“In this stream, I am going to attempt to kill every NPC in Morrowind.” With these words, Natalie Wynn, also known as ContraPoints, introduces the final stream of her 4-part playthrough of Bethesda’s 2002 role-playing game. Following the journey that put her in such a path can be a long endeavour, best enjoyed with breaks, and sometimes in the background.
For those unaware, ContraPoints is a popular YouTuber, her most recent videos having over 4 million views. She is known for her long, funny and beautifully produced video essays focusing on philosophy, politics, identity and gender. With transgender identities often taking front stage, Natalie being a trans woman herself. All that considered, it could be said that Contrapoints is not your traditional game streamer. But during the pandemic, as the production time between videos started to become longer, she started a second channel, named ContraPointsLive, where she streams various content, mostly gaming.
The games she plays are also varied. She started with The Sims 2, the popular life simulator by Maxis, and often returns to it. She also often accepts suggestions from her viewers and tries different indie games. But my favourite streams by far were the ones where she played a favourite from her teenage years: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The following review tries to offer a general overview of the series, which is over 30-hours-long.
ContraPoints’ edgy and decidedly queer, and political, humour sensibility is seen throughout her streaming. The Morrowind series started first as a regular a Sims 2 stream. In this case, it was a “death-house challenge”. Which is a player created challenge where many characters are put in a house constructed with death traps (usually ovens and pools, fire and drowning being the most common causes of death in The Sims) and the last one to survive wins. In this case, Friedrich Engels was the sole survivor, outliving his in-game husband Karl Marx, as well as other notorious characters like Femboy Obama, Donatella Trump, a feminised version of Donald Trump, and Tabby, Contra’s own catgirl persona.
From there, ContraPoints sets her own goals as she starts the playthrough of Morrowind. Her character, named Nyantalie, is in her words: “a somewhat elderly dark elf lady, who is an opium addict as well as an axe murderer” she also has problems with the law and an enthusiasm for expensive maxidresses. Her initial goal is simply to find a nice house to take over and build her very own “Skooma den”, Skooma being an in-game drug. Her plans quickly go awry. Her attempt to steal some Skooma from a seedy bar gets sidetracked with plans of liberating strippers. A trip to the rural parts of Vvardenfell, the island where Morrowind takes place, shows a culture of plantations worked by enslaved peoples of different in-game races, mainly beastly races. It is clear that Morrowind has a corrupt society that survives on oppression. By the start of the second episode, she has a new goal: to end feudalism.
As her character progresses, things get increasingly more chaotic, but fun all the way through. As for instance, she explores the sewers of the capital city only to find an evil cult of the god of murder and murdering the cultists in order to turn their desecrated murder temple into her lesbian nest.
By the end of the second episode, Nyantalie goals have once again changed. She realises Morrowind is beyond saving. Her reasoning is simple: due to her Skooma addiction, her character is stigmatised and not allowed to buy basic goods from most merchants. This is a mechanic in the game, where merchant will refuse trading if you have certain illegal items in your inventory. Because of that she had no choice but to steal to survive. Unfortunately her clumsy stealing techniques meant her targets often became aggressive, and she had to defend herself, which turned her into an axe murderer. Added to that, at some point she got infected with one of the many infectious diseases of the game. All of that that meant most characters would refuse to talk to her entirely. Therefore, a final goal was set: omnicide.
Omnicide, of course, means the killing of every single person in Vvardenfell. Nyantalie will kill all 2600 non-player characters in the game. The third episode, like an extended version of a training montage from a 90s action film, sees her trying to find the perfect weapons, iconic maxi dress, and levelling up in order to be able to fulfill her goal. The final episode is a 6 hours-long bloody marathon as she seeks to do what she promised.
From the start to the end of the game, ContraPoints refused to play the game in the way it is “supposed” to be played. She completely ignores the main quest lines and hardly even follows to completion any of the side quests she stumbles upon. Instead she goes around stealing drugs and creating her own subversive narrative. With her hilarious, often drunk, commentary running in the background as she asks the strippers about her labour conditions and talks about decorating her lesbian love nest.
Mainstream games aren’t usually designed with a queer audience in mind. ContraPoints’s 30 hour-long journey through Morrowind is a demonstration that regardless of that, a game in queer hands can be turned into a thoroughly queer experience. In that way, Nyantalie’s story is not only a power fulfillment fantasy of a gamer setting their own objectives, it is also a radical queer intervention against a game who punishes them for not wanting to live the life of a traditional hero.
Release date: 17 of February, 2021