On the Witcher 3, culture, and representation

With a title like this, this could be just another one of these click-bait articles and threads that you've probably browsed enough of for this week. I'll do my best to offer something more on the issue, my own perspective, hence why this is a pretty personal blog post rather than an entry on some thread.

The Witcher 3 is, for me, a truly unique game. A game that holds me for hours at a time, devouring the fantastic world and lore. But it feels different from other world class fantasy games. I could not quite tell what it was, but I was sure that it didn't have to do just with the great environments, lighting, and the thrill of taking down a griffin mid-flight. Often times while playing it I find myself smirking at the humor, and opening my mouth in an honest giggle; something which is very rarely the case while playing other games. I could not fully grasp what made me it so special, until I was given a prod (well, more of a shove) by a blog post shared in this thread. It all finally clicked, and I realized what it was:

The Witcher 3; no, Wiedźmin 3 is the first game that makes me feel represented.

At this point many of you might seem confused. To a certain extent, I was too. This makes little sense. I am white, I am male, I am straight, I am 20; all of the boxes are checked. 90% or so of games are being made for me, tailored specifically to my liking, exclusively for my demographic, or so I'm told. Celebrimbor is white, John 'Soap' MacTavish is male, Commander Shepard is straight. The notion that I am underrepresented is not warranted.

And then, I saw on the list a box that has never been ticked. The ink has almost crumbled away and the dust has covered some of the letters, but for the first time, I put a check mark next to it.

"I am Polish."

It all clicked. I finally realized what that gut feeling was. See, Vesemir's face? It kinda reminds me of my grandpa, with the nose and all that. The main menu music sounds pleasantly reminiscent of festivals I have attended, with the female moans and all. That little kid chanting about how 'cesarz Emhyr narobił w gacie' (Emhyr shat his pants) brings my little rascal of a cousin to mind. The painted flowers on the walls of the inn? I have ones just like that on the curtains in my summer house, in Kaszuby. They're all around the town, with the blue and red petals and everything. And referring to Vodka as 'Wódeczka'? Well, that's just every party I've attended, every wedding I've been to.

You see, the Witcher 3 isn't 'a third person action fantasy role playing game'. It doesn't 'have a medieval setting with references to Slavic mythology'. It doesn't 'borrow from eastern european folklore'. Wiedźmin 3 is a Polish game, about Polish culture.

So, upon the release of the game, while reading numerous threads, blog posts, articles, and reviews, I sometimes felt something which I have never felt when reading game coverage: I felt insulted.

'Everyone is white, why don't they just throw in a few people of color in there, it would make everyone feel more represented.'

'The developers included an English translation, so I see no reason why the writers wouldn't change the world by adding non-white characters. They didn't choose to make the dialogue exclusively Polish, they've already sacrificed integrity, why not make marginalized groups more represented.'

[sic]'We’re part of an industry that frequently tells the stories of white people and stars white people. (...) Thus, wanting more people of color in stories that focus on mythology for a predominantly white culture doesn’t work the other way. Wanting white people in spaces dedicated to people of color ignores that stories of white people already dominate this and other creative industries. It’s "What about me?" when everything is already about you.'

'Stories of white people.'

'White culture'.

'Everything is already about you.'

Is it?

What about stories of Polish people?

What about Polish culture?

Is it really all about us?

Are we really that widely represented?

Is Polish culture just a subset of 'white culture'?

Are Polish stories just 'white stories'?

No.

We have our own traditions, mythology, folklore, history, and culture. As shocking as it may seem, there are actually elements of the Witcher 3 which will go unnoticed by Swedes, Germans, Norwegians, the French, the Dutch, or the Americans; even though they are all, more often than not, white. The reason for it is simple:

Skin color does not define culture.

After reading some of the Witcher 3 coverage I am under the impression that many people have this misguided notion that culture and tradition is skin deep. That the desire to be represented should be satisfied by the player character having pigment of a tone similar to yours. That the developers of CD Projekt are somehow obligated to combat the oversaturation of white player characters, because [sic] 'We’re part of an industry that frequently tells the stories of white people and stars white people.'

