Oh yeah, it’s time to get personal, adventurers. Every now and then as gamers we do a little something-something we aren’t too proud of, and now I’ve been challenged to share my shame with the world. Yikes! Why in the world would I do such a thing? Well, I set myself up for it by letting people ask me questions in this weeklong thing I’ve had going on called the Charming and Open event. I’ve officially cut off questions at this point, but the masterpost will link you to my other answers this week as well as the answers of the other participants, so go check it out! As for this question, it was posed to me by Sam over at PIXELDUMP Gaming. You should definitely check out his blog and definitely check out his response to my question: if you could develop your own game, what kind of game would you make?
So, to reiterate the question as it was posed to me: “what are you most ashamed of throughout your gaming experience?” Examples were given explaining that I could talk about the narrative choices I made in a game, something a game led me to do in real life, or even a game I regretted even purchasing. Mine falls squarely in the first category and involves a game I didn’t have a particularly great experience with: The Witcher.
WARNING! My posts are generally friendly to all readers, but this one is going to touch on some mature content. Little eyes better look away!
A little background to set the scene: in college I had this friend. Let’s call him Jake. Jake was pretty much the most innocent and good-natured guy I ever met. Super nice, never said a harsh word to anyone, never made inappropriate comments – this guy was pretty much a saint. So when he said to me – “Ian, sometime you need to check out The Witcher. I think you would really like it” – I just assumed I was in for a cool fantasy game that wouldn’t challenge my moral standards in any way. Imagine my surprise when I pick up the game and find out that you collect baseball cards of naked women you’ve slept with like some kind of psychopath straight off of Criminal Minds!
Okay, so that’s not really the point of the game. It’s more of a side-quest, and if you’re a horrible person to every female you meet then you never have to worry about it anyway. But Geralt’s, um…for the sake of being open-minded I’ll call it “sexual liberation” – was honestly a huge turn-off (puns!) when playing this game. And it led to me completing the quest that put The Witcher straight on my shame list.
So there’s this character in The Witcher named Triss that you meet pretty early on in the game. She and Geralt seem to have a pre-existing relationship – which I found out completely on accident when I invited her to “sit and talk,” which is apparently Witcher code for “do it even though Geralt has a crippling injury.” I was able to get past that pretty easily because at the time I assumed she was the only girl Geralt could be with, and I assumed they had a legitimate relationship. Turns out the two of them have a little bit of trouble “defining the relationship,” as the kids say, and what relationship they do have is apparently pretty open. This is courtesy of Witcher physiology which prevents all of the physical consequences of intercourse (and apparently the emotional ones too).
Determined that MY version of Geralt was going to focus on his other responsibilities and not wooing, and that the only girl he’d take time to woo was Triss, I avoided quests that I saw could potentially lead to baseball cards and instead reveled in the AMAZING consequence system of these games. Seriously, games like Star Wars, inFamous, and even Dishonored don’t do consequences of choice as well as The Witcher does. There’s no black and white, there’s just choices and what consequences they bring about. I forgot all about Triss for awhile, until it got to a point in the story where she and Geralt are basically living together with an adopted kid in a city somewhere.
At this point in the game there’s a sidequest of sorts you can go on where Triss and Geralt are talking about furthering their relationship. Taking the next step. But Triss needs to know that Geralt is someone she can trust to take that step with her. So to prove yourself, you have to give Triss a ring. Now in my mind, this was what was happening: Triss and Geralt were ready to accept their love for one another and by completing this quest, I could have him propose to her. So since I wanted my version of Geralt to be in a committed relationship with Triss, I decided to pursue this quest and secure their engagement.
I honestly don’t remember exactly how long it took me to do this quest. It’s been something like four or five years ago since I played this game. But the quest definitely wasn’t something I wrapped up in a matter of minutes. I had to purchase items, trade stuff, gather materials, try out different rings – it took a good chunk of time for me to get the perfect ring and complete the quest. And once I finally got there, I braced myself for the big moment, when Geralt would finally emote and make a commitment to be with Triss for their whole lives. But Geralt didn’t use the ring to propose. And Triss didn’t use it to talk about their relationship. Instead, the ring just resulted in the two of them running up the stairs to the bedroom and knocking boots again. What I as the player got out of that was a little card showing Triss’s exposed breasts.
Golly, was I naive.
So that, adventurers, is my shame. I played out this whole quest expecting it to result in an emotional payoff where Geralt showed some maturity and the romance between himself and Triss blossomed. Instead, I spent at least an hour, maybe more, gathering materials to make jewelry to bribe a chick to take off her shirt. If I had really wanted to see that card THAT badly (I didn’t), I could have just Googled the goofy thing. And while I can hope that at some point Geralt and Triss decided to have an honest talk about their relationship, it doesn’t seem like something that the developers were interested in addressing in the game.
Ultimately, I never finished The Witcher. Not necessarily because of this event – more because I found the controls to be clunky and the gameplay a bit repetitive. But I hated that this game which executed decision-making so well when it came to story quests could not show the same level of thoughtfulness when it came to the character’s emotional journey. The consequences of my other choices in the game played out so well. Why couldn’t the consequences of Geralt’s constant sexual conquests – or my decision as the player NOT to engage in that behavior – be taken a little further? Maybe this is something that’s explored deeper in the newer Witcher games, but I certainly don’t intend to play and find out.