The cultural popularity of Viking-esque fantasy raiders and peoples is prevalent throughout the fantasy genre, and many fantasy video games implement some version of this theme. It is a phenomenon spanning multiple genres, from online fighting games to narrative-driven role-playing games to grand strategy games centred on world domination. One particular aspect, however, is consistently recurring: namely the climatic setting.
While Iron Age Scandinavia was hardly a fertile paradise, and climate-based factors have been considered as part of the causation of the Viking Age, the homelands of fantasy “Viking” cultures tend to single out and intensely exaggerate this trope. From the Nords of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, to the Norn of Guild Wars 2, to the Norsca of Total War: Warhammer, these pseudo-Norse cultures are situated in barren, often entirely frozen wastelands shared with Ice Age and Arctic animals including mammoths and polar bears, and more mythic creatures ranging from ice trolls to frozen dragons.
This paper discusses how, in these games, it is the exaggerated climate which is used as the main driving force behind these peoples’ “Viking” lifestyles, and it often has a tendency to simultaneously change their physical attributes, leading to a particular form of alienation where they are considered superhuman (if human at all). As such, fantasy games, by situating their fantasy Vikings in frozen wastes, creates a paradigm in which climate-based factors constitute the sole reason behind their worlds’ parallel to the Viking invasions, and thus establishes a pure cause-and-effect scheme where frozen homelands must equal Vikings.
Markus Mindrebø is teaching fellow and post-doctoral researcher at Royal Holloway, University of London. His research interests lie mainly in Old Norse sagas and in Viking and Medieval Scandinavia, with a 2021 doctoral thesis analysing women, politics and social networks in Old Norse historiography. As an avid gamer, however, he also spends free moments investigating Medieval-rooted games and the use of Norse culture in them, and has written widely on medievalism, representations of saga mentalities, and depictions of medieval networks in games.
All welcome- this seminar is free to attend, but booking in advance is required.