Kierkegaard's forum posts

#1 Posted by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

The big picture plot of Her Story is interesting and deep and all that, but I just wanted to write about the little things I haven't seen brought up. Please share the little things you noticed!

One Detective is probably Irish

The nature of the detectives is kept actively unclear, but I like the little string that clearly identifies the Man who Eve flirts with on July 1st is Irish. She looks at the pictures of his kids and talks about ginger hair. She says that the song she plays is "traditional" and he'll like it--it's an Irish folk song.

It's not a major point or especially revealing, but I like that even this little detail is hidden behind inferential clues.

Hannah's way into family; Eve is ambivalent

I like the thread of how Hannah really only brightens up when talking about happy families. She says she felt happy finally when she and Simon were living with his parents and expecting the baby. She clearly loves hanging with Eric and Diane and seeing how they raise their kids. And she's jealous that Eve gets pregnant. Eve is clearly more interested in her relationship and reflection with Hannah than she is having a family. If the song she chooses is any indication, her music also seems wrapped up in their story.

In the twin theory, the mood shift

I like this mystery that crops up rather subtly and ends up taking over the Simon mystery and even the twins mystery. If we follow the moods, it seems like Eve is by the book on 6/18 because she's communicating their story of missing Simon. Hannah is more flustered on 6/25 because they are about to spring the body on the cops but have to keep up appearances that he's missing. Eve is fake distraught at the body story on 6/27. Hannah is freaked on 6/30 because the Glasgow thing didn't seem to work. Eve is totally chill on 7/1 because, I think, Hannah's booked it.

If Hannah ran after 6/30, then Eve is relaxed because she feels like Glasgow is set and she and Hannah are going to get out of this, even if Hannah ran off. Since Hannah ran, Eve doesn't have notes to compare, proves the Twin theory to the cops, and screws herself. 7/2 she hates that they are seeing the twin thing, but 7/3 she's come to grips with it. She enjoys telling her story, she's relieved by it, and she loses her sense of defensiveness, incriminating herself as an accessory to murder.

This underlying feeling progress is fascinating to watch and clearly thought out, which is an incredible feet of acting and storytelling.

These videos become the fiddle

So, that song is fucked up. The allegory to the sister's lives is really obvious, but what's with the fiddle? In the song, the fiddler makes a fiddler out of the blonde sister, but the only song the fiddle can play is oh the wind and the rain. If that means that the fiddle itself tells the story of the murder, then the song is about the inevitability of a murderer being caught. The fiddle could be Simon's body or could be Eve, but I think it's the video. This series of videos clearly reveal the nature of Simon's murder (and other fucked up shit), and it's our job to, like the fiddler, construct the whole out of the parts of Eve and Hannah we get. By making our fiddle video, we reveal the story.

Way to find a fucking folk song that perfectly fit your narrative structure and themes, Barlow! (Or did you base them off the song itself...hmm). This version of the song does seem different than the traditional ones online, implying the lyrics were shifted to better fit the narrative.

So, that's what I've got/remember right now! Share the little things you noticed!

#2 Posted by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

@kierkegaard: I could see what they were going for, but, as you put, the path they chose was one that's been trod over way too much. Personally, and this sounds dumb, I don't like vampires being reduced to that sort of role. Vampires for me are calculating beasts who manipulate the machinations of human society and delight in causing political intrigue (because they live forever and thus are extremely rich and extremely bored), who are powerful sexual entities (which goes all the way back to Bram Stoker), and most importantly very rarely demonstrate their power - though when they do, y'all fucked up. They're more likely to transform into a bat and fly off to set about plotting the next century's entertainment, not get into fights to the undeath over interpretations of religious texts.

With the quest ending the way it does (in a large empty warehouse in one of the busiest cities in the area), with a poorly-executed rant (I did it last night and already I've forgotten why he did in the first place, but I think it was something about scaring people into being "fearful of the flame" and therefore brought order?), and permanent damage done to the band of Geralt's merry friends, it overall just wasn't entertaining. It could have been done better, in that maybe the vampire needed an extra layer other than "I taught at Oxenfurt, student riots something something" if only to get his motive established better, or even pull an early fast one (formaldehyde is one of the murder tools, the coroner is quite likely to be reeking of it, so why didn't Geralt suspect the coroner at first in some way?), because it seemed contrary to what I perceive a vampire's nature to be. Geralt even noted this somewhat in his own dialogue with the vampire.

I'm pretty sure multiple writers have worked on this game (because holy shit there is so much of everything everywhere) and sometimes some quest lines seem to have had more effort put into them than others. I haven't seen the credits, but my current pet theory is the writers were grouped by region. Velen overall seems to be very strong (Keira Metz' quest in particular was a lot of fun) and had the most work put in, Novigrad seems to be a teensy bit loose (e.g. you meet the King of Beggars who gets hyped up a lot beforehand and... never really see him again - wait, what? Never mind, here comes Triss wearing a hood), while Skellige I've yet to go through (I'm hoping the squabbling for the throne gets interesting).

