Circus pioneer PT Barnum once said “There is no bad publicity”, but he may have reconsidered that he had been alive to be a witness Cyberpunk 2077. After a grueling development compounded by accusations of sexism, transphobia, and worker exploitation, conversations about the game almost inevitably turn to its controversies.
CD Projekt RED’s dystopian RPG was infamous for the issues plaguing it at launch. However, while the issues can be fixed with updates, there is no way to correct the history. With so many reviews of the game’s content from so many different communities, it’s worth looking back as we reflect on how the game will be remembered.
PornHub leaks and sexism
Days before Cyberpunk 2077the exit is sex scenes leaked at the adult site PornHub. That such content existed was not surprising, given earlier claims from a Q&A that enough coal captured by the movement to “satisfy everyone“, but the leaks themselves were always surprising. That said, such content isn’t inherently controversial. It wasn’t the first title with sex scenes, and the game has just as much a right to explore it. privacy than any art form.
However, the theme of sex is often associated with gender, and on that front there was more to criticize. VG247’s Stacey Henley called Cyberpunk 2077, “the most aggressive male game I have ever played,” drawing attention to how women are beaten, exploited and maimed, while men are treated with much more respect. Leah J. Williams from Kotaku Australia made similar comments, condemning the game’s prominent male gaze and its disposable treatment of women.
Cyberpunk is an inherently dystopian genre, so one could argue that the commodification of human bodies is to be expected. Even so, presenting such tropes without subversion or commentary was seen as a mere indulgence. The problem was not the sexual content per se. It was the game’s usual misconception that such content equates to “maturity” taken to a degree that many just weren’t comfortable with.
Delays, crunch and death threats
Not all controversies reflect the developers badly. Fans can be just as problematic. First announced in 2012, some players speculated Cyberpunk 2077 had been in development ever since. This was a misunderstanding, because the interviews with Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier revealed that full development didn’t start until 2016, but anger grew over the game’s delays nonetheless.
Such things are sadly rare with massive RPGs, but here they opened up a particularly ugly chapter in its development history. As delays became more frequent, CD Projekt RED started using a critical schedule, seeing employees working six day weeks. Although the CDPR insisted that staff would be compensated, its earlier assertion that the practice would not be necessary left some disillusioned. Eric Kain from Forbes said further delays would be better than crunch, writing: “We should value human life rather than personal gratification or stock prices. “
However, some fans were more frustrated with the delays than concerned about workers’ rights, as demonstrated. death threats were sent to CDPR staff. Senior game designer Andrzej Zawadzki called for an end to this Twitter, revealing the shocking verbal attacks on the developers and their families. Between this supposed fan abuse and Schreier’s reports 100-hour weeks and âphysically illâ staff, there is no doubt that CDPR employees were victims in their own right.
Entertainment has a long history with transphobia, often portraying trans people as objects of sexual deviance or curiosity. Video games are no different, which is why many have been disappointed with CDPR’s use of hurtful tropes. The problems started in 2018, when the game’s Twitter account responded to a fan asking “guys” to learn more about the game with it, “Did you just assume their sex?! “This meme is a far-right dog whistle designed to poke fun at trans people like overly sensitive snowflakes, and its use by the CDPR has many gamers on edge.
A month later, CDPR’s sister company GOG was slammed for hijack the hashtag of the trans unit #WontBeErased to promote its games. In 2019, the CDPR went deeper into the discourse with the now infamous âMix it upâ image: fetishistically depicting a woman with a prominent bulge. CDPR insists he didn’t mean to offend but, at this point, many weren’t willing to take the studio’s word for it. Other problems, such as a lack of trans NPCs and a character creator who assigned gender based on voice instead of choice, only made the problem worse.
While Cyberpunk 2077 included trans character Claire Russell, she wasn’t enough to dispel all the different criticisms. The CDPR may have acted out of ignorance rather than intentional malice, but that makes little difference to those who have been hurt by their earlier choices.
Other controversies and lasting legacies
Among the many controversies surrounding Cyberpunk 2077, some were relatively small, such as complaints about the switch from third person to first person gameplay. Others, like accusations of racist representations, are more uncomfortable and require greater sensitivity to approach. Whatever one thinks of these issues, the fact remains that they collectively form an uncomfortable shadow that hangs over the game and the conversations about it.
It is also a great pity, because there is a lot to admire Cyberpunk 2077. It’s packed with content, its setting is incredibly unique, and its colossal script is packed with good times. Obviously, there’s a lot of fun to be had, but finding it doesn’t mean ignoring the issues people have raised. It’s important for everyone – fans and developers – to engage in honest, good faith review of the media they enjoy and create. After all, learning from history’s mistakes is the only sure-fire way to avoid a dystopian future.
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