I’m Sorry Erend, You’re Just Not In My League

I’m Sorry Erend, You’re Just Not In My League

I’ve been thinking about Erend from Horizon: Zero Dawn.

I’ve been thinking about Erend a lot.

Erend, that loveable buffoon. What a guy! Erend is nice. Erend likes a drink, but who’s judging? Erend screws things up every now and then, but his heart’s in the right place.

Erend is great. Erend is a nice guy.

But Erend makes me feel a bit weird.

A little background info. My name is Mark, I’m 35 years old. I am heterosexual. When given a choice in a video game I usually play as a man. I’m not exactly sure why. I was a man in Mass Effect. I’ve been a man in every Bethesda RPG I’ve ever played. The only reason I can think of is this: “I am a man, I am used to being a man and I enjoy being a man so… given this choice I will probably play as a man.”

But when video games don’t give me that choice. When video games feature a singular female woman as a protagonist — I’m okay with this. Very okay.

Especially when that game is Horizon: Zero Dawn.

I’ve been playing a lot of Horizon: Zero Dawn. It’s a very polished video game set in a compelling open world with combat I adore. There’s also tremendous robot dinosaurs that tend to kill me a lot. Great stuff.

But one thing that’s crept up on me during my 30 or so hours with the game: the characters themselves. They’re good. Compared to most video games they’re very good. There’s Aloy’s mentor/father figure Rost, War Chief Sona, Aloy herself even.

And then there’s Erend.

Erend makes his first appearance early in Horizon: Zero Dawn. He’s introduced as an outsider from a rival clan who quickly calms a rabid crowd with the kind of direct, man of the people speech that has you thinking, “damn, this is a man of action. This is a guy gets the job done“.

Then he introduces himself. To Aloy. To you the player. Immediately something becomes very clear.

Erend is thirsty. Thirsty. as. hell.

And Erend is low-key keen for a slice of Aloy.

But not necessarily in a sleazy way. Not in the way where you could instantly dismiss him like, “get off me Erend you creep.” Not like that at all. More in a lounge lizard, “what’s a pretty girl like you doing in a place like this” way. Alarm bells are ringing, but it could be a social faux pax to retort with a “back the fuck off mister“.

Best to just deadpan it. Pretend it never happened and move along.

Which is precisely what Aloy does. Phew. Brilliant. Thanks Aloy.

Later — it turns out — Erend really is a nice guy. Spoiler Alert: he remains a nice guy for the entirety of his questline and undergoes a fairly compelling character shift. Some decent writing in there.


But Erend never really stops flirting with you, clumsily. And he never really gets the message. And that gets a little awkward.

Because — real talk here — I’m Aloy. I’m a gorgeous, empowered, driven woman with a keen gift for accessories. I kill enormous robot dinosaurs for a living and, if I’m being honest with myself, I’m not really sure a guy like Erend is right for me.

I’ll just come right out there and say it: Erend, you’re not really in my league.

I’m going to use this word now — it’s a word that plays in dangerous waters concerning men and their entitlement where women are concerned — but I feel like it’s appropriate.

I have placed Erend in the ‘friend zone’.

And it feels a little bit strange.

Yes. A brother.

So weird to be in that spot.

Most men have absolutely been in that other spot. The opposite spot. Clumsily trying to hit on a girl with no reciprocation. Not really getting that clear “leave me alone” signal, unsure whether you should plod on like an awkward buffoon or head back home and sob into your pillow with The Smiths playing in background. Maybe you’ve developed a crippling long-term crush on a girl and you’re not quite sure how to handle it. I always knew that was a bad position to be in as a dude but it wasn’t until Erend that I knew what it felt like on the other side.

Oh my God. Am I Erend?

Have I been an Erend?

I am now happily married with two children, but I have no doubt that at one point in my life that I have been an Erend and that fact causes me to physically wince.

It’s painful on a number of levels. First, the pain of recognition. Goddamn this situation sucks. Second (obviously) the pain of being in Aloy’s awkward position. But thirdly — perhaps most importantly — the pain of knowing that I’ve also been Erend, that I may have made women feel this way in the past.

Boy does that suck.

I mean I knew. I always understood, and tried to be aware of, the impact flirting may have on someone who didn’t want to reciprocate. That’s part of being a normal functioning human being. But there’s a difference between being aware and literally walking a mile in those shoes.