I love your theory about the writing. Literally just landed on Skellige, so I'm intrigued to see how that goes. I rather the liked a tiny mini-quest you can find by bopping around the sewers: you find a historian digging up a coffin. He asks you to open it for him to find an elven tome. You open the crypt, and there's a sleeping vampire in human form flummoxed to be awoken after hundreds of years. He says close the damn thing and let him sleep. You can choose to leave, but I chose to open it again. He gets royally pissed, turns into monster form, and you kill him. I liked that approach because the vampire felt annoyed with human buillshit and very patronizing. His power felt self-assured rather than this weird, showy, serial killer thing. The regality of old vampires is something that Buffy nailed and I think Twilight ripped away from us for a bit. Hopefully it comes back.

@humanity said:

@kierkegaard: Misogyny is a word that has through attrition of the games media been laundered, washed and dried over and over again to the point of losing all meaning. Violence or sexualization of women does not necessarily define misogyny. A husband that regularly beats his wife every week is a despicable human being but not necessarily a misogynist. I never got the feeling that the high vampire had a deep rooted hatred and disdain for all women. He was insane and most definitely a bigot as vampires tend to be in the Witcher universe due to their lengthy lifespan, but nothing about him seemed to indicate that he especially despised all women. He punished those who broke his holy laws and punished them according to those scriptures.

You seem extremely fixated on the fact that women get hurt in this questline and the tone of violence defines this as a sexist choice to exploit their gender for the sake of a story that you feel doesn't add anything to the overall narrative. You don't think there was any point in hurting Priscilla because it adds nothing to the story. That is the story though. You are experiencing it. I honestly don't understand the criticism in light of the game were talking about. Witcher 3 is an open world experience with hundreds of side quests and a good 95% of them aren't weaved into the main narrative in a significant way. That is the nature of side-quests as they are meant to help frame the world better rather than to paint the picture itself. So many people get hurt in so many unjust ways throughout this adventure that it's perplexing to get hung up on this single questline which I thought was one of the best side stories in the entire game. The nature of the violence in cabaret is dictated by the story and not the other way around.

You have written a lot about this so I know better than to try to change your mind as it is obvious you are very passionate about this particular opinion. Of course this is also a very subjective matter so by no means do I think my viewpoint is the only correct one. I would only say to take a step back and look at the entirety of the game, about it's violence, it's customs and it's inhabitants. This quest is just part of the world narrative. It doesn't have to exist, but neither did a lot of things you probably have done up to that point. After having played it though you are that much richer in an opinion about religion, about Dandelion, about vampires and the way the world works in the Witcher 3 - so it wasn't entirely an empty conceit simply used to exploit and sexualize women.

If you want to say that because we don't see this guy hurting or disrespecting all women he's interacted with in his life he's not a misogynist, that seems illogical, but fine. You said yourself he's a bigot. I think the rich lady's death clearly shows a bigotry toward women, a sexualized violence. She's roped to a bed, naked, on her knees. It's a sexualized death. Without question. Whether an ultimate objective authority (which doesn't exist) could call him a misogynist from that or not, that was a misogynistic act. He singled out a woman for being a woman and treated her very differently from the men he hurt.

Without getting into your strange decision to psychoanalyze me, your reasoning pretends that significance does not extend outside of the story. Tropes against women do exist. Using a woman's pain to justify a narrative arch for a male hero, in this case the loss of a singing voice and a horrific naked body display, is a sexist trope. Pointing that out in no way defines the game as sexist, its creators, or all the storylines. I, just like any critic, am challenging writers to avoid tropes that are lazy, boring, and subtractive to the experience for many players.

My argument, which I'll repeat, is that they information we receive about characters, medicine, religion, and vampires from this quest could have been communicated in a way that showed more respect to characters and themes.

@pezen said:

@kierkegaard said:

The narrative clearly distinguishes the attacks on the women from those on the men through sexualization, with the red herring being a topless woman being burnt and beaten and the final death being a naked woman tied to a bed. It's in there.

You'll have to point out to me how they do that distinction because to my mind the ways and reasons for them being targeted isn't done through any lens of sexualization. Furthermore, I don't quite agree to the logic of letting the red herring color your perception of the actual vampire's attacks. Likewise, the last victim has you interrupting his process so you don't necessarily know if what you find is what you would have found.

