The Witcher 3: modern family

, | Game diaries

Since this game diary will progress alongside my playing time with The Witcher 3, I should warn you there will be spoilers. Never before the jump. I’d hate to ruin anything for the casual skimmer of Quarter to Three who hasn’t played The Witcher 3 yet. But anything after the jump is fair game. I wouldn’t recommend going there unless you’ve made progress in the game yourself.

After the jump, Ciri has two daddies

The Witcher 3 opens with a family scene. How do a little girl’s parents react when she hasn’t done her homework? It’s a conventional domestic scene. Except that it’s two men. They could be a gay couple. They’re not, but they could be. That seems to be the model. Will Geralt play good cop (mom) or bad cop (dad) to Vesemir’s paternal scolding? They seem very loving. These guys would do well with an adopted child. Which it turns out is what Ciri is. I was a bit nonplussed to discover she wasn’t actually Geralt’s daughter, because in videogame language, she’s a dead ringer for him. How many little girls have white hair? Instead, she is the biological daughter of Emperor Charles Dance! Plus she’s some sort of ultimate witcher, in both senses of the word “ultimate”. And she’s got a mystical link to something called The Source. If that’s not enough, the Wild Hunt — basically a whole mess of ice Nazguls with ice elemental wolfs and a permanent Cast Winter aura in a 100 meter radius — are tracking her down. Ciri is at once daughter, princess, supreme badass, messiah, and McGuffin. That’s a lot to put on one little girl’s shoulders. She can’t be more than eight years old.

Well, she can’t have been more than eight years old when the game introduced her. But The Witcher 3 quietly fast forwarded. Like Geralt, I was taken aback to to see a picture of Ciri as she looks during the game’s current time period. Of course she’s grown up. That’s what happens to children. It was an even bigger reveal when a conversation with the Bloody Baron turned out to be not just a conversation, but a flashback. A playable flashback. Daughter, princess, supreme badass, messiah, McGuffin, playable character. A brief but astonishing sequence, like playing the Little Sister in Bioshock 2. Just enough to establish what Ciri has become. Just enough to emphasize the same independence and competence she exhibited when she was a little girl. Just enough to reiterate the theme of parenting, which opened the game and is mirrored in Ciri’s protectiveness towards Gretka. And which is also playing out in stark contrast with the Bloody Baron. I didn’t expect a Witcher game to invoke the idea of same sex parents. I didn’t expect a Witcher game to spin out a morally complex and uncomfortable tale of domestic abuse subversive enough to make the abuser likable. I didn’t expect a Witcher game to once again give lie to the ridiculously outdated notion that videogames don’t have strong female characters. I didn’t expect a Witcher game to, well, be a Witcher game.

But that’s what happens when you’re away from Witcher games for five years. You forget how grown up they are.

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