The Thieves Guild: Because Reasons

By Bay Posted Sunday Sep 11, 2022

Filed under: Epilogue, Personal 51 comments

I was fourteen years old and playing Skyrim for the first time. My poor, ancient computer just barely chugged through it, constantly crashing during loading screens or during important cutscenes; and I was in love. 

I had played games I’d loved before (mostly Nintendo classics like Super Mario Sunshine and Ocarina of time) but Skyrim was my first real love in the video game world. There was something special about it, I would put on headphones and just vanish for hours into this little world, like a book I couldn’t put down. 

Part of this was likely due to the fact that I played it during a tough part of my growing up. It was 2011, about the time in the Twelve-Year Mistake when we kids got the news; the house we grew up in was being foreclosed on, and there was nothing we could do about it. Being 14, or anyone, that was world-shattering, and Skyrim offered escapism from that whole mess.   

It also offered a way for me to connect with my dad. He binge-played Skyrim at the same time I did, the first and only time we would ever line up on a game we were playing that obsessively. I could double up on my obsession by going down to his office, and watching him play his game, and then, when I was done, I could go play it myself. We didn’t talk much, he was often mentally working on columns in his head as he played, but that time meant the world to me.  

This all compiled together to be just, in hindsight, what must have been the funniest moment of parenting ever for my dad.

We’d spent weeks, months, silently playing this game in tandem. Him writing articles that helped keep our family barely afloat, and me disassociating wildly at the wild areas between Whiterun and Riverwood and pickpocketing away the clothes of every town guard in sight.  

 Hee hoo
Hee hoo

So I can’t imagine his horror when we finally sit down to actually talk about the damn thing, that he finds out all I’ve been doing in all this time is making character after character to replay my all-time favorite quest line; the thieves guild

Before he could stop me, I announced loudly that it is my favorite quest in the whole game. The conversation went something like this:

INT-The Kitchen-Day

Shamus is making his tea, making pleasant Skyrim conversation with his oldest child, who he is excited to find has ‘woken up’ to media and can talk about it on his level. At last, the goal as a parent, raising a kid that can talk in-depth about retrospectives. He is visibly proud.


And the thieves guild!

(He has just finished writing a five-part series over the many issues with the thieves guild, he is excited. His kid has noticed the problems with the wreck of a quest line! He didn’t even have to point it out to them! He has succeeded as a parent!)


Oh! Yes! The writing!

(Shamus has interrupted in his excitement. Bay cuts him off in theirs.)


Yes! The writing! Right?! It’s awesome!

(Shamus visibly deflates, he has failed. There is nothing he can do, perhaps his other two children will actually have their cognitive reasoning skills grow in. Disappointing.)

He tried to set me straight after that and sent me off to read his analysis. But at the end of the day, I still stuck to my guns; the thieves guild was the best damn piece of writing in the game, and now I would be attempting to defend it objectively. So, so much worse.

Spite drove me to try and defend every plothole, try and find every redeeming feature within it. Something had to be objectively good about this quest, this story I loved so much. Hindsight tells me that I had a crush on KarliahWhy? Oh god, why? and that the quest writing succeeded at making me feel like I could do something. I was in a place where I felt powerless and frustrated, and a quest in which I could take a clear problem, and fix it, was cathartic at the time. Sure, there were others, but that one was uniquely suited to appeal to me particularly. It’s right there in the writing about the Twelve-Year Mistake. The money is going somewhere, we can’t figure out where, and we’re going broke.

 The gold! The jewels! The money for the electric bill! The resolution of this screenshot! Gone!
The gold! The jewels! The money for the electric bill! The resolution of this screenshot! Gone!

The writing of the thieves guild made no sense, but hell, nothing did to me yet. At fourteen nothing makes sense anyway. If I can accept all the other bullshit the real world is throwing at me, why can’t Karliah have a magic paralyzing poison dart we never see again?

