GLAAD Media Awards gives Elder Scrolls Online its first Outstanding Video Game award

The Elder Scrolls MMO received high praise for its depiction of a transgender character, alongside other strong nominees.

GLAAD has announced The Elder Scrolls Online: Summerset expansion as the winner of its first ever Outstanding Video Game award as part of the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards ceremony.

The Outstanding Video Game award was announced earlier this year, and is the first time the LGBTQ media advocacy organization has formally recognized the world of video games. The announcement was paired with the formation of a new video game advisory council that will work with industry leaders to facilitate more inclusive games.

“The video game landscape is ever-expanding, and it’s critical that all players see themselves represented fairly and accurately in the content. LGBTQ people are an important and growing part of the gaming community, and we are so proud to honor an impressive slate of nominees in this first year,” said Zeke Stokes, chief programs officer at GLAAD.

The Elder Scrolls: Summerset succeeded over other nominees including Guild Wars 2: Path of Fire, Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire, The Sims Mobile, and also Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Earlier in the year, Odyssey was met with criticism for how it erased the LGBT character choices players may have made by forcing players into a heterosexual relationship in a subsequent DLC called “Shadow Heritage. Ubisoft apologized, chalking the decision up to the wonky bloodline-focused narrative of Assassin’s Creed, and made updates to the DLC and subsequent content that worked to allow players to continue pursuing an LGBT romance. GLAAD issued a statement during the aftermath praising Ubisoft’s good-faith efforts to make up for the mistake.

The Elder Scrolls: Summerset was praised by GLAAD for the “Manor of Masques” questline, which lets the player work to reunite a woman with her estranged sibling, who is later revealed to be transgender. It’s not this reporter’s place to make too heavy a statement about the subject matter, but on a surface level I appreciated the lengths the quest went to challenging the player’s own preconceptions and comfort. There are countless stories of LGBT people struggling to come out to their families, and Summerset seems to have embraced that familiar narrative well within a high fantasy setting. You can check it out in its entirety below:

In a September 2018 interview with GameDaily, Stokes emphasized that GLAAD was focusing on depictions of LGBTQ characters that weren’t necessarily “very special episode” material, but more frank and casual about how LGBTQ people live their lives.

“We don’t need ‘a very special episode’ every time you want to introduce a gay character, but we do need to be part of the ecosystem” Stokes said. “I thought [the pride flag in Marvel’s Spider-Man] was a really brilliant way to make it super clear that not only are the folks behind the game accepting of LGBTQ people, but Spider-Man was pretty accepting himself.”

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Joseph Knoop is a writer for Game Daily, IGN, PC Gamer, and plenty more. He owns an irresponsible amount of Overwatch merch. Break it down with him on Twitter @JosephKnoop.