As a Pole, I am basically told that all of my desires of representation are already satisfied by the skin color of major video game protagonists. Call of Duty protagonists are white, what's all the fuss about? There's tons of games with white people! We don't need another one of these!

Well, I do.

It's one thing to call for representation, and it's one thing to criticize; both of those I'm all for. I would love to play more games telling stories of Indians, Brazilians, Italians, Ethiopians, Egiptians, Arabs, trans people, gays, lesbians, minorities; if you have a story to tell, I think you should be able to tell it.

But don't tell me that the story of Poles has been told, that's it's all about me, because I can play a white guy in a shooter. Don't tell me I don't need this, don't tell me that the story has been told without proper consideration of your people, don't tell me it should be changed because it doesn't fit diversity quotas.

Because that's insulting.

The Witcher 3 is not 'another one of those white stories'. It's a Polish story, arguably the best in the whole medium, one that I'm glad I can experience.

Now forgive me, I have some drowners to scorch.

120 Comments

I just don't get Blizzard's card design

(This is kind of a repost since the original editing was all fu***d up but I think I've managed to make it look... readable.)

So, the newest Blackrock cards have been revealed. Some of them are good, many of them are fun. But one of them... caught my eye, to say the least, and not in a good way. And, having had thoughts about the design for new cards for a while, I wanted to share my thoughts.

Basically, cards and, by extension, decks in Hearthstone can be divided into two distinct categories: value and tempo. Value cards are meant to increase your card advantage and deal with multiple threats or solve multiple problems at the same time. Decks which capitalize on value are called control decks because they do just that: they are reactive rather than proactive; they respond to the opponent's plays and attempt to maximize their card advantage. These decks prefer to play the long game as this means being able to play your expensive but high value cards and have more options to seal a safe win.

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Tempo refers to the ability to put pressure on your opponent or to significantly increase your board presence. Tempo decks are usually very aggressive - 'aggro' -and rely on flooding the board and simply having too much stuff too fast for your opponent to deal with, sacrificing value and card advantage for speed. They benefit from the game being relatively short because they run out of steam quickly and do not want the other deck to draw appropriate answers and play high value cards.

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Tempo and value cards have their weaknesses and strengths, and aggro and control decks both have their place in the world of Hearthstone. It's therefore understandable that Blizzard would make make new cards which are very strong for both types of decks.

However, this hasn't really been the case.

You see, when it comes to expansions Blizzard has a history of attempting to make value cards, but for some reason they seem to rarely want to take risks of making a really, really good and efficient value card. These cards all suffer from the same problems: they are too expensive, too situational, or have poor survivabilty when they are minions.

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See? Cards like these have promising abilites which would be very interesting for the game as a whole, abilites which are one of a kind. But somehow Blizzard just doesn't want people to play with them. They simply fear that they would be overpowered, that control decks would be too efficient.

And I guess that would be a justification... if they were equally wary to release strong tempo cards in their new expansions. And by strong, I mean ridiculous. But, while control decks get their Hemets, tempo decks get these...

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Undertaker is a one mana minion which, when put in the right deck, can consistently grow by +1/+1 or more each turn; and, by turn 3 the game is pretty much over if you don't have perfect answers. Goblin Blastmage is a ridiculous tempo play, has great offensive stats and removes your opponent's last line of defense. Having two Mechwarpers in a mech deck in your opening hand pretty much seals the game before the second turn passes.

So the current metagame is extremely aggresive, and control decks often times can only cross their fingers when queing against a mech mage or a hunter, and pray they don't get a ridiculous starting hand. There has been quiet hope that Blackrock changes things, that we will see actual value cards that are defensive and consistently amazing. Cards which, mind you, we know Blizzard can make:

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We have these great cards, we love them, only we want more. Cards that are efficient, cards that provide options, cards that expand the way the game is played.

