How Thinking Like A Historian Can Help You Understand Games, From The Witcher 3 To Assassin’s Creed

There has been a lot of discussion recently in games about historical accuracy. We’ve seen a number of articles debating the absence of people of color in The Witcher 3 as well as essays criticizing Apple’s decision to remove games featuring the Confederate battle flag from the App Store. Most of this discussion treats historical accuracy as something close to gospel, beyond reproach or change. “There were never people of color in the medieval, Eastern European milieu from which The Witcher is drawn.” “There were always Confederate battle flags in the American Civil War.” For most people, using “never” and “always” with regard to history seems natural. If any field of knowledge can offer such certainty, it must be history, right?

Professional historians, however, rarely use such words when talking about the past. Contrary to popular opinion, most historians treat history as a fluid object, something that rarely if ever goes unchanged or discussed with anything close to absolute certainty. This fact may fly in the face of everything you’ve been told about history. History is a subject that gives us meaning. Sometimes it represents the very foundation of our identity. To be told that this story lacks absolute certainty can be unnerving and confusing. As a history professor, one of the most challenging jobs I have is explaining this difficult, but essential idea to new students each semester. It often takes more than a semester of instruction to overcome the pervasive notion that history is merely about memorizing facts from a textbook. Yet if you play games, you may understand how historians understand the past better than you think.

Think of history as a popular video game. When a popular game is released, it rarely remains in a static state. The post release changes to a game begin with the developer and publisher. There is the all too common day one patch, followed by the first DLC pack, followed by the characters/maps/skins pack, followed by the second DLC pack, followed by the second patch… you know how this story goes. But the changes to the game don’t stop there, of course. A popular game is then subject to a whole slew of modifications by players. A popular mod can come to be seen as an indispensable part of playing and understanding the original game.

The trajectory of historical understanding works in much the same way. An historical event occurs. That event is then announced and described by participants in the event. While participants are often given the first chance to develop the history of an event, they rarely remain the only source of information. Bystanders, journalists and finally historians all take their shot at establishing the facts and meaning of an event. Much like modders, these secondary writers can bring new perspectives to the event using different sources of evidence. Eventually they may add or change the facts of the event, perhaps even changing its meaning.

Games, much like history, have very long lives after their creation because they are subject to user modification and influence. In this way, games can help you understand how history works better than other popular mediums, including books and films. When a book or film is released – with the notable exceptions of books or films created by E.L. James and George Lucas – it remains in its original state, more or less, forever. Games, on the other hand, are not only changed by the original creator, but also by consumers. Players often decide which version of a game becomes the de facto version (think of the effect of Brood War on StarCraft or Beyond the Sword on Civilization IV). They can also completely change the purpose and meaning of a game through modification, a development that can not only give birth to new games but also new genres (the most obvious examples being Counter-Strike, Defense of the Ancients and DayZ).

Historical thinking and writing can undergo similar transformations. Historians rarely write books that merely resuscitate and rearrange previously known facts. Most historians would prefer to modify previous thinking about an event using new evidence, new methodologies or new perspectives. Through this work historians can gradually shift our perspective on historical events. For example, consider the recently celebrated American Revolution. In decades past, this event was the story of Americans throwing off the tyranny of British colonial rule. Yet now this view is complicated by a global perspective in which the British request for more taxes not only seems rational, but warranted. Some recent work argues that the war shouldn’t be seen as a revolution at all, but rather a civil war over British constitutional ideas. Similar changes can occur in other histories. It would be very difficult today to find a historian that placed the blame for the First World War entirely on Germany, yet this idea was historical orthodoxy for nearly 50 years after 1918. There are very few conventional historical beliefs that are not in some way under assault or in the process of being overthrown.

And although historians are the most invested group in debates over the past, they are not the only participants. The universal nature of history means that these debates are the purview of professionals and nonprofessionals alike. Interpretations of the past are not found solely in academic monographs and textbooks, but in other mediums such as television, film, and, increasingly, video games. Historical video games are some of the most popular games in the medium, and their popularity means that they too help to shape our perspectives on the past.

Consider again the recent controversies over The Witcher 3 and the Confederate battle flag. Like other fantasy worlds (e.g. those in Dragon Age, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) The Witcher draws heavily from ideas about the history of medieval Europe. To create such a world without people of color is to present a particular argument about the past, but like many historical arguments it is one that will not go unchallenged. Likewise, Apple’s decision to remove games (most of them historical American Civil War games) from the App Store because they featured the Confederate battle flag led to cries of whitewashing based on the historical context. Consider also the debate over Assassin’s Creed Unity, a game that sparked significant controversy in France over the portrayal of revolutionary figures as villains.

A villain.

The ferocity of these controversies signifies that historical games have become more than thoughtless diversions. They are capable of imparting and validating historical meaning to the people that play them. Given that influence, it is no surprise that debates over these games are contentious. Determining historical truth can be inconvenient, uncomfortable, and messy. It will lead you into arguments with others, and perhaps even with yourself. Yet this is how history is created, and games promise to play a larger role in that process going forward. We are moving from a period where we play historical games that present an uncomplicated view of seemingly uncontroversial topics (e.g. Oregon Trail or Second World War) to one where games deal with difficult subjects (e.g. slavery, revolution and the First World War) in complicated ways.

To say that historical accuracy is a matter of debate is not to say that all arguments or perspectives about the past are true. As with other historical authors, game developers that present new historical perspectives with verifiable evidence have the best chance to convince players of their interpretation. Of course, even with this sort of evidence, some players will remain unconvinced and continue to hold on to their established beliefs. There is almost no taboo perspective about the past, but not every perspective will be believed by others and go on to represent historical truth. In this way, raising the issue of historical accuracy isn’t the end of the debate. It’s the beginning.

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188 Comments

  1. Lacero says:

    There’s a nice play on this in Elder Scrolls. The scrolls themselves are a perfect canonical representation of history, and the future, but cause the reader to go more blind the more understanding of the event they get.
    Once a prophecy has actually happened the scroll becomes fixed and can be used as a perfect history, until then it describes the prophecy in the many ways that could potentially happen.

    Every other book, source, story and everything in world is riddled with bias and unreliable narrative. What can history even mean when it’s made by millions of different players? The game accepts this and runs with it.

    • nearly says:

      I’d say this point ties into the larger theme of the article in the sense that the lore in those games is as mutable as games themselves are with expanding content. The thing you haven’t mentioned is that all this information about the Elder Scrolls themselves all comes from Skyrim and isn’t even really necessarily verifiable in the context of that game. In the wider context, it’s an addition retcon, just like how dragons were handled. While nothing in past titles directly contradicts it, it is really only supported by the most recent title.

      • Lacero says:

        I remember using the fact they’re always true to break grey fox out of his imposed anonymity in oblivion. I also remember lots of blind moth priests in that game.

        and I mean morrowind had a character turned god who kept talking obliquely about the game editor, so the principle of unknowable history goes pretty far back. Though of course being able to literally change the past isn’t the same as not knowing what it was, it is the same as being able to change what we believe about it.

        That’s a bit too “X is socially constructed” than I’d like but hopefully you can see what I mean.

        • view says:

          Morrowind is actually a very good example. A large part of the plot hinges on several radically different and conflicting views of an ancient historical event.

  2. Cator says:

    “Consider again the recent controversies over The Witcher 3 and the Confederate battle flag. Like other fantasy worlds (e.g. those in Dragon Age, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) The Witcher draws heavily from ideas about the history of medieval Europe. To create such a world without people of color is to present a particular argument about the past, but like many historical arguments it is one that will not go unchallenged. ”

    But the Witcher 3 doesn’t “create such a world”. The lands shown in W3 are not representative of the whole setting. They are just specific slices of the world, which just happen to be predominately white, and which in this particular story (even more than in previous Witcher games), have the increadibly harsh sociopolitical climat that persecutes anyone non-“white”. It’s in no way an argument about the past. This isn’t a story that paints a picture of what the entirety of Europe looked like during a particular age.

    Dragon Age was the fantastical blank slate, that was built from scratch and wasn’t restrained by any stylistical guidelines. The fact that the author puts that title in the same category as The Witcher, shows that he misunderstands the issue here.

    • P.Funk says:

      ” It’s in no way an argument about the past.”

      Isn’t it? To draw on historical perception and myth and culture is to make an assertion about the past. The interpretation of the inspiration is the statement.

      • Jediben says:

        Never mind that, tell me when the arch griffon and lessen walked the earth Mr Historian.

        • P.Funk says:

          Don’t be fatuous. History is more than just plausible historical events and figures. Its also about culture and identity and the stories and myths of cultures and how they relate to the real world. You can learn a lot about the people of a certain part of the world by examining their fantastic myths.

        • Jediben says:

          *leshen

        • aberdeenphoenix says:

          I understand that you’re being facetious here, but your comment kind of encapsulates a particular perspective that I (and I would think most people in these comments) find really problematic:

          “Griffons? Check. Basilisks? Check. Dwarves? Check. Elves? Check. Magic? Check. Black people? Hang on now, that’s not historically accurate.”

          • Cator says:

            Griffons, Dwarves, Basilisks and Elves are featured heavily in the folklore of the cultures from which Witcher 3 is drawing inspiration from. Black people aren’t.

            Of course that doesn’t matter since Witcher universe is a very post-modern one that makes plenty of non-slavic references to today’s world, but that argument shouldn’t be made in the first place. Becouse nobody is saying that Black people were cut for historical reasons. Same way that nobody is saying that POC couldnt be part of this world (they were in the books and in W1). It’s that the setting is so predominately white by it’s historical inspirations, that exclusion of Black people in this particular story cannot be viewed as some glaring omnission or a racist statement. This isn’t virtual Los Angeles were which total omnission of Latinos or Black, could and should be considered gross and political.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            I agree, I don’t think the argument should be that games like the Witcher should include a certain thing “because diversity”, but rather that a game like the Witcher should not be disallowed from including something “because history”. Interestingly though, Basilisks are Greek and Greek mythology has plenty of non-white people in it. Pliny the Elder wrote about Basilisks, he also wrote about Africans who integrated into Greek society.

          • machineageproductions says:

            And better still, genies. Because there’s nothing that says “Polish folklore” like genies in magic lamps.

          • wengart says:

            Your line of reasoning is really annoying to me. Let’s just throw out any sort of world building or immersion at all because “lol mythical creatures”.

            The Witcher Universe has different ethnicities in it. The Witcher 3 takes place in a small part of that world.

          • hpstg says:

            I hope you haven’t played any of those games. Because if you have and you still claim that there could be racism behind this, there are a lot left to be said.

      • Cator says:

        Yes, but the way the Author written this piece, made it out like Witcher was painting a picture on all that could be considered “medieval Europe”, or that the specific slice of map shown in the game, somehow reflected all that constitutes the Witcher setting.

        Witcher paints a picture of just specific historicaly-inspired people, in a specific enviorment that isn’t even representative of all of the Witcher setting lands (hell, it’s not even all of the setting “white people inhabited” lands. Not even a majority of it in fact) and happens in a specific sociolpolitical climate of the story that is detrimental to the inclusion of POC in it (not saying that it couldn’t be done though). The Author starts the article by saying that historical facts are treated as gospel, and then uses wording that suggest W3 being some sort of interpretation of what all of medievel europe looked like. It would be easy to pick specific parts of europe in various points of middle ages, that were overwhelminly, predominatly white and tell only their story, but it wouldn’t in any way negate the fact that Europe was inhabited by a variety of different ethnicities.

        • P.Funk says:

          “Yes, but the way the Author written this piece, made it out like Witcher was painting a picture on all that could be considered “medieval Europe””

          I disagree and I think thats your misinterpretation.

          • Cator says:

            “There were never people of color in the medieval, Eastern European milieu from which The Witcher is drawn.”

            Take a look at this part. It just makes it look as if The Witcher handled all that was considered “Eastern Europe” , rather than a very small, very specific slice, further warped not only by the fantastical nature of the setting but also by the white-centric story of this particular instalment in the franchise (and there’s nothing wrong with that).

            Not saying that was the Author’s intention, but that how it came out in writing to me.

          • P.Funk says:

            Again, you err.

            ” the medieval, Eastern European milieu”

            Special emphasis on THE and MILIEU. This is very explicitly stating not just Eastern Europe but a specific milieu.

            “the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops : environment”
            link to merriam-webster.com

            Milieu taken to be environment means that he said that the Witcher 3 is drawing from a specific Eastern European social environment. Not all of Eastern Europe but a specific part of it.

          • Cator says:

            But “milieu” is what I am talking about as well.

            I would be quicker to agree with You if the Athour wrote for example: “There were never people of color in the specific milieu of medieval, Eastern Europe from which The Witcher is drawn”.
            The placement of emphasis in the above sentence would indicate that he meant a specific slice of Eastern European social setting, rather than an overall milieu of Eastern Europe.

