Frell You, Witcher 3!
I have been sick the past couple of days after a great trip to the beach with my extended family. My sick downtime has given me a chance to take a deep dive into The Witcher 3 game that has gotten a lot of glowing reviews, as well as a few reviews that discuss the diversity issues of the game.
The game is excellent. Let’s start with the truth of the matter. It is well written; it is nice how so many of the side-quests dovetail with the main quest, and the voice acting is top notch. It will not change the face of RPG gaming but I think it will make people take a serious look at how they play. For instance Dragon Age: Inquisition, which was a blast to play and fun to micromanage my equipment, but now having played The Witcher 3, my interest in replaying DA:O is minimal. Can we all just have to take a moment to mourn my DA:O personalized hero? (For those keeping track, he was a black elven rogue specializing in daggers with a paladin-like approach. He will be missed.)
At the same time, once I am done with The Witcher 3; I will not play it again. Every great second of playing the game is countered by the fact there are zero PoC in the game. In addition, the antagonists everyone hate in the game are called the Black Ones. (I can't make this stuff up.) This situation is a constant struggle for me. On one hand, I don’t want to reinforce these type of status-quo standards and the only way to change it is with dollars (either investing in, or divesting from games). We need to channel our voices about the change we want to see, and encourage more PoC to create material of the same or better quality. On the other hand, I am a geek, and don’t want to miss the experience. (Plus I have played the other two. I have fond memories of playing the first Witcher on my laptop in the sandbox, and how it helped me waste . . . umm, I mean spend . . . countless hours.)
How do we change the standard of the white hetero male protagonist? I'm reminded of a Kickstarter from a few months back (that I will not name) that was creating this sweet-looking medieval game with magic, dragons and a dark grittiness. One of their goals involved creating a character in the game that looked like you. I sent them a private message asking about PoC, since all of their pictures were of white people. The message I got back was: No, there were no black people back then!
Of course, I did not back that Kickstarter and think it failed in the end (Huzzah!). But lack of diversity in games and movies is all over the place. Have you seen the very, very white cast of the new Superman vs. Batman picture? (It won't receive my hard-earned money.) And The Witcher 3, while it doesn’t identify PoC as the main bad guys (Tolkien, I'm looking at you.), it does label them as "black." So, alas, this is also the last Witcher game I will ever buy.
The fight for diversity is ongoing, and one day I hope that the gaming industry will be different, creating so many video games with a characters that look like me that I don't have enough time to play them all. Every game should have creation options that allow you to tailor your character how you fit; and having PoCs and female characters do not lessen the narrative, they make it stronger and more compelling.