That’s what Horizon: Zero Dawn did. It made me walk a mile in a woman’s shoes and I learned a lot.

And the message was pretty clear. Don’t be an Erend.


  • This works both ways, guys can friend zone girls as well. I’ve been in this situation, and been the one placed in the friend zone too. It’s about figuring it out early so you don’t look like a fool pursuing and respecting that the other person is not feeling it, even though they may very well like you as a person. Just be an adult, shit doesn’t always go your way.

  • Mark, thank you for writing such a brilliant illustration of why diversity in video games characters can be such a powerful, positive thing.

  • I love Erend’s voice actor. It’s like a Patrick Warburton done soft.

    “Awwr awr, I’m a hapless, lost bear, every time I try to get this honey these bees keep stinging me, I dunno what to do, awwr.”

    I think Erend at the start does a little bit of hitting on you, but I thought it just typical empty chitchat.

    I felt the Sun King was ganting for it too. I think he got that gig because the sunlight reflecting off his teeth is blinding. They really don’t need a sun, they just need Mr Colgate to walk around grinning.

    Also love Sylens, and am happy Lance Reddick finally got a big role in a video game.

    • I wish I could upvote you more than once. You’ve got me in hysterics here with Mr colgate. Don’t know why but it just made me laugh so hard. Thanks Doc.

      • No problem, I hope while playing it you never get the image out of your mind.

        “This man is a professional Sun King. We can’t show you his face but he uses Solgate.”

  • I disagree. It’s normal to have a crush on people (regardless of the sex). He wasn’t being sleazy, demeaning, derogatory or anything other than a person that clearly had a crush on another. He initiated no physician contact either that would make someone very uncomfortable. He’s just a big goof with a crush.

    He continues to make a few remarks, but from memory Aloy never actually turns him down or indicates her discomfort. You as the player choose to feel uncomfortable but that’s not what the character of Aloy protrays.

    In fact she actually makes a remark at the end of the quest line along the lines of “I’ll always have a minute for you, maybe even two.”

    I’ve been on both sides of this, from liking someone that didn’t reciprocate (back in primary school) to people having a crush on me that I had no interest in.

    It’s human nature. As long as you’re not being a prick about it, there’s nothing wrong with having a crush on someone.

    It’s also not that hard to say you’re not interested instead of stringing people along if you aren’t. Of course, this game doesn’t give you that choice as, albeit the illusion of option in conversation, it’s ultimately mostly scripted writing from the perspective of Aloy.

    • I agree with everything that you’ve written but I think you’re missing the main idea Mark’s getting at. He’s just talking about that uncomfortable feeling you get when you are exposed to unwanted affection and also the embarrassment you would feel in hindsight when you make silly jokes or something to get someone’s attention. He’s not necessarily interested in what the actual relationship between Aloy and Erend is, rather he’s using it as more of a scenario

    • In fact she actually makes a remark at the end of the quest line along the lines of “I’ll always have a minute for you, maybe even two.”

      To which he replies “Hey, she likes me!”
      Classic Erend.

      I thought the Sun King’s rebound proposition was more awkward than Erend.

  • Awh, that’s a shame that Mark felt like that. When I was watching the GF playing Horizon, she actually got me to look up spoilers because she demanded to know if Aloy and Erend got together. She was shipping them so hard…

  • Funny reading this. I was recently told by a female friend that a decade ago she wanted me, wanted me bad, and that I had ‘friendzoned her’.

    Imagine your jaw hitting the floor, your brain exploding. That was me. I used to pine for her, used to reeeeeally want her and used to play it cool around her hoping she’d want me back.

    Apparently my ‘cool’ was ‘ice cold’ and she saw that as friendzoning. *sigh*

    Yup, I Erend’ed someone without bloody knowing it and in a way Erend’ed myself. lol.

    I kinda like the idea of Aloy getting together with him though, they fit better than the Warchiefs son at the beginning (the one that looks like the dude from Misfits) or the Sun King (Mr I’ll Bang Whatever has a pulse and move on when it doesn’t).

  • “Just don’t try kids!”. If you can’t read someones mind, and know exactly how they are thinking and feeling, you’re better off just not trying juuust in case. This is Kotaku, signing off with “everyone should die alone!”.