            I can see how it can be read the way You present it, though. As neither of us can claim to know the Author’s true heart and mind, let me just say that I still stand by my initial sentiment, even if it’s indeed removed from the intent of this article (as I definitely seen my share of arguments about W3 making a statement about the social dinamics of Eastern Europe as a whole).

          • GepardenK says:

            I just replayed Thief 1 and 2 because they are some of my favourite games by one of my favourite developers. Now I realize that they, despite being set in a major medevial/steampunky city, also do not have any POC in them. It is clear to me now that Looking Glass was nothing but a bunch of hatefull bastards, or at the very least ignorant and racist

      • Cinek says:

        “is to make an assertion about the past” – it doesn’t. It merely draws some historical events as an inspiration (in this case: religious prosecution and Inquisition in Europe).

    • Stellar Duck says:

      “Dragon Age was the fantastical blank slate, that was built from scratch and wasn’t restrained by any stylistical guidelines. The fact that the author puts that title in the same category as The Witcher, shows that he misunderstands the issue here.”

      And just how is the Witcher world not originally a blank slate? What makes it different? Sapkofsky or wassisface presumably invented it at some point and as such it’d be a blank slate at that point.

      But you seem to be arguing that the Witcher world was constrained by stylistic guide lines at creation. What were they and how do they differ from Dragon Ages ditto? Because you also seem to be saying that the Witcher world is not an argument about the past so I assume those guide lines cannot be history. So why can black dudes not live in that part of the Witcher world? What stylistic guide line prevents that?

      • Laurentius says:

        “So why can black dudes not live in that part of the Witcher world? What stylistic guide line prevents that? ”

        So not saying that this my opinion on this matter, but you can make argument that there were parts of the world where people of different skin colour then white were sparse, so recreating such setting, even in fantasy world is certain stylistic guideline.

        About Witcher 3 though, imo game of course could inculde people of color because why not ? It’s creation, so you can do whatever you want with it, and if you are pedantic type of author you can present justification for it (imo it’s not even needed) and actually history is perfect for such justification, like given example for reversing Witcher 3 situation, you could probably make fantasy world of middle east full of white people and justify it with historical facts of whole viking and slavic warriors squads being settled near Baghdad by Caliphs. So in my opinion Witcher 3 could include black people but I disagree that not including them automaticly put it into “problematic” pool, seriously 95% of polish culture: literature, music, paintings etc automaticly receive “problematic” flag.

      • Cator says:

        “So why can black dudes not live in that part of the Witcher world? What stylistic guide line prevents that?”

        Nobody is saying that. I certainly aren’t. The fact that black people were allready shown in this franchise before, puts that arument to rest.

        Black characters could be justified in this world, but it doesnt mean they shouldnt. To put this in another words. If someone made an RPG set in feudal Japan that featured an all japanes cast, then no one would have a problem with it. But at the same time, it wouldn’t be hard to image a way to put some white characters in it, since despite Japan’s strong isolationism in the past, it’s not like they never had any contacts with caucasians. Here’s the kicker though: none of those approaches is better than the other. They would be just different stories.

        Same with the Witcher. Seeing how this game is overally inspired by parts of Poland, Germany and some other countries that were predominatly white at the time of the historical period this game draws from, black people would still be a statistical rarity. As such a game that doesn’t include them, cannot be accused of some gross historical omnission, the same way that a RPG with an all japanese cast, couldn’t be seriously accused of lack of white/black people.

        “Because you also seem to be saying that the Witcher world is not an argument about the past so I assume those guide lines cannot be history.”

        I am not saying it’s not an argument about the past (I clarified my thoughts in response to P.Funk above). I am saying it’s not an argument about all that constituates “medieval Europe”, like the author seems to suggest. It is definitely historicaly inspired, but it’s wrong to say that it’s propagating the view that all of Europe was white at some point.

      • joa says:

        The whole situation is pretty funny – bunches of white guys arguing on the internet about the inclusion or non-inclusion of black people in some nerdy fantasy game. You think any black people really care about that?

        • Nest says:

          The number of black people who care about it is probably equivalent to the number of black people who ever lived in Medieval Poland.

          • Cinek says:

            It’s most likely lower than that. Should be closer to the amount of white people complaining about not having any white man in games set during the first half of Muromachi period in Japan.

        • Lakshmi says:

          Why are you assuming everyone commenting is white?

      • PancakeWizard says:

        It’s basis is Slavic folklore. If it’s going to feature humans of any kind, it’s Slavs.

    • nearly says:

      But why is it unlikely to see dark-skinned humans in these non-representative slices of the world? Letho, if he’s in your Witcher 3, has access to Zerrikanian poison, there are a few Zerrikanian products available for the player to purchase, and by the sounds of the Zerrikanian character in the first Witcher, that particular region clearly has Arabic inspirations. That all would indicate some flow of peoples, products, and ideas (there are books about the region in The Witcher 3).

      The Witcher’s world is a fantasy creation. It isn’t representative of the real world, like you’ve pointed out, but certain aspects of it and therefore representative of the people that made it. None of that precludes the inclusion of people with non-white skin, and, as you pointed out, it was a conscious decision not to include them. You have maybe 3 major kingdoms available in the game, but the actual conflict of the game is due to TWO major empires which are not accessible but still very much present in what the game chooses to represent of the people from beyond the game’s playable areas.

      Yes, this is a game that isn’t about people of color (and is so not about them that they decided not to include any at all!) but don’t pretend that it’s due to some sacrosanct inherent aspect of the world. They chose not to. If anything it’s all the more frustrating that they can tell pretty compelling narratives about racism/sexism/persecution/discrimination but can’t seem to include people of color in their own games.

      • Cator says:

        See my reply to Stellar Duck above.

        I am not even for a second saying that POC couldn’t be logically included in the game, nor is CDPR for that matter.

        Yes, the creators choose to show this world in such a way, but that doesn’t mean that it was a wrong or racist decision.

        Here’s an example I like to give. Say someone made an RPG set in feudal Japan that featured an all japanese cast. Nobody would have a problem with it. But at the same time, it wouldn’t be hard to image some way to put white characters in it, since despite Japan’s strong isolationism in the past, it’s not like they never had any contacts with caucasians. Here’s the kicker though: none of those approaches is better than the other. They would be just different stories. If the developers decided to show a world with just Japanese characters, then nobody could accuse them of racism, since there is just enough justification for it in their chosen setting. At the same time the inclusion of white or even black NPC’s isn’t something that would be unthinkable. Same with the Witcher. This isn’t GTA’s Los Angeles were an omnission of latino characters could be considered a gross omnission.

        As for the inclusion of Zerrikanian wares in the game’s world. Yes it proves there is contact between the cultures, but it in no way states that it’s something common. Especially in the specific, particular slice of land shown in W3 which is not only the whitest part of the world, but also part that is currently in a midst of a brutal war and heavy sociopolitical climate of racial discrimination which heavily weights against POC. In W3 even white people have trouble travelling between the cities becouse of the martial law present, let alone some theoretical black people.

        Again, not saying they couldn’t have included them. It’s just that the specific setting happens to be white-centric enough, that their omnission is not some sort of glaring, political flaw.

        • Fenixp says:

          “I am not even for a second saying that POC couldn’t be logically included in the game, nor is CDPR for that matter.” – logically perhaps, question is how difficult would this implementation be from technical standpoint. As far as we know it might have just not been worth it – after all different races have different faces and builds, it would be fairly insulting to just throw a new coat of paint on existing base characters, and I’m pretty sure CDP had enough issues with implementing this for races already in the game

        • nearly says:

          You’re dangerously close to engaging with a strawman and false dichotomies if you’re saying that the lack of people of color is “some sort of glaring, political flaw.” What you’re not actually engaging with is that this is a constructed narrative. In the context of the narrative, the Pontar Valley has enormous significance (and props to them for putting something so sensible in to determine regional politics: it’s always frustrating when RPGs don’t understand their worlds well enough to see that it would be very unlikely for one group to attack another or to do so in the way they do) but that’s because that is the way they’ve designed it. Someone sat down and said “There’s a river here.” They could have just as easily said “There’s a port here” (hint: they did, multiple times on our game map) and just as easily said “Since this port is on the coast, they have pretty steady contact with another empire which trades profitably with them.” That’s really simple and does nothing to change the narrative but if you’re really insistent on the kingdom being xenophobic? Move the border a mile and let the player just barely enter a tiny sliver of another kingdom that isn’t xenophobic.

          Even within the narrative and setting we have, a lot of the things you’re saying aren’t true. Refugees stream across borders and borders themselves are inherently mutable in the context of war. The militaries have their hands full, that’s why I’m dealing with monsters (well that and being a mutant) as well as bandits. I mean, I’m pretty sure that shortly after I arrived in Velen, I had a Nilfgaardian send me off hunting a monster that turned out to be (surprise!) an ethnic enclave of insurgents. Think of the presence of the Qunari in Dragon Age II: it makes plenty of sense for them to be there, even if you change the location of Kirkwall. This is already what’s happening with in The Witcher’s world with the Scoia’tael. It’s not “the whitest part of the world” because we have ample evidence that these white humans are living alongside any number of sentient creatures that are not white humans.

          You’re still using narrative logic to justify what the narrative does or doesn’t cover, and I find it a little baffling in the context of the comment section on an article which is explicitly about how history is mostly interpretation. Yes, the narrative justifies the lack of people of color: what we’re talking about is the fact that people decided to create such a narrative and to justify the lack of people of color using it, just the same as they chose to include Elves and Gnomes and a main antagonist from another world entirely.

          CDPR made a game for a global audience and with an enormous international marketing campaign. It’s also a game influenced in big ways by successes and failures with their past titles. It’s not coincidence that the treatment of women is by and large pretty different from the first title where they existed mostly as trading cards to collect after sex. While the “is it racist for not including people of color” argument is a different discussion from the one I think we’ve been having, however you might engage with it, it sounds like what you are telling me right now that because of the setting being quote-unquote the “whitest part of the world”, the best people to feature in this narrative are white people. That it is better to create a narrative about exclusively white people. That people of color do not belong in this narrative. And that sucks.

          • Cator says:

            1:
            Regarding Your first paragraph. Like I said – I never argued that POC couldn’t be logically integrated into this world. You don’t need to give me examples of how setting up trading routes could lead to appearence of POC traders, diplomats, etc. (although an argument could be made that the racialy tense climate of war, the witch hunting and enclosing of communities under martial law, would considerably diminish the likelyhood of ethnic traders within cities in which it is common to burn anyone out of the ordinary), as I could come up with many reasons for a POC character to appear in the game. But that’s not my point. Again – It’s not that there is absolutely no reason for POC to appear in the game, but about whether or not the story’s setting validates their appearence to the extent that their omnission is glaring and detrimental to the story. Sometimes omnissions of race are indeed becouse of either intended or casual racism, but sometimes it all simply boils down to: “this particular story happens to be about these particular people”, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

            ” Refugees stream across borders and borders themselves are inherently mutable in the context of war”

            And how is this refuting what I wrote? There is migration of people, of course, but it’s not in any way easy, which is exactly what I wrote. It’s not like people can just travel that land willy-nilly, unharrassed or enter settelments at will. The game clearly shows that. And for the theoretical POC existing in such an enviorment would be even more difficult. Again I don’t mean that such a situation couldn’t be shown or justified in the game, but it definitely is an argument as to why the appearence of POC in the setting of this particular story is less obvious than it seems to some.

            “Nilfgaardian send me off hunting a monster that turned out to be (surprise!) an ethnic enclave of insurgents. ”

            Don’t forget that the ethnicity of those insurgents, or rather their race (You are talking about the elves, right?), was by far a much more common occurance within the land of Velen, than a random Zerrikanian would.

            “This is already what’s happening with in The Witcher’s world with the Scoia’tael. It’s not “the whitest part of the world” because we have ample evidence that these white humans are living alongside any number of sentient creatures that are not white humans.”

            But what does this have to do with anything? Elves and dwarves are still far more common and in fact indigineuos to this land than any people of colour would be. The presence of non-humans in no way negates the fact that human population and dominating culture within that land is predominatly white. The presence of Scoia’tael isn’t a proff that migration between lands and cultures is easier, since they are this land’s first settlers. Also, You know – the fact that they are actively persecuted.

