A Month in a Writer’s Life – January 2019

As you might recall, I took December somewhat off to get my “game plan” ready for 2019. So, when January came, I was ready and motivated. Of course, as Red Hot Chili Peppers sang in an unrelated (and slightly explicit) song, nothing ever goes according to plan. Distraction hit me from the least expected direction, causing a lot of heartache. It’s enough to say that someone whom I considered a friend disappointed my trust in the worst possible way, and the ripples from that single event caused waves throughout my month. Yet, that unpleasant situation aside, I think it’s possible to announce my January as a moderate success. Continue reading “A Month in a Writer’s Life – January 2019”

Gaming Writer’s Saturday: Skyrim vs. The Witcher 3

Apparently I’m one of the few people who didn’t enjoy the Witcher 3 much. The critically acclaimed and multi-awarded game didn’t manage to hold my attention for very long. I played it for several weeks (so about 60-70 hours of gameplay), and then promptly returned to Skyrim which at that time I had already replayed at least half a dozen of times.

Every now and then, when I voice that unpopular opinion, I collect an interesting array of reactions: from quite derogatory suggestions that I don’t know what I’m talking about (as if preference was objective and not subjective), through preaching comments about how Witcher 3 is superior, to plain curiosity about my preference.

It finally prompted me to put my thoughts in one post, and since there hasn’t been a Gaming Writer’s Saturday entry for a while, it seems a perfect opportunity for an update.

Do I think The Witcher 3 a bad game?

When I look at Witcher 3, I see beautiful graphics, dynamic battles, and interesting quests, some with unexpected depth, some with even less expected humor. I see complexity and a potential for weeks if not months of a game play.

I definitely don’t consider Witcher 3 a bad game. As a gamer I appreciate many aspects of it… Yet, it failed to captivate me, and there are two main reasons for that.

A friend a bit too old

I admit, the first reason could be described as “it’s not you, it’s me” issue. In my teens, and then in my early twenties, I was a huge fan the Witcher book series. I read books as they came out in Polish, waiting impatiently for every new release, and then I re-read them multiple times, sprinting through the whole saga or revisiting my favorite scenes and passages.

I knew that story by heart, could name all the characters, and quote a multitude of one-liners. Now, some fifteen years later, I still remember it quite well. I’d lived in that world for so long, it hardly had any secrets. That meant revisiting all the familiar places and story lines when I was playing the game. Sure, some things had changed or were new, but the gist remained the same. It didn’t help that whenever a major character entered the scene, as soon as they introduced themselves, I instantly knew who they were and what to expect from them.

And to discover discrepancies between the books and the game world or tracing down new things was hardly enough to keep me engaged for long.
I also didn’t get to make my own decisions. Having read the book so many times, I knew what Geralt would do or how he’d behave. I knew whom he’d befriend and whom he’d love. I didn’t get to make my own decisions and create my own story. Instead, I was forced into a viewer’s position, following someone else. Which brings me to the second reason why the Witcher 3 failed to enchant me.

Not exactly an RPG

The basis of the role-playing games in its original, pen and paper version, is the character and its creation. The player has almost complete freedom when it comes to crucial character decisions: their personality, past, goals… When it comes to the physical appearance and skills, players are limited by the game mechanics and the world, but within those boundaries, they’re still free to choose whatever they want.

Yet, in The Witcher we have no choice at all. We have to play a male, a witcher, and we don’t even get to pick the name of our character or his appearance. Even the weapons and skills are limited by the character: witchers don’t use magic (the “signs” they use instead aren’t capable of affecting the game style strongly enough), and they fight with swords. So there isn’t even a choice of weapon to fit the player’s game style (there’s a crossbow introduced, but – again – it’s only support).

As a fan of pen and paper RPGs, I seek the same from their video game equivalents: freedom (to whatever extent the game is capable to offer it) and immersion. To me, The Witcher fails to deliver the first one, strongly affecting the second. Of course, the counter argument is that to make the character part of the world, some things have to be pre-defined. But Bioware proved that it can be done while still allowing nearly full freedom. In the games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect, the main characters have pieces of pre-defined history, family members, and so on, but the players still get to decide their gender, their appearance, and have a complete control over the skills and gaming style.

The freedom of Skyrim

In comparison, Skyrim offers almost ultimate freedom. Like in every game in the Elder Scrolls series, the player always start as a prisoner freed for the reasons depending on the particular game’s storyline. And after that, there’s nothing but freedom. The appearance, the skills, the game style… and the unlimited exploration.

Of course, that means the character isn’t as much a part of the story like in the Witcher or even in Dragon Age, but with the multitude of quest lines we get to fill in the gaps, engaging our the imagination, and simply living in the world instead of just being part of a story that would come to an end eventually.

Freedom also means high replayability, because each time the main character can take it into different direction, focusing on different things.