I was likely also fixated on it due to the gameplayStealth will always be my first love. When done right, that is., but it was the writing he had criticized, so that’s where I focused. I read his analysis, I knew he was right, and that was almost more irritating. He had commenters like this from time to time, people he often thought of as ‘die-hard fanboys’ of a certain subject. He would be frustrated when they would sing the praises of a game he was trying to complain about, and worse, tell him he was an idiot for complaining. As a writer who worked particularly hard to be objective about things like pointing out plotholes and gameplay issues, it could be frustrating when people got defensive about what he was working on. He tried to keep others in mind, be mindful of games with large fanbases, and yet still:

‘No, you don’t understand! The poisoning of the keg made sense because…because reasons!’

Yeah, plus his own kid doing it.

I see where he was coming from, it must have felt like arguing with a conspiracy theorist. No matter how many good points he made, someone was there willing to fight tooth and nail about it, lost in what appeared to be a delusion beyond his fixing.

It makes me sad that we disagreed on the subject. Neither of us knew it at the time, but it turned out to be a truly unique chance to connect with one another. We played other games we both liked, but only with Skyrim did we discover and obsess over it at the same time. If only I’d swallowed my pride we could have looked at another quest to talk about, if only he hadn’t bothered himself so thoroughly with the fear of raising an idiot. Maybe we could have just enjoyed the connection it gave us. But I digress.

I’m going to complain about games here, and unfortunately for you all, I’m not quite as politically avoidant as he wasAlthough I hate conflict just as much as he did. I pinky promise, when I bring up hot-button topics, I am suffering just as much as you are.. I’m going to talk about things like the writing, the gameplay, and when it failed a group of players, even of the minority sort. But rest assured, I’m not calling anyone ‘bad’ for liking any game. Even if it was poorly written, or ableist, or sexist, or what have you. It’s not on the consumer to feel guilty about that, it’s on the people in charge of making the damn things to do better. At worst, the only thing that’s on the consumer to do, is to be understanding when people do complain, and advocate for better where they can.

But sometimes, a game is just good, ‘for reasons’, and that’s okay. The thieves guild still rocks in my book.





[1] Why? Oh god, why?

[2] Stealth will always be my first love. When done right, that is.

[3] Although I hate conflict just as much as he did. I pinky promise, when I bring up hot-button topics, I am suffering just as much as you are.

From The Archives:

51 thoughts on “The Thieves Guild: Because Reasons

  1. Daimbert says:

    On this topic, I think Chuck Sonnenberg tends to put it best (although he still gets people arguing with him), where it’s okay if someone still likes something that he can point out all the problems in, because what people enjoy and what they find fun is personal and subjective. As long as they don’t insist that he’s wrong for not liking it, if they like it that’s okay. To follow up on that, you can like something that is indeed objectively bad or has significant problems, sometimes BECAUSE it has those problems, or because it gives you something else.

    From the post here, it does seem like you understood that, yes, what Shamus said about the quest was correct and that it was flawed in that way, but that it didn’t bother you and you enjoyed it for reasons that were mostly unrelated to the things he complained about. As long as you are at least no longer trying to defend it as a paragon of good writing, you can easily say that you enjoy it anyway for all of the other reasons that you’ve mentioned here despite that. We all have those sorts of things that we enjoy even if we note they are flawed (for me the “Street Fighter” movie is probably that, although some would say that the “Clue” movie would be that as well given that they think it as bad as “Street Fighter” and I like and watch that one a lot more than I watch “Street Fighter”).

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      It’s been a very long time but I remember liking Tank Girl when they showed it on TV around here, as I understand it it was not very well received overall.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        There’s a lot to like about Tank Girl! Not everything, and there are some questionable creative decisions* as well, but it’s not completely terrible.

        *You can stick your mutated Poetry Kangaroos…somewhere unpleasant.

        1. Bay says:

          Oh man! I love Tank Girl. That’s one of those weird mental gymnastics movies where I don’t always love it mid-watch, but I will remember it as a favorite later. I chalk that feeling up to getting the ‘vibes’ right. Juno does it too. Something about them just ties it together to be some sort of mental Pinterest board of awesome even when there’s something glaringly wrong with the plot/acting/camera movement/what have you.

    2. Gautsu says:

      Of course the people who say “Clue” is a bad movie are objectively wrong :)

      1. Soldierhawk says:

        Yes, but that’s just facts and logic.

  2. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Oh man, I only today realised you people are posting new content.

