4 Things Skyrim Taught Me About the Law (Or: Fus Ro LAW!)


Some people say that people who spend a lot of time playing video games are hopeless dorks who likely own some funny dice with more than six sides and know a little bit too much about Star Trek. Those people are right. But that doesn’t mean video games are worthless; after all, some of the most important lessons I’ve learned about the law came out of Skyrim:

  1.  People stop investigating way too soon for their own good. Skyrim’s sneak system can be an endless source of amusement, whether it’s killing someone by pickpocketing their heart or just enjoying being able to steal the clothes off their back. My favorite though is watching a character forget that they were hit with an arrow five seconds ago and stop looking around. Just like the 1L who stops researching after finding one favorable case or the 3L who no longer gives a damn and welcomes an arrow to the face as an alternative to the stress of applying to yet another job in a down legal market. If you stop searching early, more pain is coming.
  2. People will only tell as much of the truth that benefits them. In one of Skyrim’s many quests you’re tasked with retrieving information from a specific character about one of the quest items. The information you get leads to the accusation of another character and the net result is that you’re congratulated for revealing that the second character is a murderer. Everything’s hunky-dory. Until the next time you visit the town and there’s another victim of whatever the digital equivalent is for murder. Turns out that while the first character didn’t exactly lie, he didn’t exactly tell everything he knew either. Clients will pull this all the time and if you’re not ready for it, opposing counsel will blindside you. There’s nothing quite like leaving a negotiation wondering just how far your state’s justifiable homicide statute can be stretched every time your client says that he “honestly didn’t think that was important.”
  3. Given the chance, people will exploit the shit out of everything. Skyrim is a huge game, and this means that the game’s ambitions can create some complex scenarios that the designers may not have initially considered. For example, the game doesn’t just assume that if a character is near you they can see you.  No, it actually calculates a visual arc for the characters and determines if their view of you is obstructed.  This was great.  Until someone realized that the characters also don’t react if you put a bucket over their head. This is now one of the first things most players try.  If there’s a loophole, whether it’s in a massive computer RPG or the Tax Code, people are going to take advantage of it.
  4. If you’re not careful, it can consume you. I made the mistake of downloading the Dawnguard expansion recently and I’ll admit that my available attention has waned since then. The game is its own massive world and it’s all too easy to get lost in it. The only thing saving my legal career is that law is the same way. The reason that I’m not the guy who is completely absorbed by Skyrim is because I’m too busy being the guy who’s completely buried under a pile of books in the law library trying to figure out whether IRC 6331(h) supersedes IRC 6334 (sadly, it does) and whether 6331(h) is mandated even if 6331(a) could have otherwise applied (sadly, it’s not). I’m not particularly proud of this, but at least I’m more likely to get paid for knowing something about the law, in theory anyway.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go deal with a radiant quest regarding the proper allocation for the tax burden associated with an investment account held in joint tenancy . . .

Post image from Think Geek.

The Northwest 3L spent 6 years in the "real world" cultivating cynicism and a dim view of humanity in the telecom and software consulting industries before deciding that the best way to deal with having zero debt in a down economy was to load up on student loans and truck on off to law school. Asked for a description, his friends replied, "says inappropriate things." Grainy, out-of-focus film footage suggests that he attends law school somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

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