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Ikarys

Ikarys: the Bloggening 1: or "it doesn't have a subtitle, because it is the first one"

Rating: 5 votes, 5.00 average.
Lessons we can learn about technology contracting from The Witcher II: Assassins of Kings, or The 5 habits of highly effective Witchers

The world views them in roughly parallel ways; deplorable mutants who earn their keep by offering gruesome solutions to problems beyond the ken of most mortals. Viewed as degenerate subhumans by a majority of the populace, they are often befriended by circumstance or out of sympathy from equally reviled misfits. Their trade is esoteric and unwanted, a matter of necessity regarding matters that half the world doesn’t understand, and the other half understands well enough to stay far away from. Spare us the details; do your dirty work, take your pay, and leave our families the hell alone.

That’s right; in the world of publisher CD Projekt’s The Witcher, our albino antihero Geralt is basically an IT contractor. He has to walk everywhere instead of taking a Segway, is allowed to drink on the job, and gets laid occasionally. Those are essentially the differences. A witcher (not one who engages in witching, but one who witches - what, you don’t understand the distinction?) is a supernatural handyman. Like the staple counterparts whom they stand shoulder-to-shoulder with, such as knights, wizards and elven hookers, witchers understand the basis of things that make a fantasy world tick, such as magic, alchemy and dragons.

In the grim fantasy world of The Witcher, kindness and heroism are examined through a lens of humanity’s fragile moral compass; no one, even heroes, want to go trudge out to a swamp and kill a bunch of ghosts. It takes knowledge, it takes resources, it takes risking life and limb. Enter these witchers, who are paid contracts on the mythical troubleshooting they do to make things dead. The story follows Geralt of Rivia, who is kind of like the Butch Vig of supernatural exterminators; famous for events that had relatively little to do with him.

This doesn’t matter a lot to Geralt, because he is a deep introspective dude with amnesia and two swords. If you played the first outing, The Witcher, this is all old hat to you, and the story actually makes sense. If you haven’t, Assassins of Kings is still easy to pick up and run with; if the idea of a magical amnesiac boiling down monster parts into a combat drug doesn’t possess some kind of intrinsic appeal, you have no real impetus to play a role playing video game on the personal computer and should probably pick up Harvest Moon or Pokemon or something else.

In brief; no one wants to touch the shit Geralt does, so he can make a pretty sweet living and gets to meet some important behind-the-scenes people, the ones calling the shots. He also does quite well for himself, and if you are a contractor hoping to someday slay that infernal database or brave the labyrinthine server room to salvage a few Multicore CPUs, the lessons that Geralt imparts will ring true. You must learn to cut away empathy and personal history like the dead, rotting tissue of a necrophage, to become objective and mercenary in your viewpoint. If you are on the clock, feel free to log this under training time. Your boss will thank you. They may even give you a magical amulet, but if I were you, I wouldn’t go out of my way to ask.



Well, sire, you know how Mondays can be around here.

1. No one is hiring you for your looks

In Geralt’s first outing, part of the game is seducing every potential babe you come across to get a carefully rendered card-like image of her after what is assumed to be some kind of medieval quickie. It had little impact on quest objectives and almost none on Geralt’s development. In AoK, this slutcard meta-game is removed entirely; ironic in a way, since the visuals this time around are greatly improved and Geralt looks “inhuman” rather than “strangely deformed”. This also isn’t to say that Geralt doesn’t get his wick dipped simply by virtue of having a sweet rockstar job and a legendary inability to father children; the game practically opens with him getting a piece of ass.

The lady in question isn’t Geralt’s employer, though. In fact, none of these hot babes ever pay a dime for his services, which are inflated to include a laundry list of heroics like saving damsels from kidnappers, rescuing female allies from the clutches of danger, and saving humanoid prostitutes from racist lynch mobs.

Geralt does these things for the same reason you loan that cute processor your headphones or burn every season of The Big Bang Theory for the admin assistant who makes that little quirky smile. Because even dark, troubled anti-heroes have a libido. The people who actually pay your bills are haughty nobles, conniving war leaders, and that sad sack of fat who calls you “the people from the temp agency”. These people only do one sexy thing, ever; they give you money.

2. Take the initiative for your continuing education

The monsters inhabiting the north kingdoms, which Geralt frequents, are many and varied. Knowledge isn’t a given; a witcher skilled in killing harpies, for instance, may know absolutely nothing about gargoyles. What’s the big deal? They both have wings, right? Piece of cake. Now, armed with that knowledge, ask the dude with a year of Python under his belt if he wants to replace a system involving eight million lines of COBOL.

Geralt gains knowledge of monsters by killing them, slowly but surely. He can also engage in a microtransaction with certain vendors for an item called a “book”. These “books”, strewn throughout the game, are basically like giant spoilers for how you should kill a monster. Compared to just about everything else in the game, books are cheap and instantly provide you with all the relevant knowledge about a given creature, including immunities and vulnerabilities. No one is going to just tell Geralt how to kill something, because if they knew, they wouldn’t pay him half as much. It is his job to find out how to do his job in a world full of people who know everything about what they need and nothing about how to get it.

