I have to say that as a fan of the Witcher games, the casual sexism that leaks into them has always seemed really peculiar. A series of RPGs developed by CD Projekt Red, they’re based on a Polish fantasy novel series of the same name by author Andrzej Sapkowski, featuring a lot of the same characters as those who appear in the novels. It stars Geralt, a monster hunter who is also a mutant, with cat eyes and snow white hair, he is representative of a certain stereotype of masculine empowerment fantasy, though he also gets some decent writing in the games. That said, the sexism can be hard to get away from.
In the first game, it wasn’t even peculiar, it was incredibly puerile, with trading cards rewarded for every female character that Geralt pursued romantically, and while the 2nd game does do away with the trading cards, Geralt can have sex with multiple characters, and the game presents a few scenes which are sort of juvenile in their titillation, such as a scene where female characters are placed in a fetishized position of sexual interaction which is the butt of a joke for another character.
It’s strange that, despite the sort of glaring sexism of these games, that we still saw the 2nd game (which is a great game on its own) included in a gift basket to President Obama from the Polish government.
I think it’s important to establish that this is not a sex-negative post. I’m a firm believer in sex-positivity. However, I personally found that the Witcher games are, for the most part, more exploitative in their sexual politics than progressive, which is always saddening in a world where mature, progressive sexual representation is sorely needed. Instead, the game falls into the sort of tired and typical fare of femme fatales inexplicably attracted to a hyper masculine figure of Geralt, and the third game, coming out on May 18th, seems to have largely stuck to the same mold, though there is some implication of polyamory possible, which could be interesting or very juvenile in its approach.
There’s also issues of homophobia present in the game, where a lesbian couple is presented as a source of highly fetishized BDSM titillation, while the only gay male couple in the game is demonized and the character in question is keeping his lover as a sex slave. To add insult to injury, he’s killed via castration, which is a very sexually violent action that is unrivaled anywhere else in the game.
I’d like to see more representation of sex as a part of the human experience in strong, character driven games, but I’d really prefer it if they could avoid falling into the traps of stereotyping and ugly homophobia. While the Witcher and its sequel don’t do much to alleviate this, we can only hope that their sequel does better in the coming days.