I'm sure that Blizzard has heard their community, that Blackrock will deliver on this front, let's just wait and see, wait! we have the first legendary of the expansion...

what
what

Okay, guys, maybe it's not that bad, maybe the next cards released will be like Rend's pet Dragons which can like be played for free when you polay Rend? so that's why you want to hold a dragon with him? anyway, they have still a few cards to show, there's still hope, at least they won't be doing anything stupid like giving cancer hunters more direct damage and draw amirite

what
what

I'm done

36 Comments

I think my PS3 died on me

I was playing Dark Souls yesterday. It was late afternoon, I was doing pretty good when suddenly BAM my PS3 turned off. I tried turning it on again but instead a yellow light flashed and 3 high-pitched beeps followed.
 
After a quick internet search it turned out to be the infamous yellow light of death. I successfully managed to get the hairdryer trick working, but after 5 minutes of playing my console turned off again; I was still able to restart it but it quickly became obvious that this problem isn't exactly temporary.
 
I mailed Sony support but have yet to receive an answer. So I turn to you guys: what's your advice? Is there a way to save my PS3, or am I doomed to get a new one? Will Sony be willing to repair/replace it? It sure sucks to have my PS3 dead with Uncharted 3 around the corner, but what pains me the most is the fact that I can't play Dark Souls anymore...

10 Comments

I feel like I'm losing direction

Okay. I've been playing Dark Souls for three weeks now, and it's been a blast - the game is punishing, but rewarding, offers no hand holding, etc. It features an immersive online system, blah blah blah. 
 
But you guys already know all that. The thing is, I feel a bit lost and underpowered.
 
Don't get me wrong, I do know where to go and which bosses to beat. I am currently trying to beat Seath, have ventured pretty far into the catacombs and have beaten the lava centipede. I'm also considering beating Sif in the near future.
 
The thing is, I feel like I'm underpowered for my level, and can't figure out what to equip/buy/level up to deal decent damage. I have lvl 83, and am focusing on magic and dexterity - I have 37 and 38 points in dexterity and intelligence, respectively. I'm using a +3 lighting Uchigatana, a +5 enchanted Uchigatana, and occasionally the lifehunt scythe and the furysword. I've lately switched from the gold-hemmed armor to the Ornstein set, sacrificing my fast roll in the process. I use 3 spells: souls spear, homing soul arrows and the strong magic shield.
 
I just feel like I'm not doing enough damage. All the dex scaling weapons feel like they barely tickle the opponent. From what I've experienced so far, dex scaling weapons are a joke in this game. The enchated Uchi feels alright-ish, but considering that I won't be able to upgrade it more I feel a little disappointed. 
 
I guess my general question is: what am I doing wrong? I know that the game gives me a hard time, since I've heard of people who have beaten the game on ~40 lvl (I am also 60 hours into the game). Am I missing some incredibly powerful spell? Should I find a better catalyst? And in what way can I use my high dexterity, since it's been pretty much useless so far?
 
Thanks a lot for all the advice.

5 Comments

I just gained 663214 souls

Hey everyone, I just wanted to say that I invaded a world while being in the forest hunter covenant and there were already two dudes fighting, the black phantom backstabbed the host 3 times and I received 663214 souls.
 
For the record I'm level 61 and to gain a level I need about 20000 souls... so yeah, that will probably be about 20 levels or so.
 
But for the sheer sake of discussion... what was the biggest number of souls you received at one time?
 
Cheers :)

4 Comments

I just met the funniest MK opponent ever.

After I moved my PS3 to my room from my brother's room (bro has exams and has to learn physics and shit) I had quite I finally was able to step my MK game up a bit. I was getting a little bored with Scorpion so I decided to check Cyber Sub-zero out yesterday. I love his moves and his combos are not that hard to pull off. Anyways...
 
I was getting into a match a few hours ago and my opponent picked Sub-zero. He turned out to be the turtling type, so I must admit I had a bit of trouble getting through, but after a few rounds I managed to rip him apart with some overheads when he was crouching and sweeps when he was standing.
 
I got a bit bored with Cyber sub so I decided to pick Scorpino (this is both the best and funniest typo ever). He changed his character to Baraka. As he proceeded to stand in a corner and block (with Baraka, lol), I just spammed hellfire whenever he was turtling. 
 
