Tuesday, April 22, 2014

On Arrows and Knees

     It doesn't really matter how long you have been following gaming, chances are you know this eternally overused meme.  It has also gained fame among many non-gamers who may not know where it originated or what it means.   I am here to share a few of the many theories of the arrow to the knee epidemic. 
    The quote is one of many stock phrases that the many hold guards have at their disposal in Bethesda's 2011 open-world fantasy game, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.  As you casually stroll through a town, the guards may comment on your sword, your guild, your achievements up to that point, etc. etc., or they my say the iconic line,"I used to be an adventurer like you, until I took an arrow in the knee."   Many people believe that the guards are speaking literally, and that ever single guard in Skyrim has at some point in their life taken an arrow to the knee. This is obviously a little farfetched as there are hundreds if not thousands of guards in Skyrim.  However, there is one theory that could unmask the conspiracy underneath the vast number of injured denizens of Skyrim: the paid hit-man theory.  Skyrim is clearly based on viking society, and at that time, medical practices were not quit as sophisticated as they are now (shocker, I know).  Back then, the only way to heal a shattered bone was to remove it altogether and hope the tendons grew back together properly.   As it turns out, one of the oldest medical laws from that time said, in simple terms: "for every additional bone fragment removed from the body, the doctors bill increases".  In addition, the kneecap is one of the easiest bones to remove. The paid hit-man theory postulates that perhaps the doctors of Skyrim hired hit-men to go around shooting adventurers in the knee and leave them alive. This way, the unfortunate adventurer, would have to crawl to the nearest town for medical treatment, which means more gold in the pouches of the local doctor.  While not the most founded theory, I can see how this might work into the game.   For the more lengthy version, you can watch it at its source: Game Theory: Skyrim, On the Subject of Arrows and Knees.
      Another theory is quite simple: all the guards got married!  This theory is somewhat more plausible than the previous one.  Rumor has it, "Taking an arrow in the knee" is Nordic (the main inhabitants of Skyrim are called Nords) slang for getting married.  Some have cried foul at this claim because, in viking society, women were highly respected as homemakers.  So such a snide comment about how crippling their marriage has been doesn't make much sense.  That was until you realize one thing.  What happens when your knee gets hit with an arrow?  Please stand up for a moment.  Okay, good, now stand with your legs about shoulder width apart with your right foot slightly behind you and your left in front of you.  Now being careful, gently hit the bend of your right knee.  What position are you in now?  Are you kneeling?  Good.  That is what I think this saying means: not a derogatory remark about ones spouse, but the opposite, that you were so in love you fell to you knee like you were hit with an arrow. (I am not responsible for any knee injuries received during the exercise.)
     The third and final theory can really only be understood by longtime fans of the Elder Scrolls series.  The passing quip of a hold guard may really be Bethesda's way of poking fun at the differences between the armor in the forth installment, Oblivion, and the fifth, Skyrim, mainly the lack of specific knee armor in the latter.   This was a cleaver trick on the developers part.
     If these theories have anything in common, it is that they are just that: theories.  I'm sure I didn't cover all of possible reasons for the rampant arrow-to-the-knee-itis which seems to be plaguing Skyrim's adventurers, but I do believe these are some of the most popular.   Please be sure to tell me in the comments which one you think is the most plausible, or even better, tell me any theories you have heard. 

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