How Historically Accurate is The Witcher?

After five installments discussing historical exactitude of Skyrim, a few recommendations were placed before me. The calls for an investigation of the Witcherseries have me particularly intrigued. I’ve never played The Witcher, or its sequel, and with all the buzz around the third game it seemed like a good time to get involved.

For those finding my How Historical blogs for the first time, a little pretext before we get going. This blog will not set out to prove that The Witcher is actually entirely historically accurate. I’m not so unhinged that I think that a game centred on a monster hunter is grounded in reality. No, the aim here is to highlight the pieces of the game that are inspired by History and Mythology, and observe just how far the game has leant away from those origins.

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Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number Two

A dinner party doesn’t have to be a formal affair. There’s no reason why every guest should arrive in formal wear, or point the pinky finger when they sip drinks, or speak in a clipped ‘Queen’s English’ around the dinner table. You want your guests to behave, but they don’t have to be so prim and proper.

Let’s be honest, if I was hosting an entirely formal dinner party, most videogame characters wouldn’t get an invite. As loveable and iconic as so many virtual characters tend to be, most of them are ‘rough around the edges’. Minecraft Steve eats food by violently ramming it into the centre of his face. I adore Raziel from Soul Reaver but his diet consists mainly of human souls; his eating habits would put the other guests off their food. Most characters lack the ability to actually sit down, which would make an evening meal quite uncomfortable.

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Should open world games rethink how they tell stories?

We’ve all observed stories that use the ‘x days later’ device. A linear narrative can avoid weeks, months and years of bunkum by jumping to the next interesting bit. It’s a trick which allows the storyteller to stick to the good bits, providing it is used effectively. It’s a trick we can all accept and appreciate.

Now imagine you were reading a book or watching a film where the inverse happened. Instead of moving time forward ‘x weeks’ into the future, the story instead took a detour which lasted for days or weeks, only to return to the main story as if no time had passed. In most cases, we would find that very odd and a little jarring (unless it’s a dream-sequence or a peculiar plot twist). Yet open world games let this happen all the time.

Videogames can be rigidly linear in gameplay and story, or completely non-linear in either area. In many games story can be absent entirely, but sometimes I feel that the combination of linear story-telling and non-linear gameplay feels unwieldy. We as gamers are meant to follow a pattern of close-knit events whilst simultaneously spending hours on exploration and random side missions.

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Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number One

There are hundreds of exceptional videogame characters. Mighty men and women capable of cutting down whole armies of monstrous creations. Warriors with astonishing abilities. Wielders of inconceivable magic. Defenders of galaxies. Heroes. But which ones would you actually invite into your own home? Could you actually trust these creatures to be civilized?

Sonic might be an iconic character, but I wouldn’t want him in my house. He’s far too hyperactive and overly competitive. Plus, the way he eats hotdogs proves he wouldn’t make the best dinner guest. Kratos might be able to take on the Gods, but I can’t see him sitting in my living room discussing his favourite music. Lara Croft might make for good company… if she doesn’t spend all her time bragging to everyone about her travels. Guybrush Threepwood would have to curb his clumsiness. Gordon Freeman would have to learn to be more sociable.

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Dying in Game: What’s the weirdest way to go?

It was Nietzsche that wrote, “What does not kill me makes me stronger”. In reality, that’s regularly true. When it comes to videogames, it really depends on how you are about to be killed. In some cases, dying is part of the learning process. In other games, your demise will only result in a minor punishment, or have no impact whatsoever. It’s uncommon for a video game to kill you in a way that doesn’t make you stronger.

In other words: videogame deaths are odd. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, dying in-game usually lacks permanence. Each fatality can be brushed off with nonchalance. Secondly, there is an ever-expanding variety of ways to go out. Whilst they may fit the game in some way, there’s no hiding their bizarre nature.

You-Died

So the discussion I place before you, morbid as it might be, concerns weird deaths. What are the oddest ways to kick the bucket? Do you have a preferred way to go out? Below is a list of some – but by no means all – of the unusual ways game will kill and resurrect the player’s character(s).

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An Apology to The Orange Box

Might the Gaming World forgive me? May my sins be absolved? In my youth, I was foolish fool of fools. In my haste, and childish recklessness, I made a grave error: I sold my copy of The Orange Box less than two weeks after purchase. Please! Hold your chastisements for a moment, dear merciful reader. Allow me to repent, before judgement is passed.

half-life-2-16

As with most games I play, I arrived late to this soiree. I must admit that I had yet to play Half Life 2 by the release of the collection.  I bought The Orange Box in 2009 – the last year of university – on the recommendations of countless, honourable gamers. I’d been told how good the Half Life games were. (Yes, I had not played Half Life 1 at this point either; the scroll of my misdeeds will only continue to unravel.) I had also heard hearty praise of Portal and Team Fortress 2, and was anxious to share in the collective ecstasy.

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Does History defend the tradition of Male Protagonists?

I enjoy finding parallels between Gaming and History, and the treatment of gender in each field shows some commonality. Within the realm of video games, gender is a topic of debate/discussion/angry rants all of itself. The representation of women is continuously dissected and revaluated. It’s not something that should have to be so scrutinised, but it’s good that the discussion is so positive a lot of the time. In History, women are also considered as a separate topic for discussion a great deal of the time. It’s not ideal, but to avoid the topic at all would be far worse.

[Educational Warning – this blog contains mild amounts of learning and me being more grown-up than usual]

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