Somehow the internet hasn't put transcripts up of his letters (come on internet!), so I'm going off of memory that he gets quite controlling over bodies and sex in those. He doesn't act purely to hurt women, and I'm not arguing that. He's also a racist against the dwarf. He's just a fundamentalist sadist writ large. Sexism and racism often go hand in hand with fundamentalism, and his letters and treatment of the countess showed the sexism part for me. Those letters aren't online right now, so can't dig into the language.

This is not a fundamentalism that relies only on one bigotry for sure. His victims are a dwarf too focused on sex, a singer who mocked beliefs, a lecturer who disagreed with the faith, and a countess who burned books of faith. So, he kills or hurts people who focus on sex, critical art, crtiical intellectualism, and critical political acts. Pretty much covers all of fundamentalism. And the pose of the final victim, done with her or not, is not an accident.

Thing is, that the eternal fire was against all of this was completely obvious already. This brings it home with violence and depravity and open bodies, which just seems unnecessary, especially considering what it loses in story variety and character development based on something other than violence.

It's not cut and dry or only about one thing. The Witcher is generally quite good at avoiding simplicity. I just think the complexity here is rather uninteresting and harmful to the story's treatment of people. The quest itself seems abusive to characters without good purpose.

@cirdain said:
@cagliostro88 said:
@cirdain said:
Here's what I think happened.

Vampires in the Witcher universe are born that way. They are not turned.

Why isn't that in the bestiary? I tried to look it up but couldn't find anything. But now after I've been blabbing for a while I find this "A vampire bite does not turn the bitten creature into a vampire" - http://witcher.wikia.com/wiki/Vampire.

Well thank goodness for that.Unless there was something else in the formaldehyde or Priscilla is already something other than a normal human...

Still though, this game is perfect for the imagination.

I loved reading this exchange and learning about this aspect of the lore! Thanks for the idea and the digging you both did.

#3 Edited by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

@humanity said:

The high vampire is not murdering women because he's a misogynist, but because he's a religious zealot. I think you're attaching a lot of words here that don't necessarily belong in this context. Ultimately, the fact that you got this emotionally invested in the character shows the strength of the writing and the reason for the quest itself. If this quest had Geralt save a random NPC at the end, either male or female, it would lack any sort of emotional punch. Lastly the quest does in fact add to the narrative of the game quite a bit. It shows Dandelion, a womanizer and notorious schemer, finally growing up, giving up his adolescent lifestyle of chasing every other skirt and deeply caring for a single woman. Through this ordeal it is even sweeter that they both get a happy ending, with Priscilla recovering from her wounds and according to Dandelion having an even more beautiful voice than before.

Read the concerned citizen letters. Look at that guys speeches. He is a religious zealot, but that zealotry is defined by bigotry. He's racist against the dwarf and sexist against the women. Their blasphemy is absolutely the root cause, but his misogyny is in the text. I'm not creating it. Nathaniel is without question misogynistic. And that all makes sense in the world--there is an active message that dickweeds are misogynistic or racist in this world. No question. Not seeing this is not an opinion; it's ignoring reality.

@pezen said:

I think you're leaning too heavily on the fact that Pricilla is a woman in that specific scenario and not what she represent to his twisted ideal of Eternal Fire. All of his victims were in one way or another blasphemous. It basically boils down to his victims not accepting his logic of eternal fire's dogma, they are examples he uses to discourage others to stray from the path. Either through lack of faith or character or they simply don't believe and make jest of it, the symbolism of his victims are all there.

And as others have said, I think the use of Pricilla as the victim that starts your investigation just makes it all more personal.

It also helped make the Eternal Fire thing seem like a threat to more people than just mages. As with most extreme ideologies or religous zealots, eventually you run out of scapegoats so you turn to the next thing.

The narrative clearly distinguishes the attacks on the women from those on the men through sexualization, with the red herring being a topless woman being burnt and beaten and the final death being a naked woman tied to a bed. It's in there.

@yi_orange said:

@kierkegaard: I haven't looked up alternate paths(I did the same as you, no chance Triss was leaving my side) for fear of spoilers(I myself am only at the beginning of Skellige due to time constraints), so if that's how it's handled that's better, still maybe a bit far and perhaps a better argument for pointless violence against a woman from my perspective, but that's kind of irrelevant.

I guess I presented my viewpoint to be a bit binary. Of course you can make statements and choose to do things in certain ways for the sake of it without an agenda. The point I was trying to make is that in this specific case, CDPR is not trying to say anything, yes, they chose for the violence to be against women, but I don't think it was for a purpose beyond trying to tell an effective story. I think the choice was not to be against women then narrowed to characters, but just to be against those characters. Again, we don't know what the thought process behind this quest was, whether the Vegelbud character existed first or afterward, etc. Making this dissatifaction with the story or elements of the plot about a greater issue feels fallacious to me.

