I’ve just picked up The Witcher: Enhanced Edition, which updates an action RPG from 2006 which I never played due to my policy of completely ignoring the PC games market unless I can get it from Steam. I haven’t put a lot of time into it yet, but it’s fun so far; it appears to be like a highly refined version of Neverwinter Nights, and has interesting dialogue and meaningful dialogue choices, which puts it one up on the entire PC RPG genre.
But that’s not what I want to talk about tonight. Tonight, I’m here to talk about sex. The Witcher, I’m pleased to say, has quite a bit of sex in it. The people you’ll meet along your journey are not the pristine innocents you encounter in most RPGs — these people are aware of sex, and, as Oscar Wilde probably never actually said, the proletariat are largely concerned with it as their primary source of recreation. More interestingly, though, throughout your travels you’ll encounter a variety of fetching young women that you can attempt (through various means) to get into bed.
Now I realise I’m on the edge of coming off like a snickering fifteen-year-old — heh heh, heh heh, score! — but that is not, in fact, the case. I’m an adult who has had sex (yes, smart-asses, including the kind that involves another person), and I appreciate when video games can be straightforward and honest about the subject. Neverwinter Nights had a bit of sex in it, but tended to view it through a weird lens that was half paperback romance novel-coloured and half women’s liberation-coloured. Nobody in Neverwinter Nights ever had sex just for fun; it was always part of a plot, unless it was one of the members of the most politically-correct system of prostitution since Firefly. The Witcher’s not like that; people have sex just because they’ll actually enjoy it, or because Geralt is toooo smoooooth and totally sweet-talks them into it. This is a much more adult attitude toward sex; we really don’t need it to be presented to us as some sort of odd ritual. We’re all adults here, and we can handle the concept of recreational sex.
The comedy part is that, if Neverwinter Nights was a romance novel, The Witcher is one of those cable-TV un-pornified porno movies where the actual sex scenes are replaced with soft-focus closeups of people’s faces while they breathe heavily and some sleazy sax music throbs in the background. And before you get on my case for the seriously wordy and laboured metaphor, I’d like to point out that that wasn’t a metaphor; that’s pretty much what actually happens when you get one of the women into bed. And then they give you a sexy picture to remember them by, which is the one respect in which this game actually improves on real sex.
Don’t get the wrong idea here, now; I’m not asking for every video game to include hours of hardcore porn — lord knows my eyes have been unwillingly subjected to enough animated GIFs of Mario banging the Princess without that actually showing up in a game. I’m just saying that maybe games that are ostensibly for adults and about adult themes could take a break from their gory slaughter and heavy-handed plotting to include some of the things that real adults do with each other for mutual enjoyment. Like sex, sure, or at least maybe going to baseball games and getting way drunk and screaming at the other team’s pitcher. I mean, take the Metal Gear Solid games — the first one treats sex like a running gag, with Snake pouring bad pickup line after bad pickup line on all the women he talks to and getting rebuffed. In the second one sex is pretty much what you might think it is if all your information about it came from nu-metal videos and Lifetime original movies; it’s very serious and overwrought and a subject for some serious angry brooding. The Witcher’s portrayal may not be ideal, but it’s a damn sight better than any of that nonsense. So let’s see you game designers get to work on getting actual, healthy, adult sexuality into your professed adult-oriented games.