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The Witcher 3, racism, misogyny

The Witcher 3, a much anticipated computer game from a Polish studio based on a series of Polish fantasy novels, is released next Tuesday. Reviews of it are already being published and I have been reading a lot about it, including one review on Polygon by Arthur Gies that spent a lot of words complaining about the lack of black people and the treatment of female characters in the game.

Another Polish developer, Adrian Chmielarz, whose studio made the acclaimed adventure game The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, has responded. On the complaint that there are only white people in the game:

the fact that a post-modernist remix of fantasy and the Polish folklore made by Slavs does not feature non-white characters, is a non-issue.

Note that I am not sure that adding “strangers from the strange lands” to the game would solve anything for the chronically offended. Based on everything I learned about them in the last year, and I learned a lot, if you put a person or a few from any non-white race, they would be called “token characters”.

The Polygon review goes on to complain about the women in the game:

the world CD Projekt has created is oppressively misogynist. In some ways, the game deals directly with this — characters acknowledge again and again that it’s hard to be a woman there, that it’s a place of violence and terror and that women must work harder to be recognized and respected.

Then it kills them, over and over.


I get that the setting of The Witcher 3 is meant to be a dark, dirty fantasy. But in a world that so explicitly goes out of its way to build a believable, distinctive take on the genre, the inclusion of so much violence explicitly directed against women feels like a clear, disconcerting choice. It’s not just present, it’s frequently a focus.

When they’re not being murdered, women in The Witcher 3 are comically sexualized. Nudity is everywhere…

Chmielarz responds:

As we can see, The Witcher 3 apparently simply mirrors the real world (as according to Feminist Frequency).

This is a group whom the reviewer admires, and who argue that “violence against women is a serious, global epidemic”.

I have to assume that Gies understands that when compared to the actual real world, the violence is exaggerated in The Witcher 3. That it’s basically an often grim, often cruel fantasy world.

But …why is such a world a problem? Is the reviewer confusing portrayal with endorsement? Should art be propaganda for a peaceful life? Should art avoid disturbing universes?

There is a lot more; this is just a flavour of the debate. It is good to see people like Chmielarz standing up to this kind of criticism, because for a while it looked as if everything was going the way of those who would be offended by everything.

Also encouraging is that, if you read the comments on a news story about this debate at Gamezone, it appears that nobody really cares. They just want to enjoy games.

13 comments to The Witcher 3, racism, misogyny

  • Simon Just

    Very interesting article, and I cann’t tell you how delighted I am to see yet another sign of cultural fightback under way, but…dear God… I just watched that trailer in the first link! When did game trailers become better than movie trailer? I’m stunned. I went and found a gameplay trailer & I think I’m going to buy this!

  • Is the reviewer confusing portrayal with endorsement? Should art be propaganda for a peaceful life? Should art avoid disturbing universes?

    Yes. You could call it “social justice realism”.

  • George Atkisson

    I plan on buying the game. I am buying it because it promises to be a rich and satisfying gaming experience, requiring skill and forethought to survive.

    The games made to promote diversity and all the issues of feminist concern have been horrible, AS GAMES. No one buys them because they are bad games, not because gamers are misogynists. The only agenda we want game developers to have is making the best game possible.

    Dragon Age:Inquisition has multiple races, skin colors, and strong women. You can play as a woman character and save the world. It is a fabulous game and I have over 350 hours of game play invested.

    The Order:1886 has the same characteristics, but was a disaster as a game.

  • Ms. Pac-Man is enough gender diversity in games for me.

  • Paul Marks

    Evil never rests.

    The P.C. (or “Critical Theory”) forces, wish to take over gaming.

    In the same way they have taken over the education system – and almost everything else.

    As for the specific complaints…..

    Non whites are not common in Poland (and the game designers are Polish).

    If non whites turned up in Poland they would be slave raiders (not slaves – slave raiders) working for the forces of Islam – that was Polish history for centuries.

    Women warriors and so on.

    Not common due to lack of upper body strength.

    The same is true in a back ally street fight.

    So reality (that pesky thing – objective reality) is not in line with P.C. doctrine.