As for the everything is fucked description, it's a bit simplistic and hyperbolic, but I don't think it's incredibly far off. Specifically referring to the central characters. There are plenty of moments of happiness in the books(I won't get into specifics), but they're in a really shitty situation. After the two collections of short stories it's basically a 5(6 if you count Yennefer as her own party) way search for Ciri between Geralt and co. Emhyr/Nilfgaard and the characters they employ, An extremely powerful mage and his forces, the lodge(who has irons in every fire), and The Wild hunt. Meanwhile there is a war of Nilfgaard(who have enlisted the Scoia'tel which has exacerbated racial tension) vs. the world basically, and Nilfgaard is winning. The world is in a really bad state, made worse by the importance of Ciri. It's natural that misfortune is going to follow everyone involved

That said, an aside about the books, I think they're legitimately really good and well worth reading. There's fan translations of the not yet available books on the CDPR forums that aren't perfect, but good enough. I'd highly recommend them. I'm actually really glad I read them before playing The Witcher 3, they provide a lot of interesting context for things, specifically the relationship between Yennefer and Geralt.

Anyway, it's not so much the world building, but this specific quest I don't think could have played out differently. You could have left it at them opening their cabaret and everything being dandy, but it wouldn't make sense. Dandelion calls a lot of attention to himself and is actually a very famous bard. Priscilla seems to rival his talent. If they want to do anything regarding the Eternal Fire, people are going to take notice. Sure, they could just not...yeah, sure. I guess the only other way for this quest to play out is to not exist. Which I guess is what you want, but it was a good growing moment for Dandelion. I like him, but he's kind of a piece of shit, the end of this quest shows a new side to him. I guess, though, that reprieve you're looking for never lasts long. I mean, first thing when you get to Sekllige you go to that party with Yennefer, and that's fun, but then it's back to business(with a brief interruption for "business" should you so choose). In fact, part of why I may not like the idea of everything being chill with Dandelion is the quests like that felt empty. The quest with Rosa Var Attre felt incomplete. That quest where you have an old lady take in some kids in the woods felt empty. Even the quest after the Gwent tournament was strange. I was like "Nah, I don't wanna have sex with you" and boom, quest over, dialogue done. So maybe for me it was nice to just have a full arc after running into so many side quests that left me more puzzled than satisfied, but I wouldn't change it.

My reprieve is Gwent.

I don't think it matters what they intended. The message is in the art, regardless of artistic intent. To be clear, I am accusing no creator of misogyny or sexism. At all. This quest just makes a sexist choice to harm women and sexualize violence against them to promote narrative that was not additive.

I agree that there was a great fulness to this quest, but I think that fulness could have existed without the serial killer bit. The exact same arc for Dandelion and Priscilla was already being created without the violence. Maybe the first Cabaret show has some hitches and Geralt needs to work with them to make sure it goes smoothly the second time around so Dandelion's dream isn't a failure. There are so so many ways to specifically grow D and P's relationship without hurting her. So many ways.

Dragon Age: Inquisition is profoundly good at having levity or purely non-violent character building to break up the battles and such. It's an important storytelling skill, and I think CDPR balked and worked an honestly kinda boring 1800s London style serial killer beat in.

Just finished the Gwent quest and if you have sex there's a bit more payoff. I'm not playing Geralt as monogamous. That quest also ends in some violence, and it feels a bit rushed, but I like the Bondian intrigue of this group of "rich" card players. Lost by two fucking points in the last round, too. So that sucked. Didn't play Gwent until today, and I really enjoy it. Meaty enough without being overwhelming in the strategy.

@fredchuckdave said:

As far as the quest goes it was a fairly bizarre occurrence but none of it rung false to me at all, other than Priscilla might recover. Hell I liked playing CSI: Novigrad, it even had similar narrative structure. And everyone in CSI who died was a naked woman so it only seems natural that the Witcher would follow suit. There wasn't anything alarmingly misogynistic about it that isn't consistent with the narrative structure of literally every crime drama ever.

Yup, CSI, especially SVU, seems to believe that lots of story of rape and sexual violence will help people understand what can happen in those instances. But I think they fall into glorification and grossness without having much social purpose. That violence against women to promote plot and prove evil is endemic to crime drama is true. That's a problem in crime drama.

@random45 said:

Priscilla isn't disabled at the end. The game explicitly states (If not stated, then definitely implied) that she'll get better. The quest had a pretty uplifting ending, considering the world that they live in.

It totally could have been way worse! It also didn't need to happen at all.