            “You’re still using narrative logic to justify what the narrative does or doesn’t cover, and I find it a little baffling in the context of the comment section on an article which is explicitly about how history is mostly interpretation. ”

            Becouse internal narrative logic is all that really matters in this example. Becouse if we boil all of it down to a: “well, the creators were free to put anything they want in their story and the fact that they didn’t is very telling” then literally nothing, NOTHING would be safe from accusations of political bias or outright racism. A developer from one of African countries tries to make a fantasy game that’s inspired by african folklore, promoting it in the larger world and featuring only black characters? Racist! Couse it’s a fantasy game and they could easily find place for some white or asian NPC’s in there. A Russian author writes a detective novel set in Moscov? Close-minded! Couse why just Moscov? Why not a more cosmopolitan city or a different country alltogheter? Why not set it in a place that would allow every character to represent a different minority? After all he is a free writer, nobody is forcing him to write about his passions within his own nationality? Disney’s “Mulan” has a talking dragon in it, so it’s fantasy not history. Then why are there no black people there? It’s a fantasy fairy tale for kids, they could come up with some excuse for an appearence of a non-asian character. And so on and so forth…

            If an aspiring French filmmaker makes a movie set in Paris, featuring french actors, playing french characters, dealing with french problems, should we expect them to shoehorn in American character, becouse at one point in the story someone mentions McDonald’s in a conversations or listens to Jazz on a Ipod?

          • Cator says:

            2:
            “what we’re talking about is the fact that people decided to create such a narrative and to justify the lack of people of color using it, just the same as they chose to include Elves and Gnomes and a main antagonist from another world entirely.”

            First of all, it’s the other way round. They didn’t use the story and setting to justify the lack of POC. It’s the setting that more or less justifies this lack. I would agree with You if we were talking about some random, blank-slate, fantasy neverland which doesn’t reference any specific culture or a piece of land during a specific historical period. In that case it would be indeed if not racist then at least somewhat morally suspicious that the creators had this fantasy tabula rasa, in which stylisticaly every race had equal amount of right to be in, and yet they’ve choosen to depict only one and built some lore justification around it. But in this case it’s the setting itself that ispredominately about a specific set of cultures.

            But yes, overally it all comes down to a concious decision by the CDPR. And I am arguing that there is absolutely nothing wrong about such approach and that it’s nothing to call the creators on. Like I said: stories can still be about specific people and specific places. Developers are free to tell stories about certain cultures and their neighbors or at least tell stories from the perspective of those cultures. The truth is that absolutely none of You would even think of making the same arguments in a case of an RPG featuring an all-black cast, and being mainly about the broadly-defined African culture. We should strive for multiculturalism in real life politics, but not necessarily in art (as in – not all art HAS to be multicultural), becouse that would sort of defeat the point of specific stories. Drama can still take place in unique parts of the world, and be shown through the eyes of distinct people. Since when a work of art had to include absolutely everybody, in order to be relatable? The very implication that us living in a modern 2015, cosmopolitan society, somehow requires every single one of our works of fiction to talk about specific subjects, or include specific groups of people (or else such people will supposedly not be able to identify with it), is suspect, not to say scary, couse where does one draw a line at what and who to include? Not to mention the whole “I need to be represented, in order to be interested/invested” is bull.

            Furthermore, just becouse something has racial variety in it, doesnt make it objectively better as a story/art. Changing the persecuted elves into persecuted black people would not in any way make the narrative more powerful, as the theme of racism as presented by Witcher works regardless of ethnicity or skin colour, as the parrarels of race are clear and universal. It’s the plight of the people shown in the game that matters, not the fact that elves are white. Also, regarding the use of Elves and Gnomes, since I saw a lot of the “are Elves more historically accurate than Black people?” arguments (not saying that’s what You are getting at, but I’ll cover it just in case). As it happens Elves, Gnomes, Dwarves, Dragons, Basilisks, Lubberkins and Crones are all part of the myths and folklore of the various people this game draws inspiration from. Black people are not and never been. So it’s not as easy to say that the creators chose one obvious-for-the-setting element, but disregarded another equaly as obvious. Again – not saying that POC have no place in this world. It’s just they are not as obviously inherent element of the setting’s DNA as some of the other fantasy stuff is, as such their abscence isn’t really an omnission the game can be accussed of, the same way that a white NPC in a game about feudal Japan would not be something which abscence people would cry about (even though a justification for the appearence of such a character could have been just as easily made, as the justifications for POC in Witcher).

          • Cator says:

            “It’s not coincidence that the treatment of women is by and large pretty different from the first title where they existed mostly as trading cards to collect after sex. ”

            I think You are overestimating the change in handling women, this series had. The sex cards were bad. CDPR admited as much that it came out of a stupid joke (though I must say that I cannont find the interview in which I remember reading it about). But the actual meat of the potrayal of women in Witcher 1 outside of the sex-cards antics, as in the conversations he has with the likes of Triss and Shani are just as well written as they were in the next two titles, showing a complex and in some way disfuntional relationship in which the women were certainly no window dressing or bioware’esqe sex prizes at the end of a romace quest line (despite the sex cards). Also, it’s not like the games havent made a comment about Geralt’s womanising, which is seen as a character flaw within the game’s setting and Geralt has been called out on it more than once in this franchise. So it’s not like the writers suddenly changed they way they write women, becouse of international reaction to their first game. They just stopped using one gameplay gimmick which they themselves admited was a mistake.

        • PancakeWizard says:

          Spot on. It’s a shame that many aren’t getting it here. We’ve had every D&D game since forever with multiracial cast because it’s a modern western invention that basically reappropriates folklore from a variety of cultures; in other words doing exactly what these people complain they want, and yet one game comes out that’s from a particular country about their particular folklore and it’s apparently white-washing.

          Perhaps we need more Africans in Never Alone?

      • Fenixp says:

        Except they did include people of ‘color’, didn’t they? They just called them ‘Elves’ and ‘Dwarves’ and so on. To suggest that a game which clearly opposes racism is racist is missing forest for the trees. Not to mention that the whole ‘Black people must be everywhere unless there’s a reason for them not to be there’ thing always felt like differenciating people by their race, which … Well, you know :-)

        • Fenixp says:

          I’m sorry for using the term “Black people”, it’s not considered insulting in Czech language.

          • joa says:

            It is not insulting in the English language either. People of colour just also includes Asians and Indians, I think.

          • Bigamo says:

            So to Joe white isn’t a colour? i feel insulted.

      • Merlkir says:

        Zerrikania, rather than Arabia, seems to have more in common with Central Asia. That said, there’s almost no material written about it (this is true for much of Sapkowski’s world, he’s not a worldbuilder and his approach to fantasy writing was in deliberate opposition to Tolkien’s)

    • FireStorm1010 says:

      Honestly, i barely can see the issue. I think its to much making out of a problem over nothing. Like poeple said, Witcher is a fantasy world which orginated from central/eastern europe, and we didnt have nearly any black people here in medeival ages. It just deosnt fit the game, doesnt make sense. Should we include in every game asian poeple, black people, indians, jews, gay poeple , transexuals, and every other minority, just so nobody is left out? It seem to me a nosense. And also in case of afro-american , forgive me, abit of American centrism. It might be an everyday topic for you and alwys relevant in your history, but belive me, there is plenty of countries for which afro-american people are just not relevant because there werent any.

      Have anybody cried that in Shogun 2 base game you get no white poeple? No? well good , then we all have a bit of rationality left.

    • FireStorm1010 says:

      Also as various posts alrdy pointed it, Witcher world actuallyy is maybe even to a fault portraying minority and tolerance problem , with its Elves and Dwarfes and even Witchers. And its what fits this world.

  3. Cator says:

    To be honest I found this article to be a long winded way of saying something painfully obvious. All this piece really amounts to is stating that no historical “fact” is beyond being questioning. I don’t want to be rude, but planting a loud “duh”, at the end if it, would be approproate.

    Also I believe the author either has a warped view of what the arguments behind the Witcher controversy really are, or is misrepresenting them for the sake of this article. This “treating historical facts close to gospel” approach that he writes about, is mostly non-existent in the discussions around the game. Nobody is arguing that all of europe was 100% racially white during the entirety of middle ages. It’s more of a discussion about whether or not, the specific, particular slice of world map, as presented by CDPR were something plausible considering their inspirations (and the lore state of the world during the events of W3), and if the lack of POC in it is really such a glaring omnission as some claim. One can acknowledge that at various points in history there were more than just slavs living in the lands currently claimed by the Poles, while at the same time realize that at different points in the historical period on which this game is based (or rather inspired by), lands dominated by whites was nothign out of the ordinary, and a game that show a small piece of the world in such a state, is nothing outrageous.

    • P.Funk says:

      I don’t think you understand what he was saying re. all of Europe being white. He never said all of Europe, he said generally medieval Europe a part of which is the focus of the Witcher’s inspiration.

    • trn says:

      Having taught the subject of historical accuracy at several history departments in the UK, I have engaged in a lot of fascinating conversations with 18-21 year olds about the nature of history and the way we comprehend the past. It is a revelation to many that there is no ‘truth’ to historical events, even more so that historians are not trying to reconstruct past events. This is not covered in GCSE or A Level syllabi and is not how popular history is practiced on TV, nor how films and tv portray the past (‘Based on actual events! ‘)

      Given we have Barthes to thank for putting this conversation on the agenda in 1967 I would urge you to remember that because something seems obvious to you does not mean it is obvious to all.

      To use the motifs, language, discourse of the past – even in a fictional, fantastical setting – as a means of exploring themes and issues pertaining to the human condition is to practice history. The Witcher is no less a work of history than Thomas Mallory’s Morte d’Arthur or E. P. Thompson’s Making of the Working Class.

      • Premium User Badge

        Serrit says:

        “remember that because something seems obvious to you does not mean it is obvious to all” wise words :-)

      • shde2e says:

        A statement which might also seem obvious to you, but may not be so obvious to other people either :)
        One of those things that are common sense, right up until you forget to keep them in mind and fall for it anyway.

      • dsch says:

        Roland Barthes said there’s no “truth” to historical events in 1967? Citation please.

  4. rodan32 says:

    So that’s all fine, and I appreciate different perspectives. But if a game is trying to present the facts or setting of a particular historical time, then they’re going to be constrained a little bit. There weren’t a lot of people of color in Europe in the 12th century, just as there weren’t a lot of white dudes in Eastern Asia in the 6th century. And take yourself over to Google and search for images of “civil war regimental flags”: link to goo.gl If you’re going to do the Battle of Chickamauga, the 6th Kentucky was there, and they flew the Stars and Bars. That’s just a fact, and even the fuzziest historian couldn’t dispute that. You could swap it out for a pink flag with a cupcake on it to make people feel better, but you couldn’t say that was accurate.

    I’m all for mixing up the common perception of events and seeing opposing viewpoints. But it gets downright silly when a game is banned because it’s accurate.

    I can’t comment much on the Witcher 3; it’s a fantasy, so they can do whatever they want with it. But consider the difficulty of presenting people of color in a medieval-style fantasy in a way that’s not cheap or even exploitative. I’m sure there are ways to do this without just slipping token characters in there, but I’m sure it’s hard to do well.

    To that point: I would love to play games set in Africa, with real African character. As a white guy, I would love the chance to have some insight into that experience. But also, as a white guy, I would never dare make that game. Even with the best study and doing my best to be true to that culture, I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t still blackface if I try to pull that off. Thank goodness we’ve had cool games like Never Alone; more along those lines would be wonderful. I’m just not sure we can ask a

    • Laurentius says:

      History is not dealing with facts, it’s dealing with historical facts. Battle of Chickamauga is historical that is constructed.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        I’m reading a really good book on that battle right now!

        Such a fascinating war.

        I am a total Sherman fanboy by now. I cannot even pretend to be objective, despite my training, when it comes to that war.

        • pepperfez says:

          Sherman was, without question, The Baddest Dude. I especially like his meticulous instructions on how to bend railroad tracks so they can never be straightened, into what came to be known as “Sherman neckties.”

          • Stellar Duck says:

            He was also pretty much a prophet:

            “You people of the South don’t know what you are doing. This country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is all folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing! You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it … Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive, or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical, and determined people on Earth — right at your doors. You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people will but stop and think, they must see in the end that you will surely fail.”

            And had a nice relationship to the press. God, I just love him so much.

    • GameCat says:

      Heh, reminds me of controversy around Resident Evil 5 where majority of enemies are black, because the game take place in Africa. And you’re playing as white dude (with African chick sidekick) shooting all these Africans.

      And for the games set in Africa, Far Cry 2 is probably the best thing you can play right now.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        Oh for Chrissakes don’t even start with this. The “controversy” over Resident Evil 5 was not “because all the enemies are black”, it was because pretty much every single black character in the game was presented in a way straight out of The Big Book of Insensitive Storytelling Clichés. Oh, look, the virus just happens to make regular black NPCs react in a way that makes them look exactly like ye olde racist caricatures (beware Africa, where the wild, savage natives wait hooting and hollering and rolling their bug-eyes in the jungle, plotting to carry off our white womenfolk! They’re more animals than man! (And the camera makes damn sure you get the idea.) The heroic characters look like catwalk models rather than actual people, there’s an actual village full of natives in grass skirts chucking spears for some reason, and no-one at Capcom thought maybe all this wasn’t such a good idea?