    Anyway, I love the little behind the scenes of what happened between you and your dad around, what is for me, one of the most “quintessentially Shamus” pieces of writing. I also feel that it touches on several imporant things.

    By Eris yes, it’s sometimes good to like a stupid thing, or a bad thing, to just go along for the ride, or to have it speak to you on an emotional level while knowing it doesn’t hold water. At the same time it’s also important to acknowledge that content we enjoy can be problematic, and that it can be received differently by different people. Shamus tried to be extremely tactful about issues that he deemed too inflammatory or too political and he mostly succeeded but it did mean that some aspects of criticism weren’t really represented on the site. I wish you luck in finding such balance that works for you.

    1. Scerro says:

      They didn’t have it hitting the main page and it was really only able to be seen by hitting the next in line under the pinned article at the top right now. They’re figuring things out, which is good.

      1. ZzzzSleep says:

        You can also see the new articles, if you’re subscribed to the RSS feed.

    2. Zaxares says:

      Same here! XD I only spotted the new posts because I accidentally scrolled down and saw some posts in a purple background and went “Huh. That wasn’t there before…” Good thing I still check this site frequently!

  3. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    This is a very interesting subject. First of all not everyone is giving the same weight to a game’s qualities. For example Shamus felt that Mass Effect 2 was a failure because the main story was poorly written and the world building was losing its hard sci-fi edge. I agreed with his complaints (whoever wrote that Cerberus trash needs a kick in the butt) but I maintain that ME2 was the best of the series because it absolutely crushed other sectors: NPC interactions and auxiliary content (which made for 70-80% of the game). So the fact that the thieves guild’s story might have been a deal breaker for Shamus, but not for you (and for many other people who defend it to this day) may come from different expectations.

    So what did the thieves guild do well? My theory is that they did what Bethesda often do in writing and game design, give the tiniest and shakiest framework and let the player fill it with their own stories and sensibilities. Karliah was objectively an idiot who couldn’t plan her way out of a paper bag, but when you’re playing the game and having a good time making your own stories anyway, you can let your mind fill in details and turn her into a mysterious and cunning sexy badass.

    Also no relation but your article made me laugh out loud twice! Not the “air through the nose” stuff either, genuine laugh, so thanks.

    1. Octal says:

      Oh, for sure. It’s all in where your focus is, and what you’re engaging with the most.

      And it’s true that sometimes sketchy or minimal writing just provides a space for you to create your own fun. Then it’s like furniture you put together yourself–you like it more because you put the work into it.

    2. Can't think of a fun name right now says:

      I, too, believe that the Thieves Guild was the best of Skyrim’s guilds – mostly for one reason: It had a large number of radiant quests that made you work toward a long-term goal.

      The guild questlines in Skyrim are notoriously short; after what feels like just a few quests, you are suddenly and unearnedly declared leader and saviour of the guild. In the Thieves Guild, however, you are also asked to do a large number of radiant miniquests (at any point in time), which lead to another quest for each major city, which reestablishes the Guild’s “influence” in that city; only after doing all of those *and* the regular questline, you are finally declared Guildmaster and the Guild has returned to its full glory.

      The Companions and the Dark Brotherhood also have required sidequests like that, but they are presented to you as fillers, as stuff to do when nothing important is going on; they also rarely contribute to any overarching narrative. In the Thieves Guild, the narrative is “make the Thieves Guild rule all of Skyrim again”, and while the miniquests are relatively monotone, they make you feel like you are actually *working* toward that goal, something very essential to the RPG experience. You also get to notice the consequences of your actions: The Guild’s base fills up with vendors, some trinkets you stole are on display as trophies, and you can use the Guild’s influence in a city to cancel your bounty. (After the Academy and Brotherhood questlines each, the only visible change is that two members are dead.)

  4. Fizban says:

    It’s right there in the writing about the Twelve-Year Mistake. The money is going somewhere, we can’t figure out where, and we’re going broke.

    Oof, the hindsight, the introspection. It sure is a thing when you look back on something and the answer is so direct on the nose that you couldn’t see it in front of your face.

    But the literal actual LOL at Shamus’s plight there, hahahah.