@dudeglove said:

I found it uncomfortable and, even 80 hours into the game, it seemed somewhat out of place (despite the fact there are quests involving a whole bunch of other nastiness like, say, kids being eaten by hags and witches). But maybe that's just me. The pulp fiction-ish confrontation in the tavern bedroom came off kinda shoddy, and I felt like the ending could've maybe been handled better, as putting in a vampire as the culprit seemed like a cop out (especially considering the bestiary hypes higher vampires up to be insanely powerful), though in other quests they underline the point of humans being the real monsters in this world (Whoreson Jr. in particular).

Hey, a co-conspirator! Hello! Didn't think about the evils of man and monsters thing, but it's interesting. They kinda do both, since the vampire says he is a true believer in the eternal fire, but he's also a literal inhuman monster. The problem for me is when you walk down the serial killer route you kinda just have to follow the road signs. It's a well worn story. They tried to change it around with the vampire angle, and it did surprise me, but it ultimately felt flat and unnecessary.

#4 Posted by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

@kierkegaard: I guess I'm just defending it not as a great piece of storytelling or whatever, but as something I don't see an effective alternative for that makes sense. Sure, they could have just left it light, let Dandelion and Priscilla have their thing and whatever, but that's not The Witcher. That would never happen in the books. Personally, I'm glad the quest went as far as it did(in terms of the story it tells, not the graphic violence and such) because siince I got to Novigrad I felt like there were a lot of quests and storylines that felt incomplete, which was kind of a shame to me. This quest didn't leave me with any question marks though.

I don't remember the goat quest too well, I thought it was funny watching Geralt get annoyed at a goat and the bell, but I don't remember having any bond to the goat, but maybe that's just me. As for the Triss scenario, it's things like that that make me question whether choice in games is a good thing or not. I think CDPR has done it better than pretty much everyone, but Geralt is a pretty clearly defined character(I read the books after playing the first two games, but I still might have some bias here. Feel free to correct me if I'm thinking he's less a blank slate than he is). In fact, if you wanted to make this same argument centered around Triss getting tortured then I'd be inclined to agree with you. The fact that that's an option is insane. Geralt would never let that happen. And on that note, I actually appreciate events that you have no control over in games that give you so much choice. I especially think it fits something like The Witcher, where again, everything is fucked.

I guess what this is coming down to for me, is the way I view fiction. I understand that politics are in everything, but I don't think everything is trying to push an agenda. Perhaps its naive, but unless something is clearly trying to push a certain viewpoint, then I just see it as the creator doing what makes sense for the work. We don't know the reasons behind some choices. You could very well be right that they just said "fuck it, people like women, let's hurt some", but I give CDPR a bit more credit than that. Nothing about this quest felt cheap or out of place to me. Again, trying to think of alternatives, I'm not getting anything that's effective and makes sense.

(Of course, if you choose to view The Witcher games as nothing more than fan fiction instead of a faithful, albeit regarded as non-canon by Sapkowski, "continuation" then a lot of what I'm saying goes out the window)

I like generally how they handle Geralt's agency. There's tons of times where a Bethesda or Bioware character would be given a choice, but Geralt just says or does what he thinks is right. He can't murder civilians and he's usually kind to others. He's a clearly defined character and not a blank slate.

In terms of Triss, I don't know for sure but my impression is that you can choose when to say "screw it" to the cover of turning her in, and if you wait too long you have to watch her getting a fingernail removed. I jumped in before the torturer even left with her, so I'm not sure.

I like choice in games. And I like how CDPR makes that choice a bit more constrained while still being interesting. In general, I find the game to be really well written and often thoughtful.

But your use of the word "agenda" is concerning and wrong. You imply that creators either go out to teach people something or they don't. That's not it. Creators either make an argument actively, accidentally, or ignorantly. Thoughtful creators, and CDPR seem to be quite thoughtful, know that they have responsibility in creating stories. For instance, when you meet Elihal and he makes it clear that he is a transvestite that likes women and sometimes wears women clothing, the writers play that scene for understanding, not for laughs. Geralt is surprised but sensitive during it. Clearly, CDPR chose to include a character with diverse tastes and handled it well.

So you're summary of my argument: "You could very well be right that they just said 'fuck it, people like women, let's hurt some,' " --that's unfair. And off base. For me, art has intentionality in that every creator should be thoughtful and do their research and get help when trying to be respectful, but their intentions do not change the possible interpretations.

I hear you saying that you don't see any other way that they could have depicted these ideas and mechanics and world/lore building without doing this. I disagree. I haven't read the books, though at some point I'd like to. But with any adaptation the original work is a separate thing. And I disagree with everyone is unhappy and everything is fucked. It's abundantly clear that there is a lot of empathy and compassion and care felt by many people in this tough world. Maybe the original author made the mistake first, but I think it's weak writing to make sure there are no moments of reprieve or joy or contentment in your story. A one-note tone makes the moments of tragedy and hardship expected and less interesting. Contrast is good. I was just so loving this quotidian story of starting up a Cabaret. Dandelion convincing the lady's husband to let her choreograph (which also shows inherent sexism in the world without killing anyone), winning the race for the halfling--it's an extensive mission is interesting ideas and characters. It could have been a great breather from all the killing.

