Gamers are an expressive bunch of people. We rightly like to show off our passions with pride, whether that comes in the form of wardrobes stuffed with stylish apparel, walls decked in gorgeous artwork, or shelves cluttered by mounds of Funko Pops. These mementos are manifested odes to the games we love to play, subtly spreading the good news of their brilliance through symbols, logos, and other subtle (or not so subtle) frames of reference.
Some go much further than others, being so inspired by a game that it sets them on a path towards some of the most important life decisions they’ll ever make. You hear stories about these players every now and again, and they are all kinds of amazing. The man who started his own farm after falling in love with Stardew Valley, the teenager who set a up a Church of Hanzo in dedication to Overwatch, the parents who named their newborn baby boy ‘Dovahkiin’ in honor of The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim.
That last example might ring a distant, dusty bell in the far back reaches of your memory. It’s a story that first circulated almost six and a half years ago, on Skyrim’s release date; November 11, 2011, and even went on to make international news.
Leading up to Skyrim’s release, Bethesda had set up a competition the likes of which had never been seen before. If someone gave birth to a child on launch day, and they named that child Dovahkiin (the moniker for Skyrim’s protagonist, meaning ‘Dragonborn’), the publisher would reward them with “a Steam key that will grant you, and presumably Dovahkiin him/herself, every ZeniMax/Bethesda game - past, present and future - for life.”
When the time came, a couple known as Eric and Megan Kellermeyer rose to the challenge, revealing little baby Dovahkiin to the world on November 11, with a picture posted on their blog to prove it. The internet naturally went bananas, and Bethesda publicly congratulated the Kelleymeyers before getting in touch with them to sort out that reward.
It’s been nearly seven years since then, and while there still hasn’t been any new word of another Elder Scrolls game, Dovahkiin has done some growing up, and I checked back in with the Kelleymeyers to see how things have changed in that time.
“I was a bit skeptical at first, actually”, says Megan Kellermeyer, Dovakiin’s mother, looking back on their decision, “but my husband had no doubt that Bethesda would hold true on their offered prize. What we weren't sure on was whether or not the prize would be given to anyone who named their child Dovahkiin who was born on 11/11/11 or just a single person.”
“When we first brought the notion of the contest to family and friends, as well as the reality of naming a child this unusual name, I was very impressed by the support. Though I was much more looking forward to my child and not so much the release of the game, having such a unique situation and a phenomenally unique name captured my attention right away. There was never a point where myself, my husband, or friends or family ever said we should reconsider. Everyone liked the name! I admit I was struggling to find the perfect name for our son until I tried on Dovahkiin. I have never looked back.”
Elder Scrolls fans around the world paid their well wishes to little baby Dovahkiin online, and though the internet’s reaction was largely celebratory in tone, the usual suspects came out of the woodwork to try and pour cold water over the party. But this never really bothered the Kellermeyers.
“While there were many positive reactions to naming our son Dovahkiin, I was a bit put out by how many trolls there were.” says Megan. “Eh. Let them starve now. I don't read their acid posts. My only regret during the whole thing was the photo initially posted of our new baby. It was a terrible phone picture.”
As for whether Bethesda is still living up to its promise of a lifetime supply of free games for the family, Megan can confirm that the publisher has indeed kept its word after all these years. “If you saw my husband's Steam account and its trailing list, you'd see all of the cool Bethesda games we received a code for and he got for free. As my husband is the gamer, he has definitely put it to good use.”
Sadly, Dovahkiin is still a little too young to be playing any Bethesda games yet, but that doesn’t mean he’s not aware of the origins of his mythical name. “Dovahkiin is very familiar with his namesake and has several times pointed out Elder Scrolls and said, "Mama, that's my game!"”, Megan explains.
“He will sometimes tell that to perfect strangers when we’re in GameStop. Though he can't play the game yet, he is getting into other console and computer games right now. He is currently playing Snoopy, LittleBigPlanet, and Slime Rancher.”
Back in 2011, Eric and Megan explained in a later blog post on their website that they chose a relatively normal middle name, Tom, if Dovahkiin becomes too much for their son, but - years later - and the little guy apparently shows no signs of ditching his Skyrim-inspired heritage.
“He knows his middle name but likes his first name best and has told me several times not to call him nicknames.”, they tell me. “He says that calling him ‘Dovah’ for short is fine.”
But how have other people reacted upon first hearing Dovahkiin’s title, especially Elder Scrolls fans who are intimately familiar with hearing that word mentioned so often through Bethesda’s iconic RPG? Megan explains that “with strangers or new people who are not at all in a gaming community, reactions are mixed but never negative.”
“While [Dovah was] a baby and toddler, when people would enquire as to his name, I would say it and sometimes be asked to spell it, more than once.” she says. “Fifty percent of the time, people would end it there but sometimes they'd ask where the name is from. Most of the time I would explain it’s from a game and get to tell them about Bethesda's contest. Once or twice I told someone it was draconic just to see what they'd say.”
“Doctor visits end up with the nurses pronouncing it "Doe-VAH-kin" instead of "doe-vah-KEEN". Half the time I correct them. When Dovahkiin started preschool, and now Kindergarten, the reaction to his name is more subdued but, having volunteered at his school and seeing the variety of names amongst children his age and older, I don't think he'll have any problems in later grades.”
The real treat for Megan and Eric, though, is when an Elder Scrolls veteran or Skyrim player meets Dovahkiin for the first time. “I see that smile appear and no words are needed. I say it anyway. "Ah, so you know of the Dovahkiin!" By expression alone, you can just tell. If they know the game, they know the name and it's always a happy meeting.”
Now that it’s such a familiar part of their lives, does the Elder Scrolls mean more to the Kellermeyers than it did in 2011, when they first decided upon the name for their newborn child? In some ways, yes, but the funny thing is that only Eric has actually played Skyrim or indeed any Bethesda games at all, as he was the one who proposed the idea in the first place.
For the family as a whole, it’s clear that Dovahkiin’s name has been nothing but a source of joy and happiness; “I have been given no reason not to enjoy my son's unique, wonderful name”, says Megan, “Seeing anything Elder Scrolls is like recognizing a friendly face.”
In Skyrim, being hailed as the Dovahkiin means you’re special, chosen, loved. It’s an RPG fantasy trope that’s outstayed its welcome in video games, but for Eric and Megan Kellermeyer, the name has been a beautiful outward expression of what their son means to them as parents. Perhaps, in another six years time, young Dovahkiin will be old enough to play the game for himself, and finally get to see what all the fuss is about.