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How They Came Up With Skyrim's 'Arrow In The Knee' Line

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The big video game joke of 2011—and certainly the most repeated line—came from Skyrim, a game populated by guards who used to be adventurers, just like you, before they "took an arrow in the knee."

Sorry if you thought you were done with that line. Can you tolerate it one more time, just to learn why it's in the game?

The game's developers at Bethesda put that line in the game late, and had no idea it would become such a big deal.


You know the line. You've seen the jokes. You've heard the dubstep remix. Maybe you have the tattoo?


Here's the secret origin, from Bethesda's chief game developer, Todd Howard:

"It's certainly not intentional that it would catch on that way," he told me recently. "It's a line that we liked."


They liked the line so much that they made sure it was in the game a lot, right? Not really. "I don't think you hear it that much," he said. "It sticks out. It's got more flavor, so I think it sticks out."

"It's a great line," Howard continued, laughing. "[Senior Bethesda game designer] Emil Pagliarulo wrote it.


"This was late in the project. We wanted to have the guards to have more personality. They're usually just grunting, telling you what to do. So we had Emil go in and write a lot more stuff and have them reflect you. So the guards say the most about you and what you've done: 'Oh, I like that armor.' 'I hear you're doing this.' And then, there is a suite of, 'Why am I no longer a guard? These guys are adventuring. I'm stuck here with dragons.' That was just one of the lines."

Pagliarulo wasn't available to tell us just why he wrote that line, but at least we now know why it's in there. It's there for you, gamers. The guards want you to know that you matter.


And, no, Bethesda did not expect to create the biggest gaming meme since the one about cakes and lies.

"Can anybody do that?" Howard asked. "'We will write this line. And it will catch fire.'"


It's just skill, flavor and... luck.