  • So what you’re saying is nice guys DO finish last :/. I’d much prefer a “nice guy” that wants to do right by me.

  • I ship Aloy and Erend. I was actually a bit annoyed the game never gave me the option to respond more positively to his flirting.

    The character who did creep me out was Varl. I got a lot more of a “thirsty” vibe from him then I did Erend.

  • Huh. I guess that’s how boys see it?

    I felt like his first flirting was pretty normal for literally any guy who isn’t gay, and he grew into a pretty decent candidate. Like, probably gonna have to drag him home from the bar every so often, but he seems to have gotten that under control pretty well. We def need to have a ‘discussion’ regarding the facial hair and some of the way the Oseram see ladies, he’s got long term promise. He’d get a date with me for sure.

  • I’ve had to friendzone a couple of people in the past. One of them I was in absolute panic over when it came up (on good ol’ MSN) and had another friend in a chat guide me through what to do. Thought I totally handled it well, dusted hands with pat on the back and all… til years down the track came across the chat log for some reason or other and in hindsight it was a god damn brutal rejection. Felt absolutely terrible.

  • I was surprised how much Erend grew on me! But I like how his goofy and slightly awkward personality plays off the serious and driven Aloy…made me want to see them team up more! His quest line was fun to play. Sure his flirting was cringe worthy at best, but he’s a nice guy so I was secretly rooting for him! 😉

  • Oh, see I’m gonna have to disagree. His nice guy attitude and flirting was awkward, especially coming from a guy who looks like he should have more confidence- I mean, the dude rocks mutton-chops and a Mohawk for god’s sake, that should go with being utterly shameless. But I found it cute, and really liked his arc. Did a good job of making you sympathise with the poor bastard.

    Even if Aloy didn’t seem to return his feelings (and to be fair, she didn’t return any of the attention she received from blokes throughout the game because she had more important things to worry about), I see Erend as the best of the Horizon “husbandos”. I mean, they seemed to be pushing toward Varl, but by the end, Aloy’s worldview and perspective has eclipsed his to the point where it just wouldn’t work out. Avad would be a good choice (in a game of fuck marry kill, he’d be “marry” without question) but he’s too passive and I don’t see him keeping up with her lifestyle.

    Erend’s got the right mix of worldliness and spirit. Like Varl, he can fight and works well with Aloy, and like Avad he knows what’s going on and can travel to other places without having to salt the earth and beg forgiveness from the All-Mother. I’d say that’s worth a bit of awkward teenage flirting.

  • This article describes how I thought about Erend to a T.

    Don’t get me wrong – he was the first character I liked, but that’s not to say much when the first tribe you’re surrounded by treats the main character like garbage.

    The guy is cool and I can hang with him. But when he’s like “Came all the way to Meridian just to see me?” I was like Aloy was, “Have you been drinking?”

    I can accept him as a nice dude with a heart of gold. But as a potential mate? Nah, I’d go for Nil before anyone else.

  • I fell in love with Erend, faults and all.
    People who go for Nil scare me because he is clearly psychopathic.
    Nil’s code of honor allows him to cope with normal people but he obviously has no empathy.
    Hooking up with Nil only ends in two ways: 1. He disappears someday 2. You disappear someday.
    The “Bad Boy” may vibe with some primal instinct of reproducing with a strong male, but Nil is beyond “Bad Boy” and well into homicidal serial killer boy.

    • I totally get what you mean when you talk about the bad boy vibe making Nil attractive to the point of dangerous. No way in hell would I date a mad dog like him in real life. But as a killer of man and machines? Sign me up. You have to be some sort of crazy to hunt dangerous game for fun -> Aloy.

      In a world of violent savages where everything in the wilds is trying to kill you, I don’t think that having psychopathic tendencies is a problem, and especially not if said someone is a soldier. If anything, it’s practical.
      Nil’s bloodlust also takes on more of a call to action, which is more beneficial to the world than sitting around in a tavern. No, his passion for killing isn’t driven by altruism, but he gets stuff done. As a wandering warrior without ties, he wouldn’t slow me down or try to settle me, either.

      As for being a danger to Aloy, he’s already proven he’s not by giving her the choice not to duel him. Even better, he choses her side in the final battle.

      It’s crazy how I’m saying all this pro Niloy stuff while the only men I go for in real life are Erends. Oh, the irony.

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