  5. Caska says:

    I get that. I love Skyrim (even though I have a lot to criticize about it). For me, I never noticed any of the writing issues while playing until they were pointed out to me. I had a great time with the Dark Brotherhood questline in particular, the first time through.

    If you’re discussing hot-button topics, may I suggest signposting it before starting the post? (Something like “I am discussing X hot-button topic?”) It would help to contain discussions of the topic to said post and I think it would help to avoid the potential pitfalls such discussions can have.

    1. Storm says:

      I would second signposting topics a bit like that. I’m absolutely on board with having discussions regarding those – Shamus’ strict no politics policy is something that I’ve completely understood but never fully agreed with – but knowing when an article is going to go into them can be helpful. I’ve definitely had days where I’m not in a great headspace to get into a topic, or I’ve had a bad day and I might not be in the mood to have a proper discussion over getting defensive, so getting a heads-up might be nice for me to put an article on hold for a day or two if needed so I can approach it with the right mindset.

  6. Storm says:

    I think part of the thing, which doesn’t feel like it gets discussed a whole lot, is that a piece of media can be objectively bad, even in many different ways, and yet still someone can look at it and love it. I got thinking about it with the Final Fantasy XII series a few months back, and how it’s easily my favorite Final Fantasy game, and one of my favorite games of all time, and throughout the very critical series covering it, all I could do was nod along at all the criticism leveled against it. Yeah that part made no sense, this was really poorly communicated, the moment to moment character writing is incredibly scattershot! And yet I still love it, for reasons I can’t entirely articulate. It’s not just that the game was more than the sum of its parts, but it for some reason it really resonated with me specifically.

    I can definitely understand Shamus’ frustration with people who get defensive when discussing games like that though. And I definitely feel a need to reflexively defend games I like being talked about negatively, but honestly some of the best gaming discussions I’ve had were between someone who liked a game and one who disliked it, with both sides focusing on what the games were trying to do and what they failed or succeeded to accomplish. Because yeah, sometimes it’s a personal connection to a game that does it, or a couple specific things coming together in a way that just speaks to you, and those can be great discussions to have.

    1. Ophelia says:

      Absolutely spot on. Honestly, I wish it was more normalized/accepted/whatever term goes here, for people to be okay with liking stuff that is…terrible. There’s games, anime and movies that I absolutely love and are however, literal garbage, but I’ll never try to justify plotholes, defend decisions or try to headcanon over flabbegasting writing because -I know its bad too-.

      But I get how people can feel slighted if something they like is being criticised (we’re assuming for the sake of argument that the criticisms are 100% valid and demonstrated objectively, not a disagreement on subjective tastes ofc). It could almost feel like accepting criticisms of something you think is really good is almost like an admission of a personal failing, like ‘I’m just admitting I’m an idiot with no taste who didn’t notice all these flaws’ sort of thing.

      1. Scerro says:

        Shamus didn’t come down on people who liked stuff for what it is. But he definitely tried to outline why it didn’t work for him. Outlining why it did or didn’t work is like 80% of Shamus’ content.

        Mostly the reason why people get upset is because of the tone the criticism is laid out in. Tone is something that can vary a lot person to person, and many times we lose track of the tone we use, especially once we get into it. There’s plenty of things I can rant about how Blizzard balances wrong, and I’m sure I get bitter and spiteful before I get halfway down the list.

        That said, communication is HARD.

  7. Dreadjaws says:

    Man, I have not yet played Skyrim, and this bothers me a bit. There’s a bunch of articles here I haven’t read because I haven’t played the games. Sometimes I don’t care (I don’t think I’ll ever play Rage 2 or give a crap about the story in Wolfenstein), but when I know it’s a game I’m interested in playing but I have to yet get around to it I prefer to skip these articles until I’m done.

    In any case, I can relate. This is a topic where Shamus and I were often at odds. Many times I agreed with his assessment and felt the same about something. Others I’d agree but I’d still like the product (like, say, Resident Evil 5, which is stupid as hell, but that’s precisely why I like it). Some other times I’d think he wouldn’t complain hard enough or at all (“Why do you complain about A but praise B when B is just as bad if not worse at the thing you complain about?”). A few times I felt he was the only one who truly understood how I felt about something when the entire world felt differently (like with FTL or Alan Wake, both of which I hate yet everyone showers with praise).

