, sitting on a chair in my bedroom. Just staring at me while I slept. I must admit that it was more than a little creepy. I had almost forgotten that I had a housecarl. But she hadn’t forgotten me. As soon as she heard that I had a house of my home she packed up all her belongings in a leathern overnight bag and moved right on in.
If that was weird, there was more to come. I became accustomed to Lydia the passive stalker and went on other adventures. It was then I learned that I could get married. And being a modern game, Skyrim apparently allows you a pleasing variety of matrimonial choices. You can play as a man and marry a woman. You can be a woman and marry a man. Or a man can marry another man. A woman can marry another woman. You can have inter-racial marriages. Frankly, any combination of inserting tab A into slot B is allowed.
And then there was the choice of potential partners. The world of Skyrim is populated with seemingly hundreds of people going about their businesses. Warriors fight, shopkeepers trade, politicians scheme, thieves steal. Which one was Miss Right for me? I had opted for the conventional man marrying a woman scenario. Other couplings are available.
I wandered around town looking for lurve. Naturally, you would like your partner to be attractive, curved in the right places, intelligent, witty.
What am I saying? It’s a computer game, for Pete’s sake! But somehow this mattered. Eventually, I chose the lovely Ysolda. Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like you to meet my wife…
That’s my Skyrim wife, you understand.
The courtship was a little … ahem … strange. I was told to buy an amulet from the temple of Mara. This would signify to the world that I was looking for lurve. I suppose it’s an ancient Nordic version of internet dating. Grindr in a horned helmet.
I put on the amulet and struck up a conversation with Ysolda. She asked me to get her a mammoth tusk because she wanted to set up a store.
Okay. It’s a little bit unusual. But anything for you, my love. I trundled off and slaughtered a mammoth. This turned out to be quite a fight as mammoths are one of the biggest and toughest critters in the game. They are guarded by giants who are even nastier. But after many arrows were shot, I managed to bring down a mammoth and its attendant giant. I hot-footed it back to Ysolda, no doubt very sweaty from my exertions and covered in Mammoth blood.
It took me a little while to find Ysolda, as she hip-swayed her way through the little town of Whiterun. Eventually I caught up with her and made her a present of the gory mammoth tusk. still warm from being wrenched from the beast’s schnozz.
Bold as brass, she asked me: “Are you interested in me?”
At this point, the game gave me two choices – “Yes I am” or “No, I am not”. That was all. There was no option to think about it for a while. No chance for getting to know each other with moonlight walks along the castle ramparts.
It all felt a bit sudden. It was what I was trying to do, but there was no … oh, I don’t know … no courtship. No cuddles and dreamy talk. Wear an amulet, slaughter a mammoth, say yes, get married. I swear that would have saved me an awful lot of money and heartache if that was how it worked in the real world.
The worrying thing is that this is how our teenage kids think the world works. Saints preserve us. Maybe mankind is doomed, not because of war or global warming or asteroid impact, but because the next generation think that matrimony is a matter of wearing the right jewellery and butchering extinct pachyderms.
Are you interested in me?
Yes, I am.
Great. Let’s get married.
Twenty four game hours later, we were husband and wife. Let me guess what you are thinking, because it’s probably what 99% of the teenage boys would be thinking at this point. You have a new wife. You own a house. The house has a bed. This is a game that prides itself on realism.
What happens when we ask Ysolda to go upstairs and slip into something uncomfortable? Can you and your new bride do the naughty thing?
That, my friends, will have to be a story for another time. More to come in part two of my adventures in bigamy.