CD Projekt RED Won't Commit to Gender Fluidity in ‘Cyberpunk 2077’ (Yet)


#1

As you’ve no doubt heard from a million others, CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 demo, so far unreleased to the public, was an E3 highlight. During that demo, the studio only briefly lingered on the character creator screen, noting it was unfinished. But as I tried to take in as much as possible, one thing stood out: the gender options were limited to men and women.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/vbqaj3/cd-projekt-red-wont-commit-to-gender-fluidity-in-cyberpunk-2077-yet

#2

I cannot think of many games in the history of games that would be or would have been better poised to include gender fluidity in them. Gender fluid, trans, and just general non-cis people deserve games that can better represent them.


#3

BattleTech got a ton of negative Steam reviews for having the they/them option (I know because I spent an hour or so scrolling through negative reviews and found at least 30 that cited it directly as their problem), but the game is popular and seems to have sold quite well in spite of this. Cyberpunk 2077 is made by one of the most revered studios in the entire world, from the developers of one of the most popular and revered games in a decade, and will be on basically every platform. The game will sell, period. Any concern they might have (or any concern onlookers might project) for the impact this could have on their sales is completely invalid.

Also I don’t know if this is an unfavorable way to frame this subject, but I’m just not sympathetic enough with ‘gamer’ identity any longer: the kind of people who rail against ‘they/them’ gender options in games often need games like Cyberpunk 2077 because they serve the purpose of supplanting their lived reality. Cyberpunk sounds like it will be the one of the richest game worlds ever made. They’ll play this game. They may wait, a day or even a year. They may even be childish enough to wait until someone makes a patch that removes the they/them gender option. But in the end, they will play this game. They need it.


#4

A lot of the not-cis folks I follow on twitter are super into the cyberpunk genre specifically because of how it allows for a wide range of gender-nonconformity, so this strikes me as a no-brainer.

ALSO, considering how much our real world is starting to legit mirror a cyberpunk story, a modern game using the setting should ABSOLUTELY include our modern understanding of gender.


#5

I won’t hold my breath over it. I have my doubts CDPR would add something like this if it wasn’t already a conscious decision they made earlier in development, and The Witcher games weren’t exactly great examples of representing minorities. The cyberpunk genre is known to explore themes of gender and sexuality but as we’ve seen time and time again, mainstream cyberpunk likes to use themes and allegory of oppression & marginalisation while still being predominantly heteronormative/cisnormative.

Regardless of how it plays out in Cyberpunk 2077, if you’re currently looking for some fiction in the genre that does feature diverse characters and gender non-conformity, there were a few recommendations in my recent thread that are definitely worth checking out: What are some of your favourite cyberpunk stories?


#6

Even if they don’t, I have to expect modders are going to add it. Same as with sexuality options in RimWorld - even if the devs don’t build their world large enough to account for non-binary people wanting to inhabit it, as long as there is space for mods then someone can build it. The only big issue with that is going to be spoken dialogue – I wonder just how enterprising such a refit could be (considering lots of characters will have other points in their dialogue where they say ‘they’ from which to steal a delivery and try and ease it in as seamlessly as possible). I do wonder how economical their dialogue will already be with pronouns for the protagonist (in order to minimise rerecording the same lines for gender), which could ease the difficulty of modding it in.

It would of course be a great missed opportunity, in a game already confirmed to be recording the audio for a user-generated character, if they didn’t include a ‘they’ option.


#7

It means a lot to me to see easily the biggest polish video game developers to have confirmed that there will be queer options in the game and it would mean even more if they acknowledge the existence of trans people. But also I know just how much people here hate us and I don’t know how well I would be able to see the share amount of hate speech that would end up pouring if they commited to this or even “‘just”’ allowing PC to be trans or have sympathetic trans characters.

What I am even more afraid of is them ending up making a mockery out of us cause I know, I know they will take cheap shots at like only two trans people that polish public knows.

And that would absolutely shatter my heart.

Essentially, at the end of the day, I do appreciate their statement as it is way nicer sounding than I would hope for.


#8

That “yet” is really lending a ton of good will to a company that I don’t think has earned it? Like, the Witcher 3 is a game that’s SUPER hostile to women and doesn’t even feature a person of colour in the main campaign. I really doubt CDPR is really capable of handling ideas like this, let alone in a respectful manner.


#9

I have conflicting feelings about this. We know the first Witcher game included questionable elements like the collection of sex cards, to put it lightly, so they were already starting from a low point. Even so, there was gradual movement in a positive direction as the series continued.

I thought The Witcher 3 had a number of very well written female characters with plenty of agency of their own (to the extent a fictional character even has any autonomy in the first place). At times Geralt came across as a mere tool of powerful women with their own interests and values. At the same time, there were still some troublesome depictions of female sexuality, to be sure, and other situations that are at least controversial, but it wasn’t an open-and-shut case. Rather than getting worse over time, my opinion is that things got better.

