I had never heard of the Witcher series before my father bought it for himself a few months ago. One day I was looking at the case, still wrapped in plastic and stickers, and asked my dad why he hasn’t opened it yet. He said he didn’t want my younger sister to play it because it was very “graphic.” Considering my sister plays violent video games on a daily basis, I took that to mean sexually graphic. The game mostly left my mind after that, until we had to pick a controversial game for this assignment.
Google defines controversial as “giving rise or likely to give rise to public disagreement.” The Witcher series has been controversial among parents (one being my father) for its almost pornographic sexual content, violence, and use of strong language. Aside from those three elements, nothing in the game is particularly “controversial.” It features your typical fantasy creatures and subsequent fantasy creature killings, along with some incredible graphics and imagery.
It has been awarded over 250 game of the year titles since it’s release, including: Golden Joystick Awards, The Game Awards, D.I.C.E. Awards, Game Developers Choice Awards, and SXSW Gaming Awards. It also won Outstanding Achievement in Game Design, Outstanding Technical Achievement and Outstanding Achievement in Story at D.I.C.E. Awards, and won the Game of the Year and Best Technology awards at the 16th Annual Game Developers Choice Awards. It’s also the 9th game ever to receive a 10/10 on GameSpot (Wikipedia). It’s rated 18+.
In The Witcher 3 you play as Geralt of Rivia, a monster slayer who is known in the game as “a witcher.” In the first 10 minutes of the game, Geralt trains his adopted ward Ciri in the art of monster slaying. Ciri is the daughte of the emperor and the last heir to an ancient Elven bloodline. Ciri has the power to manipulate space and time, and because of that she is on the run from the Wild Hunt, a group of spectral elves who capture Ciri in the very beginning of the game to use her abilities for their own malicious purposes. Yennefer, a sorceress and Geralt’s lover, flees.
The main plot of the game begins when Geralt wakes up from a nightmare about Ciri’s kidnapping. He is on the road with senior monster slayer/witcher Vesemir, searching for Yennefer and Ciri. After a lot of long cutscenes and some travelling, bar quarrels, and creature killings, Yennefer ends up finding Geralt and Vesemir. Yennefer directs them to another sorceress, Keira Metz, who helps them continue their journey.
That’s the game in a nutshell. The plot and story line is so detailed and deep that it would take an entire post just to outline the entire thing. That being said, I find the story very interesting and plan to continue playing the game after this class.
The biggest controversy in the Witcher 3 is definitely it’s sexual nature.
The opening scene of The Witcher 3 looks like this:
Image: Rock, Paper, Shotgun
The (one of many) cutscene begins with Geralt relaxing in a hot bath, all in 3D glory. The camera pans to his feet, where a scorpion-like creature is entering the tub. Geralt is unaware until the creature pinches what the player can only assume to be his uhm, “manhood.” Yet he doesn’t curse or yell, probably because he’s a monster slayer. He says to Yennefer, “You know I don’t find that amusing,” which indicates to the player that Yennefer used her sorceress tricks to mess with Geralt. Right off the bat, the game begins with nudity and sexual innuendo. It is easy to see already why parents would not want their children playing this game. In my own opinion, the nudity and sexual content isn’t as alarming as it is unnecessary. Take Keira Metz, for example:
This is a scene from Geralt’s second encounter with the sorceress. For the sake of this post I’ll point out the blatantly obvious issue here: her low cut garb. It’s her main outfit in the game, minus the parts where she is nude:
If there is any question at all about the intentional use of nudity and sexual innuendo, look no further than well, the first 30 minutes of the game. Hell, there’s even a quick sex scene with rabbits.
A Time magazine writer called the sex in the game “the most idiotic and juvenile thing I’ve seen in a very long time.” One could agree with that. As in most video games that feature graphic sexual content, you could argue that it’s featured for the pleasure of male gamers. However I want to give credit to The Witcher 3 for being mostly anatomically correct with the design of the female characters, though scantily clad. Game designer Damien Monnier claims that there is a justified reason for including so much sex:
“People might think we’re putting sex into the opening scene for no good reason… No, no, no. We are establishing that your character was intimate with this woman recently in order to plant in your mind that, at very least, he must enjoy her company.
“Through sex we have shown that this is a person who Geralt would be compelled to chase after if she went missing… Sex is the quickest way in which to establish the relationship and provide a justification for the player to pursue this woman. We couldn’t just tell you to go find someone you don’t know or care about. It wouldn’t work.”
That is a statement I have to thoroughly disagree with. The entire first scene could have established an intimate relationship between Geralt and Yennefer without all of the nudity. To say that the presence of sex and romance has an impact on the plot is reaching. Sure, the romance part. No harm in romantic affairs. But to have full-blown sex scenes, orgasms and all, is simply over-kill. Here is an alternative way to open that scene:
Notice how Yennefer’s appearance is still engaging to the player, but she is not fully nude.
All that being said, there is no part of the game where the player makes a decision to engage in any sexual action. All of the sexual nature takes place in the cutscenes, which can be disabled and therefore eliminate any sexual content. This made it a dealbreaker for parents, who wanted to find alternatives to the Grand Theft Auto series for their children to play. With the cutscenes removed, parents actually raved about the awesomeness of the game especially in comparison to the Grand Theft Auto series, which is known for it’s violence and sexual content. And I would have to agree with them. I only played a few missions because of a time-constraint, but from researching the gameplay and personally playing it I enjoy it much more than I did the Grand Theft Auto series. Perhaps this is because The Witcher 3 is a fantasy game, with giant beasts, necrophages, vampires, harpies, magic, and other mythical creatures. While the Grand Theft Auto series is anything but: based off of real-life occurrences such as car theft, killing hookers (I will add here that Geralt has sex with prostitutes in the game. You can argue here that the reason developers included this in the game is to more accurately depict the medieval European lifestyle), and gang violence. The type of medieval violence found in the Witcher 3 is more acceptable because it’s not real. It can’t happen in real life, and it probably won’t even millennia from now (though that would be pretty cool). The Grand Theft Auto series is a more relatable and very real type of violence that parents feel can impact their children’s brains and psyches in a way that the Witcher 3 simply won’t.
While there may be some tense scenes or suggestive language/dialogue between the characters of the game, there is really nothing to be worried about in terms of sexual content if you disable the cutscenes. And in terms of violence well, the Witcher 3 is no more or no less violent than your average modern-day first-person role playing game.