        So no, it’s not “OMG how can you possibly shoot black people, heartless, bigoted game developers???”. There are no evil Social Justice Warriors trying to stop people making games set in Africa or any such thing. It doesn’t make RE5 a bad game, but Yahtzee had it spot on – “Oh, no, they’re [Capcom] not racist. They’re just stupid”.

      • nearly says:

        The issue with Resident Evil 5 isn’t at all that you shoot predominantly black enemies: as you pointed out, Far Cry 2 had that same characteristic. But, the reason one of those games gets labeled racist frequently while the other takes that criticism only from people saying “well Resident Evil 5 was racist because it was set in Africa therefore Far Cry 2 must be as well” (i.e. people that don’t actually think either game is racist and are trying to satirize a perspective they don’t really understand very well) is the way the respective games handled their content. In Far Cry 2, you don’t demean the history of Africa by ignoring it. Like the past hundred years, YOU the player (who is probably playing a white protagonist) are the source of all the chaos and actively making things worse. Not some essential biological fact about how black people are less evolved and closer to some progenitor gene bullshit. It doesn’t do a disservice to an entire continent in an ugly caricature.

        It’s like recent debates about whether or not its inappropriately appropriative of Marvel to release variant covers emulating classic hip-hop covers while not really hiring many writers of color or even really doing anything at any point that otherwise suggests that they have any respect or interest in hip-hop other than making money off of rare variant covers. Whit Taylor has a great piece on appropriation and ends (a write-up from David Brothers on the whole Marvel debate quotes this in the end as well) by pointing out “it’s not so much about who has control over a design, but whether the people it originates from feel in control of their identities.” It shouldn’t be hard to see which game is treating its source material better.

        Alternately, we could just skip this whole discussion by pointing out that I don’t remember any scenes in Far Cry 2 where a horde of monstrous black men chase a screaming white woman into a house.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      God damn it.

      The Stars and Bars are not the bloody battle flag. If you are going to make Civil War arguments at least get the flags right. The Stars and Bars was the national flag of the CSA, not the battleflag of the armies.

      link to en.wikipedia.org

      At least read up on it before saying that the Stars and Bars must be in a game about that battle. And just for you, I looked it up. The 6th Kentucky were using the battleflag, not the Stars and Bars.

      link to ket.org

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Edit: I just remembered!

        Not even the fuzziest historian can refute that?

        I’m pretty much the fuzziest historian given I haven’t done anything with it after getting my degree but I dispute you.

        So what was your point again? Facts? By whom?

      • wengart says:

        It’s just a semantic mistake. A lot of people know the Battle Flag as “the stars and bars” and also think it is the national flag. I don’t blame them too much.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          ” And take yourself over to Google and search for images of “civil war regimental flags”: link to goo.gl If you’re going to do the Battle of Chickamauga, the 6th Kentucky was there, and they flew the Stars and Bars. That’s just a fact, and even the fuzziest historian couldn’t dispute that.”

          If that’s the argument one is making it might be best not to make a semantic mistake that is a crucial as the bloody name of the flag in question and then say that no historian can dispute that.

          Incidentally I play a ton of Civil War games and I’m generally the person that will download the mods to make the flags in Scourge of War more correct so it’s not that I’m averse to depictions of the battle flag.

      • Sakkura says:

        The Stars and Bars was used in battle. At the first battle of Bull Run, it was specifically discovered that there was a problem telling the Stars and Bars apart from the Stars and Stripes.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          And if they had been talking about Firsr Manassas I would not have made a post.

          Chikamauga is a very different battle though, removed geographically and chronologically. The 6th Kentucky, if memory serves, was not at Manassas.

          • Zinegata says:

            Yes, the Confederate 6th Kentucky did not fight at Manassas or any of the Eastern theater battles as far as I can tell. Its first combat was Shiloh.

            Note that I say “Confederate” because the Union Army had its own 6th Kentucky, because contrary to popular belief Kentucky was in fact more pro-Union and many more Kentuckians served in the Union Army than in the Confederate army, to the tune of something like 2:1.

    • Tourist says:

      As is unfortunately the case with the battle of diversity issues in games, the battlelines are fought in entirely the wrong place. It tends to go for the “soft targets” but not the real problem (in my opinion). No non-white people in Witcher, revealing clothing of women etc. These are not really the issue, but they are the easiest targets to understand.

      The problem is, why are there no stories from different perspectives. Throwing a few token non-whites into the Witcher solves nothing. They would still just be guests in a white persons story.

      The question is why are their virtually no RPGs set somewhere other than Medieval Europe, with a Character who is authentically part of that world. There are other interesting historical settings. A Japanese RPG (outside of a JRPG style of course) would be awesome. A Japanese Geralt, fighting Ninja and fighting Asian style dragons. AWESOME!!! An African hunter/Shaman/Warrior (the old Rogue/wizard/warrior combo), fighting to save the world from some great evil while battling off better armed imperial powers. A different perspective at last.

      A game I would make, If I were in the industry, would be an RPG set in a fictional pacific islands type location, who has to travel to various locations to …. something… something…. and save the world. Perfect, stranger in a strange land type stuff.

      • Cinek says:

        “No non-white people in Witcher” – you clearly need to play the game before posting comments like that, cause there’s ton of non-white people in the game. Elves, Dwarfs, Succubs, etc. etc. tons of non-white people in the game, they are actually a main characters in many sub-plots, and racism of the white people is one of key parts of the game.

        • Tourist says:

          Hi Cinek, with respect, I don’t think you read the entire comment. I wasn’t suggesting that the Witcher III does not have minorities, I was suggesting that the debate about representation in games always seems to get caught up on whether there are enough cameos from minorities, when really that should not be the major issue.

          The issue is that we don’t get stories from those other perspectives…. or at least not enough of them. Which I think is a shame. No just for some kind of social good, but, jeez, cause it may be a bit interesting and fun.

    • Zinegata says:

      Here’s the problem – 6th Kentucky’s “Stars and Bars” was a REGIMENTAL banner. Each regiment’s banner had to be distinct from the other, because the banner’s practical purpose on the battlefield was to help soldiers of the regiment identify where they should go.

      A regiment, to err on the side of generosity, is a thousand or so men. At Chickamauga 65,000 Confederate soldiers fought in the battle, meaning there were several dozen regimental banners flying on the Confederate side – each of which had to be distinct or there would be mass confusion on where the soldiers should go.

      Hence, the presence of a regimental banner using the Stars and Bars does not prove that its use was widespread – this is just confirmation bias at work.

      If lots of regiments used it, then the result would have been mass confusion on the battlefield, since when you saw a Star and Bars – in the middle of the smoke, gunfire, and shouting – you wouldn’t know if it was your regiment’s flag or someone else’s.

      Now, each regiment also had another banner – the national banner. But the national banner used was this flag:

      link to en.wikipedia.org.svg

      And the main reason they used this primarily white flag was because it was much more distinct from the US flag compared to the original Confederate national banner:

      link to en.wikipedia.org.svg

      Because again, the flags served an actual practical purpose on the battlefield – they told soldiers where to go and if they were still on the right side of the line. Yet people keep thinking, thanks to romanticized paintings from the 1960s, that everyone used the same regimental flag even though it would have resulted in mass confusion.

      • Uhbas says:

        The Stars and Bars are not the Battle Flag of the Confederacy, you are talking about the Battle Flag while the Stars and Bars is the National Flag.

  5. Laurentius says:

    Thing is past is no more, so historians deal with something that doesn’t exists any more, yet we can only “connect” with this non existing reality by sources and yet even after all this critical analising we are left with “historical facts” that we create now, so we just create certain projections, so of course it is open to further and further re-examinations.

    • dsch says:

      this critical analising

      Sometimes I love the lack of an edit function.

  6. hurvo says:

    Asking for people of colour in witcher 3, or kingdom come: deliverance, is like asking for japanese members of zulu tribe in shaka zulu movie. It could be done, but would look silly and out of place. And demand of this as such is based in racist thinking.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      So, a black person in a fantasy setting is more out of place that a fucking dragon or a drowner?

      Christ. You people.

      • hurvo says:

        kingdom come is not a fantasy, and witcher polish game based on polish book by polish author , setted in mediaval germanic-slavic part of world, so you can write a letter to Mr. Sapkowski and give him order how many inuits and chinese there have to be in his books.

        • Nest says:

          If someone made a game about *modern* Poland, and modeled it exactly on the census numbers, THESE PEOPLE would complain that there aren’t enough black people in it.

      • Cator says:

        That is an icredibly unfair argument. Gues what – Dragons and Drowners were parts of Europan myths. Black people were not.

        But that’s beside the point really. W3 has enough references to modern world and popculture to render that argument moot. But that argument shouldnt be made in the first place.

        Becouse nobody is saying that Black people couldnt be part of this world (they were in the books and in W1). It’s that the setting is esopredominately-white that exclusion of Black people in this particular story cannot be viewed as some glaring omnission or a racist statement. This isn’t virtual Los Angeles were which total omnission of Latinos or Black, could and should be considered gross and political.

        • nearly says:

          Nobody is really saying that it needs to be a virtual LA. They’re responding to arguments about why it makes sense that there are no people of color with all of the reasons why that’s bullshit. TV shows like Merlin which were lambasted for having a PC diverse cast in an Arthurian setting? That’s more historically accurate than most people’s ideas of the historical setting for the fantasy. There’s a great little paper called “Black in Camelot (Africans in Arthurian Legend)” which goes over some of the responses and the historical evidence for people of color in the setting the show takes for inspiration. While The Witcher 3 is not aiming for Arthurian legend as the main inspiration, the issue becomes that you’re telling me it makes no sense for people of color to be in this part of the world when the game’s subtitle is taken from a group which comes from another world entirely.

          It was a conscious decision to choose and design a setting that both has existent black people (Zerrikania) and yet go to great lengths to exclude them from the narrative (they’re over there and they want absolutely nothing to do with this conflict under any circumstances even though there used to be mercenaries in the area and hey there was a sorcerer/alchemist that was pretty high up in a criminal organization but fuck there’s no one else in thousands of miles that looks like them). There’s nothing keeping the Zerrikanians out of the conflict but the desires of the person(s) writing and the writer that designed the world in the first place. That’s a very different point from “Oxenfurt should be more like Los Angeles” and that’s why the argument is so heated. You’re trying to justify it with bullshit (“too difficult to animate”) rather than just admitting it was a decision.

          • Cator says:

            “There’s nothing keeping the Zerrikanians out of the conflict but the desires of the person(s) writing and the writer that designed the world in the first place.”

            But I am not arguing that at all. I don’t know how many times I can repeat this: I am not saying that POC couldn’t be placed in this story and in this setting. In fact I don’t think anyone is saying that (CDPR and Sapkowski are clearly not, since they’ve shown and written about various ethnicities in the past). It’s just that there is enough in-setting justification for their omnission, as to not lambast the creators as if they did something wrong.

            Also, that sometimes it is perfectly fine to choose to tell stories from the perspective of only certain people (especially if those stories are relatable no matter the skin colour). But I’ve made a much, much longer post (or posts) about that in my previous reply to You above.

          • nearly says:

            I don’t know how many times I have to explain this point but the creators are responsible for ALL of the in-setting justifications. No matter how many justifications there are for the omission, real human beings still decided that it was a thing and made a number of decisions to justify it. This is a fantasy world. You are saying “Of course there’s no Zerrikanians, they live far away and don’t want to be involved” in response to “There’s Zerrikanian stuff in the game, so clearly there’s still trade/contact of some variety.” You’re saying “There are a lot of reasons they don’t want to be involved” in response to “Someone wrote each and every one of those reasons as a result of not just one decision but multiple conscious decisions.” You can’t just in-game narrative logic to argue for the decisions of the creators. The Zerrikanians aren’t far away from the happenings of the game because that’s the geography of the map, it’s because someone wrote the thing that way.

          • Uhbas says:

            Because having not-Ethiopia next to not-Poland would make sense if you follow Sapiowski’s style of writing? No it would not.

          • Cator says:

            Nearly, You keep trying to convince me that it all comes down to a concious decision of the creators to design a world that looks in this specific way, while I keep telling You that I am perfectly aware of that, and that my point isn’t to contest that but to show that there is absolutely nothing wrong with such a decision, and certainly nothing to criticise or vilifiy CDPR for. If You still care to have this discussion then please read the the three longer comments I posted to You earlier in this conversation, I make my point clearer there.

            Cheers

      • WiggumEsquilax says:

        Originally posted by Yossarian1507 on The Escapist:

        Oh for the love of..

        I’ll speak here as a Pole AND a former employee of CD Projekt (disclaimer – I was the logistics guy in Polish distribution branch of the company, not part of the creative team behind The Witcher 3) – I’m sick and tired of all those ethnic debacles about this game.