    I think the Mass Effect series is where we definitely agreed the most. I bought the book, of course, but I periodically still visit the in-site version so I can peruse the comments on the whole thing.

    I think it’s important to realize that people have different (often very personal) reasons to enjoy or dislike something, and just because they don’t feel the same way about it than you do it doesn’t mean they’re wrong. This is why I despise what critique discourse has become lately, where you’re instantly accusing of bigotry for not being interested in the latest new thing, or you’re accussed of being a shill if you do like it.

    1. Amanda says:

      I think one thing that exacerbates the whole accusations of bigotry thing is that there are a lot of Angry YouTube Men who very obviously and transparently dislike shows for bigoted reasons, but present the most flimsy excuses for why their dozens of angry videos about why some new show is the worst thing to ever happen to media totally aren’t motivated by bigotry, which poisons the well of the discourse around those shows as a whole.

    2. Joshua says:

      The biggest topic I remember disagreeing with him about (and this will seem really, really tiny) is where he was mocking the concept of D&D’s Attacks of Opportunity (now called Opportunity Attacks) sometime around DM of the Rings and being pretty unusually dismissive of anyone attempting to explain them.

  8. BlueHorus says:

    Heh. I have kind of the inverse story about Shamus & his article on Skyrim’s Thieves Guild.
    I played the game in my early 20s, and wasn’t really very critical. I’d just take most stories at face value, question nothing, and move on.
    But reading through Shamus’ take on the questline was enlightening; putting a a names and coherent meaning to what had just been vague feelings of dissatisfaction – or worse, wondering if I was just playing the game wrong.
    It’s one of the first times I really started asking ‘Why is [character] doing this?’ ‘Why is bringing along an follower so much worse than working alone, despite what the game says?’ and so forth.

    On the bad side, this means I can’t play Bethesda games anymore…

    Finally, and because I wasn’t commenting at the time I read the article: it amuses me so much that the thieves are upset about their vault being robbed.
    a – It was all stolen goods to begin with, you raging hypocrites. Stop complaining.
    b (i) – You’re a THIEVES’ guild. You left a vast pile of loot in a vault right next to the guild headquarters; what did you THINK would happen?
    b (ii) – Apparently, you left the keys to the vault in the hands of one person, who – again – is a known thief. Remind me again what you’re surprised about?
    c- What the hell was it doing sitting in a vault? Your guild is hiding in a madman-infested sewer because times are so bad. Why don’t you try…spending some of your money? Isn’t that what it’s for?
    d – Seriously – no-one checked on the vault? In 10 years? No?
    …are you sure it’s a Daedric curse stopping your guild from thriving? I get the feeling the problem might be a bit more mundane…

    1. Can't think of a fun name right now says:

      You did miss a few points:
      a – None of them is claiming they have a moral right to that loot, they are just angry for losing it. You are free to consider this justice, but given that your character joined a thieves guild, they would be the hypocrite if they agreed with you.
      b (i) and (ii) – The vault was secured with a lock that required two of three keys to open, which would prevent any single person from opening it (and two of the bosses working together to betray the guild was considered unlikely). Mercer was only able to do it by using an artifact that none of the remaining members knew about.
      c – The guild has always been in that sewer. They don’t seem to mind. Indeed, they could have been spending money to solve some of their problems; however, it ist mentioned they suffer from a lack of influence and respect, rather than a lack of money.
      d – Yup, that really doesn’t make any sense.

  9. djw says:

    This article reminds me of another game Shamus critiqued: Neverwinter Nights 2. For some reason, I love this game anyway. It pushes my buttons just right.

    I didn’t argue with him in the comments though… I agreed with all the points he made about bad plot doors. I just liked it anyway and played it over and over. Sometimes a bad game can be good if it hits you just right.

    1. tmtvl says:

      I love NWN2, even though the original campaign’s canon ending is a bad joke. I wouldn’t really call it a bad game, though; look at things like Sonic 3D Blast if you want to see actually bad games.

      1. djw says:

        True, but the parts Shamus complained about were legitimately bad. The plot door profusion was awful.

    2. The Nick says:

      Every time I hear Neverwinter Nights, I always remember the picture of the wall that needs to be broached and the reference, “in D&D, there’s a whole class dedicated to getting around locks!”

