Following seven years in production the long awaited video game Cyberpunk 2077, which had previously been touted for its forward thinking in regards to gender choices for created characters, has arrived to backlash from the trans community. Since its release, the transgender community have highlighted the role-playing video game’s many flaws when it comes to representation.
The R18+ game is an open-world, action-adventure story set in Night City, a megalopolis obsessed with power, glamour and body modification. You play as V, a mercenary outlaw going after a one-of-a-kind implant that is the key to immortality. Cyberpunk 2077 is both an action game and a role-playing game, but not at the same time. You can spend hours investigating, traveling, building relationships, infiltrating, hacking, and discovering Night City then follow that with action scenes that rival Hollywood blockbusters.
Even though the video game might offer a never-before-seen picture of the trans-humanist experience with its fully-rendered, sci-fi, dystopian world, its portrayal of trans characters is anything but progressive. Many gamers have criticised how Cyberpunk 2077 and its developer, CD Projekt, chose to fetishise and commodify trans bodies and trans identity.
Critics have said that it not only fails the trans community but that it goes out of its way to reflect negative stereotypes. Perhaps more damning though is that the critics who are trans have received backlash. These critics are now being harassed and mistreated online which is creating a violent atmosphere toward the trans community. All the while the developer’s are ignoring the situation.
Transphobia comes into play from the outset, when the player is creating their character. During this portion of the game, the player is introduced to a detailed creation suite where they can control and manipulate the appearance of their character including the shape and size of the genitalia, they can even forego genitals all together if they wish. However, this is not the problematic portion of the game for the trans community, most people were happy with this option.
If the game truly was trans-friendly the gender would be able to be chosen by the player’s independent choice separate to all other qualities.
Cyberpunk2077 has sparked online talk within the trans community. Some have found comfort in being able to have a masculine male character with female genitalia or vice-versa. But some people think it can erase the idea of trans people and that cisgendered players could create characters with opposite genitals or the lack of, for “a laugh” or to fetishise trans people – this could also make a space where people think it is okay to use problematic wording when referring to a character which does not align with a cisgendered person.
People did not want to introduce cancel culture or to pressure trans people to not play the game, but to create awareness. One person did say “there is a whole story quest line within the game where you are helping a trans character out with some missions and it’s so awesome for a game not only to have this but normalise it. When they talk about it in the game they don’t make it a big deal. It’s just another normal day in cyberpunk and I love it. The missions are really fun too.”