Liking Problematic Things: Geralt of Rivia edition
This article was @na_biki’s idea
I have played many hours of “Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt.” In fact, I just geared myself up (literally) to beat the game only to discover that there is actually a whole lot more game than I realized, so I am putting even more time than I expected into the damn thing. I have played more “Witcher” than I played “Dragon Age: Inquisition.”
“Witcher 3” has been rightly criticized for being sexist* and non-inclusive. There are many problematic elements to the game, which are so trope-ish and boring that I get tired of listing them. On the other hand, someone needs to be saying it so here we go:
- Stop using rape as a plotline for male growth. Also stop using rape as a joke.
- Stop using the death/refrigeration of a woman as a plotline for male growth.
- Stop using fat people as jokes; stop using fat as an insult.
- Stop using sex workers as jokes. Stop using them as nameless victims of crime. (I am in no way opposed to having sex workers in video games by the way, which may make me an unusual feminist. I just think we should treat them like people with jobs, not like serial killer fodder and/or less valuable than any other person with a job.)
- Stop making capable, driven women annoying to men.
- Stop making jokes about “cross dressing” or trans people (the game isn’t super clear on which). Like, now stop that now. (This incident in the game is really weird–it’s, like, trying to be empowering from the dialogue of the person but then rude from Geralt’s POV. It could have been awesome, but it isn’t.)
- Maybe, like, include any people of color in your game. ANY.
Those things said, I pretty much love this game.
I like Geralt of Rivia. Not just because of his whole ab/hair/scar game, which is pretty on point.
I also love Geralt, at least in “Witcher 3,” because he is very human (I mean, sort of since he’s a mutant). The game offers you options for how to play him–you can be ruthless, or you can be more compassionate. You can be always out for coin, or you can do good for the sake of it. These allow you to build some personality into Geralt, and your choices as a player do come back to haunt or help you later. My Geralt seems to accidentally wind up killing everyone most of the time, because he cannot seem to get his foot out of his mouth. Whoops.
In the cinematic portions of the game, where the player has no choice, we’re introduced to a Geralt who is also kind and supportive of his friends, honorable and strong without belittling. He can certainly be on the sarcastic side, but he seems to have genuine affection for people. His relationship with Ciri, in particular, is touching and meaningful. He’s a lovely father figure, and as someone who came of age largely without a dad, I really enjoy watching Geralt be tender with his adopted daughter.
Geralt is about as burly and rough as you can get–the dude can’t cry or express deep emotion, thanks to something something witcher mutations. However, he is master of “sad gazing off into the distance.” Just because he can’t show feelings doesn’t mean he doesn’t have them, and I like that the game doesn’t shy away from the emotions of men. Geralt grieves, he gets angry, he forgives, and he loves (um, a lot).
I also like the way he treats women in the game. I don’t like the way the game treats women, but I like the way Geralt does. There are about a billion jokes that he is “whipped” or “submissive” to Yennifer (a super rad sorceress who does not give any fucks). Geralt just chuckles and goes about being her number two whenever she needs. He doesn’t seem to agree that he’s emasculated simply by supporting a woman in her work.
He’s an interesting and unique hero. He’s not any kind of savior, he doesn’t give a shit about politics, and he’s pretty much universally hated by the entire world. Most of Geralt’s time is spent being asked for help, then being treated like utter shit by the same people a day later. Being a witcher seems to suck, overall. He is not able to show emotion or have children, he’s often alone, and you can tell that life has taken a toll on him. He is the king of thick skins, and I think when he finds friends he holds on to them.
Geralt also has a great sense of humor, always cracking puns or dad jokes and making people roll their eyes at him. His sarcastic, dry delivery makes me laugh every damn time. I think Geralt is someone I’d like to know (if he existed), and playing him has been really fun. I am on his side, and I want him to be happy.
Also this doesn’t hurt:
To be fair and bisexual, neither does this:
“Witcher 3” is a problematic game, but it is also an exceptionally fun game. The mechanics are fun, the crafting is abundant, and the inventory slots are never enough. I like the different monsters and the underlying concept that a witcher is nothing more than a monster-killer for hire. He’s not here to save the world; he’s just here to do the job. The family business, as it were. I like it a lot, and I hope that we get more like this, perhaps with some reduced problems, in the future.
*The first several pages of Google results are all about how “Witcher 3” isn’t sexist and anyone who says so is just WRONG, but as a woman who played the game, I can spot many sexist tropes. I am sad for people who are so blind to privilege they only want to see part of the whole.