3. Your favorite tool is not necessarily the right tool

Geralt carrys two swords; one silver, which has an affinity for killing monsters, and one steel, which has an affinity for killing everything else. Many of the swords you come across in the game have incredible powers, inflicting potent harm on enemies or bolstering your own abilities in such as way that they become integral to your playing style.

You should ditch these swords the minute you find a new one. You will find a new sword approximately every ten minutes. This is not an exaggeration. You may find that you received a crafting item from killing a monster, used it to create a new sword, took that sword out into the wilderness, and used it to kill another monster. Part of that monster’s treasure trove? A better sword than the one you killed it with.

Your armor, likewise, is replaceable whenever a better suit comes up. Both swords and armor have “upgrade slots”, fooling you into thinking that the enhancements you used to permanently bolster an item’s power make it worth keeping. This is a sad little attempt on the part of your items to buy themselves a little more time in your inventory, before sell them to a vendor at barely a fraction of what you may have paid for them.

Do you hold on to a 500MB USB 1.0 flash drive from 2007 just because it is housed in a plastic Psyduck keychain? Maybe you do. But you don’t use it for shit. How about a laptop commandeered for free seven years ago? Maybe it is useful, or maybe you have two others that fulfill the same function. Heed Geralt’s sterling example; extra space and a minor income boost are well worth cutting away dead tech you don’t use. Especially when that tech can’t even penetrate the armor of a monster four hours after you found it.

4. The only problems you have are someone else’s

Geralt has some overall goals, things he has been working on for a while, like regaining his completely missing memory, kicking the asses of monsters, and romancing whatever ginger-haired Heavy Metal poster model seems to be talking to him currently. As a rule, these things will pop up in your quest log once for every six or seven other things you have to do. That’s because, like you, Geralt is too busy putting out fires all day long. The Witcher has to prioritize; deeply reflect on the history of violence and madness that has pursued him like a slavering wolfhound across the jagged steppes of his wasteland psyche, or, not die in an onslaught of jagged claws and teeth?

Geralt spends a majority of his time fulfilling quests for other people. Part of this is survival; it might be possible for Geralt to just march across the earth fulfilling his aims, but the kings we mentioned in article 1 have things like ships, and networks of spies, and coffers overflowing with gold, gold gold! These are all things your boss also has, whether they admit it or not. Geralt knows that in dealing with other people’s emergencies, he gets closer to advancing his own aims. Take that emergency request, fulfill that overtime, run to fix that database; just keep a tight log of when shit has hit the fan, and remind your employer in the aftermath.


He’s a great boss! Even for an elf. What., that isn’t racist or anything, is it? I can’t just call him an “elf”?


5. Know when to find a new employment opportunity


Like you, the Witcher is willing to go an extra mile for his boss. Just like you, the Witcher also expects to be reimbursed for gas and assisted with the lease on his Honda Civic when he goes said mile. I’m joking, of course (Geralt of Rivia drives a Pontiac with a really great sound system), but the rule is the same. He does everything in his power to fight the supernatural, and expects that promises are carried through by his benefactors.

Geralt has no written contracts, no HR paperwork and no legally binding agreements. He just assumes whoever wants him to get something done must really want it done, or they wouldn’t have hired a drugged-up bibliophile with a pair of swords who throws fire to do it. He can be an absolute dick, if he really wants to. Finished a contract? Jack the price up or threaten to undo all your hard work. Negotiating with someone you don’t like? Ask for an advance.

I’m not suggesting you be a witcher-caliber jerk, only that you understand the premise of bargaining. Reading the fine print is nice, but understanding how to leverage your skills is better. The witcher rarely has to enact revenge on his employers; instead, he makes himself so valuable that it could be a gross liability to get rid of him. Often, it is.

Ikarys is a dark, troubled anti-hero from Illinois. Sometimes, if the girl he flirts with isn’t working at Chipotle that day, he’ll just turn around and walk out. He won’t even look to see if they put out a fresh batch of fajita veggies. He just leaves, and that is dark.

Updated 2011-07-09 at 00:59 by isladar

Comments

  1. Defconnexion -
    Defconnexion's Avatar
    I feel like my career has really been suffering due to a lack of something. At first I thought it was effort, but now I can see that I need to play more video games in order to maximize my practical knowledge. Now I can't wait for some kind of Witcher port to the 360, because spending more than $400 for a game system is well outside the realm of my current financial status. And stupid.
  2. isladar -
    isladar's Avatar
    So really, in the absence of slutcards, Geralt has become a contract fire-throwing-guy?

    BEHOLD THE DEPTHS OF DARK FANTASY: FILLING OUT YOUR 1099
  3. Callisto -
    Callisto's Avatar
    It turned out that the ice-branded three-sword I was submitting countless help desk tickets for WASN'T EVEN PLUGGED IN, boy was I embarrassed!
  4. Mote -
    Mote's Avatar
    wait... so no slutcards?
  5. Defconnexion -
    Defconnexion's Avatar
    Well, no, but a new sword every ten minutes.
    It's not gay.