      1. djw says:

        Yeah, that was the critique I was talking about.

  10. Lino says:

    While I don’t have a particular connection to the Thieves Guild quest in Skyrim (I don’t remember if I even did it in my playthrough), I often go against the grain of what my friends like (e.g. I’ve always loved the Prequel Trilogy, I hated both Harry Potter and Pokemon as a kid, and I never cared for most of the things my high school classmates were always on about).

    So I know first-hand how much it sucks when you can’t find common ground with the people close to you. But at the end of the day, you like what you like, and it’s very hard to change that.

    And that shouldn’t stand in the way of enjoying your time with your loved ones. If anything, it just gives you more material for friendly banter!

    And you have to admit that life would be incredibly boring if everybody had the exact same taste about everything :D

  11. Chris says:

    The thieves guild post first led me to this blog, then I left, then I ended up at the blog again with the mass effect series. It made me consider stories more critically. Before, a story would have me just nod along “Oh no, the villain came in at just the wrong time. Ah, I guess a contrived trick is the only way the hero can win”, Now Im like “wait, how did the villain know he had to be here to catch the good guys. Why cant the hero just shoot the bad guy now?”. I can still understand people that like something banal and dont really care about this stuff. Why think critically about something if you can just enjoy the explosions and high speed chases? Not everyone thinks through it like I didn’t think through things in the past. And not everyone wants to.

    At the other hand, I couldn’t really understand Shamus his opinion on a lot of gameplay stuff. He would praise systems I thought were bad, and he would reject gameplay which I thought gave the game depth or its own unique style. Like, you analyse the story so well, why cant you analyse the gameplay and realize that the things you disagree with are actually make the game better? It is interesting how people can not only differ in opinion, but also have such a different viewpoint that they sometimes cant understand someone else.

  12. William H says:

    It’s okay to like what we like, even if it’s garbage TV or junk food

    But it’s another matter if we pretend that junk food is good for us

    We don’t have to justify it, just be honest with ourselves

    Also, being a parent is realizing your kid is a failure and loving them anyway

  13. Cilba Greenbraid says:

    I can tell you why I had a crush on Karliah: because I’ve been in love with Moira Quirk ever since GUTS. My pining for Moira runs so deep that I can overlook even such a gargantuanesqually brain-damaged dark elf as Karliah for it.

    I can see where you’re both coming from, though. The Thieves’ Guild questline features several really compelling (or, at least, potentially compelling) characters–more so than the other guilds–but, alas, the writers made them all into morons.

  14. Cilba Greenbraid says:

    By the way, is it by design that the recent posts haven’t been appearing on the front page, or is that just something with my browser, somehow? I didn’t even know they were up until I chanced to glance at the September archive.

    1. CJK says:

      See the recent post titled “Epilogue” – they’re not on the main page by design, although I think that might be a decision intended for unfinished Shamus work and not so much these posts from Bay. Perhaps it ought to be revisited?

  15. Mersadeon says:

    So I can’t imagine his horror when we finally sit down to actually talk about the damn thing, that he finds out all I’ve been doing in all this time is making character after character to replay my all-time favorite quest line; the thieves guild.

    I can’t quite tell from the text how much this was a “haha” kind of anecdote for you or how much it was mixed with other emotions, but I hope you allow me to say:

    …that is so incredibly funny, I can barely put it into words. It’s like a moment from a sitcom.

    He tried to set me straight after that and sent me off to read his analysis. But at the end of the day, I still stuck to my guns; the thieves guild was the best damn piece of writing in the game, and now I would be attempting to defend it objectively. So, so much worse.

    Honestly that’s really the reaction he should have expected. Right or wrong, what teenager wouldn’t do exactly that and jump to the defense of the piece of media/art they loved.

    I’m going to complain about games here, and unfortunately for you all, I’m not quite as politically avoidant as he was.

    I mean, I don’t want to bring up old drama, but personally I will probably appreciate your way of handling this, even if it brings more conflict.