    A game set in a fantasy Middle Ages is going to have non whites as the bad guys (if they appear at all). Because that is what non whites were in the Europe of the Middle Ages – the came in raiding ships (as far north as Iceland), or on horseback with the tartars.

    And women will be ladies, wives or camp followers (not normally warriors).

    Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

  • Thailover

    The Tomb Raider series starred the character most people are familiar with, Lara Croft; a female character so over the top capable in every way that it doesn’t merely border on absurd, it crosses that line. But that’s OK, so does Spiderman, etc. We are, after all, talking about video games. But what concerns the chronically inflamed feminists is that she (Croft) is not only too capable, too smart, too posh and too rich, too violent, too learned, too ambitious, too athletic…she’s also too physically attractive, too curvy and too unapologetic about it. Interestingly enough, it’s the physical attractiveness that seems to so bother the chronically bothered. If her clothes are not “too revealing”, they’re “too tight”. Even a full body wet suit that fails to completely mask her curves is deemed too alluring. Strangely, ever-inflamed feminists seem to be in lock-step with “conservatives” in that physical attractiveness of animated characters might give those young game playing boys the wrong idea, that some women are not only capable, educated, efficacious and intelligent…but also, (god forbid), hot. Haven’t we learned yet folks that ‘sex is bad’, and that it followed the fall of mankind from the garden of Eden? Like the church says, sex is only to make babies to in turn bring to the lord. (sarcasm alert). Coveting my neighbor’s ass, (she does have a nice ass after all) is right out of bounds, or so the organization of man haters (feminists) propaganda goes, as well as the propaganda from the organization of conservative religious knee-walkers. But then again, perhaps we should venerate and take note of the opinions of these moral authorities, these righteous, these thought police, these crafters of correctness, these seekers of complete power over other people’s lives.
    Despotism is, for lack of a more accurate term, fucked up. Might I suggest, to accompany the current separation of church and state that we have in the states, that we also incorporate separation of feminists and state. 😉

  • Thailover

    The day I hear any chronically inflamed feminist complain about Lara Croft’s insatiable ambitiousness and greed, her murderous misandry (she seems to murder 99% of the men she ever meets), her lack of concern for the ancient sites she visits (as she sometimes destroys her rare and irreplacable environment in order to gain her fetish archaeological object of desire, whatever that happens to be in that particular game), then I’ve give the man-haters some degree of credit. Oh, but it’s justified though, isn’t it? After all, aren’t 99% of men “bad guys”? After all, men in the game have guns and they’re trying to kill a woman, so she’s justified in killing these men, also with guns. Isn’t that what “equality” all about?

    I suppose the next absurd complaint from feminists will be that Lara Croft is TOO smart and too capable, as well as too pretty, and thus making mundane real girls feel “uncomfortable” when faced with these unrealistic “unreachable” characteristics. Ms Croft should be condemned, not for murdering literally scores of men in her murderous ambition to attain fetish magical artifacts for her own insatiable pleasure, but because she dared grow large tits. That is after all what’s important here. Wouldn’t you agree? 😉

  • When Witcher 3 is released on May 19th, there will be a sign on my front door saying:

    If my house appears to be on fire, please ring the front door bell. If not, then please fuck off until further notice as an axe to the head often offends. Have a nice day, because I certainly am.


  • Rob Fisher

    Glad to see so many Samizdata people looking forward to this game. I’m mainly interested in exploring the world. That city looks fascinating.

    I probably won’t be getting it on day of release, though: I have to figure out how well it will run on my GTX 660 in case I need to upgrade my card, in which case the game comes for free with a new Nvidia card.

  • I will get it to work on my rig even if I have to add pedals 😉

  • Rob Fisher

    My suspicion is that recommended specs are for people who absolutely must have maximum graphics quality at 60 frames per second.

  • Pardone

    The Poles now make more games than failed former giants like the laughable Sega and Konami.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I haven’t played a computer game since Space Invaders, and I’ve no desire to change that. But the image quality in that trailer was awesome. I’ve been predicting for years that one day having a thing on film will cease to be evidence, because anything can be fakes. That day is almost upon us.