The quest for medievalism in ‘The Witcher 3’
By Christer Lidén
BA Thesis, University of Stockholm, 2016
Introduction: In the fictive landscape of the Northern Kingdoms, the character Geralt of Rivia rides on his chestnut mare clad in chainmail armour whilst sporting two-handed swords comparable to a zweihander or longsword of the late 15th century. As I encounter my second village through the third-person view of my protagonist, a short observation leaves me with the impression of a plausible society taken from the Middle Ages. Such a historically detailed environment within a fantasy game of the 21st century should be no surprise to the avid gamer, however, it raised the question of the representation of history within computer games.
In recent years, a tendency towards historical themes within popular media and literature has increased greatly, exploring ancient Rome, World War II and above all: the Middle Ages. Works of literature, movies and computer games all teem with newfound energy within the historical time period, and elements of fantasy and interpretations of our understanding of medieval times follow in its wake.
This study seeks to investigate the medieval thematic in computer gaming and pursue what historical elements that persist through this relatively new medium. More distinctly, the many missions and quests experienced in the ‘The Witcher 3’ is the main object of study as they work in concert, providing both enhanced purpose for the player as well as constricting the freedom given in the open world of the Northern Kingdoms. Quests – a task or mission given by non-playable characters (NPCs) or during certain interaction with objects in the game – present a variety of impressions through participatory segments that the player encounters in the game. It is the potent meaning of said quests that this study seek to delve into in order to find, not only the historical features, but also the fascination that seems to propagate itself in games.