I then picked Cyber sub again, and he went with smoke. I managed to get him trapped in a corner and made a combo which consists of 6 kicks, every other of which is an overhead. He fell for it again and again, and after a few easy rounds I received a message saying:


"u nub stop beighim gayboy,using the same fing move"

 I chuckled a bit inside and sent him a message saying "you knew that I only used a single attack, yet you still fell for it and died".
 
He then replied

"yh cuz u cnt blk against it - by the time im bck up on my feet u do the move again fag"

I sent him a message asking "you do know that some attacks have to be blocked standing right?".
 
He then quit the lobby. But it only started getting interesting from there...
 
 
After a few minutes I received a message asking for a rematch. I picked Scorpion again, he went with Sub zero, the map's loading. Punching in some random code combination as usual.
 
 
But when the match started... something interesting occured.
 
It turned out that I activated a code taking away half of my health bar.  I honestly don't know how it happened, but even in spite of less hit points I managed to defeat him with ease. We then played another match - this time with full health bars - and I managed to kill him easily with a lot of spear (the kind that you have to block immediately after standing up or you'll get hit). He then sent me a message "still doin it". 
 
He then asked me to change to a random character. I randomed stryker, whose moves are pretty familiar to me, and defeated him without taking too much damage. 
 
 
My brother then came into the room.
 
I explained the situation to him, and he asked me to let him try to defeat my opponent. Incidentally we just received a message saying "no s moves".
 
 
Yeah, you guessed it. My brother killed him even without the S moves.
 
 
We then played some more rounds but he still wasn't able to win.
 
 
He finally got tired and quit the lobby.
 
And right now I received a message asking:
 

u got blk ops?

 

:,-]

11 Comments

Sony, I am disappoint

I was really optimistic during the whole PSN outage crisis, as I was sure Sony would handle the situation properly. Except for Mortal Kombat I had no real games I wanted to desprerately try out online, and even in MK's case I had my bro to play with.


But I must admit, I feel like Sony has shown me the middle finger when I saw the games included in the welcome back package.


The first thing that bugs me is the fact that they gave us such a small variety. I would be satisifed with two games if I had a sufficient lineup of titles to choose from; I expected to see at least Flower and flOw to make it to the list, maybe also Trine or one of the Pixel Junk games. You know, one of these classic games which are good downloadable titles, and the fact that they are pretty old means they weren't going to bring much more profit anyway.


Instead we were offered: an almost two year old game whose replayability is greatly minimalized if you bought its sequel (which sold in pretty big numbers, mind you), a bad-to-mediocre dual joystick shooter, the worst Ratchet and Clank installment on the PS3, a very good action-adventure game and a very good racing game.


Come on, seriously?


I already have LBP and inFamous. I could bear it if they were some niche titles, but I think it's pretty safe to say that these games are among the best known PS3 exclusives, and many people own at least one of them (or LBP2, which is just better LBP). But alright Sony, you wanted to give the guy who only has one a chance to get the other. I kinda get it.


But your next move, Sony, I really don't understand.


You decided to give us a dual joystick shooter which isn't even that good, and a platformer whose two sequels are vastly superior.


From what I've heard, Tools of Destruction and Crack in Time are both incredible platformers. I would love to try any of them out, and the fact that they decided to give us Quest for Booty instead really disappoints me. If they really cared for earning our trust back,  we would be given ToD or CiT, but Sony somehow decided it's better to choose their inferior prequel instead. I don't buy that for a minute.

You can do better than that, Sony.

3 Comments

I did it!

After a long and difficult journey, I've finally made it into the platinum league!
 
I've been in my gold division for about half a year (yep, pretty long), but after every game I've felt like I'd learned something (that is, if the game hasn't been a complete disaster). I've polished my builds and mechanics and I'm hope I'm ready for more challenging games. 

Also, I've finally given myself the excuse to write my first blog post; I wanted it to be something relevant. 
 
So, during this week's tournament I'll no longer be a gold leaguer :)
 
(Note: If this seems like boasting to you, you're right. This is my blog dammit, I can do whatever I want :))

24 Comments