On The Witcher 3 and Racial Quotas in Art
The final — hopefully, in the name of all that does not suck — word from me on the lack of non-white people in The Witcher 3.
Before I offer these final thoughts, let’s take a look at the article this tweet links to.
Witcher 3 is a fun game. It is also a game almost exclusively about white people.
Absolutely true. There is a dark-skinned Succub of human form, but the horns make it pretty clear she is not really a human.
The world of The Witcher 3’s humans is a bit complicated — e.g. Ciri, the real heroine of the game, is not exactly a pure human either, with her elven blood and all — but we can agree here 100% that all humans in the game are white.
Here comes the crucial fragment:
Witcher 3 does not contain any people of color not because of “mythology” or “history” or “book lore” but most likely because CD Project Red never even considered adding non white characters to their game. They literally forgot that non-white people even exist, which is something that happens when you are a white person, living in predominantly white culture, and consuming predominantly white media.
With “most likely”, the author admits he does not know for sure what was the reason to not include non-white people in the game, and then speculates what that reason could be. Then later he claims his conclusions as truths based on that speculation. That is not how logic works, but let’s forget that for a second.
Also, let’s forget that this “lost in the sea of whites” team already featured a non-white man in the series, years before cultural Maoism told everybody to. But apparently later all of their previous work disappeared from the memory, and they forgot to include non-white people in The Witcher 3.
The real problem reveals itself if we actually agree with the author.
The author just clearly informed the world that CD Project RED operates in the environment that is basically exclusively white people. That is one hundred percent true. Poland is an extremely homogenous country from the ethnicity point of view, let alone the race one. I saw the first non-white person in my life when I was a teenager and visited my family in Germany. It’s hard to meet a non-white person even on the streets of Warsaw, country’s capital.
The author acknowledges, then, that yes, there is this place where the culture is “predominantly white”, although “predominantly” should be replaced with “exclusively”. It’s so white that game developers even forget there are other skin colors out there. So blindingly white that even in the times of the global village and the Internet and Snoop Doggy Dogg played at every Polish party ever, these people still forget about other races and Dre when they meet together to make a video game.
So there is this Land of White People and Their Culture…
…and somehow when they make a game that represents this culture, they’re bad and they should feel bad.
Is the author aware that one of the Merriam-Webster definitions of racism is “poor treatment of or violence against people because of their race”?
It may not be a problem to you, but it is one to many, many people who love and enjoy video games. If you don’t understand why it is a problem to them, or why they would like to see themselves represented in their media… Well, you are a part of the problem.
I’m not aware of people who say they don’t understand why other people would like to be represented in whatever they’re interested in.
It’s not my problem, personally. I don’t lament that hip-hop is mostly black dudes or that even Western faces are stylized for Japanese tastes in anime. I just enjoy hip-hop and anime.
But sure, I get it. Most people in the world get it.
But does it all mean that everything ever has to have certain racial quotas, or risk being shamed?
[…] the dev team did not fail out of menace, but out of ignorance. And the only way to combat ignorance is to make people aware of these issues. Defending the lack of diversity in the game citing “mythology” or “historical accuracy” is incredibly silly and disingenuous.
Firstly, Slavic mythology isn’t really a thing. You can’t talk about it in the same way as you talk about Norse mythology or ancient Greek or even Egyptian mythology. There is no concrete body of mythological lore you can print in a book, or use as a game setting.
One thing that impresses me about Social Justice Warriors — yes, it’s a thing — is how they lie openly, even if the proof of their lies is literally a Google search away. Even more impressive is how some people fall for it, apparently assuming that no one would ever lie about these things because they would be easily caught. This is sometimes known as “the big lie”.
Because this is how “Slavic mythology isn’t really a thing“ and “There is no concrete body of mythological [Slavic] lore you can print in a book” look like in reality:
…and many more, literally all you have to do is type in “Slavic mythology” into Google or Amazon. And of course there’s way more on the subject in the Slavic countries, here’s a few examples from Poland:
Also, Witchers, mutated monster slayers with super powers are not, and never have been part of Slavic mythology.