        CDPR is a Polish company, yes, but right now it’s pretty much a multi-culture team. The Executive producer for this game is an American from Georgia state. They have a team of people from all around the world, including black people (from France) and Asian (Filipino). And those are just people I personally met there, there’s probably more, if you’ll dig into the subject. Heck, their next big project, Cyberpunk 2077, is created in close association with the original Cyberpunk RPG creator – Mike Pondsmith, who is black. The team is pretty much aware of different ethnic backgrounds, thank you were much. As for us, Poles ourselves – yes, our country is like 99% white people. No, that does not mean, we are not aware of other cultures existing.

        So… Why there was no black people in Witcher 3? Because it does not fit the lore, God damn it. If someone would actually bother to read the books (although I heard that the English translation is terrible, so that may be at fault here, I don’t know), would have caught it immediately. The world of The Witcher series is basically Northern Kingdoms, Skellige Isles, Nilgaard Empire, and Zerrikania. From the west, there is a vast ocean that no one traversed, and no one knows what’s there. To the East, there are huge mountain ranges, that people did not traverse to find out what’s there. Zerrikania is a desert land, and as far south/east as people ever went. This is this universe land of black people who are living there peacefully and minding their own business. In fact, they are deliberately staying away from from Northeners (ie. white people), because they want to take no part in their crazy power struggles. The only exceptions are pretty much mercenaries, like Tea and Vea – the duo of female Zerrikan bodyguards in the books, or indeed Azar Javed, a Zerrikan sorcerer, one of the main antagonists in The Witcher 1. Even the mercenaries prefer to stay away from the North though during the time of war. The war that we see in The Witcher 3 is actually the 3rd war with Nilfgaard, and during the 2nd one in the books it is stated, that Zerrikans want to have no part in any of the Northener’s bloodshed. Also, they would have to either sail through ENTIRE continent west coast to get there (kindly reminder: Skellige pirates does not fuck around), or travel by foot/cart through Nilfgaard, and their borders.

        Do you see where I’m getting at? Putting a black person in this particular region of the world, during this time would mean explaining, why the fuck would he/she travel so far north during such dangerous times (Velen/Novigrad is basically THE FRONTLINE of this war), when risk/reward ratio is really bad, while he/she could stay safe in their homeland south. It would be getting out of the way of the lore and common sense of people living in that universe. It could be done, yes. It would be also an unnecessary stretch to fit in there, that would be instantly accused of tokenism, I guarantee it. And no, expectations of some people from USA are not enough to compromise perfectly fine geographical lore of the universe. You don’t like it – fine, no one forces you to agree with it. It’s a product you can willingly accept to consume or not based on your preferences. THEREFORE please do not force your expectations of racial quotas on other people’s products, because not all products are made with you in mind. That’s their idea of the game, where black people simply do not fit, due to LOGICAL, GEOGRAPHICAL, LORE reasons, not “Lol, racism, we don’t know that black people exist”. You are basically expecting Zulu people to travel north and fight in Germany vs Poland war. Please stop that, it’s insulting.

        Phew… Rant’s over. Now go play the game. It really is damn awesome.

        • Tourist says:

          I completely agree with this. While I believe the criticism about representation in gaming is completely apt, unfortunately believe the where the people fighting about it draw the battlelines is completely off the mark. It should not be about complaining about the lack of token non-whites or women in essentially a white males story. But about having MORE authentic stories ABOUT non-whites and women.

          • nearly says:

            Can you explain a little more about what makes this “essentially a white males story” other than it being literally about a white male?

          • Tourist says:

            Hi Nearly, sure, it’s possibly a clumsy way of describing what I mean. Its a ‘white mans’ story, partly as you say, because he is a white man… although partly this is untrue with Geralt because he is a mutant and an outcast…. At least he is supposed to be, the game seems to forget that Witchers are reviled as Geralt is, lets face it, pretty upwardly mobile.

            But also its because the setting is based upon a Europe in the middle ages, which is predominantly Caucasian, its the part of the world where a large part of Caucasian history is occurs, where all Caucasian people trace their roots ultimately etc. I’m not saying this is a bad thing… or that games like the Witcher should not exist/should be reset elsewhere… after all these perspectives should be told too. I’m loving playing it…. I may even finish it by the time I reach retirement.

            The problem, as I see it, is that very little games are being created which use other historical roots as their setting. Which is a shame, given the wealth of awesome settings, the lack of limitations games have as a medium for exploring other world. Still we remain predominately (in RPG at lease) trapped in comfortable European settings.

        • Cinek says:

          There, perfect post. I need to bookmark it just in case someone else pops up with this stupid argument all over again.

        • Enkinan says:

          *Slow Clap*

          What’s funny is I had no idea there even was a “Witcher 3 controversy” until reading this article and it’s comments. There are tons of games out there that lack certain races in them, but W3 is such a big seller that of course it will be the one people try to knock down even though it is logical within the fictional world setting.

      • Kizor says:

        I’ma gonna step on a land mine here and say: yes. Yes, a black person is more out of place than a dragon in some fantasy settings. I’ve never played The Witcher games, but Conquests of the Longbow is set in Sherwood Forest with the occasional pixie, which is less out of place than a black person would be. Conquests of Camelot is set in medieval England and has some rhyming nonhuman called Widdershins (Copper or tin! Copper or tin! Copper or tin for Widdershins!) who’s less out of place than a black person would be.

        As I understand it, fantasy flaunts some differences from our world (generally of the wizardry, dragony, +3 sword of stabbity persuasion) but only some. Otherwise it’d descend into deranged surrealism and become very hard to market. While it’s doing that, though, it can and should pay close attention to the realism of other parts. A fantasy story has many of the same demands as a historical one to present a vivid, interesting, entertaining setting, or it’ll become Boring Peasant Village #37 (Torched By The Big Bad In 5…4…3…) and the reader will rightly yawn. If the author can come up with all that without drawing from life, nice! But if you’re writing about horse-riding nomads, you should know about horses and probably read about the Mongols.

        What’s worse, all the differences from our world don’t save a fantasy story from a ton of demands for accuracy. Our beautiful young farm girl may be raising animals for the dread Sorcerer King out to destroy the world, but if none of the differences extend to mucking out stables, and she finishes that job spotless and smelling of lilies, the book goes into the wall. For a variety of reasons, a lot of fantasy stories overtly mimic – in those respects where accuracy is demanded – real places and times. The Tigana novels? Set in the Southern hemisphere, magic can wipe out cities, still have a lot of Italy to them. I live in one of the least ethnically diverse places on the planet (which certainly helps me blunder into this topic), and if someone wrote a story set in medieval fantasy Finland, a black person would be more out of place in it than a grieving mother talking with the goddamn sun.

        So yes, a black person can easily be more out of place than a dragon in a fantasy setting, if those are the rules the setting sets.

        Now. If someone did write a story set in medieval fantasy Finland, I’d quite like to see some black people in it. It’d just take effort to work them in. King of Dragon Pass is about Fantasy Vikings but gets away with cameos of Fantasy… I don’t even know, one of the peoples near the base of the Nile? by working them in. It would have to be done politely while avoiding tokenism. I don’t know how to do that because I can’t actually write, I’m just a smartass.

        • nearly says:

          I’d recommend checking out an article called “Black In Camelot: Africans in Arthurian Legend.” I assure you, they would not be any more out of place than a dragon, and would actually be far less fantastical.

          • Uhbas says:

            You mean the story were a moorish person is described as ‘a magpie’?

          • pepperfez says:

            Thanks for recommending that article! It really reminded me how much I like and how little I’ve read of Arthurian romances.

          • Kizor says:

            Thanks for that. I read the article and you’re right, I should’ve said more about the black people who were there.

        • Premium User Badge

          Skabooga says:

          Not to be a total smartass, but there is something of a recent history of including a black person in the Robin Hood tale (link to en.wikipedia.org). I’ve never played Conquest of the Longbow, but its depiction of pixies is arguably rarer than the depiction of black people for the Robin Hood legend as a whole.

          • Kizor says:

            Yeah: I just found Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves to be silly. :P

    • Gormongous says:

      You know that the kingdom of Poland existed for centuries next to the Mongols, an Asiatic people of color, and before them the Khazars, Cumans, and Pechenegs, right? People of color were as important a part of the history of Poland as the Holy Roman Empire was, but the latter’s a major plot point in a fantasy work inspired by the region’s history and mythology, while the former is literally erased from the map so that people can make arguments about how unreasonable it is to include faraway Arabs and Africans (but not actually that far away, given the old Varangian routes). The Witcher is a Polish fantasy where the steppes never existed, and that’s a little messed up, much as I like the game.

      • hurvo says:

        there are kumans in kingdom come, cause they fit in to the era and location. In witcher realms racism is depicted and shamed in all games and books, yet it receives sticker for absence of one specific race.

        • Gormongous says:

          Again, to echo that Duck fellow above, Sapkowski and CDProjeckt Red were willing to borrow elves and dwarves from Germanic mythology to talk about racism but not to use the actual ethnic conditions of the medieval Baltic to do the same. I’m sure they had the best intentions, but it’s still disappointing and hardly unreasonable to think so.

          I have only minimal awareness of Deliverance: Kingdom Come, having missed its Kickstarter, but seeing how that one developer, Vavra, handles perfectly rational criticism of his historical fiction through insults and invective, I’m not really impressed by his love of history, however nice his game looks.

          • Laurentius says:

            They also are using latin alphabet that is also “borrowed” and even word “copmuter” that didn’t exis in polish language not that long ago, that proves what exactly ?

      • Laurentius says:

        “You know that the kingdom of Poland existed for centuries next to the Mongols, an Asiatic people of color, and before them the Khazars, Cumans, and Pechenegs, right? People of color were as important a part of the history of Poland as the Holy Roman Empire was”.
        Not at all, actually Poland never extended to the steppes in medieval times. Yes, there was this XIIIth century destructive Mongol raid on Hungary that one army was designed to keep Poland from going to help but it hardly counts as centuries of contacts. That only happend after personal union of Poalnd and Lithuania and still it was Lithuania that borderd Mongols and their successors. Poland extended far into east only at the begining of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the late XVIth century and only after decision of the king to sperate two Lithuanian provinces and to incorporate them to Kingdom of Poland in order to force Commonwealth on opposing Lihuanian aristocrats and to tie Poland with eastern affairs of Lithuania that citizens of Poland were fairly disintressted in at the time. So saying that Mongols were as important to Poland as HRE in medieval times is simply ridiculous, there is no source for such statment, given constant involvement of HRE and Poland from its inception. Not that it matters in slightest in involvement people of color in Witcher.

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          It’s one of the shortcomings of getting your education from Paradox strategy games, it doesn’t really include a very good idea of what a nomadic horde looks like and how it relates to its neighbors/subjects, which is usually by having large empty expanses of land between itself and them and only showing up to collect tribute. Furthermore, the population of the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth itself was never more than about 7 million. Painting large map regions in bright colors makes less and less sense the further you get from tightly administrated and densely populated areas.

  7. P.Funk says:

    This notion of history being very much debatable and flexible was brought home to me by taking a few semesters of medieval history where my professor went through all the different perspectives that have been taken on various topics and how radical some changes in the consensus were, how strongly political and nationalistic it was for so long and how the job of a historian is so much more difficult than that of a scientist in terms of analysis because the data they have to work with is so much more subjective than what scientists typically rely on.

    Reading historical accounts of the coronation of Charlemagne and trying to parse a correct analysis of what really happened based on the groomed facts present in court records from various perspectives was enlightening and thrilling.

  8. neoncat says:

    “There is almost no taboo perspective about the past, but not every perspective will be believed by others and go on to represent historical truth.”

    Er, lolz? The measure of truth is how many ppl I con into believe it? :D

    Anyways, I’m not sure I buy the main argument. Most of those civil war games removed by Apple didn’t deal with anything messy or complicated – they were simplistic tactical simulations bearing the visual trappings of a particular era. Very few devs set out to “present new historical perspectives with verifiable evidence”, that’s what academia is for.

    Also, it is refreshing to see someone treating Assassins’ Creed as more than just a brash b-movie mashup of every tinfoil-hat conspiracy evar.

  9. muther22 says:

    Very interesting article! One thing that struck me as interesting is the characterization of the Second World War as “uncontroversial,” especially when juxtaposed with the First World War as being “controversial.” There are a lot of elements of the Second World War that remain highly controversial in many parts of the world (Emperor Hirohito’s war responsibility, the treatment of Jews in Displaced Person camps following the liberation of the concentration camps, the decision to use the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to name a few.) Many aspects of the Second World War aren’t really talked about in the US due to the appeal of the idea of the “Greatest Generation” and the portrayal of the war as “the last ‘good’ war.”

    Additionally, there seems to be a trend among some historians to consider the two wars as a single continuous event (for instance, several French texts I’ve read refer to the period 1914-1945 as “La Guerre de Trente Ans’ [literally, the Thirty Years War, not to be confused with that from 1618-1648].)

