Why gaming’s medieval settings are much too sophisticated

So you’re walking around in Skyrim or Magicka or one of these medieval fantasy games, and there are lots of fires, and plenty of wooden furniture around these fires that seems to be perpetually flame retardant. Jeremy Antley at Play the Past reflected on these little inconsistencies, especially the ones that reflect our modern sensibilities.

The ‘high medieval’ background of [Skyrim] contained a surprising amount of rationalistic and enlightenment based underpinnings that helped to support what I would call the ‘Medieval+’ background common to many similarly-themed RPG’s.  Everywhere the player goes there is evidence of a society deeply under the influence of ‘liberalistic’ ideals, be it through the plethora of books found all over Skyrim’s ludic universe (this despite the lack of *one* printing press) or, of particular focus for this post, the use of Alchemy as a pseudo-science to validate ‘folkloric’ herbal knowledge.

Herbalists traditionally relied on oral traditions, or in Victorian times, reference books to aid their craft. But Skyrim’s herbalists are limited by whatever alchemy can tell them, possible to satisfy our modern need to have science explain how things work.