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Spoilers for the end of the Witcher 3, for the Hearts of Stone expansion, mild spoiler for an Unfinished Swan level and vaguely spoilery discussion of the end of The Last of Us (because why the heck not?)

Butch:

So I proceed through the Swan and prepare for F4, but I want to have one last chat about Witcher 3. Or at least one last one for now.

So many, many times over the year and a half we’ve been playing this game we’ve talked about whether this game is progressive in its attitude towards women or not. So, for old times’ sake, let’s do it again.

So at the end, Ciri tells Geralt that this wasn’t his story, it was hers. She is the one that saves everyone, and she does it despite a man (A’Vallach) telling her not to and another man (Geralt) begging her not to. She takes the reins, she risks it all, she saves the day. All of which struck me as very progressive. Strong woman! It was HER story (and it kinda was)! Brave! Her choice and she did it! And I was impressed.

Until last week, when you told me she could die.

Because she’ll die if YOU as GERALT don’t make certain choices. And the choices you have to make so that she DOESN’T die are the ones that show love and kindness.

Let’s rephrase that: She lives because a MAN made affirmative CHOICES that showed he LOVED her.

And, just like that, knowing she could die and how, this becomes a Prince saving a damsel with a kiss, and that’s not progressive at all.

Now…. I turned that around in my head a while and thought wait. Another thing we’ve talked about is that this is a coming of age story. This isn’t prince/damsel stuff. This is parental love. Perhaps the message is that we become adults on our own, but we really only succeed at that if we have a parent guiding us, showing us fun (snowball fights) and how to be strong (punching dude at Skrall’s grave, which are the two things I saw). This isn’t all tropey, this is just a logical extension of a story of a father and daughter.

But even as I type this, I’m not sure I buy it.

Which is so annoying because before I knew she could die it was really, really progressive! And then it wasn’t. Or was it? I don’t know. And we’ve gone around in those circles so many, many times with this game.

Feminina:

Hm. It’s an interesting question. I read one piece that felt it WAS strongly progressive because the ‘right’ choices you have to make for Ciri to live are…not so much about letting her know you love her, as about letting her know you trust her to make her own choices. So supporting her as a person, basically. Like, there was the one choice when she’s going to go talk to the sorceresses in the inn, and you can either say “you got this” and let her go by herself, or say “I’m coming with you.” Now, I said I was going with her, but apparently the ‘good’ choice was actually to tell her you trust her to handle it on her own. (I guess I made enough of the other choices right to balance it out.)

So we could argue that the player’s ‘right’ choices are all about supporting a woman making her OWN decisions. Which is positive.

On the other hand, we could argue that this woman lives or dies based on whether or not WE think she’s strong enough to handle it, not on her own actual strength. So however strong she is, she’s still looking to Geralt–a man, in case we missed it–to validate that strength and give her confidence in it.

On the first hand again, we could say that Ciri’s death isn’t her failure, it’s ours. SHE did what she wanted/needed to do. She saved the world. She ended her own story the way she wanted to: to her, her death was incidental, and so whether or not she has those last supportive memories of Geralt encouraging her to pull her through, or not, doesn’t really matter.

Anything else she does afterwards is epilogue–literally, in the game, but also, it seems, in her own mind at that point. So if she dies, the player is the one who failed. We didn’t give her enough to come back to. We could read it not as her NEEDING Geralt’s validation of her strength to survive, but of her WANTING some validation of his respect to make it worth her while to come back.

Her survival could easily be read as her own choice, like other choices she’s made, and the fact that she doesn’t bother if it doesn’t seem like Geralt–who, as you point out, is her parent figure, and whose approval and respect she quite reasonably desires–respects her as a person, could be read as “screw you jerks, I’ll save the world but then I’m done with you”. Which is arguably a strong decision, if not exactly the only strong one she could make (“screw you jerks, I’ll save the world but then I’m done with you because I’m moving to Ofier and never coming back–and DON’T follow me or I’ll kick your ass” could also be a statement).

Also…do we even KNOW she dies? Did we see her body? Maybe she just teleported off to some other sphere, leaving everyone to think she’s dead, because she’s tired of their damn condescending treatment.

OK–had a look around the internet and judging from what people have said, it sounds like we might not actually even see her body: she doesn’t come back out of the tower, and is PRESUMED dead, but knowing her powers, I would be highly skeptical if no body was found. So she COULD turn up in Cyberpunk regardless.

Also, apparently there’s also a THIRD option, where Ciri lives and becomes empress instead of becoming a witcher with Geralt. Hm. That…might actually have been good for the world, if not necessarily for Ciri’s own happiness. Ah well.

So it seems a bit more complicated than just “she has to know Geralt loves her or she dies.”