    • mariandavid says:

      Excellent point – the entire argument over ‘non-white in X’ and ‘no naughty flags in Y’ is almost entirely generated in the United States because of its peculiar (in the literal sense) history. For the rest of us the absence of the Southern regimental flag would be a serious issue, just as would the forced insertion of inaccurate ethnics merely to satisfy some obscure PC issue.

      Having said that – in reality historic accuracy is an issue whose impact varies according to type of game. An error of human fact in Crusader Kings II or weapon fact in an early Call of Duty would send devoted players scurrying to complain – but in other genre insistence on what is laughably called ‘accuracy’ when in fictional environments is worse than pointless.

    • James says:

      Just FYI some historians tend to do that because WW1 arguably led directly to WW2 through the vengeful nature of the Versailles Treaty. US post-war economics focused on turning Europe into a kind of economic empire, which annoyed Europe and after said policy made the Wall Street Crash very difficult on Europe, Fascism made massive political gains in Europe – that’s why WW1 can easily be seen as the main cause of WW2.

  10. AWS260 says:

    Thanks for this interesting article. The best course I took as a university freshman was on the historiography of American slavery, which offers some truly remarkable examples of how our understanding and interpretation of historical events changes over time.

  11. Eight Rooks says:

    The annoying thing about Kingdom Come is Daniel Vavra could have quite easily made a calm and reasoned rebuttal to people like MedievalPeopleofColour (who stirred up the whole “controversy” over Kingdom Come). He’s a smart guy who says a great many very smart things about race and our attitudes to it; he’s also so devoted to his vision of the world as some glorious rainbow nation from sea to shining sea since time immemorial he’ll seize on the slightest piece of “evidence”, no matter how shaky, to back it up.

    It would be the work of a few minutes to tell an interviewer this is all very interesting but no, we don’t see any particular evidence suggesting there were that many black people around medieval Bohemia in the 15th century, and we think including one just for the sake of it would kind of detract from the themes we’re trying to explore here about the Slavic identity, etc., etc. It’d be a start; it’d be a considerably better argument than defending The Witcher 3 with “No, there was never a single non-white person in medieval Poland, so there shouldn’t be one in this game either” or whatever.

    But no, he had to launch straight into “Ho noes, the wimminz and evil Social Justice Warriors are coming to take mah gaemz away, why can’t they shut up” and so on. After people posted on the forums about what Kingdom Come is really trying to do I was interested enough to go look up a number of old books about the history behind it and I’m greatly enjoying them – I admit I didn’t know enough to properly judge, I’m considering buying the game after all and it’s also helping with a couple of stories I’m trying to write. But I know enough to say the man is still behaving like a god damned child, and it’s doubly frustrating because if only he’d just drop the baseless insults (and no, me insulting him is not baseless) he’d probably be able to win a whole lot more people over. :(

    • Laurentius says:

      But are you a Czech or Pole or Slovak for example ? Do you have experience of being treated like ? “What are Czechs ? They have actually culture and history ? Even as long ago as 9th, 10th century, you don’t say.” and so forth, and “Oh i just learned about medieval Bohemia just yesterday but let me talk you down a bit and give you a lecture about your country history”. Yeah, that’s very common and many poeple of central and eastern Europe really feel thair buttons being pushed by this. Call it character flow if you whish, but I really think that english speaking world could tread these countries and culters with gentler approach and THEN demand more nouanced and respectful responses. Just saying.

    • Cator says:

      I think You should cut Vavra some slack. I agree with You that some of the things he says are too inflamatory, but take a look at things from his perspective. The man tries to make a game that presents his own slice of culture, a culture that hasnt ever been prominently shown in english-speaking world popculture before. And some external forces try to guilt him into changing his vision to cater to their own view of history (view that more often than not, has absolutely nothing to do with how Czech history really looked like), while at the same insulting him and accusing of racism and bigotry for his initial responses. Everybody would get a bit territorial in such position.

      • prudislav says:

        Especially when czech people(ad Vavra aswell ) experienced the cultural slaughters and lack of free speech during communist regime at the han of Soviets who were forcing their culture there. Now with bullshit like that GG thing if its still going it feels for many Czechs like the US are forcing their culture and view of diversity which makes them not so friendly when trying to discuss it and in fact many americans are forcing their specific worldview onto other cultures without actually understanding the culture there.

        As for the PoC talk , even novadays actual black person is rarity even in Prague, other that that there is around 0.5% population of asians , other than that there is some population of roma poeple and thats all

        • JamesTheNumberless says:

          Central Europeans feeling culturally oppressed by the US? I’m not sure which Czech Republic you’ve been to but in the one I know, they would laugh at you, after you explained to them what a GG was. Suggesting that Czechs wouldn’t embrace, or would be upset by, a version of medieval Bohemia that included people of color is a bit insulting to Czechs. I’ve found more ethnic diversity and openness in a small village in South Moravia than you seem to think exists in the whole country.

          • JamesTheNumberless says:

            Also the Czechs held their own better than most against Russian cultural imperialism and are quite rightly proud of it. The real “slaughter” perpetrated by the communists in the Czech lands was against the Sudeten Germans. Czech identity has weathered the Hapsburgs, the Nazis, and Soviet Russia. I don’t think think it feels too threatened by social justice warriors.

      • P.Funk says:

        I hardly think thats a fair defense. If anything he should be extra careful to ensure that his perspective is understood rather than being easily maligned by a myopic cultural trend. Sadly that is how things are and PR is pretty important.

        You’re basically saying its understandable that he’d play right into the hands of those who would easily attack things without cause.

        Enough rope to hang himself with and all that.

        • Cator says:

          What You say is true, but it’s less of a defense of his actions from me, and more of being sympathetic to his position.

    • pepperfez says:

      The annoying thing about Kingdom Come is Daniel Vavra

  12. Wulfram says:

    A historian wouldn’t say “There were never people of color in the medieval, Eastern European milieu from which The Witcher is drawn” because that statement is plain wrong, unless you pick a fairly odd definition of people of colour. It’s not about subjectivity and different perspectives and all that, a whole bunch of Mongols rode through Poland, and while Mongol was a pretty broad term by the time they reached Europe, a bunch of grandsons of Genghiz Khan surely count as “people of colour”.

    Let’s not exaggerate the blurriness of history, that just gives validity to Fomenko type loonies.

  13. Baffle Mint says:

    It’s hard to take this article seriously when it opens with two stupid opinions I’ve never seen anybody actually express.

    In terms of the confederate flag thing, the prevailing response wasn’t “There were always Confederate battle flags in the American Civil War.”; it was “When a game is overtly about the civil war you should expect to see the symbols of the confederacy.”

    Isn’t Apple creating history here too? Did they confine themselves to only removing the inaccurate games that used the confederate flag in ways that weren’t fully historically attested? Because that’s not the story I heard, but maybe I misunderstood how it worked.

    I also don’t really like the euphemism “people of color” if we’re talking about medieval history. Some “people of color” really legitimately were absent from Europe in the middle ages. I’m going to state, with a very high degree of certainty, that medieval Poland contained no Australian Aborigines or Native Americans.

    I wouldn’t object if some fantasy game included medieval European influenced societies living right next door to, say, Mesoamerican influenced societies, but that’s not very good historical practice, is it? It’s not an accurate perspective of the past.

    Actually, there is a bizarre parallel here that I didn’t see at first. By framing the argument for the confederate flag as “There were always Confederate battle flags in the American Civil War.”, you seem to be saying

    “Hey, the confederate battle flag wasn’t always that common even in the civil war, so why should we be concerned about removing it entirely from some games?”

    Whereas the perspective on The Witcher seems to be “Even if people of color weren’t that common in medieval Poland, we should be extremely concerned about removing them entirely from games.”

    I guess my point is, it helps to address the more reasonable arguments made by your opponents, not the stupidest ones you can find.

  14. Universal Quitter says:

    Since the Army of Northern Virginia was actually at the Battle of Gettysburg, I think it’s beyond question that Game-Labs should not have had their game removed over it.

    If Apple couldn’t see the difference between Ultimate General: Gettysburg and Redneck Rampage, I think that says a lot more about the backward racial attitudes of Apple employees than that of society, gamers, or the people that make games.

    It’s only censorship when you fuck it up. Most people are willing to go along with a store policing their wares, as long as there’s some discretion involved in the process. It helps to explain what you’re doing ahead of time, and the criteria for it, too.

  15. Katanalx says:

    The problem with this text is the phrase:
    “There were never people of color in the medieval, Eastern European milieu from which The Witcher is drawn.”
    This is a blunt LIE!!! History (medieval) was written by white male people… Colored people and woman were written out. As an example, I can give you Portugal (were I live) were we ALL have Moorish blood with Celtic, Visigoth, etc in the mix. The ship pilots in the “Descobrimentos” were Moorish (Muslims from North of Africa, with several ethical origins) but there’s only reference to the captain (white). One of the biggest empires in history was in Congo (there are evidences that this empire reach as far as china) but hardly anyone talks about it (in the general public media).
    If William Shakespeare, in 1603 writes Othello with a Black Moor, a General in the Venetian Army, surely in real life was nothing unheard for. The Moors were human traffickers in the Silk Route before the Portuguese open the sea way, so slaves were known in Europe. Venice (the end of the Silk Ruote) was closer to Germany (eastern Europe) that it was from Portugal, so it’s easy to assume there were a fair number of colored people in the states that compose Germany now.
    Game developers usually do a careful research of the historical setting of there game but I belive the problem lies in the history books…

    • JamesTheNumberless says:

      You, um, only read that far didn’t you?

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        The article is pointing out the fundamental problem with assertions of this nature, with regard to the flux of history. That’s why the key words there are in italics. Everybody’s reading of history is different, otherwise there wouldn’t be any point in studying it – there would be nothing to write about it.

    • Dinger says:

      With all deference, Prof. Whitaker’s point was that historians don’t argue that way. For serious historians, ethnicity and race are themselves complex subjects, and the point of departure cannot be how we see people in the world, but how our interlocutors expressed themselves. His point was “always” and “never” are loaded terms that involve turning one’s back to the evidence. In the case of “race” and “ethnicity”, the first problem we have is with our own use of the terms: How we define someone has no basis in reality. There’s no set of indicators in the DNA that serve to say “Member of Racial Group n and not p. On the other hand, it could be useful to see how our medieval friends discuss such notions. Well, they don’t have precisely the same terms. Funny thing, they have their own constructions that are weird to us and also don’t have a basis in reality.
      Well, okay, Professor. That was me spiking your Academica page. So does this count as a publication or as service to the community?

      • Katanalx says:

        The problem is not with the historians today (Prof. Whitaker can be a serious historian). The problem is with wrote history in the passed, i.e Roman Catholic Church, a highly bias organization known for burning women in the polls (with Jews and Muslims) and said slavery was ok because “black people are not humans”.
        When a historian reads sources from middle age that source is going to be tainted with the bias of the Roman Catholic Church, a misogynist and racist organization. Of course there are no blacks (or women) in the history books made by the Roman Catholic Church

      • Katanalx says:

        That’s not true. There are “Negroids” markers in DNA. If you have that marker you have an African descent…

    • MaXimillion says:

      Have you looked at a map of Europe lately? I’m pretty sure Germany is firmly in the middle, not in the east.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Do you really think somebody who only reads the first paragraph of an article bothers to look at a whole map??

        “Europe? Oh yeah I’ve seen that, there’s a Portugal on the left and then some stuff to the East of it, including some Germans”

        • pepperfez says:

          “You got, uh, coupla two ‘r tree Britains, buncha Scandinavia, an ‘at little one in the middle…wit da chocolate? Yeah, uh, Cote d’Ivoire, that one.”

      • Katanalx says:

        Germany is a relative new country (only 200 years old) and was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. Some parts of it ware Western Europe and some parts Eastern Europe. Only in 1989 the Eastern part of Germany was considered “Western Europe”. In my opinion, although the population of Germany is Goth and not Slav (in is origins), the are more “Eastern” then “Western” because they were never a Roman colony. Of the “Eastern” countrys only Romania is of roman descent in language. So for me, a Portuguese, with a country with more then 800 years, Germany is the border of Western and Eastern cultures.

      • Katanalx says:

        I spoke of Germany because it was a part of the Holy Roman Empire (not a country in itself) and it’s border is next to Poland. What I was trying to explain is that the mingling of races is much more older then you think and I truly believe the people with black skin (or yellow or red or etc) were known in Europe and more present then the Roman Catholic Church wants us to believe. So, in my opinion a game set in Medieval Times should have 1 or 2 colored for at least 10000 in country as Poland (I truly believe that in Portugal were more like 1 to 100).
        The Western culture sees the world trough the filter of the Roman Catholic Church. Only when the full population of Poland (or any other country) is submitted to genetic tests, and only then, I will believe there were no “colored” people in Medieval Poland.

    • BritinBeirut says:

      You’ve misunderstood the point of the examples he gives.

      The two statements are examples of fallacies common to amateur historians according to the author.

