The Moral of the Story
I personally don’t know of any other games which can match the Witcher games in depth and complexity of moral decisions. It was almost overwhelming to the point where I was worried I wouldn’t be able to choose a central theme or moral to write about. In the end, I decided to pick a more common moral which can have major impacts in our day to day lives if not properly considered. The moral of the story for The Witcher 3 is a for every action there is a unforeseen reaction.
The Story and the Moral
The most powerfully example I remember occurs during the prologue of the game, when the player is still in White Orchard. Geralt is tasked with killing a griffin which has been terrorizing the countryside. Along the way he meets a healer who is taking care of a girl who was mortally wounded by the beast. The game presented me with a decision, I could either do nothing or I could give the girl a vial of swallow, the healing potion witchers use. The catch is witcher potions are highly toxic to regular people and any benefit they do provide is accompanied by side-effects. Not being the kind of person to just do nothing, I gave the potion to the healer so she could administer it to the girl. Unfortunately, it had no immediate effect and I was forced to continue on with my questing without knowing the outcome of my decision.
Later in the game as I travelled through a garrison I encountered a soldier who claimed to know the girl I had tried to help earlier on in the game. The reason she had been out in the countryside alone and was wounded by the griffin was because she sneaking away to meet him. He then tells me the girl was indeed healed! However, he does not know whether to curse me or thank me because while she may be alive there is little left of her. While her body was healed her mind was turned to mush by the witcher potion’s side effects. When I made my decision to heal her I was thinking the potion would either heal her or it would kill her, which her wounds would have done anyone. I completely forgot about the side effects which occur to any non-witchers.
This was a lesson which stuck with me throughout the game. Even though I made a decision which felt morally good it wasn’t necessarily the right decision since I had not considered all the reactions my action could cause. I tried not to make the same mistake as I continued through the world of The Witcher 3.
Life and the Moral
I believe it is a strong testament to skill of CD Projekt RED, the studio behind The Witcher 3, that this moral does not require much translation to apply to real life. While the concept of cause and effect, action and reaction was nothing new to me. The idea of making a choice based on my moral code, my interpretation of right and wrong, and it end up having a negative outcome was a tough lesson to accept. Good and right are engrained in my mind to be the same thing, when I choose something because it is a “good” thing to do, I automatically begin to think it was also the “right” decision. However, as I learned in The Witcher 3, good and right are not always the same thing. Sometimes a choice may be morally good, fuelled by the desire to help someone. But may not have the right outcome due to other parts of the equation I had not considered.
It is important to note the lesson I learned was not to avoid a decision. Instead it was to take an extra minute and more carefully consider the potential impacts of my actions. While I will not be “right” every time, hopefully I can avoid some unforeseen complications from my “good” actions.