Furthermore, I will completely agree that the lack of people of color in The Witcher was quite disappointing throughout the main campaign. I will give the company a small amount of credit for showing they had the will to improve on this issue during the expansions, but there’s still much left to be done. Token gestures are good yet ultimately not enough.

It’s based on such a history of at least trying to improve that I can hope the future of CDPR will continue to be better than their origins. Which is why I might be slightly optimistic about Cyberpunk 2077 for the time being.

I would be very happy if they could find a way to properly include non-binary genders in Cyberpunk 2077 with meaningful choices, respectful use of pronouns and other relevant consequences for your character. Will that happen? I am not sure. I have the feeling that they may choose to include queer representation, one way or another, and allow a certain range of gender-related player choices yet not fully develop the spectrum of possibilities in a way that takes advantage of everything the setting has to offer.


#10

To be fair to CDPR, all of the sex cards are gone because LA Rob has them all.


#11

Gender still binary in 2077 California? smh not accurate


#12

Maybe it’s just the bits of the world and story that we’ve seen of Cyberpunk 2077 and my own wishful thinking, but it feels like it’s trying to tell a story about a real people and real struggles through a Cyberpunk lens. It would be really disappointing to not see representations of gender fluidity, especially as it becomes a stronger presence everyday in the real world.


#13

Why have a character creator in a first person game at all if it doesn’t let the player make a character that reflects themselves? The Bioware character creators and the options to have queer romances helped me explore my bisexuality before I really knew what was going on there. It gave me a safe space to explore those feelings, awkward and overly scripted as they were. Non-binary options would be downright important and formative for somebody scared and confused about how they feel. I really hope CDPR don’t exclude trans and non-binary options because otherwise, whats the point? Even an imperfect and limited character creator that acknowledges somebody as real who desperately needs it is a net good.

This might sound a little flippant, but if CDPR aren’t willing to go all in on the character creator, I’d just rather have another Geralt. I’d hope they’d do something different than a straight white guy again, but a definitive character that can be explored fully is better than a broadly made character that still can’t provide personal exploration where its most important.

I just don’t want any more half assed character creators. I want full ass or no ass at all. No more cis only character creators.


#14

I love the Witcher series and so CDPR has my good will generally speaking. But I just don’t think this is something they’ll commit to. I’m also not sure I trust them to have the sensitivity to get it right. While they clearly have the game play down, the gender politics I’m not so sure.


#15

CW: homophobic genital mutilation

CD Projekt Red also won’t apologize for or even mention the part of The Witcher 2 where a gay man has his genitals chopped off and fed to him while being told to “reap what you sow” by the cool dude deuteragonist (yet).

Why even bring up the coded misogyny and white supremacist pandering that’s been intrinsic to their beloved worldbuilding for my sarcastic quip when Dethmold’s death scene (and whole character, really) has just been hanging out unchallenged in their constantly legitimized classic game to this day.

By the by, nonbinary identity is a vastly complex and diverse thing and has plenty of pretty distinct visual cues and ideas. That fanciful trailer had some pretty hardcore binary gender coding for most of its runtime, but oo boy i might get a slider for my character and find like, two afterthought characters to relate to in this whole wild world they’ve crafted. Hey, at least they’re clearly saying in an actual official statement that we’re an afterthought, I don’t need to cruise on the terrible feeling in my gut every time I hear this nightmare company excused and revered until release, i already get to know for absolute certain they still couldn’t give half a shit.

Fuckin’… Fuckin’ no. No. None for me, dear, I’m quite exhausted.


#16

Cheese and crackers that actually happened? That was in a game and nobody even talks about that? That got through an entire development process with dozens of people’s hands touching that scene and nobody thought to go “maybe lets not?”

Are these characters at least villains? That wouldn’t make it alright, but are they at least viewed as worse than the rest of the cast for mutilating a gay man?

I…think I’m with you, maybe CDPR should just not.

EDIT: I just watched the scene. While out of context, the gay guy seemed like he was the villain. Because of course the villain is gay. Geralt watched.


#17

Goodness that was rough. I’ve only ever done the Iorveth playthrough of TW2 so I haven’t seen that scene. But holy shit. TW3 does a better job at not having stuff like that in it, but still…

Hopefully they improve drastically in CP77, but I can understandably see why anyone would have doubts.


#18

Incredibly disappointing to hear for a game set in a world where doing major body modifications to a person is considered normal. At the very least I was hoping that you could go in and edit your character’s physical appearance at any point like Saints Row 3 did.

Unpaid modders shouldn’t be expected to fix games and we should not be letting developers off the hook for it.


#19

Cynical yes, but I think CD Projekt Red might not actually be “a truly progressive company [that wants] to move with the times.”


#20

It’s not the agency of the characters, but how a player feels towards the massive amounts of comments thrown towards women in that game. Maybe this is Hearts of Stone colouring my experience, but I found the featuring a ton of character who just can’t stop letting you know that if you’re a women, oh ho they want to sex!

That and all the mentions of sexual assault, it’s just replicating shitty behavior that you can’t escape from IRL. Which… isn’t cool to have to confront whenever you want to play a video game.