I’m sorry dear reader, but this is a topic I’ll keep getting back to. Skip The Witcher 3 posts if you find them boring.
By now, anyone who knows me also know that I deeply dislike playing male player characters, and they also know I dislike sexism in games.
All this makes for slim pickings when it comes to the games I play. Here’s my dilemma. I’m also a game developer, meaning that I, to some extent, have to be familiar with certain games, because those games are part of a staple. A games canon if you like. It doesn’t really matter if the games are enjoyable for me to play or not. They’re part of “you should play this, as a game developer”.
My beef with some of these games may seem unfair if you live a privileged life. They may seem unfair even if you don’t. The games are, after all, popular for a reason while many other games are not.
What bothers me most about The Witcher 3 is not the lack of proper balance (at the end of Act 2 I am level 34, heading rapidly towards level 35). Nor is it the janky console controller setup which half the time require me to backtrack and adjust my position which mini-nudges in order to reach loot, or even look at the mini-map or use Geralt’s Witcher senses to find some of the herbs.
The thing that really gets me is the casual objectification of pretty much any woman that is young and shown on screen. All of them are more or less baring their chests in one way or another. Some to the point of showing their nipples. Trust me, I have nothing against nipples, or dressing sexy, but it’s pretty obvious this is done to titillate a male audience. I mean, really, why would a woman walk around in freezing snow with a gaping blouse but some form of neck cover with fur otherwise (Ciri, I’m looking at you and your completely insane winter outfit. I’d freeze said nipples off if I wore that.)?
You could make the point that a lot of the men wander around in nothing but underwear (what IS that about, seriously?), but that’s only valid for no name male characters. Cannon fodder. Named men are properly dressed. Named women have their boobs on display, the exception being Yennefer and a handful of others. She on the other hand wears some form of form fitting catsuit, as do all the women who doesn’t have their chests bared.
Basically, what this means is that most women in The Witcher 3 have been designed – consciously or subconsciously – to be eye candy for a (presumably) white, male, cis-het man.
There are some noteworthy exceptions. Three women, the baron’s daughter, the baron’s wife and a young woman turned into a wraith.
The baron’s wife is old, so why would you want to see her boobs? The baron’s daughter is in the clutches of a witch hunter from the Church of Eternal Fire and the young woman turned wraith is only seen in her wraith shape.
Speaking of, there’s an impressive array of grotesque monster women parading through The Witcher 3, the most noteworthy being the three Crones of Crookback Bog.
They’re initially portrayed as beautiful women on a tapestry, but when Geralt finally comes eye to eye with them, they’ve stepped right out of a page of Kristeva’s theory on abjection and horror. One of them is so permeable that instead of eyes, she’s got a beehive that buzzes with insect life, flying in and out of her head.
What I don’t like about this sexism is that is seems haphazard or just kind of built in. I doubt anyone said “let’s try to be as implicitly and sometimes explicitly sexist as we can on as many levels as we can!”
I encounter this every day in every form of media there is and it gets tiring. Why should I expose myself to more of it in a situation that’s supposed to be about entertainment?
The answer is of course that I shouldn’t.