news\ May 15, 2015 at 10:41 am

Developer slams Polygon over The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review

The Astronauts creative director calls out the hypocrisy of Arthur Gies' review

Reviews for games are always a hot topic. While complaints over Polygon’s reviews are nothing new, I found this one -- from Adrian Chmielarz (co-owner/Creative Director at The Astronauts) -- particularly interesting because a) it comes from an industry professional, and b) I personally agree with some of the points Chmielarz makes, and feel the need to share them.

Chmielarz, who was also previously co-owner and creative director at People Can Fly (Painkiller, Bulletstorm), took to Medium to post his thoughts on Polygon’s review of The Witcher 3. Though he was originally just going to ignore the review, he explains, “I love this industry too much to stand silent when it’s being poisoned.”

To that end, Chmielarz posted a lengthy breakdown of the site’s review, which was written by Arthur Gies. While Chmielarz admits the review is “well written,” aside from a few “smaller issues including self-contradictions,” he admits it does a “good job helping gamers make an informed choice. His problem with the Polygon’s review stems from two main issues: Gies’ complaints over the lack of racial diversity in The Witcher 3, and his reckless usage of the phrase “oppressively misogynist.”

On the subject of racial diversity, Chmielarz defends it’s a “non-issue.” In reference to Gies’ tweet in which he argues for racial diversity by sarcastically referencing a northern Europe filled with trolls, griffins, and wraiths, Chmielarz writes:

“The sometimes used argument is “This is a fantasy game, you have dragons, you can have non-white races” does not make much sense to me,”  as the fantasy core of The Witcher is the Slavic mythology, and while dragons fit, non-white races simply do not — the same way white people are not a part of Egyptian mythology.

“However, The Witcher formula, both for books and games, is that it’s the Slavic mythology mixed with generic fantasy (e.g. elves and dwarfs) mixed with certain anachronisms (e.g. characters often use modern terminology). And such formula easily allows us to imagine foreigners from the faraway lands being guests or even a part of The Witcher 3’s world,” he continues. “Actually, we already know that non-white races exist in the Witcher universe. The books talk about Zerrikania, and the first game featured Zerrikanian sorcerer Azar Javed, who was clearly not white.

“So it would not be a problem if the third Witcher featured non-white races. It’s just that it’s also not a problem when it doesn’t. It’s a non-issue.

He makes tons of other good points about racial diversity in The Witcher 3, including the whole debate regarding the “Token Minority trope,” but let’s move on to his problem with Gies’ use of the phrase “oppressively misogynist."

With comparisons to Feminist Frequency, which Chmielarz points out Gies is “an admirer” of, he writes:

“As we can see, The Witcher 3 apparently simply mirrors the real world (as according to Feminist Frequency). So why is Gies saying in his critique that it was wrong for the developer to create such a mirror? Shouldn’t he compliment the developer instead?

"I offer no explanation but I offer good will, so let’s assume that while Gies agrees with some of what Feminist Frequency duo say, he disagrees with the rest. That would make sense, as there is no “epidemic of violence against women”. There is a very real problem of violence against women, of different levels depending on the country (but in all of them, as any sane person would agree, that level should be zero) — but it’s not an epidemic (“an outbreak or product of sudden rapid spread, growth, or development”). On the contrary. While very far from perfection, the world is constantly getting better and safer (and that, of course, includes women) — and that is the opposite of “epidemic”.

"So here I have to assume that Gies understands that when compared to the actual real world, the violence is exaggerated in The Witcher 3. That it’s basically an often grim, often cruel fantasy world.

"But …why is such a world a problem? Is the reviewer confusing portrayal with endorsement? Should art be propaganda for a peaceful life? Should art avoid disturbing universes?"

Chmielarz calls out Gies on quite a few other inconsistencies regarding his use of the phrase, and even accuses the Polygon writer of labeling CD Projekt as a bunch of “misogynists” through his writing.Of course, Chmielarz vehemently disagrees with Gies’ notion.

All in all, it’s a very passionate piece, that concludes with one very huge question we must ask ourselves about the current state of not just gaming media, but all media:

“...is the review a cynical click-bait or is it all just musings of a true social justice zealot? I honestly don’t know. But I know it doesn’t matter, the result is the same: poisoning the industry that is already sick.

Now, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is receiving rave reviews. Sure, Polygon’s is one of the lowest of the bunch, but it’s still an 8 -- nothing to scoff at. What’s more important here isn’t the actual score of the game, but how the media is constantly feeding into this misogynist frenzy in hopes of generating clicks. It’s becoming clear to me at this stage that consumers -- gamers, in particular -- no longer need traditional media coverage. So to stay relevant, sites like Polygon, writers like Gies, resort to click-baiting tactics in order to stay relevant. As Chmielarz points out, we still don’t know why Gies is so offended by violent world full of sex in The Witcher 3, but loves HBO’s Game of Thrones.

I highly suggest everyone read Adrian Chmielarz's post, if only to familiarize yourself with another perspective -- one stemming from the industry.

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