Deep in the bowels of the Internet, thousands of pitiful men are embroiled in a heated debate over the merits of two virtual women from the video game The Witcher 3. Hayden Donnell, a loser from Mt Albert, writes about how he almost became one of them.
The beautiful gift of freewill, granted to all human beings, has always been the bane of my existence. Every choice is a terrible ordeal. But when I weigh all the decisions I’m facing, one easily stands above the rest in both its immense difficulty and the mental toll it’s inflicted: whether to pick Yennefer of Vengerberg or Triss Merigold as Geralt of Rivia’s primary love interest in the Playstation 4 game The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.
The two sorceresses are compelling figures, each introduced early in the 100-hour game. They court Geralt in the traditional way, by slaughtering monsters with fire and indulging in necromancy respectively. Love blossoms. Eventually though, Geralt faces a choice: he must commit to Yen or Triss, forsaking all others. Failing to do so will leave him – and by extension me – desolate and ever-alone.
The choice was agony. Woe. I asked my own wife, a human woman, who I should pick. She seemed uncharacteristically exasperated. No use. I brought up a picture of them on my phone and waved it in front of my flatmate. “The black-haired one is stormy and can seem cold, but our relationship is deeper. The red-haired one is more caring, but are we meant to be?” I explained. My flatmate talked about his own love life. He seemed sad, like he needed something. No use either.
I turned to the only place that could help – the Internet.
It turned out my problem was sadly common. There were thousands out there like me. Nearly all of them men, possibly with jobs, homes and lives. All raging at length in chatrooms about two women created by the male Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, then brought to virtual life by a host of sweaty-fingered computer engineers.
In a mainly pro-Yen thread on “Steam Community”, there were 61 increasingly heated comments.
“Triss is pure friend category. Everything about her screams friend and nothing more.” ZombieHunter argues. Davos Seaworth later responds with the compelling point: “Triss FTW”.
A Reddit thread titled “The Simple Truth About Yen vs Triss” was more promising. There were 49 comments, many lengthy and well-argued, most taking into account both book lore, and the non-canonical in-game storylines.
“As soon as Geralt fully recovered his memory [in The Witcher 2] and remembered Yennefer, he and Triss talked it over at length and agreed to stop their romance but remain good friends. To go back to Triss after that in spite of reuniting with Yennefer just seems like a betrayal, especially considering her role as “mother” to Ciri and the fact that she is very clearly still deeply in love with him,” argued LeeJP.
“Triss is a redhead which is why I like her more,” countered DeviousLight.
But the greatest of the Yen vs Triss threads remains this 621-page epic in game developer CD Projekt Red’s forum that began as a discussion of the game’s original Triss romance, and descended into a wild, million-word argument.
It got so heated that eventually the game developers had to step in and promise to add more Triss content in future game updates. They issued an apology, overwhelmed by the tsunami of emotions pouring at them over the internet.
This ocean of spittle-flecked invective over two virtual women is testament to both The Witcher 3’s immersive storyline, and the infinite sadness of men on the internet. But is there something unseemly about thousands of people engaging in an almost scientific argument over whether two powerful female characters are worthy of their pixelated devotion? Does it all seem a bit like the situation described in this tweet?
The answer is: probably.
In the end, I made this Google search.
And made the choice.
Afterward the rain beat down, hard.
I rode away. Boarded a boat. Sailed to the middle of the ocean.
When I reached a smuggler’s cache in a vast, deep channel, I sat and thought. The sheer pointlessness of all my mental anguish was thrown into sharp relief. I’d spent hours looking to find the right choice, and in the end it’d been for nothing. If anything, life felt more meaningless. There was no consolation in online love. The pain of choice had gone, only to be replaced by the vast yearning void, and a host of reanimated drowned corpses intent on ripping me apart with their bare hands.
The hours melted away. The sun glared into my eyes. The sea stretched in every direction. I could go anywhere and nowhere at once.
A monster descended from the skies to kill me. I barely cared.
A COMMENT ON THIS SITUATION FROM THE SPINOFF’S IN-HOUSE THERAPIST, MS X
It would be clinically inappropriate for me to make a diagnosis here in a public forum but Hayden has asked me to be authentic in my reaction.
So here goes: You have a particularly virulent case of IGD (Imaginary Girlfriend disorder).
I am sorry that having to choose just one imaginary girlfriend has caused you emotional pain Hayden but I am authentically concerned about your real life wife causing you actual pain in the near to immediate future.
As far as treating Imaginary Girlfriend Disorder, I would recommend treating it like any other addiction; however, given that computers are ubiquitous in present times, complete avoidance isn’t practical. What the affected individual really needs to do is learn to limit game time to a specific duration per day so that the remaining hours of the day can still be used for other activities.
So I urge you to return to a game realm where you are merely causing vehicular theft or blunt force trauma.
PS: Yennefer told me she is seeing between 3-4 million other people.
A COMMENT ON THIS SITUATION FROM HAYDEN’S WIFE RACHEL
This has been a terrible experience for me.
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