I’ve been a Nord who supported the “enemy” Empire, a High Elf who hated high-elven Thalmor agents, and an Imperial who wasn’t really interested in the politics as she explored and focused on building her perfect home at the hill overlooking the lake. I was a powerful mage, and I was a sneaky archer. I went hand to hand with the undead Draugr or killed them from afar with powerful spells. I strayed off the beaten trails to collect flowers for my alchemical experiments. Or I decided to cut straight through the mountain range instead of going around it, spending hours trying to climb seemingly unreachable rocks. The breathtaking view of the Skyrim below me was my reward.

And everywhere I turned, some sort of an adventure awaited me, ready to contribute to the story I was creating in my head.

Skyrim vs. The Witcher 3

I can understand why so many people consider the Witcher 3 to be superior: the rich and sometimes gut-wrenching story and the stunning graphics quality definitely make it a great game. And every now and then I think of trying to play it again… But I’m not a fan of returning to games after a long break and trying to figure out where I was and what I’ve done so far. I usually just start over. But in case of the Witcher 3 it means replaying exactly the same story with exactly the same character, and that’s something that doesn’t appeal to me either if the story failed to enchant me in the first place. So, in the end, I pick up Skyrim instead, create a new character, and enjoy the freedom of creating yet another story in the vast world… or of simply living in it.

Because if I’m forced to relive the story of someone else with little choice of who they are, I’d rather sit down and read a book.

This post is a part of the Gaming Writer’s Saturday series. You can check the idea behind it or browse other posts from the series.

A Month in a Writer’s Life – August

August turned out a very weird month, riddled with both expected and unexpected distractions. As if life had figured out that since I had finally started to settle after the move and get back to my routines, it was time to spice things up a bit. Or maybe a lot. Continue reading “A Month in a Writer’s Life – August”

The Story from the Bag That Was Stolen

When I first arrived in Ireland, I lived at my friends’ place, on the north side of Dublin. The area consisted of indistinctive dark gray houses that must have been built back in 70’s, and small gardens that weren’t much to look at in late autumn. Once I found a job, I moved closer to it, and for the next eight years I became the resident of Dublin’s south side. Continue reading “The Story from the Bag That Was Stolen”

To Conquer the Sea: The Origin of a Story

In the Origin of the Story series I’ll be sharing insights of how some of my stories came to be. What inspired them, and what kind of process followed it. All of that spoiler-free, so you can still enjoy the story if you didn’t have a chance to read it yet.

Today I share the process behind my post-apocalyptic short story, To Conquer the Sea. As you will see, it traveled quite a lot publication-wise, but it’s now available on my website. Continue reading “To Conquer the Sea: The Origin of a Story”

The Wordwitch: A Writer’s Life in Pictures – June

It’s time for another month’s summary of the Wordwitch pictures, so if you missed any on Twitter and Facebook, or you aren’t a social media animal to begin with, you can find the June drawings below.

As always, I hope these pictures will make you smile, and maybe you’ll be able to relate to some of them as well.

Continue reading “The Wordwitch: A Writer’s Life in Pictures – June”

A Month in a Writer’s Life – April 2018

A month in a writer’s life seems like a significant amount of time. Yet, when I blinked on the first of April, the month was suddenly coming to an end already. Even though we unpacked and settled in fairly quickly after our move across the continent, April was far from being back to the routine. I wasn’t overly busy, but the mind space needed to sort out all the bureaucratic problems that arose over time consumed a lot of my focus. It’s enough to say that swapping our driving licenses, a task that should have taken us one visit to DMV, took a month, multiple visits, and was only resolved because of… Twitter. Other issues might not have been that time consuming, but they did contribute to my general lack of progress this month. Continue reading “A Month in a Writer’s Life – April 2018”

The Wordwitch: A Writer’s Life in Pictures – March

The Wordwitch

The Wordwitch (which got its name thanks to Myk Pilgrim) is a series of drawings I started back in January 2017. At first, it was one image, but soon more ideas followed and my notebook filled with more pictures.

These drawings appear weekly on Tuesdays, on social media under the #thewordwitch hashtag on Twitter and on my Facebook page, and they are also available as monthly roundup posts. Continue reading “The Wordwitch: A Writer’s Life in Pictures – March”

Karel on the Other Side: the Origin of a Story

In the Origin of a Story series I’ll be sharing insights of how some of my stories came to be. What inspired them, and what kind of process followed it. All of that spoiler-free, so you can still enjoy the story if you didn’t have a chance to read it yet.

This time I’ll be talking about a cyberpunk short story, Karel on the Other Side. It’s been published in the third volume of The Worlds of Science-Fiction, Fantasy & Horror anthology. The ebook available for free on Smashwords, and the paperback—from Amazon. Continue reading “Karel on the Other Side: the Origin of a Story”

A Month in a Writer’s Life – January 2018

January meant entering the fourth year of the writing challenge, and I even though I have my routine sorted already, I couldn’t resist joining again. 365 Writing Club does miracles when it comes to accountability. This year’s theme is “The Daily Writer”, focusing back on building the habit to write every day, and even though last year I missed only 4 days, I decided I could do better. Did I manage? Continue reading “A Month in a Writer’s Life – January 2018”