Great moments in PC gaming: Getting a tattoo in The Witcher 2 and keeping it in The Witcher 3

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

Great moments in PC gaming are bite-sized celebrations of some of our favorite gaming memories.

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings

(Image credit: CD Projekt)

Developer: CD Projekt Red
Publisher: CD Projekt
Year: 2011

It's a shame this moment didn't end up getting us a recording of Geralt of Rivia saying "mistakes were made."

Even before The Witcher 3, CD Projekt tried to fill its games with morally ambiguous choices, choosing sides and affecting who lives and who dies. But I'd argue our ability to shape Geralt as a character started with the option to not make a hard choice, but a delightfully stupid one. In The Witcher 2, Geralt gets drunk while arm wrestling some soldiers, and wakes up the next morning with a splitting hangover and an ill-advised tattoo. Shit got crazy enough for him to become an honorary member of the company, apparently. Oh, and he lost all of his clothes in the process, of course.

In The Witcher's world, I assume this is the equivalent of a fraternity brother drawing a dick on your face while you're blackout drunk. I mean, it's a seriously ugly tattoo, a crudely drawn naked lady carrying a shield and a knife. It's right on Geralt's neck, which means when you're walking around looking for your clothes, it's easily visible in every dialogue scene. And even when you get your armor back, the lady peeks out from your collar, a reminder of that time Geralt got smashed and let someone give him a terrible tattoo.

What makes the joke great is CD Projekt's commitment to it. They give you a quest to remove the tattoo if you wish, but it's completely optional, and you can go on playing the game, killing monsters and unraveling an assassination conspiracy, with this silly tattoo on your neck. And then, if you finish The Witcher 2, you can import your save file into The Witcher 3, and the tattoo will stick. That's right: The Witcher 3 gives equal weight to Geralt's silly tattoo and the world-altering decisions you make at the end of The Witcher 2, including who lives and who dies. That's called leaning in.

It's a small thing, but the small things are often what stick with us. They're what make us really love characters or feel like we've made them our own. When I imported my Witcher 2 save file three years later and started to play The Witcher 3, you better believe I loved seeing that tattoo on Geralt's neck. He had a beard now, and his face looked a bit different, but sure enough, this was my Geralt. We'd been through some shit together, and now we had a story to tell.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).