      • Katanalx says:

        I believe you all misunderstood me (maybe my English is not clear). I’m not attacking the Author of the text or the makers of the game. I’m just pointing out that history was written by a racist and misogynist organization so every thing we ear is biased.
        I believe that is the real question good historians should ask: what is a lie in the writings of the Roman Catholic Church.

  16. Fry says:

    Through this work historians can gradually shift our perspective on historical events. For example, consider the recently celebrated American Revolution. In decades past, this event was the story of Americans throwing off the tyranny of British colonial rule. Yet now this view is complicated by a global perspective in which the British request for more taxes not only seems rational, but warranted.

    Surely this has always been the British view of the event, but has never been how Americans would describe it. As ever, interpretation of history has much more to do with who’s doing the interpreting than what the sources actually say.

    • muther22 says:

      Sources themselves also tend to be *very* based on who is writing them.

    • Palladian says:

      Partially. It’s naive to assume that all historians of a particular nationality or group are going to defend that point of view, though. If you look at German interpretations of WWI you’ll find they’re often the harshest critics of the imperial regime and German militarism. The (hotly debated) theory of Sonderweg, for instance, is a good example of one piece of historiography mostly pushed by German scholars… and it’s not a rose-tinted view of German governance and unification, to say the least.

      Similarly, some of the most virulent and hostile historiography to be published about the Soviet Union has come from socialists.

  17. hurvo says:

    whatever, CDPR may put in novigrad a gang of black panthers and give another dimension to humans-nonhumans racism ingame, oh wait… :D

  18. TheAngriestHobo says:

    I’ve only read the first paragraph or so (and as a history geek, I’m loving where this is going), but I want to point out that the following sentence isn’t quite accurate:

    “There were never people of color in the medieval, Eastern European milieu from which The Witcher is drawn.”

    The Crimean Khanate was a neighbour of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth during the middle ages, and was inhabited by a nomadic, warlike people of Mongol-Turkic descent. Also, during the late middle ages and early modern era, the borders of the Ottoman empire brushed up against those of the Commonwealth, and the two nations fought numerous wars as well as engaging in a constant stream of trade. I suppose it’s a matter of definition, but I would argue that there were numerous people of colour in Polish society during this period. It’s also worth taking into account that the Commonwealth’s relative religious tolerance attracted visitors and immigrants from across Europe and beyond. The notion of a “white Poland” is a relatively recent development which can be attributed primarily to the ethnic cleansing of WW2, and, to a lesser extent, the relocations that occurred in the early communist era.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      And now I see that you refute the sentence I quoted in the next paragraph. Oops!

    • Laurentius says:

      I am all for interpretations and debating historical facts but please let’s at least keep some things straight. Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth was created in 1569 so it’s hardly Middle Ages. For the most part of middle ages from half of the 10th century to half of 14th century estern border of Poland was basicly Vistula and San rivers, with certain excursion towards Bug river and eastern neighbours were Kievan Rus and her succesors and then Lithuania. And also “during this period” when it means a couple hundereds of years, it sounds really strange.

      • TheAngriestHobo says:

        While I’ll admit that the Union of Lublin came towards the end of the medieval period, by most standards (and you must remember that there are no set “beginning” and “end” dates for historical eras) it was still very much in that time frame. Furthermore, there had been increasingly strong strategic, trade, and cultural connections between the Polish and Lithuanian kingdoms for at least a century previous, and Poles were more than familiar with the peoples beyond their eastern neighbour (and vice versa). We should also not forget the Moldovans, whose territory straddled the southern border of Poland prior to the Union. They were, by the late middle ages, an extremely heterogeneous society, the territory having been conquered by numerous invaders from both west and east. It’s yet another example of the exposure Poles would have had to ethnic diversity, even prior to the formation of the Commonwealth.

        • Laurentius says:

          All I am saying that even middle ages in Poland is couple of hundreds of years long period, so sweeping generalistions about this period generally are big misses, adding Modern Ages to the equation only confuse things beyond any relevance.

  19. baozi says:

    As someone who’s half Asian, I don’t really care a lot about there being few PoC in games with medieval European settings, but I do care a lot about movies that get whitewashed by Hollywood (*cough*thelastairbender*cough*) and lack of representation in games/movies set in the present.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Incidentally, this is making me think how strange it would be to see a white/black/Inuit/whatever character in, say, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. We don’t take issue with an “omission” (if you can call it that) of that sort. In fact, it’s often jarring and bizarre when it occurs… such as in The Last Samurai (ugh).

      Of course, the argument can be made that those films are intended to tell the stories – however inaccurately – of legitimate historical events, whereas a game like the Witcher is only inspired by the mythology of a certain region, and thus the writers have more artistic freedom to deviate from accepted historical fact. Nonetheless, I don’t see the issue with portraying a narrow range of ethnic groups in a fantasy setting, particularly when your intention is to focus on the story of a particular group or culture.

    • Tourist says:

      I think the problem is these debates get caught up the soft targets. Not enough token characters, women’s necklines etc. We should not be concerned that there are not enough “guest” no-whites in pseudo-Europeans peoples stories, rather why are so many the stories about pseudo-Europeans. Or if stories are set in “non-white” settings, why do we have to see it from a white persons eyes. Surely better representation isn’t about ticking off a checklist of “characters by ethnicity/sex”, but rather telling stories of people not from your usual European male context.

      What gets me is I just don’t know why they don’t do it. I think they, being game developers, movie producers, etc, are treating us like morons to think that a story about an Asian person, set in an Asian context, is not going to sell. Take the Last Samurai…. do they think we need a “gateway whitey” in order to get excited about a movie about Samurai…. hell no, its a movie about Samurai.

      Particularly the context of gaming, where there is literally no limits as to what worlds the developers can create and immerse us in. Why do they feel the need to be limited to only one or two experiences.

  20. montorsi says:

    The way they present women and the lack of people of color fairly clearly points towards what informs their fiction. A look towards history is helpful when it comes to analyzing such writing, certainly.

  21. JamesTheNumberless says:

    I think the real question on everyone’s minds is whether or not that title screenshot is from a completely un-patched version of EUIV. And if not, what precisely was Burgundy’s strategy?

  22. Palladian says:

    This is an absolutely wonderful article. I’m really sad the comments are so bad.

    If you really took this as a call to muster and claim black women were or weren’t appropriate in Witcher 3 or some other bit of minutiae you’ve either stopped reading when you disagreed with the article or badly misunderstood it.

    Your view of *the accuracy* of one thing in one game is wholly irrelevant to what the article is trying to say about historical interpretation and the fluidity of historical debate. If you’re going to argue, at least argue about something pertinent to the essay.

    • ludicrous_pedagogy says:

      Here here. I hope Robert isn’t put off. It’s nice to have a prof writing for the site!

  23. ludicrous_pedagogy says:

    Interesting article. I’d like to see more stuff written here about history and games. I’m particularly interested in how games can be used for teaching History or Social Studies – as analogous models for historical understand. So instead of teaching a linear version of history (“one damn thing after another”), use games (or game-likes) to explore the systems that ran the historical world. This could be using Crusader Kings 2 to show the nature of medieval inheritance and claims or using Sim City to understand 20th century city building.

    Now this idea pretty much breaks down if you want to teach anything more advanced than secondary school level, as the detail in the systems are just not there – but it in terms of getting kids engaged in History/Social Studies as a subjects …and to critical analyze interpretations from all medias.. and creating that ‘post-structural/modern’ uncertainty in our conception of history you’re looking for, I think it can only be a good thing.

    At the moment I do a special lesson on siege warfare for our Year 7s using Medieval 2 Total War. But it’s something I want to expand more. Also there is a great practical guide for teachers on this by Jeremiah McCall called Gaming the Past – link to gamingthepast.net

  24. xyzzy frobozz says:

    Oh you want to try being Australian!

    You’re constantly being bomarded with the technically correct yet entirely facile interpretation of history that your country is a penal colony.

    Again, whilst it is technically correct, it ignores the complexity of the issue entirely, and is massively ignorant of the vast majority of those transported to Australia – forced off common lands due to enclosure laws and forced to move to cities unable to sustain them.

    All during an economic depression at a time when even fairly minor criminals were executed….

    • xyzzy frobozz says:

      I appreciate that doesn’t relate directly to gaming, but it does illustrate that even commonly held interpretations of history can so simplistic as to be effectively inaccurate.

  25. Eightball says:

    Since when did “non-Europeans” start being called “people of color” when outside of the US? We all realize that out of the world population, Europeans are a minority, right? Posters here make it sound like the average Medieval Mongol was oppressed by his evil white Polish neighbors.

  26. Bigamo says:

    Hi, i registered in the site just to say that i am a historian and that this text is pure RUBISH.

    “Professional historians, however, rarely use such words when talking about the past. Contrary to popular opinion, most historians treat history as a fluid object, something that rarely if ever goes unchanged or discussed with anything close to absolute certainty.”

    Thats PURE BULLSHIT. Just the leftist school behave like that, and not cause the “History will change”, its just cause they will lie everytime that something in the true history denies their crap.

    There is just ONE history folks, i am a professional historian, so deal with it. And thats the most nice thing about History, it have THE TRUTH. And our job is to uncover most of it, the problem is that many “professionals of history” just lie all the time in their effort to promote their ruined ideology.

    • Zinegata says:

      Would you care to share your actual credentials as opposed to what is rather clearly some kid posturing with conservative Fox News marketing-speak that he doesn’t really comprehend?

      • Bigamo says:

        “promote general welfare” is being socialist? Where exactly did socialism promote anything other than misery, slavery and death?

        • Zinegata says:

          For most of its real history outside of Fox News – such as the formation of labor unions in order to ensure minimum wage and the abolition of child labor, the creation of safety nets such as social welfare, unemployment benefits, and medical insurance. You know, actual good things that people want but are dismissed by Fox News as being equivalent to oppression.

          Really, have you ever even looked at the wikipedia definition?

          “Socialism is a social and economic system characterised by social ownership of the means of production and co-operative management of the economy,[1][2] as well as a political theory and movement that aims at the establishment of such a system.[3][4] “Social ownership” may refer to cooperative enterprises, common ownership, state ownership, citizen ownership of equity, or any combination of these.[5] There are many varieties of socialism and there is no single definition encapsulating all of them.[6] They differ in the type of social ownership they advocate, the degree to which they rely on markets or planning, how management is to be organised within productive institutions, and the role of the state in constructing socialism.[7]”

          Oh, and I’m still waiting for your credentials. Name please? Actual position and your university of employment? Because again, your posturing is just tiresome repetitions of some very badly misinformed kid who doesn’t know anything beyond what Fox News tells him.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      I didn’t know you had Internet, Leopold von Ranke.

      Care to tell us wie es eigentlich gewehsen?

      • Laurentius says:

        And yet it’s not that funny to compare this random person on Internet to Ranke, whose works, while his methods are no longer pardigm of modern history, still are extremally vauluable for historians.

      • asclark says:

        The thing is that rejection of naive Rankeanism doesn’t have to mean going to the other extreme of postmodernism.

        History is indeterminate and indeed we can’t state what actually happened however it is not indeterminate to the extent that any version is automatically as good as another. There are balances of probabilities and some of these probabilities are considerably more supported by what evidence we do have than others.

        Amongst these are that medieval Poland was largely Slav, with German, Jewish and Tatar/Mongol influences, very much depending on where in that large country you look.

        In the context of the Witcher 3, I’d argue that the Slav and German influences are represented by the northern kingdoms generally, that the Jews are represented by the dwarves and that the elves represent indigenous Balts or Lithuanians or something, subjugated by the crusading orders. Nilfgaard could stand either for the HRE or expansionist Muscovy, especially with Novigrad being an obvious Novgorod. So we are missing the Tatars or indeed the – white! – Cossacks, however we would not expect these to be living as peaceful villagers as their horseback way of life was rather other and warlike in opposition to a farming peasant lifestyle, so those arguing for ethnic diversity would have to accept that the most obvious source of this would be seen as antagonists and feared – probably not a very satisfactory solution if that’s your aim. Likewise the Turks.

        The problem lies in this awful American concept of POC – as if all races other than white share some special connection. If Mongolian/Tartar influences were represented in the Witcher, this would be perfectly understandable but how would that make me feel represented as a black or Japanese or Indian person? Because while the balance of historical probabilities allows the former, it does not any of the latter (although the Roma are probably Indian several thousand years back and could very justifiably be included.) In terms of black people for instance, it was slavery that resulted in a slightly more widespread diaspora. But Eastern European slaves were white, taken by the aforementioned Tatars and sold to the Italians on the Black Sea and then after Byzantium fell to the Turks. It’s where the word Slav comes from!

        • asclark says:

          Note did quickly check and looks like the derivation of Slav is contested – however even if it’s from a Slavic original not meaning slave, it was understood that way in transmission to Greek and Latin because of the fact that many slaves were kidnapped from that part of the world.

          Also should read then, after Byzantium fell, to the Turks.

