CD Projekt Red released its new action role-playing game, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, on May 19. The game garnered universal critical acclaim, receiving Metacritic scores of 92, 92, and 93/100 for its PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One releases, respectively. However, The Witcher 3 has become the latest installment in a dialogue concerning gender representation in video games.
On Sunday, May 31, cultural critic Anita Sarkeesian, founder and host of YouTube series Feminist Frequency, tweeted concerns about the insults that The Witcher 3 female character Ciri receives from in-game adversaries.
Also the "it's realistic for enemies to sexually harass female characters” excuse is nonsense in fantasy games filled with ghouls & wraiths.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) May 31, 2015
Forbes contributor Erik Kain responded to these critiques in a piece published that same day. Kain stated that “the fictional universe of The Witcher 3 is one of deep gender inequality. It would be downright stupid and dishonest of CD Projekt Red to not include this reality in its fiction, simply to make a certain small segment of the population sign off on it has [sic] wholly politically correct.”
Comparing the criticism that met both gendered insults of Ciri and the depiction of rape in HBO’s Game of Thrones, Kain said that “fiction is supposed to highlight real world issues. Rape is a real world issue. Sexism is something women actually confront in their jobs, at home. Why is it off limits to actually address that with fantasy fiction?”
In an update published Monday, June 1, he stated that “it seems to me that people like Sarkeesian would like to gloss over all the horrible things that have happened to women in the past, and so in a piece of fantasy fiction like The Witcher 3, we should have a Utopian world of gender equality and politically correct bandits.”
While Sarkeesian criticized the representation of women in The Witcher 3, her co-writer and producer, Jonathan McIntosh, was critical of the developers’ portrayal of men, particularly protagonist Geralt.
Anger and rage are the only real emotional expressions male game protagonists are allowed. Needless to say that's a toxic message for men.
— Jonathan McIntosh (@radicalbytes) May 31, 2015
Kain also responded to these critiques. Expressing doubt over whether McIntosh “actually played these games, or is just watching the trailers,” he stated that Geralt is “incapable of crying because of his mutations, and sterile for the same reason.” Addressing the accusation from McIntosh that Geralt only displays aggressive behavior promoting an idea of toxic masculinity, Kain said that the character “rarely displays either rage or anger. Far more often he displays a wry sense of humor.”
Follow Rob Shimshock on Twitter @Xylyntial.