How can witchers not be a part of something that “is not really a thing”?
And then the author goes on a rant explaining how people of color are totally possible in The Witcher 3 because historically “Winged Husars (elite cavalrymen) would adorn their armor with leopard pelts” and also come on, it’s fantasy, so anything goes.
Let me just add quickly that it’s all weak at best, basically. “Not to mention that Polish territories also have always had sizable population of Roma people.“ — sure, but not before 16th century. “At the height of its power, Polish and Polish allied territories stretched from the Baltic to the Black Sea.” — sure, but what does the year 1618 has to do with the folklore of pre-medieval and medieval Poland? And so on, and so forth.
The guy basically does everything in his power to prove that Poland was a racial melting pot. Right after he explained that the developers of the game live in a land so white they forget to include other races.
Anyway, here’s the kicker. History or fantasy, does not matter. No one says that having a person of color in the game is absolutely, unequivocally impossible.
I said it already myself, it is totally possible.
What people say, however, is that it is completely understandable there are only white people in the game.
Because the core of the game is the Slavic mythology and Polish folklore.
Because Poles have the right to be proud of their own history and culture.
Because fantasy is merely a staffage, not an excuse to be random.
Because of many other things, like the fact that the game takes place in a specific land at a specific moment of history and it’s not surprising, but actually expected, that Zerrikans avoid Northern Kingdoms during the time of war and pogroms.
None of these reasons render it impossible to have a person of color in the game. A smart script writer would find a way. It’s just that they all — especially when put together — make for a coherent game that thanks to its roots is refreshingly different to anything else on the market, and one that is perfectly fine the way it is.
We’re not talking about a game that takes place in London 2015, which, if exclusively white, would be weird (unless it’s a speculative fiction that explains it). We’re talking about a very particular game based on very particular things and made by very particular people. It’s coherent, and it makes sense.
Meanwhile, perpetually offended do not just demand changes. They also shame developers for not catering to their own personal needs, and they act as if they are the voice of all — even when they’re clearly not:
But let’s go a little further in this discussion.
How would adding people of color to The Witcher 3 work in practice?
Are you saying that somehow non-white people would feel satisfied and represented if there was one black or Asian merchant in one of the villages, or maybe two of them, or maybe a side quest mage was Zerrikan? That they would see these characters and, if they had a problem before, they would tell themselves that all is fine now and they feel represented?
If yes… Are you saying that tokenism is suddenly okay?
If not… What is the minimum, how much is not enough? What is the quota? Is there a template that creators should use? And if the rules and guidelines exist, does it mean that forever and ever any homogenous culture loses the right to present itself to the world, even if through the sword and sorcery fiction?
What if a game only represents black people, but no Asian people? Is that okay? Why? How many ethnic groups — out of over fifty thousand that exist in the world — does a game need to represent? How do we choose one over another, what’s the criteria?
And why focus on race only? Do you think people feel under-represented only from the race point of view? How about disabled people, for example? And if someone does not obey the rules and creates a fictional world that does not represent everything and everyone, should they be punished? How?
Are you saying white people can’t make games about white people and their problems? Are you ready to condemn Gone Home, then? Or is Gone Home okay because it does feature minority, it’s just that it’s a sexual one? But then The Witcher 3 also features sexual minorities, so are you ready to step back and apologize?
Or maybe not all people are looking for representation, and they just want to escape reality, no matter if it’s the world of whites or robots? Why exactly do video games have to cater to you? Can art challenge anything, or does it always have to be a holodeck of your personal desires?
I’d be happy to have that discussion. I think it could be an extremely important one. I know it would be.
I’d happily read an article titled “I wish I could see myself in more games”. I want to know why. I want to know your best experiences, and your disappointments.
But when your disappointments are irrational and you lie and you shame and defame a perfectly fine game just because it’s not something you want, you’re not helping your case — you’re damaging it.
P.S. Many other articles have been written or …recorded. If I had to recommend just one, I’d love it if you gave this one a read. It’s a different angle, written by “generally a fan of Anita Sarkeesian”, and is possibly the best take on the subject yet.