    • Anabasis says:

      The idea that our recovery of the past is inflected by both past and present ideology and politics is central to credible, professional historical practice not just for those naughty leftists. Even if there is ONE history, its interpretation and reconstruction is indelibly marked by our attitudes, agendas, and perspectives as well as our sources’ authors. Understanding these is fundamental.

      • Bigamo says:

        My point is that historians work was supposed to be UNCOVER THE FACTS. All those other readings are work for philosophy.

        As the “accusations” of being a fox news fanboy… I don’t live in the US, i live in a freaking socialist hell, there is NO right wing media here as ALL the media is paid by publicity of the government.

        And the other guy said that sindicates are responsable for the good living standards in the first world and that is a LIE.

        In ALL of the third world (where i live since i have been unlucky when i born) the workers have more “rights” than in the developed countries still, people FLEE the places where they have “more rights” to the places where they have “less rights” in pursue of their own happines. Sindicates SUCK and exist just to exert ilegal political power.

        But i will say once again, Historians work MUST BE the uncovering of facts, the big interpretations are philosophic work, not stop a historian to be a philosopher TOO. But it is a different function.

  27. Bigamo says:

    “Most historians would prefer to modify previous thinking about an event using new evidence, new methodologies or new perspectives. Through this work historians can gradually shift our perspective on historical events. For example, consider the recently celebrated American Revolution. In decades past, this event was the story of Americans throwing off the tyranny of British colonial rule. Yet now this view is complicated by a global perspective in which the British request for more taxes not only seems rational, but warranted. Some recent work argues that the war shouldn’t be seen as a revolution at all, but rather a civil war over British constitutional ideas.”

    Thats not a discussion about history, its semantics and especially semantics being used for politics, all the facts remains the same, and getting inside the semantic discussion, clearly the US independence war wasn’t a revolution per se as it doesn’t come to invent a new social structure. But that is a semantic discussion and not a historical one.

    • Zinegata says:

      Politicization of history is distinct from the quest for historical accuracy. Many modern day politicians for instance claim that the Founding Fathers would not support socialism – forgetting that the socialism they rail against wasn’t really developed until the 19th Century – and yet seem to ignore the pre-amble of the US Constitution which in fact includes “promote the general Welfare” as one of its primary goals.

      The key really is not accepting statements at face value, and to dig for the historical truth. This generation, more than any other, has greater access to the primary source materials than any other generation; and can see for themselves how very many politicians in fact lie through their teeth when they claim that historical facts support them.

      • Bigamo says:

        “promote general welfare” is being socialist? Where exactly did socialism promote anything other than misery, slavery and death?

        • Gap Gen says:

          Hahahahahahahahaha.

          • Gap Gen says:

            I should perhaps add: that’s exactly what socialism seeks to correct in a capitalist society, and the fact that the USSR is criticised in ways that the West is not is a great example of how media and popular history distorts our view of the world.

        • Dawngreeter says:

          Oh dear me. You’re adorable.

  28. Zinegata says:

    A nice article – there really is a distressing lack of understanding of the historical investigation process by most of the public; and indeed many insisting on “historical accuracy” don’t realize they are actually repeating myths or misconceptions.

    Regarding the Confederate Flag for instance – while the “Confederate Flag” was indeed the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, it’s worth noting that it wasn’t actually used that much based on actual period photographs and paintings. In fact America as a whole wasn’t really into flag-waving during the Civil War – it wasn’t even required for school houses to show the flag until after the Civil War, and there was no set standard on how to arrange the stars on the US flag. It wasn’t until WW2 and the famed Iwo Jima memorial that flag-waving began to become fashionable.

    The watershed was the 1960s, particularly the 100th-year anniversary commemoration of the Civil War. During this time, a lot of paintings were commissioned like this:

    link to civilwar.org

    Which projected 20th Century flag-waving into the Civil War, which is historically inaccurate but has become the basis of using the “Confederate” flag first in chit-and-counters or miniatures wargaming, followed by computer wargaming.

    Moreover, it’s worth noting that the 60s also so the rise of some very nasty anti-Civil Rights movements, including a resurgence of the KKK. And the KKK of this period, playing fast and loose with the historical facts as always, simply looked at the centennial anniversary paintings and thought that the ANV battle flag was the “Confederate” flag and it was a major symbol of the Confederacy.

    Hence it was pretty much no surprise that the KKK showed up when people tried to rally “in support” of the Confederate “legacy” and showed themselves for the white supremacist douchebags that they are. The “Confederate” flag was in fact a symbol of the white supremacists in the 1960s, hence its very poor reputation among the African-community and learned people in general.

    I don’t really expect much change, as people are too wedded to their supposed ancestor’s heroic past to let true historical accuracy get in the way, albeit I do try to post on these topics when I can. Those who found this post useful and want to know more should look up a great book called “The Lies My Teacher Told Me” if they want to know more about how history (particularly US history) had been badly manipulated and taught.

    • wengart says:

      The Battle Flag was one of the more popular C.S.A. Flags during the war. Largely because of its extensive use by the AONV (and other confederate troops) and the dislike for Confederate National Flags. It also showed up repeatedly during the Gettysburg/Civil War reunions.

      There is actually a video of Woodrow Wilson giving a speech at one of the last great Civil War reunions flanked by an American Flag and the CSA Battle Flag.

      • Zinegata says:

        First of all, there’s no doubt the ANV used it – it was their battle flag.

        However, consider this: Civil War reunions happened in the 1890s, and Woodrow Wilson who became president in the 1910s. If you look farther back however there was much less use of the flag. Look up some actual paintings and photographs from the 1860s. You’ll find very few instances of the Confederate, or even the US flag being flown. Notably, the laws mandating that flags be flown outside of schools were passed only in the 1880s.

        The point isn’t to say it was never used. The point however is that its popularity was a post-war thing, which peaked when America really got into flag-waving after WW2. And that the flag’s popularity in fact concincided with the KKK’s use of it as a white supremacist flag.

    • bc672 says:

      Love Lies my Teacher Told Me. Growing up in the American South, that and People’s History of the United States helped remove much of the historical misinformation from my head.

  29. Gap Gen says:

    I think it was a podcast on here ages ago between John and Jim where they were discussing Call of Duty, and its apparent change in tone. What was argued (I think) was that CoD never really understood the subtext of what they were doing but were great at adapting Spielberg-esque TV shows and films into game settings (ditto Brothers in Arms and Medal of Honor) so any pathos or humanity that’s in those games is probably carried over from that. When they began aping Michael Bay movies and the like, it became a lot more brash and nationalistic not because the studios were particularly going for that, but simply because they had different inspirations.

  30. sapien82 says:

    It’s very interesting that you picked the witcher 3 which is based on medieval europe and also the myths and local folklore , also interesting that much of ancient human history is based on myth and folklore

    the book I refer to hamlets mill gives this account of human history

    end of the day they are games and do not accurately reflect any given time period unless they are purely historical education games so why do people get uptight about it

  31. Palladian says:

    First, I sincerely doubt you’re a professional historian since you don’t even have a grasp on what’s being discussed. Second, he is obviously and easily correct about historical interpretation changing over time. Nationalistic views of WWI have faded or at least become more complex.

    By insisting revision is a leftist tool you’re failing to engage with a vast swathe of history, certainly from the 1960s onward.

  32. Little_Crow says:

    Blimey, a lot of people put their serious hats on for this one.

    Though it wasn’t the point of the article, it made me appreciate how much of my World and American history, and geography knowledge is based on things I learned from computer games, and it made me smile. More specifically, almost entirely games made by Sid Meier.

    As a kid I don’t think I would have described Civ or Colonization as Educational, but they most definitely were. The fact I know figures like Adam Smith and Peter Stuyvesant (though still can’t pronounce it) is a testament to the tacit teaching taking place every time I sailed West to enslave some Native Americans while freeing my colony from the dastardly British/Dutch/French/Spanish.
    Pirates! educational value was a little better hidden – but I know the names of a surprising number of West Indies and Central American settlements\islands and the countries that founded them.

    As long as you sift out the anomalous events like when an Aztec Phalanx took down one of Abe Lincoln’s armour units I think there was a pretty strong base of learning there,

    Cheers Sid!

  33. xyzzy frobozz says:

    Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway…. to name a few.

    But if your translation of Socialism is “COMMUNISTS!!!!!” as it so often seems to be in the US, then, yeah, you have a point.

    But only among other people of similarly little nuance.

    • Bigamo says:

      Most of the countries that you pointed out are not socialists either, and sweden is the leftists wet dream, maibe cause it is overall a small country that most people don’t know a lot about. Take a look on their problens and become impressed to discover that they are set to very soon reach the third world together with the other socialist countries.

      Those European countries can make socialism happen for some time cause they had a great period of liberalism before it so people had more money for the government to rob. But as ms Tatcher used to say “socialism endures while endures other people money”.

      Other than that in EVERY socialist country there is no possibility of social ascension, since the economy is hold and there is NO inovation. If you research Finland you will discover that who pays for most of the country in Nokia and SURPRISE Nokia just LOSES money in Finland They make up for that earning money in the rest of the world.

      I am a ex leftist myself, living in a socialist hell and loads of serious study can change a person mind when the official version of history isn’t backed by the facts.

  34. bc672 says:

    Honestly, I don’t care about inclusion of PoC in Witcher 3. This won’t solve the problem. What will is no longer telling the same old lame stories from the Western, White perspective. I love RPGs, and there is a lot of creativity in the field currently. But I’m honestly getting bored with the same old LoTR/D&D knockoff stories, about a white, male, buff warrior human who goes on fetch quest after fetch quest. Tell me something new! Give me a story about a mercenary captain during the Warring States period of China. Give me a story about a tribe of warriors trying to survive in an Africa where myths have become reality. The fact that such stories have not been created is more of a fault of the content creators than the media. And honestly, I think the modern indie game climate is putting out vastly superior RPGs in this respect than the mainstream.

    • pepperfez says:

      Really, I think the criticism of the Witcher comes from a place of fondness for just that reason. It’s the story of a gruff white dude in fantasy Europe, but it’s at least a gruff Polish dude in fantasy Eastern Europe. So because they’re not just churning out not-Tolkien pap, it becomes more noticeable when they miss an opportunity to do other interesting things.
      But in general, yeah, you’re totally right about the need for new inspirations. It’s bizarre to me that there aren’t more developers interested in being the first to use some different mythos.

    • Bigamo says:

      Play Dynasty warriors, at least i do.

  35. Tourist says:

    Hi Cinek, with respect, I don’t think you read the entire comment. I wasn’t suggesting that the Witcher III does not have minorities, I was suggesting that the debate about representation in games always seems to get caught up on whether there are enough cameos from minorities, when really that should not be the major issue.

    The issue is that we don’t get stories from those other perspectives…. or at least not enough of them. Which I think is a shame. No just for some kind of social good, but, jeez, cause it may be a bit interesting and fun.

  36. Sheever says:

    I’m making my way slowly through the game. Until I chanced upon this article I was unaware of the absence of black skinned people from the world. It’s simply that it didn’t register with me, isolated from any particular discussions about the game.
    Now I’m feeling vaguely racist on one hand, and on the other, annoyed that I should have to consider this as a potential issue at all. Certainly not in a fantasy world like the Witcher 3. I’ m not familiar with the world’s lore enough but it should be the only way to judge really.
    Hopefully more a “Daily Mail” issue due to the game’s popularity, than any preconceived, sinister omission from a fantasy world that doesn’t support the concept.

  37. Docturnal says:

    I just typed out a lengthy, well thought out, perfectly presented comment, hit “Opinion away” and was told the comment was too long. I hit “back” and the comment was gone. What utter bullshit. RPS, if you’re going to allow this to happen in a place where people post comments, at least give a text counter and let someone know when they’ve reached the limit.

    I’ll summarize. Don’t wear your heart on your sleeve. A: It is easily bruised, and B: it isn’t pumping blood to your brain. When your brain gets no blood, you first get stupid, and then you die.

    The term “Person/People of Color” is such a ludicrously ridiculous and bigoted comment, and I absolutely hate it. To use the term “POC” to refer to persons that aren’t Caucasian, is to deny that a Caucasian has a skin color. Some white people have a ghost white complexion, some tanned, some ruddy, and many others. Some have freckles, some don’t. There isn’t a single human being on the face of the planet, now, or ever, that has had completely colorless (clear/see through) skin. The only color that matters is what comes out of the inside of our bodies, and it is always the same color. It is horrific to see it, especially in large quantities.

    Art should be appreciated for what it is, not what it isn’t. Art includes video games.

    The Witcher 3 is a wonderful piece of art, and although some people feel it doesn’t have “POC”, it certainly does. I appreciate it for its merits, not what it lacks. And it is a wonderful open-world RPG.

    It “doesn’t have POC…” who fuckin’ cares, I’ve got a griffin to kill.

    Vive et sine vivere.