The other day while traipsing about the internet, I stumbled upon a trailer for Atari’s upcoming game, The Witcher. Having not heard of this game before and having always wanted to yell, “She’s a witch!! Burn her!” and then be able to light said witch aflame, I decided to watch the video. What followed was a long and drawn out tour of this medieval looking city being conducted by some white-haired guy that needs to eat a sandwich and stop talking like Max Payne. Still, I had nothing better to do so I continued to watch the trailer. That is when it happened.
My leather-clad tour guide dropped the “F-bomb” as he casually meandered through the scene.
At first, I didn’t think much of it. The “F-word” so what? I have heard it millions of times in movies, music, and my daily life, so why should it bother me now? Lord knows, I have said it a few times myself and have found the experience to be somewhat pleasurable when the word is used at the precise moment and in the proper context of events. Still, the fact that I heard the mother of all swear words in this one instance stuck with me, gnawing at my mind. I imagine this is what it feels like when Tyler Durden splices a frame of porn into the Disney movie you are watching. You know something happened and you know that whatever happened isn’t quite on the level but for the life of you, you can’t figure out what it is.
Last night, I finally figured out why that instance of the “Big F” bothered me. It was not the word itself that was the problem, it was the context in which it was used. Here you have a game with a guy carrying two menacing swords strapped to his back; he is wandering around some fantastical world with dwarfs and elves and all of the other hoopla that accompanies such a scene, and then out of nowhere he uses a word from MY world. People can fornicate under consent of the king (though the word doesn’t actually mean that) all they want in games like Grand Theft Auto, Fallout, and any other world that tries to recreate the reality that I presently live in or one that I may someday. But when you throw magic and mythical creatures into the fray, it turns into a whole different story.
I have read a ton of fantasy books in my time and I am used to hearing words like “arse” or “harpy” and phrases like “slag off ye sea hag” and have always found such terms to be a comical way to adapt modern word usage into a fantastic setting. I enjoy seeing the creativity that authors and game designers employ when dealing with such situations in a fantasy setting and I feel that in the case of, The Witcher, I was robbed of that enjoyment thanks to the lazy scriptwriting of whoever churned out the drivel that my white-haired, Alice Cooper wannabe was spewing. The solitary use of THAT word ruined what would have been an otherwise mediocre experience. Am I alone in my thinking that fantasy games should try to keep realistic words and phrases out so that gamers can better immerse themselves into the world that the developers have created for them? Where was I when the powers that be held the meeting to decide to start incorporating the words I hear in 2007 AD into worlds and times that are closer to 1100 AD? I know that the “F-word” has been around for probably that long but why start including it into fantasy games now?