Butch:

Ah, that choice. I mostly clicked that to see more sorceresses. Ha.

But I’m glad someone is on this research, because I’m blitzed and have a fever. But let’s keep going anyway.

See even then, assuming that she doesn’t need our validation but wants respect, we’re reducing her to a prize. Geralt “fails,” or you fail, and you don’t get a life with Ciri. Succeed, and you do. It’s really the anti-ending to TLOU. There, we had Joel (spoiler!) lie to Ellie for selfish reasons so he could spend more time with her, and it was grotesque. Him thinking “More time with her is worth something, a prize, something I earned etc.” was nauseating. Yet, really, that’s what we’re saying here re Geralt: he did right, so he gets more time with her. That made us sick in The Last of Us (which is was supposed to do), but is that good parenting? Is that heroic? Is that progressive?

And fair enough, she might survive, but I keep telling you, the Cyberpunk bits were DURING TW3 cuz she TALKS ABOUT THEM. So she could be there living or dead, but probably won’t cuz the internet gets all riled up for nothing.

But that’s good that we can have a discussion and conclude that at least it’s complicated. I threw that out there before I got a fever.

As for games, I did the sinister bit of Swan (assuming you meant spiders and a glowing ball you had to kick) which is a game I continue to like, and our next year or so is now officially booked up as FO4 and Rise of the Tomb Raider both pulled nines from Gamespot, and are sitting at 90 and 87 on metacritic as we speak, so there’s no real reason not to play them. BOOM!

Feminina:

That’s an interesting comparison to TLOU…one big difference, of course, is that Joel took away the unconscious Ellie’s choice as to whether or not to die to save the world because he couldn’t stand to lose her, while Geralt, whether or not he’s particularly supportive of Ciri’s decisions, in the end has no say in whether or not she does it. Maybe he wouldn’t want her to risk her life…he kind of says as much, even, at the end, but she tells him it’s not up to him, and goes ahead and does what she’s going to do.

As you say, it’s a sort of anti-TLOU ending, but I don’t know if I agree that more time with the daughter-figure is a “prize” in the same way in both games. It’s definitely something Joel takes by deceit, so yeah, a prize that he ‘earns’ because he steals it, without ever giving Ellie herself a choice, or even the information she would need to make a choice.

To the extent that time with Ciri is a prize Geralt ‘earned,’ it’s the way any human ‘earns’ time with another adult with whom they have a relationship on equal terms: by treating them with respect, considering their needs as well as your own, and generally being nice to have around. In our ending, as they talk about monsters and Ciri’s awesome new sword, they seem like people who like each other.

Joel and Ellie may have a long and happy life going forward (though it’s not bloody likely), but at some level it will always be built on Joel’s lie and on his denial of her right to make that choice for herself.

Geralt and Ciri may have a long and happy life ahead (slightly more likely), and we know that if this is true, it’s because Geralt supported her right to make choices for herself: if he hadn’t respected that right, she wouldn’t have come back. If being supportive and liking someone earns you the ‘prize’ of more time in their company, well…it does seem a reductive, video-gamey way to look at it, but that is in fact kind of how friendship works, isn’t it?

Oh, and I finished the expansion! Good stuff. I feel they missed an opportunity to tie up a narrative thread, because…well, I went to this guy’s house to get the rose he gave his wife the day they parted, as you recall, and wound up in her painted memory-world fighting her terrible memories of him, and at the end it turned out that the rose was kind of the focus of all her lingering energy and the reason she was still around even though she died years ago.

So I could take the rose, probably causing her to cease to exist, or I could refuse. She said she was afraid that it would be nothing but darkness and loneliness if she didn’t have the rose, but that she wouldn’t argue with me if I wanted it, but I decided it wasn’t up to me to decide if she continued to exist or not, since she wasn’t out rampaging around the countryside killing people, and besides, I was thinking her husband might want to come back and talk to her himself, assuming he survived our final confrontation with the devil or whoever.

So I didn’t take it, and instead she painted me a picture of it that somehow fulfilled the terms of her husband’s wish, and we both wound up confronting the devil (who further research when I went to talk to a scholar in Oxenfurt indicated was indeed “evil incarnate”), and I intervened to save his life and ended up playing a riddle game with Evil Incarnate and winning, so that we both survived. Woohoo, right?

Then we exchanged some thoughtful words, and he said something like “I don’t know what I’ll do with my life now,” and I was just like “yeah, I dunno man, you’ll figure something out,” while all the time I wanted to say “YOU SHOULD PROBABLY GO VISIT YOUR WIFE’S UNQUIET SPIRIT FIRST THING, DUDE.”

I bet she wants to see you! You could help her go peacefully to her rest! Free those demons you trapped in her service! You know, assuming that’s a good thing: I totally wanted to free them, ’cause freeing demons is how I roll, but I left her there largely so you could go talk to her, on account of it seemed like major unfinished business for you!

