Video game characters didn’t always look alike. They used to not look like anything. They began as a pattern of colorless squares, and the game relied on your imagination to round off, color in, and animate the pixels.
Eventually those pixels morphed into something that resembled a face, albeit a face everyone shared. Over time, those faces became more distinctive, and in Skyrim, we’ve reached a point where no two NPCs are exactly alike, even if they still mostly look the same.
Which in a way, is reflective of real life. Our doppelgangers are out there, in many different forms, sharing everything from our bodies to our minds to our experiences. The odds are they exist, and the odds are we will never meet them.
In college, I had a friend whom everybody would confuse with a man named George. They shared the same gait, the same appearance, and possibly the same mother. As it was the style then, they both had a strong devotion to the baggy pants and the baseball cap. They even shared similar
names(Geoff/George). The fact that George lived on the other side of campus only added to the mystique. In our dorm, the Myth of George soon took on a life of its own. It only got worse when strangers would approach my friend and say hello, make small talk, and respond in bewildered confusion when my friend informed them of their mistake. I began to wonder if on the other side of campus, the same shit was happening to his doppelganger. In fact, I know it was, because I was once one of those strangers.
Meeting the real George, however, made one thing clearly evident. For everything they shared, the two men couldn’t have been more different. My friend was affable, outgoing, and a bit of a goof. George, on the other hand, was the sort of uncomfortably serious man who would win a staring contest with a brick wall. George was not Geoff, and Geoff was not George.
In the end, meeting George was a disappointment. The whole thing turned out to be nothing more than a genetic accident, one that is both rare and at the same time inevitable. On a planet with billions of people, there are going to be people who look like you. When I set out to build Fareloth’s character, I wanted to make someone that thought like you too. Perhaps this doppelganger even shared your childhood, and many of your adolescent experiences. One might say, given everything you share, that this person would be the perfect clone. Yet it would be so much more interesting if he wasn’t.
Everyone at some point in their life experiences a fork in the road. A decision so impacting that it alters everything that comes after. For Fareloth, that was his decision to leave the Thalmor and start a family. When we make these choices, it isn’t unusual to look back and wonder what might have been. Rarely do we ever get the chance to see what actually becomes.
Fareloth’s doppelganger is identical in every way, with one glaring exception. He chose the other path. He joined the Thalmor, came to Skyrim, and embroiled himself in the politics of the Civil War. When Fareloth tries to envision another life, he doesn’t have to use his imagination, he doesn’t have to color in the pixels. All he has to do is find his doppelganger and compare the differences, even if they still mostly look the same.