White is a social construct. Slavic is also a social construct, despite exotic lies from certain Russian academics (let’s not go there). Either neither is a “real thing” or both are. I get that in certain areas of the world, “slav” and “white” are definitely seen as different things or that “white” isn’t seen at all, with different distinctions being made, and indeed in WW2, Nazi racial theory (which was totally and utterly insane even by insane racist standards) had the “slavs” as an “inferior” race (which mystified a lot of people in Western Europe even at the time, note), but this view of a distinction is not really held anywhere west of Germany. I am aware that that’s the particular conflict referred to re: Nilfgaard.
In the social construct “white” held by pretty much everyone outside Eastern Europe and Russia, Geralt is clearly “white”. Nazis love him (this was very easy to see on 4Chan etc.). The vast majority of people in the world who self-identify as “white”, will unhesitatingly identify Geralt as “white”. You can say they’re wrong to, and I agree, but they do, and that matters. They read the game in those terms. That is the vast majority of people buying the game, talking about the game, and so on.
The idea that constructs like black, white, and Asian are somehow solely “Western” is demonstrably false. Even if they originated that way (which they didn’t - racism against black people has taken certain forms pretty reliably long before the West dedicated itself to spreading it), they’re prevalent in many parts of the world - Russia is virulently racist against black people, for example, and the exact same racist imagery is used in solidly “slavic” areas as in “white” ones. There are some differences in the details, but there’s a difference between US racism against black people and UK racism against black people, so I’m not sure how meaningful that is.
Arguably this is a case of “death of the author”. The author in this case being slavic identity because the vast majority of the audience is seeing this character who is intended as a “slav”, a thing they’ve never heard of, have no context for, and which is genuinely hard to even explain to someone who didn’t grow up with it, as “white”. It has been very successful with people who are hold bigoted views (very easily seen online), because they mistakenly identify Geralt (a germanic-origin, not slavic-origin, name, I note) as “white”.
But let’s put that to the side, because I agree with the basic thesis that the primary identity Geralt is supposed to have, despite his name, is slavic. It’s just that in the West that is subsumed into white, but anyway.
That still leaves us with two big problems:
The Witcher games, particularly 2 and 3, are a male power fantasy featuring a highly intelligent, handsome, physically wildly superior man, who is basically unstoppable, is not really part of the community and society, gets to play the “victim” card (despite being more powerful than the vast majority of people who he meets, and often demonstrating that power, and mixing with the most powerful people in the land), gets to behave in an actively anti-social way whilst suffering no real consequences (all consequences stem from him being a witcher, which he can’t do anything about, not his being a dick, even though he is frequently a massive dick), and his dialogue (again particularly in 2 & 3), not infrequently has him dismissing, belittling or demonising real victims in that society - like women, elves, the poor and desperate and so on. Not all the time, and much of it is optional, but there’s an awful lot of it, and sometimes it isn’t optional (like I couldn’t find a way to not get him to abuse/demean that blonde witch at a certain point). There’s a fair bit out of outright misogyny too, which is poorly covered by Geralt’s “I love women, I have a daughter, how can I be a misogynist?” deal (to be fair he never says that but TW3 certainly seems to be trying that angle) and some of which has nothing to do with Geralt, but is inherent to the many of the stories they chose to tell.
It is worth noting that Geralt is not a consistent character. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, he is the soul of kindness and quiet empathy, towards downtrodden women and men. This is the curse of having a lot of different writers. I note he is much more likely to be “Kindly Geralt” on weird little sidequests than the main story though.
That’s entirely without him being white. Even if he was Hiro Protagonist, that would all be extremely problematic.
The other problem is your claim:
So you’re saying, Westerners like me can’t understand what “slavic” really is, and that white/black/asian are our inventions? Or do I misunderstand? Okay I don’t agree with either point, if that’s what you’re saying, but fine, let’s say you’re right. If we follow that logic though:
If black/white/asian are Western inventions, and CDPR aren’t Western, and Westerners can’t understand the delicate stuff around “slavic” and “germanic”, why the fuck would we possibly believe that CDPR, who aren’t Western could understand the delicate stuff around black/white/asian? That doesn’t make sense. You can’t have it both ways. Either there’s some degree of cultural divide, or there isn’t.
And if there is some degree of cultural divide, it follows that CDPR are more likely to fuck this up than a Western studio would be. Sure, people will then defend them by saying “Well they don’t know!”, but that doesn’t really make it okay. We’ve already seen evidence of this with them having a gang that is mostly large black men be called the “Animals”. I get that eventually they showed there were white members too, but any Western studio would have spotted that issue before it got shown to the press and would have ensured it was obvious that they weren’t the particularly unpleasant racist stereotype that they appeared to be. Again you can’t have it both ways. You can’t have them messing with a distinctly Western setting (Night City), created by Westerners, and involving Western ethnic stuff, and yet claim they’re immune to claims of racism because “That’s Western stuff”.
I suspect you probably agree that this is a major risk. And let’s be clear - Pondsmith is not there permanently, is not going through all the content, and does not have final sign-off on the content, so we can’t expect him to deal with this.
No-one is panicking, either. My attitude was:
I mean what? How is that “panic”?