But I never had the option to say anything about it, which was annoying, and I think they missed a chance to make a previous choice meaningful. However, I imagined that I yelled it after him as he left or something, and that he’s totally going to go do that, and that wraps everything up nicely.

Then I started the last episode of Life is Strange, which is also good stuff. Play it someday! Many years from now, probably.

Butch:

That’s true, Joel does take that away from Ellie, and Ciri was gonna be Ciri (though I do wonder how she’d’ve ended up empress, and I’ll never know cuz I’m mentally in FO mode now, and on cold medicine.)

Maybe this is just a symptom of games being “games.” People talk about the “best ending.” “Games” have “winners.” So even though this is a story of a human relationship progressing, because it’s in a game it seems that if she lives you “win” and if she doesn’t you “fail.” It’s one thing that separates games from other media, and not in a good way. Indeed, go google “Witcher 3 best ending” and there’s sites galore coaching you on how to “win,” essentially. Games are held back by being “games,” but that’s another post.

As for the expansion…Yeah, when you’ve done your research and “evil incarnate” is what you find, that’s pretty definitive.

HA! So helpful, Geralt. “Yeah…..uh…… I got nothing, I’m just a witcher.”

See, in my ending, that makes sense. “Uh….look….I’ve done a lot and there’s this hottie and a nightie and cakes, so……”

But there you go, make the best of it. Wrap it up in your head.

Oh, that was some other news! Dontnod announced recently they will be making LiS season 2. So a sequel! Or sequels. Or whatever. More. So maybe they’ll put season one up for free or something later on.

I hope to finish Swan today or tomorrow, cuz there’s something out now that I may want to get to……

Feminina:

I guess you could take Ciri with you to talk to the emperor? I don’t even remember choosing not to do that, I guess it fell under choosing not to ‘bring her back to the emperor’, and I didn’t do it because I figured she could go on her own if she wanted but I wasn’t going to tell her she should. But anyway, if you took her to the emperor, they had some conversation I guess, and then whether or not you accepted money for finding her made a difference, or something. I dunno, since I didn’t do any of that.

LiS sequel! Sweet! I’ll play it, assuming I have any time.

I’m going to try to finish the first one tonight just in case anything is out right now that I might want to get involved with, but I don’t know…haven’t heard much that sounds interesting.

Ha.

Butch:

And really, as this game was so big, “I dunno, since I didn’t do any of that” seems a perfect place to end our 12 million words on it.

Feminina:

It is kind of a shame from a discussion standpoint that we play so similarly that the most significant difference we wound up with was that you had a happy romance and I didn’t (which is significant, but only one of a number of different things we COULD have had).

Oh well. What can we say? Great minds play alike.

Butch:

Really, the romance was what mattered. It always is.

As for the thing we’re eventually going to get to, reviews say:

Good: much tighter story telling than Skyrim. Huzzah!

Less so: all the bugs you’ve come to expect from Bethesda.

Bit buggy and average graphics (not ugly. Average) I’ll take for good story telling, that world and Boston.

Why do I like this world so much? It’s a world I can’t wait to go back to. It’s my favorite game world, which makes no sense. It’s a blighted irradiated wasteland. It’s full of randits, rad roaches and giant scorpions. But I love it. That sign at the end of the commercial that says “welcome home?” I totally get that. Why?

What’s wrong with me?

And it isn’t just seeing blighted boston cuz I never want to go to TLOU’s Boston ever again ever.

Feminina:

Bethesda’s GRAPHICS in general aren’t normally ugly. Their environments can be gorgeous. Their PEOPLE are the hideous things. But that works for a blighted nuclear wasteland.

As for why this is your favorite game world, I can’t really speculate…post-apocalyptic isn’t my favorite genre in any media, although I get the sort of ‘clean slate’ appeal of starting all over with nothing after a disaster, and the inherently interesting feature of seeing familiar landscapes significantly changed.

We do expect bugs. At least we can hope to also expect patches. Plenty of people are already playing a lot more, sooner than we will, so we’ll rely on them to find and report the problems.

Butch:

No, Fallout 3 and NV are ugly games. Very monochrome. Love them, but they’re ugly. I mean, shit, no buildings have windows. No windows. Cuz the couldn’t do views or light. Ugly.

And it isn’t “post apocalypse” that appeals cuz I’m with you, not always great. It’s FALLOUT.

Please, please patch. But no nude mods. Keep those.

Feminina:

Dude, you are a mass of contradictions. I thought you were all about nudity. Is your cold medicine messing with you?

I know, though…you just threw it in at the end of this discussion to get that tag on and taunt the search bots.

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