A few days ago, I was hanging out at some friends' house. One of them, Ian, decided to buy a new PS4 game. "Get The Witcher 3!" I yapped, briefly outdoing his tiny dog, who looked on with a mix of curiosity and some other dog emotion. "Get it, get it, get it!" It was only then that I realised I'd made a grave mistake.
Ian and Dana, a longtime friend of mine from San Francisco's dangerous underground karaoke scene, sat on the couch and waited as the game downloaded and then booted up. They had no idea of the war going on inside my head. As the opening cut-scene began, my fears rolled in like some grim, portentous fog.
"Does all this fantasy lore talk sound like bullshit to them?" asked one voice in my head. "Should I try to clarify it? Or write it off by chuckling something like, 'Haha don't worry, the whole game's not like this'?"
"Oh no," another voice began. "The opening dream sequence where Geralt is taking a bath and Yennefer is just standing there naked, and they exchange some forced banter... is kinda dumb. Are Dana and Ian gonna hate it? Are they gonna hate me?"
"Ahem," a third voice, the calm voice, interjected. "Actually, nah, those other two guys are right. Panic!"
See, I really, really love The Witcher 3. It's in my top three games of all time, easily, and it's my absolute favourite of the past several years. I recommend it to EVERYBODY with the sort of cherubic adulation people normally reserve for Beyonce and that one ice skating anime I keep hearing about. It's one thing, though, to make a recommendation and then walk away. It's something else entirely to be there with people when they first start playing your favourite game. Call me crazy, but if you never shut up about a thing, I think said thing comes to reflect on you, your tastes and your decisions. Maybe just a little!
So I began to scrutinise and over-analyse everything about this game I've loved for almost two years. Does it start too slowly? Is it too dense? Are its opening hours even good? Is Geralt's eternal grumpiness charming to people who haven't played other Witcher games? Am I just a massive dork who likes massively dorky things that even other, fairly dorky people think are too much?
By this point, Ian and Dana had made it past the opening dream sequence and into the first little town. In the game, Geralt asked the tavern owner if she'd had any customers who smelled of lilac and gooseberries, which made me chuckle, but nobody else did. I was fucking drowning out there. I took a deep breath and tried to calm myself. "OK," I thought. "Ian told you he loved Dragon Age: Inquisition. The Witcher 3 is a pretty safe bet. I mean, it's an all-around better fantasy RPG! Surely he'll be able to see that."
Then I did what any reasonable person would do: I said, "Oh, look at the time," because it was almost midnight, and ran out the door.
Time passed. While writing this article, I decided to face my fears and ask the Dreaded Question with real words: Does Ian actually like The Witcher 3? Dana sent me an image of the following exchange:
Phew. So that means I can actually sleep tonight.