So although well written and complexly plotted, the serial killer sequence is not additive. It left me feeling bereft about Dandelion and Priscilla rather than joyful, and that feels forced to me. If feels like the shitty version of realism where happiness can't exist because grimness wins. It becomes boring. And wrapping that around tropey depictions of violence against women is also boring and lazy.

I have played this game for the past month and am still not on Skellige. I like it a lot. It pulls me in and has interesting writing and deep systems and thoughtful choices. I just think this was a misstep into well-worn, unnecessary territory.

#5 Posted by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

@kierkegaard: Just a few quick points. The guy with the poker is not the killer so I wouldn't lump his actions in with those of the killer. He is specifically used as a red herring for Geralt.

I know when you're examining the first corpse you can look at the genitals(it's a male dwarf) though I don't remember the state he was in. Also, the only victim you see immediately post-murder is Vegelbud. When investigating the other crime scene it is heavily implied that it was the same sort of scene. You could argue then the ordering of the victims on CDPR's part, but I think that's a bad argument since the final victim was a woman you had previously interacted with.

Which brings me to the rationale behind Priscilla. Witchers are not the police. At the time the quest starts, Geralt has no reason to believe the attack is a vampire. Priscilla not only makes him aware of it(at a time where, at least in the way I've been playing, Geralt is about ready to move on from Novigrad), but it makes it personal for Geralt, and the player. If it was just some schmuck who I beat at Gwent that one time who was killed/attacked it would have just felt like another contract mission. But I cared that it happened to Priscilla.

And finally, if we want to bring real world politics into it(which I don't). I'm no historian, but this kind of treatment of women seems commonplace in medieval fantasy settings, I have to assume that's grounded in something. Also, from what I've seen others say on this board, The Witcher is in some ways analogous to an era in Polish history, so maybe that has something to do with it. I could be completely wrong on this whole section though.

Also, yes, happiness IS scarce and everything IS fucked in the world of The Witcher. I've described the universe as "Everybody sucks and no one's having a good time." That's after having read all the books as well.

You're right that he's a red herring, but his misogynistic actions absolutely combine (and I think are meant to combine) with those of the vampire, creating an overall picture of the misogyny of the stand-in for fundamentalist Christianity.

It's an artistic choice that the only victim you see is a woman in a sexualized position having been brutally tortured and murdered. The dwarf's genitals have syphillis, but are irrelevant. It's a scene meant to disturb the player and make them hate the killer more, which is a lazy sexist trope that uses brutalization of women as a driving force for the male main character's feelings.

Caring about Priscilla is good. Hurting her because we care about her so we can do a quest that, I argue, doesn't add a lot to the world, is not.

And dude. Seriously, real-world politics are endemically in everything. They are not brought in. They are in every story, every piece of art, every decision. Our beliefs, our contexts, our politics are embedded in our choices. Creators of stories and art are inherently making political choices.

CD Project Red decided to have a quest built around a misogynistic pair of religious fundamentalists (who brutalize both men and women, but sexualize the women). I'm responding to that.

And happiness being scarce is a clear choice. But it isn't always the case. For instance, protecting the Pellar's goat endears us to princess without ever having to hurt princess to make us feel it more. The Triss quest lets us choose whether she is tortured or we just kill everyone. I decided there would be no torture. In this case, Priscilla's and our agency is removed so we hate the killer. That's just not an interesting or necessary choice.

#6 Posted by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

I'm wondering about the necessity of hurting Pricilla to start a serial killer questline. I'm going to come at this from three analytical angles: is it additive to the lore, to the game systems, and/or to the representation and treatment of female characters? As you'll see, I'm going to judge whether the first two justify the last one.

Lore

I played the end of the quest twice because the character entry revealed the real killer when I screwed up the first time and I wanted to see the more complex ending. In terms of lore and world building, this quest adds greater understanding of the rather advanced medicine in this world, some insight into academia, the bigotry and brutality of the Eternal Fire, and our first long form encounter with a higher vampire.

Game systems

The quest relies heavily on body autopsy and Witcher senses sleuthing, with just two potential battles. The autopsies are gross but do subtly guide the player to possible culprits. There are some complex dialogue trees and failure of the quest is very possible. I like that it ultimately rewards the player for cool headedness and thorough investigation. Feels very LA Noire.

Treatment of women

So, this quest is not run of the mill. It adds some interesting medical lore and solidifies the E.F. folks as sadistic misogynistic pricks. It dives deep into dialogue and investigation mechanics. That's all well and good.

