Over at Falling Awkwardly, Kateri goes through the arduous task of collecting all of the sex cards in The Witcher.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, The Witcher is an RPG, based on a series of Polish novels, that (amongst other things) allows you to sleep with various female NPCs you encounter. For each women you do this with, you are rewarded with a softcore porn-y “card”, displayed on screen at the time of the event, and also added to a menu somewhere in case you want to pursue it at a later date. This is something that’s been rightly derided in the past (and does not, AFAIK, feature in the game’s sequels), and will be derided in the future, and Kateri does a good job of taking you through each and every card just in case you really, really feel the need to subject yourself to the cringe-inducing awkwardness. (Personally, I slept with Triss early on in the game, however the appearance of the “sex card” afterwards was such a turnoff that I never pursued any subsequent opportunity because oh Jesus really?)
I do feel, however, obliged to point out one thing Kateri glosses over a little bit, and it’s one thing which I think flips The Witcher‘s sex-narrative… if not on its head, exactly, then at least… sheds a new, and somewhat subversive, light on it.
The question is this: Why do so many goddamn women throw themselves at Geralt’s feet? Graphics and personality aside,1 most people gloss over the question because, well. He’s the protagonist, right? So of course he gets all the chicks, because… protagonist! Something something male power fantasy something something.
Well, yes. But also… no.
See, here’s the thing about Geralt. As the game’s title suggests, he’s a Witcher, which is kind of a magical, monster-hunting “mutant”. Asides from various monster slaying powers, there are two main side effects of being a Witcher. They are:
- Witchers don’t get2 “human” diseases or illnesses, and
- Witchers are infertile.
… Yeah. You ladies out there know where I’m going with this, don’t you? Because you are, say, a human lady in a pseudo-medieval fantasy world. Maybe you want to have some guilt-free sexy funtimes but there are consequences of that, in this pre-Pill-pre-condom time, you’d rather not deal with. And then, suddenly, along comes this large, not-too-bad-looking guy with an exciting job and a cool scar, who’s also not a complete jerkass,3 can’t get you pregnant, won’t give you the clap, and is only going to be in town for a few days.
So, ladies. What do you do? What. Do. You. Do?
And this is what I mean about a “subversive light”. Because, yeah. I’m not going to pretend this game isn’t problematic at best or outright gross at worse, but I think a lot of the criticism of its “card mechanics” comes from people who are so used to discounting the perspective of female sexual agency in the face of a male protagonist, that they kind of just… miss the fact that, actually, Geralt’s tendency to moonlight as a gigolo for the horny women of Vizima does convey some benefit for his “clients”, too.
Whether or not the developers intended it to be this way is debatable. From memory, the issue is brought up a few times in dialogue, so they would seem to’ve been aware of it. But, then… the cards, man. Just… the cards.
So. Yeah. The Witcher. Not perfect, but… more interesting in some respects than it would seem on the surface. Go figure.
- Mid-noughties graphics notwithstanding, Geralt is supposed to be somewhat attractive, in a ruggedly “feral”/inhuman sort of way. ^
- Actually, they’re highly immune to, for you nitpickers out there. ^
- Some of this is variable with player input, but, in the game at least, Geralt has a non-zero amount of ambient text–i.e. the text he says without player direction–wherein he extols the virtues of women, particularly those women in positions of power, and denigrates sexism in other men he encounters. It’s… interesting, to say the least. ^