Video Games in Transmedia Storyworlds

The Witcher and the Mothership Problem


  • Stephen Joyce Aarhus University



transmedia, worldbuilding, The Witcher, fantasy, adaptation, mothership, industrial core


This article looks at the impact of video games on transmedia fantasy worlds using The Witcher as a primary example. While Hollywood-centred franchises tends to follow a “mothership” model of transmedia, with one dominant platform surrounded by ancillary texts, The Witcher demonstrates an alternate model in which the video game series plays just as central a role as the TV adaptation. The article introduces the concept of “dual industrial core” transmedia to describe this type of franchise and explains its implications for fantastic storyworlds. Whereas mothership transmedia attempts to offer high levels of completeness and consistency, particularly in relation to the storyworld’s mythos and topos, dual industrial core transmedia favours greater flexibility. The key platforms for the storyworld maintain distinct differences between each other, often deliberately choosing to diverge in terms of character and storyworld representation, with the video game praised for its Slavic character while the TV series aims for a more generic fantasy environment reminiscent of Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings. What holds the fantasy world together is less a coherent mythos and topos than a particular kind of ethos, allowing creators in different media to expand the storyworld by creating “Witcher-esque” situations that are accepted as authentic if they remain true to the storyworld’s bleak, morally ambiguous worldview. As dual industrial core franchises become more common, we may also expect to see more fantastic storyworlds bound primarily by ethos with significantly less emphasis on a complete, consistent mythos and topos.



Abed-Santos, Alex. 2020. “Why Everyone is Watching The Witcher.” Vox, Feb. 1.

Aldred, Jessica. 2012. “A Question of Character: transmediation, abstraction, and identification in early games licensed from movies.” In Before the Crash: early video game history, edited by Mark J.P. Wolf, 90-104. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Bedewi, Jessica. 2020. “Wardrobe Secrets from behind the scenes of The Witcher.” Ranker, May 7.

Berman, Judy. 2019. “Netflix’s The Witcher is the latest disaster in a year of terrible post-Game of Thrones fantasy TV.” Time, December 20.

Blacha, Marcin. 2016. “Creating The Witcher’s World: an interview with Marcin Blacha of CD Projekt Red.”, December 22.

Bleja, Dave. 2015. “The Melting Pot and the Salad Bowl: why The Witcher 3 is a step forward for ethnic diversity in games.” Game Developer, June 5.

Blom, Joleen. 2019. “A Ludo Mix Perspective on Dynamic Game Characters.” Presented at DiGRA International Conference, Kyoto, Japan, Aug. 6-10.

Brodzki, Marek, dir. The Hexer. 2001. Heritage Films.

CD Projekt. 2019. “CD Projekt S.A. Solidifies Relationship with Witcher Books Author Andrzej Sapkowski.” December 20.

Drewniak, Paulina. 2019. “Literary Translation and Digital Culture: the transmedial breakthrough of Poland’s The Witcher.” In Translating the Literatures of Small European Nations, edited by Rajandra A. Chitnis et al, 205-226. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Ekman, Stefan. 2013. Here Be Dragons: exploring fantasy maps and settings. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.

Elderkin, Beth. “‘I Do Not Like to Work Too Hard or Too Long’: a refreshingly honest talk with The Witcher’s creator.” Gizmodo, January 27.

Gawronski, Slawomir, and Kinga Bajorek. 2020. “A Real Witcher – Slavic or Universal; from a Book, a Game or a TV Series? In the Circle of Multimedia Adaptations of a Fantasy Series of Novels The Witcher.” Arts (Basel) 9, no. 4: 102-111.

Gies, Arthur. 2015. “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt review: Off the Path.” Polygon, May 13.

Jenkins, Henry. 2014. “The Reign of the ‘Mothership’: transmedia’s past, present, and possible futures.” In Wired TV: laboring over an interactive future, ed. Denise Mann, 244-268. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Joyce, Stephen. 2018. Transmedia Storytelling and the Apocalypse. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Klastrup, Lisbeth, and Susana Tosca. 2004. “Transmedial Worlds: rethinking cyberworld designs.” In 2004 International Conference on Cyberworlds, 409-416.

Klastrup, Lisbeth, and Susana Tosca. 2019. Transmedial Worlds in Everyday Life: networked reception, social media, and fictional worlds. London: Routledge.

Kowalik, Patryk. 2015. “Love Letter to Person Who Demands Racial Quotas in Witcher 3.” Elysian Shadows, June 5.

Majkowski, Tomasz Z. 2018. “Geralt of Poland: The Witcher 3 between epistemic disobedience and imperial nostalgia.” Open Library of Humanities 4, no. 1: 1-35.

McKee, Mark D. “Is Netflix’s Show Better than The Witcher Book Series?” Film Daily, October 6.

Mittell, Jason. 2015. Complex TV: the poetics of contemporary television storytelling. New York: New York University Press.

Purchese, Robert. 2017. “Meeting Andrzej Sapkowski, the writer behind The Witcher.” Eurogamer, March 25.

Romano, Nick. 2021. “Season of the Witcher: inside Netflix’s rapidly expanding cinematic universe.” Entertainment Weekly, November 8.

Russell, Bradley, and James Mottram. 2019. “The Witcher Netflix Series will be ‘taking the fantasy out’ and leaning toward more horror.” Games Radar, November 5.

Sapkowski, Andrzej. 2007. The Last Wish. Translated by Danusia Stok. London: Gollancz.

Sapkowski, Andrzej. 2008. Blood of Elves. Translated by Danusia Stok. London: Gollancz.

Sapkowski, Andrzej. 2020. “Andrzej Sapkowski Answers (Most of) Our Burning Questions about The Witcher.” Interview by Christian Handel. Audible, Feb. 3.

Sapkowski, Andrzej. 2020. “Andrzej Sapkowski on the Mythologies behind The Witcher.” Interview by Literary Hub. Literary Hub, December 20.

Sapkowski, Andrzej. 2011. “Interview with Andrzej Sapkowski.” Interview by Eurogamer. SamaGame.

Steinberg, Marc. 2012. Anime’s Media Mix: franchising toys and characters in Japan. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Stevens, Joshua. 2021. “Child of the Elder Blood: a semiotics of folklorism the soundtrack of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.” Games and Culture 16, no. 5: 58-556.

Travers, Ben. 2019. “The Witcher Review: Henry Cavill’s Netflix series is absolutely nuts.” IndieWire, December 20.

The Witcher. 2019. Netflix. Created by Lauren S. Hissrich.

The Witcher 2: Assassin of Kings. 2011. CD Projekt Red.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. 2015. CD Projekt Red.




How to Cite

Joyce, Stephen. 2023. “Video Games in Transmedia Storyworlds: The Witcher and the Mothership Problem”. Imagining the Impossible: International Journal for the Fantastic in Contemporary Media 2 (1).