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.'
'Everything is already about you.'
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'?
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.