Following outrage over an in-game ad some interpreted as transphobic, CD Projekt Red has confirmed that their team is working to implement transgender and non-binary character options in their upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077.
During this years E3 event, Nvidia published a blog post announcing that they had partnered with CD Projekt Red to bring “real-time ray tracing” to Cyberpunk 2077. In the blog post, Nvidia featured two 4K-resolution screenshots to display the games ray-tracing, including one showing a graphic advertisement for a fictional product which featured a well-endowed, female-presenting person. You can see the image in the Tweets below.
Social media quickly exploded with outrage, as some believed that the intent of the image was to mock and fetishize trans people:
cw transphobia also
fuck this in every possible sense, the transmisogony on display is gross and is going to get people hurt.
If you are still considering supporting CDPR or Cyberpunk 2077 stop now. https://t.co/EqPkThoImi
— ben roswell 👽👬 (@roswellwrites) June 11, 2019
I don’t want transphobes to write anything relating to trans people. I’ve already decided to pirate the game when it comes out because of their earlier incident.
— KⒶitlyn (@KaitlynAsturias) June 12, 2019
Despite the direction CDPR has taken, away from traditional cyberpunk, I still thought it could at least be an enjoyable game. Wouldn’t usually comment, but this? I mean wow. Way to turn an IP with tons of queer/trans fans into trans fetish porn, guys. Whole new level of awful. https://t.co/eREhgXnpZ8
— Emma Bradley (@EmmbeaArt) June 12, 2019
As the outrage built, Polygon reporter Charlie Hall sought out CD Projekt Red on the floor of the E3 expo. Hall was able to meet with art director Kasia Redesiuk, the artist responsible for designing the in-game ad, who explained that the ad was not transphobic, but rather a critique of hypersexualized advertisements and the megacorporations who direct the use of this angle in marketing:
“Personally, for me, this person is sexy. I like how this person looks. However, this model is used — their beautiful body is used — for corporate reasons. They are displayed there just as a thing, and that’s the terrible part of it.”
Cyberpunk 2077 is a dystopian future where megacorporations dictate everything. They try to, and successfully, influence people’s lives. They shove products down their throats. They create those very aggressive advertisements that use, and abuse, a lot of people’s needs and instincts. So, hypersexualization is apparent everywhere, and in our ads there are many examples of hypersexualized women, hypersexualized men, and hypersexualized people in between.
This is all to show that [much like in our modern world], hypersexualization in advertisements is just terrible. It was a conscious choice on our end to show that in this world — a world where you are a cyberpunk, a person fighting against corporations. That [advertisement] is what you’re fighting against.
I would say it was never the intention to offend anyone. However, with this image of an oversexualized person, we did want to show how oversexualization of people is bad. And that’s it. I think that sexy bodies are sexy. Full disclosure: I love female bodies. I love male bodies. I love bodies in between. This is who I am. However, I hate it when it’s used commercially. And that’s exactly what we want to show by doing this exactly, by showing how big corporations use people’s bodies against them.”
This explanation was unsatisfactory for many, who refused to accept Redesiuk’s words and continued to accuse her intentions as transphobic:
“For Redesiuk, the fictional advertisement is also an effort to increase empathy for the LGBTQ community among video game consumers.”
This isn’t increasing empathy though, it just reads as an ill intentioned joke.
— Kati Knitt (@KatiKnitt) June 12, 2019
“For Redesiuk, the fictional advertisement is also an effort to increase empathy for the LGBTQ community among video game consumers.” Righttttttttttttt. I totally believe that. 😐
— Ben Formaker-Olivas 🏳️🌈 (@BenVRAR) June 12, 2019
Guess what you fucking failed. The armchair bigots are out in full force because of you, using your art to amplify their transphobic views. This is your fault, Redesiuk. You did this. You empowered the bigots. Be proud. pic.twitter.com/pCnTCaya6R
— Freyja ‘Catra’ Erlingsdóttir (@FreyjaErlings) June 12, 2019
Amidst this outrage, Cyberpunk 2077 quest director Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz spoke with Gamasutra, and during their discussion, Tomaszkiewicz noted that CD Projekt Red was working on implementing a robust amount of choice in the character creator, including the option to create a transgender or nonbinary character:
“Of course. It’s a very sensitive and important subject I believe. We have put a lot of thought into this. One of the things we want to do in the final game (which we couldn’t show in the demo yet, because as you mentioned it’s a work in progress) is to give the players as many options of customization in the beginning of the game as we can.
For example, we want to do this thing where, as you create your character, after you choose the body type, you can, for example, use physical traits as you build your face that could be assigned to a man or a woman.
Or nonbinary. The idea is to mix all of those up, to give them to the players, as they would like to build it. Same goes for the voice. We wanted to separate this out, so the players can choose it freely. This is something we are still working on, it’s not as easy as it sounds.
This is one part of it. In terms of how we depict the characters within the setting itself, of course, yes, we are paying a lot of attention to it, we do not want anyone to feel like we are neglecting this, or treating it wrongly.”
What do you make of this announcement? What do you make of the fictional advertisement and the backlash to it? Will you be picking up Cyberpunk 2077?