It's all built around the attack on Pricilla, though. In the end (and I don't know if we get more about this later), it is clear that she will be able to speak and maybe, ("In time" Dandelion says), sing again. They'll perform together with her on lute and him singing.

There's a beautiful introductory scene of Pricilla singing. It's clear that she holds great power in creativity and music. She'll still be able to compose and think, but perhaps not perform in voice.

Now, the writers have developed a character with multiple talents here, so she is at least not completely sidelined, but this quest chooses to hurt and disable her to raise the stakes.

I have to wonder if that's a justified choice. What I loved about Cabaret at the start of the quest is that it is so low key and positive. It's about Dandelion settling down and Pricilla liking him for his growing maturity and Geralt helping a friend find his dream. There's a potential for a moment of pure levity in the game, which could be nice.

By transitioning into the depravity of a religious fundamentalist and his murders through attacking Pricilla for blaspheming on stage, the argument becomes something about how the world is too fucked up for any simple happiness to occur. Moreover, it argues (as the game does repeatedly) that bad people want to harm women to shame them for their actions.

The overarching narrative of misogyny is bad, look at the psychos who are misogynists--that's good. But I disagree with severely limiting an interesting vivacious character to make a point that was already clear in the game.

Unjustified Violence

See, symbolically, rending the vocal chords of a woman and beating her black and blue clearly triggers feelings about real-life abuse and silencing of women. It's an essentially misogynistic act, and both the sadistic priest and the fundamentalist vampire are depicted as misogynistic in dialogue and action. There is no argument in which the game is not directly including misogyny.

The question is does that teach us anything about the world or the characters we didn't already know? Is it additive or subtractive? I feel like it's subtractive. When a guy came into Dandelion's new cabaret and said Pricilla had been attacked, I felt angry at the writers--just let some happiness exist! And while I understand that when this thing happens to a known character the drive to find the person (and kill him for Dandelion) is amplified, it feels cheap and unnecessary to me.

In the noon and nightwraiths, in the story of Anna Strenger, in the potential torture of Triss, in whoreson's hideout, in plenty of places violence against women is shown to be a clear evil that breeds evil in the world. There's an indulgence in it that disturbs me. Later in the quest you find the last dead victim, a woman who burned the religious books in protest, and she's naked, posed on a bed, with ropes holding her up. Clearly the vampire is connecting her sin to her sexuality. It's a deeply disturbing set up and I chose to run out of there rather than investigate all the glowy things. A woman is also found topless, struggling, bound and gagged with a hot poker at her throat, in need of saving. The male victims, meanwhile, are brutalized but their sexuality is not involved.

When choosing to hurt women in a story, I think it's good to consider if that's necessary and additive. In this case, the lore we get could be achieved in many ways without hurting Pricilla. We basically already knew the religious nuttery and the medical world could have been entered in other ways. Meanwhile, the dialogue and investigation mechanics were actually well fleshed out in this quest before the violence started.

The violent turn feels more like padding with violence and monsters and well-worn themes than it does a thoughtful decision. Pricilla becoming a disabled victim to justify all of this was a mistaken choice.

Well, that's what I think. What did you all think of this quest? Let's try to keep it to just this quest so as to avoid a cluster fuck around the game's depiction of women as a whole.

#7 Posted by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

@austin_walker I'm just at the representation part of this interview, but I have to say you and Barlow did a beautiful job approaching the choice to diversify characters.

First of all, thank you for asking the question so elegantly, Austin. Asking a creator what goes into choosing to write a female protagonist when they are a white male is not an easy task, and many do not want that question asked, so thank you for stepping up and asking it. I love that you've brought a personal honesty and bravery to the crew. You do not hide from important ideas and questions. That matters. It's what an academic should be, and you should be proud.

Barlow, meanwhile, gave such a wonderful answer. I love how he expressed both the personal need to write outside of himself and the need to do so carefully and with input from those who know more. It's so hard, sometimes, to admit that one needs help to make sure a creation is fair and just and realistic. Speaking to that is important for both creators and consumers to hear. And then launching into a poignant personal story of a woman in his life--just brilliant.

I'm almost making this sound calculated, but it isn't. This is what sincerity and empathy in creating art and journalism look like. It takes more effort and thought than following the status quo--in both fields--and deserves praise. Bravo.

#8 Posted by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

Hi everybody. Representation of real and fictional people of different backgrounds, genders, ethnicities, body shapes, ages, and sexual orientations matter. If you disagree with this premise, stop reading. This is not a thread about arguing that premise. Instead, with a focus on narrative and gameplay only in so much as it touches on character, here's where I'll build a comprehensive review of E3 press conferences based on diversity. I'll start by posting the game analysis, and then go back and watch for the people. So look for that section to be empty for now.