  16. Fawstoar says:

    I loved the Thieves Guild quest! My only complaint was that there weren’t more actual heists. But that part where you walk through the temple in the thin rays of light – playing through that the first time I remember thinking “this is soooo awesome”. Of the guilds in Skyrim it was probably my favorite, although strangely come to think of it I don’t think I ever revisited it in subsequent playthroughs.

    That’s not to say I disagree with Shamus’ take on it; I think like you, Bay, the stealth gameplay made up for any failings in the script for me. Skyrim didn’t exactly nail stealth, but despite not really innovating in between games the mechanics felt a lot tighter than in Oblivion, where I never could clearly tell when I was detected or hidden. It was basically just good and immersive enough to fulfill the fantasy of sneaking around in a world as sumptuous as Skyrim’s and at the time that was good enough for me!

    1. Syal says:

      While there are a lot of plot holes if you think about them, the Thieves Guild is probably the most socially complex of the Skyrim questlines. Brynjolf is championing you against the leader Mercer Frey, who is beholden to the leader-in-practice Maven, who are all dealing with Karliah’s revenge quest in the name of a dead man and a Daedra. The only other quest line that comes close to having that many different perspectives is the Dark Brotherhood.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        What do you mean?

        Don’t you remember the classic characterization of the Mage’s Guild questline, where the arrogant, snooty elf who’s never nice to anyone betrays everyone in a shocking twist? The way he tries to get control of a magical ball of magic and, erm…wreck stuff?
        Who could have known that HE would be the villain?

        1. Syal says:

          And who can forget that pivotal moment in the Companions quest where we… um…

          Actually my favorite quest, before I found out it was mandatory, was the Septimus quest. A highly unstable man with a plan to outsmart the long-dead Dwemer so he can make himself go madder. That one was a good time.

        2. Joshua says:

          That sounds like the evil Cleric Desther from the first Neverwinter Nights game who hits every “This guy is secretly a villain” trope in existence. Basically feels like half a dozen different writers were working on areas that impacted the plot, so they ALL wrote in hints that the guy is a villain not realizing that the net effect is beating you over the head with it.

  17. Soldierhawk says:

    Can I just say how much I’m enjoying your voice, Bay? You are a wonderful and entertaining writer, and fantastically fun to read.

    1. Fawstoar says:

      Seconding this. I’m really enjoying these new posts.

  18. evileeyore says:

    “Why? Oh god, why?”

    Based solely on that headshot, i understand, she’s kinda hot. Now if there are other things going on, personality, quests from/involving her that clicked, I can see even deeper reasons.

    I never did the Theives Guild questline… while I played the game like 10 times, I never even scratched more than 20% of it’s content. Something about the game just bored me a bit in each time – I eventually discovered this it’s what I call “sandboxitis”, every really ‘sandbox’ game loses my interest and I have to struggle to hold on, unless there is something uniquely appealing about it; like in FarCry 3 the gameplay, Fallout New Vegas the plotlines, or F3 pure cussed stubbornness to see how terrible the plot kept getting (I kept saying “It can’t possibly get worse” and kept discovering I was wrong).

  19. Steve C says:

    My hot take is that *all* game stories are bad. The most they ever can be is “passable”. Yes, even that really popular one. That one adored by critics and fans as perfect.

    A story is more than just the story. It’s the pacing, the prose, the characters, the setting, the conflict and a ton of other things. A game with top notch writing, with an amazing narrative is going to be, at most, a straight to VHS schlock movie. The game can still be ‘good.’ It can certainly be enjoyable. But the story? No. It’s always going to suck. Imagine a movie script or novel where the protagonist steals the guards clothes for 50 pages. Or a season of The Witcher where Henry Cavill picks flowers and does side quests.

    Those are all parts of a game. Enjoyable parts. But they destroy the story. (In my opinion, and one I expect to be a minority opinion.) So it doesn’t actually matter that the Thieves Guild storyline sucked. Doing it perfectly also would have sucked. It’s why I don’t like AAA games. Especially open world games. I feel like I’m stuck in some bad writer’s schlock when I want to play a game, or I’m stuck doing busy work when I want to see a story. It always breaks without fail at one of those levels for me.

    I wouldn’t put too much hand-wringing into disagreeing with your father over something like the Thieves Guild. I found Shamus’ critiques and dissections enjoyable to read. And I agreed with him often about the good and bad parts of a game. And I could agree with him about certain scenes in a game being well written. But I never agreed with him that a game was well written over all.

