Gaming controversy never really goes away, but it’s certainly been in the headlines a lot lately. Many of those headlines have to do with the upcoming Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and its “child soldier” scene that carries on the franchise’s legacy of controversial moments.
Not long before that, though, Cyberpunk 2077 found itself at the center of a controversy involving one of the game’s posters which reportedly showcased a transgender model. The discussion around the poster and model concerned whether or not the inclusion of the model was intended to be some kind of joke. Other said that it was there as a kind of apology for some real-life controversy surrounding developer CD Projekt Red.
However, CD Projekt Red’s response to that particular controversy not only threw some cold water on the more intense theories, but it revealed why the studio shouldn’t shy away from controversy when creating this exciting upcoming RPG.
Essentially, the artist responsible for the design of the poster in question stated that they personally felt the model was beautiful and that the message should be that this is a world where something beautiful is reduced to being a tactic for selling soda. Besides, in a world with this many body modifications, the idea of traditional gender classifications surely feels a little absurd.
Reactions to that explanation have been a bit mixed, but one thing that many people on all sides of the issue aren’t talking about is what that explanation means for the kind of world that developer CD Projekt Red is building.
The poster at the heart of this controversy was never seemingly meant to be a big deal. It was spotted in the background of a screenshot of what seemed to be a fairly insignificant part of the world. In this insignificant part of the world, though, lied a fascinating example of just how deep the lore of this world runs.
That poster shows us that the world of Cyberpunk 2077 is not only one that the developers have clearly put quite a bit of thought into, but it’s one that is truly ugly, truly, corrupt, and truly twisted.
The fact of that mater is that it’s hard to properly portray a world like that without a little controversy. We’ve seen dystopian visions of the future time and time again in sci-fi, but many of the ones that hit hardest (from Children of Men to Idiocracy) inspire some kind of controversy. That controversy is usually a sign that they have touched upon something that is uncomfortable and maybe a bit frightening.
The world of cyberpunk has traditionally been described as a “combination of lowlife and high tech.” It was created by authors who were troubled by how the dirtiness of what was happening on the streets clashed with the seemingly pristine utopias that technology companies were selling us. They weren’t meant to necessarily be romantic but the genre became a bit romantic over the years in the minds of some.
If Cyberpunk 2077 is sniffing at controversy, that means it may be on the right track. We’re supposed to be fascinated by the world of Cyberpunk 2077, but it’s not necessarily supposed to be one we’re looking forward to or want to live in. That poster shows something beautiful being used to sell something ugly. It’s probably not controversial in the world it exists in where the value of a human’s identity and image is worth less than zero. Maybe it’s ok if it, and the rest of the game, is controversial to us.