If you wish to join me in this, add your observations from conferences I haven't seen and I'll add them in the original post. The point isn't quotas. The point is being aware of representation. The message a company sends when they create diversity in their games and have diversity in their staff is one of inclusion and progress. It's important to look into that. I'm going to do all I can to not skew this analysis. But if I mess up, let me know.

Bethesda

People (unfinished):

GenderRaceAgeBody shape
WomanPerson of ColorYoung 20-35Thin and fit
ManWhiteOlder 40-90More skinny or fat

Newly announced or shown games

Game nameRace of player characterGenderAgeBody shape
DoomUnknownUnknownUnknownMuscled, large, suited
BattlecryVarious, including fantasyMen/womenMostly youngMostly thin
Dishonored 2WhiteWoman (shown) and ManYoung, OlderThin and stealthy, unshown
Fallout 4White (shown), various possibleMan (shown), womanYoung (shown), variousFit

Microsoft

People (unfinished)

GenderRaceAgeBody shape
WomanPerson of ColorYoung 20-35Thin and fit
ManWhiteOlder 40-90More skinny or fat

Newly announced or shown for real (like first gameplay) games

Game nameRace of player characterGenderAgeBody shape
Halo 5BlackManYoungMuscled, in a suit
RecoreLight skinned, maskedWomanYoungThin
GiganticOnly known human is brown skinnedWoman, unknownYoungThin in large coat
CupheadCartoon thingyUnknownFilled with tudeMickey mouse
TacomaUnknownWomanUnknownUnknown
AshenFeatureless, light skinnedMan and woman teamFeaturelessFit, thin
Beyond EyesWhiteGirlChildThin
IonSkinless?Looks like a manFetusyFetusy
Rise of the Tomb RaiderWhiteWomanYoungFit
Sea of ThievesChosen, multiple shownChosen, man controlledYoungSkinny, fit
Fable Legends (not new)White, dark skinnedWomen, two of them!YoungThin
Gears 4White (possible co-op partner appears multi racialMan (possible co-op is woman)YoungFit, skinny

Thoughts on these two:

Bethesda has good diversity in Battlecry, which few people care about, and introducing and leading with a female character in Dishonored is a move forward. That said, in both Dishonored and Fallout, the potential diversity was undermined. In the first, still being able to play as Corvo means the game either has two distinct stories or its story is gender blind. Fallout had the amazing moment of Todd Howard creating an aging black dude only to revert to boring as fuck young white guy for the demo. It was really surreal.

Microsoft showed a pretty diverse pallet with lots of women (7/9 in games without character customization), but fewer people of color. The only skin-showing human being dark skinned in Gigantic is notable. Gears 4's protagonist is the most boring white dude ever. At least Marcus had a bandana? Overall, really strong gender diversity.

More to come later.

#9 Edited by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

Thanks for including the poll I made to avoid grading!

#10 Edited by Kierkegaard (677 posts) -

The problem is the machinations and middle-road aiming seemingly required to win mean that the winner needs to at least fake centrism to win. That fucking sucks. Issues like Climate Change, Gay Rights, Teacher Unions, College Loans, Infrastructure spending, Defense Spending, Privacy and Security Laws, Equal opportunity and pay, and Healthcare don't really have a center. They have, to be a blunt pedantic dick, right and wrong. Right is the government acting as a caring safeguard that makes sure people have all the freedom they deserve rather than corporations who have already destroyed nature to a point beyond recovery and fought all reforms that cut their pay. Wrong is protecting the status quo out of a false equivalence between tradition and morals.

Rant off, I get why people get frustrated. It sucks. It sucks voting for Obama who did a lot right, but was kneecapped at every turn by cowards and blowhards looking to win the next election instead of help the country. It sucks that Obama, fearing a repeat Bush policy of American World Policing, took a bullshit half-measure of death drones without any oversight.

It sucks that one party still holds to a line that will literally kill millions of people--denying climate change. Seriously. I want there to be a sharing of ideas and compromise here, but that shit makes voting Republican an act of self-destruction. I mean, the front runner: When asked if he believed that global warming was primarily man-made, Bush claimed, "I'm a skeptic. I'm not a scientist." (ontheissues.com)

It should be that Democrats are the kindly uncle that sometimes overspends or shakes the hand of the angry guy down the street, making him more angry. It should be that Republicans are the cost-saving grandpa who sometimes spends too little and creates too many F15s. Whatever, the metaphor broke. The point is, the parties should both be viable. Right now, they are not.

When it's a choice between drones, debt, compromise or arma-fucking-geddon. Yeah, I'll vote Democrat. Until that changes, it's a goddamn moral obligation.