The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt has more sexual content than any other mainstream video game. Critics are raving. Today you can buy it anywhere that sells video games.
So should you avoid it?
If you’re a gamer on PS4, Xbox One, or PC, you’re considering this question. What do you choose to do? The choice is up to the player as to whether or not to activate the on-screen sex when such activities becomes an option in the story. Yet for millions of men (and women) addicted to porn? It’s not easy to say no.
Expert psychologist Phillip Zimbardo says that pornography and social isolation with video games leads to disorder in males, as noted in this article Video games, porn, and seclusion: The downfall of men? Zimbardo is a Stanford psychologist who studied 20,000 young men and their habits related to video games and pornography. The 2011 study focused on those who “play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation.” Zimbardo says, “Excess, is not the number of hours, it’s a psychological change in mindset.” And that mindset leads to men who “don’t view women as people, but as sex objects, as they have no experience with females outside of porn and the few female characters in games.” You can watch the Ted Talk that Zimbardo gave on the subject.
Sidebar: I’ve been addicted to porn. I admit guilt to each of the examples in Zimbardo’s research. However through Christ, I’ve also found a lot of freedom from those things and have found ways to enjoy games in a healthier manner. That’s not to say that I’m stupid, So let’s look at The Witcher 3 in this context.
Everything is in high definition in The Witcher 3.
CD Project spent sixteen hours motion-capturing sex scenes for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Guinness hasn’t given handed them the Record-holding award yet, but they should. The Witcher series became known for very detailed sex scenes in maximum resolution, leaving no body parts to the imagination. The first Witcher (only on PC) gave the player sexual conquest cards as a reward for sex acts. And The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings cleaned up that tackiness by just letting the sexual encounters stand by themselves on PC and Xbox 360. The Witcher’s graphic sex scenes push the boundaries for videogame sexuality. Now, with the massive power of the PS4, Xbox One and the best of present-day PC technology, the details are in-your-face.
Nudity isn’t optional in The Witcher 3. The Witcher 3 opens on a non-interactive cutscene where at one point, the main character bathes in a tub by himself next to a woman reading in the nude. Developer Nikolas Kolm says this scene exists “in order to plant in your mind, that, at the very least, he must enjoy her company” The camera lingers on her backside in a weird way that says, “hey, we think you’ll like this.” Of course, these remain a scant few seconds in a fifteen-minute-long introduction. This does not establish a framework for some kind of risque show. Other than the lingering camera, the developers dedicate every other shot to building the world and the story. The sexualized depiction push the player towards the protagonist’s motivation to search for the woman who is now missing.
Sex scenes are optional (even if some of the nudity isn’t).
That option is the real tension when you’re talking about video games with sexual content. In a film, you can choose to not watch, cover your eyes, or watch it. You simply choose to not engage in that aspect of the experience, much like owning an internet-enabled device which allows access to porn. But, you have the even greater power not to indulge in such options. And, if you’re reading this right now? Congratulations: you have self control. The question remains whether or not you have enough self control when you’re binge-ing on the game for nine hours on a Saturday, full of adrenaline and self-isolation.
Will anyone exude self-control in that scenario?
Video games desire to portray sexual intimacy because it’s a powerful aspect of the human experience. But game developers show us a long awkward history of representation and exploration of sexuality that rarely removes the possibility of exploitation (and thus relegating it into the porn category).
Recent games like Mass Effect Age depict consummation in non-interactive PG-13 cutscenes. And even Dragon Age never shows the act despite lots of innuendo and rare nudity. Even so, developers made actually showing sex in video games surprisingly rare. Many developers discovered that videogames are better at alluding to sexual intimacy, drawing out more meaningful intimacy through player actions. There’s countless good and healthy examples of this and I wrote an article on this site with some examples. Still, The Witcher 3 gives us an exception to the rule.
The Witcher series at large demonstrates a shoddy history of trivializing sexual encounters with women. The Witcher 3 may prove more capable of providing narrative context and tact than the previous games. But we don’t need to see the grim detail. Intimacy only exists as intimacy because such acts are not on display for onlooking viewers.
Do you have anybody to play video games with?
Seclusion can turn into a real snare for the porn-addicted gamer. If you know such content will present a problem for you, consider inviting somebody over to share the experience. There’s a huge value in playing games with other people even when they’re single-player games like The Witcher 3. If you want to play the game with a pure heart, play it with someone else. Maybe your spouse? How can you judge its appropriateness more quickly than that?! Is your wife (or husband) able to watch you play through The Witcher 3? It might be a telling experience.
The ultimate question is: should you avoid this game or should you play it? I’m not the Holy Spirit, but I have a tiny amount of wisdom: Do you struggle with pornography? I have. Lust still holds power over me. So I might do with The Witcher 3 what I’ve done with the previous games: try it out, see if I can avoid the lure of lust, and then uninstall it the moment I find myself too weak to stand up to it. If you can keep a pure heart and run from temptation? More power to you. Just don’t be stupid: porn can destroy a person’s psyche and their ability to have healthy relationships.
There’s a lot of sexual content in The Witcher 3. If you’re self-controlled , maybe try it out via Redbox rental and avoid the porn stuff? Or maybe avoid the game. There’s no shame in ignoring a game because of the risk of sexual temptation.
A famous Book might even call that wisdom!