Win my heart and I will forgive you: it's so simple. I don't mind the niggling bits if I love something overall - I can even write them off as charming quirks of character. But abuse my heart and upend my smile and the flaws, well, they become sprouts in my Christmas pudding: disgusting.
The Witcher 3 isn't perfect. How could it realistically fulfil all of those dreams - how can any game, any thing? I thought the combat was repetitive; I thought I'd use more magic, more potions, but really I just dodged and hit. I thought there were too many supplementary activities, and as good as they were, the novelty wore off. By the time I hit Skellige about half-way through the game, those hard grey knuckles of islands, I was fatigued - so I started ignoring things and following the main story blinkered. A burden of riches.
But I loved its characters' ugliness, its world's dirtiness, its equipment's realness. I loved the incidental voices in villages, the farts, the odd things people would say - and the mish-mash of Welsh/Irish/Scottish/Cornish accents in which they said it. And I loved the swearing.
I loved the Bloody Baron, that abusive brute who defied my early judgement. I loved Kiera Metz. I loved the jokes, the referential nods, the handmade camera angles, even the breasts in my face - they all added up to character, to soul.
I think of it a bit like Star Wars, where the original films aged so well because of their charm - exactly the thing the prequel movies lacked. It's how I feel, broadly, about The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, which are two games I played in quick succession this year. One has bags of charm whereas the other feels wooden by comparison; in one I was relieved to be finished, in the other I felt bad for rushing; and one will suffer if I ever go back to it now, and I'm sure you can guess which.
In a world of corporate machines pressing big games annually, The Witcher 3 stands apart. The passion and energy of a studio fighting to belong to the big league shines through with abundance - and now CD Projekt Red does, rightfully belong. Through its actions and games it has won our hearts, and will be celebrated by many more than me this Christmas I'm sure. For how long? Who cares! Cheers!