    I want the game out of the way of my story and the story out of the way of my game.

  20. Issachar says:

    How cool to get a perspective on a column that I remember, from your different point of view, and to have you explain so well why the Thieves’ Guild quest held a different meaning and appeal to you. Thanks Bay!

    Incidentally, I’ve continued to visit the site infrequently over the past few months, but I wasn’t aware until today that you’re creating new articles. I was happy to see that. You have a new/old reader here!

  21. M. Solas says:

    Haha, as a long-time reader, I was intrigued by the title of this post because I remembered how much Shamus hated the writing of that questline! The image of him visually deflating like that is hilarious. You’re a very funny writer in your own right.

    I’m sure people have floated this idea to you before, but it might be interesting to play some games that he loved that you’ve never played before? System Shock 2, Deus Ex, no clue what you’ve played obviously, but just an idea.

    God bless <3

    1. Heather says:

      I will point out that while Bay has not PLAYED those games, Bay WATCHED those games, almost all of them, from a very, very young age. All of the kids got most of their interaction with their dad by watching him play games up until they moved out. So there are very few games prior to Bay moving out that Bay has not actually seen played, often, with Shamus’ running commentary.

  22. Alberek says:

    This story is great.
    Not often you have the chance to talk about something you care about with someone who is too green on the subject to see it in a more critical light.

  23. Wide And Nerdy says:

    why can’t Karliah have a magic paralyzing poison dart we never see again?

    Ok, you triggered my obligatory rant that I take every opportunity to make about that damn dart.

    Karliah is not expecting you to walk through that door. She’s expecting Mercer Grey. And even if she knows he’s got someone with him, she doesn’t know anything about you. You might not yet have made your reputation as the Dragonborn or the hero of the civil war or taken over any of the other guilds yet. And apparently even Vilkas has no clue who you are even if you flew out of the castle right next to his house on the back of a dragon you summoned and captured.

    So she shouldn’t know what she’s dealing with if you go through the door first. But she can hit you even if you Whirlwind Sprint into the room or use Slow Time to dramatically speed yourself up relative to her. Her arrow can strike true even if you’ve used the “Become Ethereal” shout. You could have all your armor enchanted with poison resistances and be a vampire with poison immunity and the poison will still work on you. Even if you combine the Slow Time or Whirlwind Sprint with an invisibility potion, she will have no trouble hitting you. Though to be fair, of the abilities I just listed, the potion of invisibility is the one thing she might expect Mercer to have (and I guess he could have some poison resistant gear but nowhere near what you can outfit yourself with.)

    As for only having one dose. Why? There’s no rush for her. She’s a dark elf. He’s a human. Time is very much on her side. Waiting and having another dose or two means he’s that much older while age probably still hasn’t impacted her at all yet. And you’re telling me she can’t speed up the second dose at all after having figured out how to make the first?

    And, as Shamus stated, why shoot you? She knows Mercer is evil. She knows he’s dangerous because of his alleged abilities. He’s the one she made that damn dose of poison for to begin with. She knows she has a means of slipping out if her plan fails because she uses that to escape him. Why not use the arrow on the guy she knows is evil and dangerous and take her chances that she can reason with you?

    And if you’re saying “She doesn’t know if she CAN reason with you.” I’ll wager her chances of reasoning with you are better if she shoots Mercer than if she shoots you. I know this because I always immediately start attacking her when I’m conscious again. Usually I just use Unrelenting Force to send her flying over and over again. I believe she’s pretty hard to aggro because the game knows that if she turns hostile to you, you’ll be unable to finish this storyline and the devs probably realized you’d want to attack her.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I know you said others here defended the Thieves Guild quest. Me personally, I relished every minute of seeing him skewer it. The whole thing with the poison dart burned me bad. So I was eagerly waiting for him to get to that part. And Karliah. They were so tryhard with her. I hated the way she talked. Its clear they had the actress do that voice because they thought it sounded cool. Honestly I would have disliked the voice even if I hadn’t been burned by her and had decided to like her. The voice would have made me embarrassed that I liked her character.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.