Anyone who follows gaming news is probably well aware that The Witcher 3 has been under near-constant fire from all kinds of groups for being an evil, rape-culture inspired, racist, misogynistic pile of rakk dung. It’s probably also immediately apparent that most of the complaints are being issued by individuals who have never actually sat down and played the game, have not stopped to contemplate the game as a whole, instead choosing to fixate on small pieces and determine that they’re the centerpiece rather than accent marks, have not been exposed to any other “dark and gritty” fantasy works in the last twenty years or so (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones), or are merely hopping on the bandwagon because telling people to check their entitlement and campaigning against all the Evils of the CIS-Dominated Patriarchal Murder Machine (TM, and you owe me a quarter if you use that phrase) is how you get traffic and attention these days, or some combination of those factors.
I like The Witcher. I’m heavily invested in the new one at the moment. I played a lot of the first two when they each came out. I’ve read some of the books (alas, not all of them, because finding English copies is something that doesn’t happen at my work, and they tend to be pricey) and would love to read the others. I’ve even watched some of the film versions, and had fun with those, too. I’m not going to say there aren’t buckets of blood, plenty of naked flesh on display, or atrocities by the pantsload on display, because that would be lying. But taken in context, it’s supposed to inform the viewer/player/reader of the nature of Geralt’s world: It’s rough, it’s not a nice place to live, and it’s especially not a good place if you happen to be on the low end of the totem pole, which happens to be about 95% of the population, especially women and “lesser” races or anyone who appears to be magical in any way. At least until the women start poisoning the men, the “lesser” races stage bloody coups and take over large swaths of land, and the magical beings unleash their repressed fury on the poor mundanes. Which only ends up provoking retaliation, more war, more death, more oppressive circumstances, and so it goes.
What bothers me about this situation is the undue level of hate being leveled at this in particular when there’s not a damn thing in the game that isn’t occurring every five minutes on Game of Thrones, which people don’t seem particularly concerned about. Danerys (who is supposed to be around 14, by the by) gets sold off as a whore-bride to a barbarian, is raped just about every night until she gets pregnant, then she goes to take sex lessons and uses those to rape her husband in turn, then her husband dies because the healer was pissed that Dany and her happy hubby let her be raped and she miscarries some bizarre dragon fetus thing. That’s cool. But, oh shit, Geralt is seduced, Cinderella-style, by a manipulative (though, to be fair, semi-well meaning) witch, with all of about 10 seconds of boob shot involved, and OMG MISOGYNY! DIE!
Ahem. Sorry. Got off track there. I’m not really talking about The Witcher. At least, it wasn’t the point. I’ll come back to Geralt in a later post, I’m sure, but he’s not the main track here.
It was while reading a review of the game online while I was debating on whether it or Mortal Kombat X was going to get my money that I saw someone use the phrase “Trigger Warning.” Repeatedly. In the review.
I moved on. Attributed it to the bandwagoning of the SJWs out to crucify The Witcher because it’s apparently the thing to do (when you’re not doing it to the upcoming Fallout 4, anyway). I guess the folks who thought Mass Effect was a rape simulator have to do something with their lives.
Then, while perusing reviews of Stephen King’s Revival as I prepared to write my own, I saw it again. “Trigger Warning!”
You’re shitting me, right? Nope. Then I went nosing around. I found trigger warnings on all kinds of stuff. Did you know that Buffy the Vampire Slayer could be a trigger? How about Bones? My favorite was one I found regarding Little Big Planet 3. Apparently, if you have abandonment issues, LBP3 might send you into a catatonic state. Because the bad guy is secretly just looking for his parent’s love.
I’m not trying to mock “triggers.” Well. Maybe I am, to a certain degree. But this is just getting a little excessive. Maybe I expect too much out of people’s own self-preservation instincts and common sense, or think something like Little Big Planet isn’t supposed to be taken that seriously, but if something is liable to put you into a catatonic or psychotic state just by mentioning it, then perhaps you should be at least partially responsible for knowing what you can and can’t handle. If gruesome deaths and childhood terrors are liable to set you off, it’s probable you’re aware of it, and using half a brain should tell you that Stephen King books are not likely to be your cup of tea, without needing to staple an arbitrary phrase all over reviews of it. Likewise, if you have unfortunate sexual trauma in your past, then picking up a game that most non-gamers know of as “that game with all the sex, right?” probably isn’t in your itinerary, while people looking for actual information on the game itself would be better served by information about the bloody game instead of fretting about all the innocent minds that could be warped by such evil. I’m not even going to dignify the LBP one. And anyone focusing on the “triggers” in Spike and Buffy’s relationship is missing the point of that whole exercise, which is a pair of incredibly broken and, to some degree, monstrous people learning to both accept themselves, flaws and all, and become better people, people who are actually worthy of the love they crave but continually reject or twist.
Interestingly, a few things that I didn’t find the phrase “Trigger Warning” attached to? Game of Thrones. Walking Dead. The Binding of Isaac. Among the Sleep. It. All of which have themes and events that I’d count as triggers, often the same ones people are shrieking about while they target The Witcher.
I’m going to take heat for this, I’m sure. Told I just don’t understand the trauma involved, the difficulty in dealing with such things. If that’s on anyone’s lips, I’m going to use an internet staple: You don’t know me. I’ve got plenty of “triggers” of my own, and you know what? I generally know what’s liable to set me off, and I either avoid them or learn to cope. I don’t expect anyone else to do the policing for me, and don’t feel I should decide what other people can see/watch/play based on my own psychological hangups, and don’t believe that anyone else should have that right or authority, either. Kotaku is not responsible for my mental health (or Amazon, or GoodReads, or Facebook) and I don’t need someone like Anita Sarkeesian to be watching my back (or not. Since, after all, I am in essence, The Enemy from her standpoint.) If you feel otherwise, more power to you, but I’d say it puts a big ol’ ding in that “strong, independent” archetype you’re supposedly embodying in the process… but hey, that’s just me.
Wow. That was quite a bit more bile filled than it perhaps should have been. Maybe something set off one of my own triggers. Hmmph.