Disagree with Cyberpunk 2077 criticism with the lack of of Transgender representation

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ztiesman

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Wish the games release, I saw some criticism floating around from reviewers saying there were no meaningful trans characters.

I am doing the missions with Claire, who is trans, and she is a pretty amazing character.

Did those reviewers rush through and miss this or did they feel Claire wasn't a deep enough character?

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bigsocrates

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Some reviewers addressed Claire and said that she was too minor and her representation was imperfect (which is a complicated critique because different people want different things out of characters like that.) I don't think anybody thought she was problematic but it was more that she was a very small slice of a game that has a lot of references to trans issues both in the game itself and the marketing that are objectifying, inappropriate, or both.

Also a lot of people were very disappointed in the handling of a potential trans character in the character creator, where gender is tied to voice for some reason (there's no reason why it shouldn't be an independent toggle you can set with any voice or set of genitals.)

Basically Claire feels like a small nod to representation in a game that is very problematic around trans issues.

Just like if a game had racist marketing material and racist material in game it wouldn't make up for it if there was one non-problematic minority character.

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terminallychill

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The criticism that I personally read/heard wasn't just about a lack of representation but some of the offensive in-game advertisements like the "mix it up" poster that caused controversy but was left in the game. The GOG twitter account has also posted transphobic jokes as tweets in the past, so I don't blame people for being skeptical.

It's hard to address your comments specifically when you mention "those reviewers", I don't know whose coverage you read and I can't really ask them myself either.

That said I'm only an hour or two in the game so that storyline may be well written and considerate. That doesn't immmediately erase all of people's other concerns though.

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Birtrum_Yonce

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I guess they have to stay true to the Cyberpunk 2077 IP...which is why the culture of the in-game world seems so dated

they should've just taken "2077" out of the title so that they could do their own thing, Blade Runner 2049 takes place nearly 3 decades earlier and seems way more interesting

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FinalDasa

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#9 FinalDasa  Moderator

This thread is not your opportunity to speak ill of marginalized groups. Keep the discussion within the community rules and practice some empathy.

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ahifi

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#10  Edited By ahifi

Just going to dump some thoughts here on trans representation in general and then on the Claire character. Hope y'all don't mind the mini-essay...

As others have said, I think it stems from people not looking too fondly on the company when it comes to these topics due to their past behaviour (and, of course, that poster) which has seen them seemingly cater to edgelords.

Speaking more generally as someone who has been 'woke' and a feminist for quite a long time now and who is trans, I have reached a point where I am tired of the incessant need to represent every identity in every single blockbuster game as I think this just generally leads to a bad place.

I cannot stand when it feels forced. We can tell, so perhaps it was best that they just largely steered clear from it because I doubt they had the chops to deal with it. The 'mix it up' poster says a lot about their internal understanding of queer activism and what it means in 2020. Also, as if people would find such a poster shocking and provocative in a 2077 derived from our timeline... So, even from a sense of place and time, it doesn't seem to make any sense other than to court some controversy in 2020. Bad storytelling and bad marketing.

Besides, looking at it from a simple perspective, it's really not that hard to nail a trans character if you want to have a trans character. If you centre everything about them around their identity, you're doing it wrong. I long for the days when there can just be trans characters, disabled characters, neurodivergent characters, etc. who just exist in the world and their identities are (largely) totally irrelevant to any plot point or cathartic release. That, for me, is more impactful and indicative of progress than anything else. You don't even have to be supportive or approving of trans people to appreciate that they exist, and that they would therefore exist within stories too. Anyway, believe it or not, many trans people don't want to relive their real-life trauma when they play video games or have it be used to harvest awards and recognition, or for the purpose of exoticism.

However, we're in a stage right now where storytellers are feeling pressured by others to make certain identities clear in their games/movies/TV shows/books, etc. so it is often just included in really awkward ways so as to avoid a mauling on social media. This makes these 'reveals' way less impactful. I think we're doing it wrong but this is the trap identity politics always had the potential to fall into and... here we are. I always hoped it wouldn't but... I don't know why I was so surprised that it did. However, this isn't the fault of trans people - this is the fault of societies failing to recognise trans-ness as anything other than a joke since the dawn of time.

Well, I say that but Inanna (later known as Ishtar, Astarte, Aphrodite, Minerva, etc.), the Sumerian Goddess of pre-biblical times - who may well be the origin of the story of Cain and Abel (see 'Inanna Prefers the Farmer' for a far more salacious but nevertheless ultimately rosier version of that story) - was said to have had a cult of non-gender binary/transgender worshippers. Past such historical curiousities, trans people are currently receiving society and media's repentance for all of the past hurt and negativity to now make it absolutely clear to everyone that trans people ARE included in stories as real people, and not just as the butt of jokes. And, as good as this is, this laboured 'apology' can be limiting too.

Personally, I am more in favour of subtlety, hints and implications because, eh, that's just more real... It not only adds intrigue, but it can generate discussion too. When there is only inclusion with a heavy hand, it just becomes a cold tick box exercise. While there can be 'markers' present in other identities (e.g. a wheelchair, someone's pattern of speech, their behaviours, etc.), trans characters may not necessarily have markers. But when they do, then there is the messy business of when someone is made to look 'too trans' which can also elicit criticism for 'othering' and not making the character just look like everyone else. But I have observed most trans characters in media are often totally passable to those who aren't looking very hard for these markers which, for most trans people, is totally unrealistic anyway. Basically what I'm saying - in fairness to any storyteller today - is that portrayals of trans characters in media can be a total minefield and an absolute clusterf*ck right now. I just generally think if a storyteller has their heart in the right place when writing such characters, and genuine care for them, this will show through - irrespective of all of the above.

There are ways around the heavy-handedness though, like... someone having a very subtle trans flag tattoo, casually taking their HRT tablets/injections in front of the character without it being overtly referenced, etc. The lack of creativity around such areas astounds me. I would assume it has to be driven by, yet again, fear of pushback for not outwardly stating that a character is trans. But, really, it doesn't all have to be: 'Oh, by the way, I'm trans. It's totally inconsequential for me to tell you that, and I don't know why I did, but just so you know!'

And on that note, I decided to watch the clip of the Claire reveal (I have no interest in playing the game right now) and I cringed. The reveal goes: "We were friends before my gender transition". To me, it seems like totally unnecessary dialogue to shoehorn in a trans character with the intention of somewhat satisfying those who would question why there isn't any trans representation in the genre of cyberpunk in 2020 when it, of course, has a sort of 'slam dunk' inherency. After all, it is seemingly the most important entry in the genre over the past 5 years, and probably will be for the next 5 years, at a time when discussion around trans issues is at a societal high. So inclusion of a trans character is absolutely essential - and yet this is a missed opportunity to actually 'say' something. But, again, I'm glad they largely sidestepped it because, evidently, I doubt they had anything overwhelmingly positive to say about being trans anyway.

To come back to the dialogue, I can't ever recall anyone ever saying 'gender transition' to me outside of a psychiatrist or seeing it written down within an explainer for cis people, an academic journal or something along those lines. It seems off. Additionally, there seems to be a conflation of 'gender transition' with one getting sex reassignment surgery (SRS) as the character immediately goes on to imply getting surgery. People need not have SRS to 'gender transition'. It's not an intrinsic part nor requirement if they choose not to remove a part of their body. So while not necessarily incorrect usage, the use of 'gender transition' within the context seems clumsy and awkward which, to me, is indicative of the writers not really being comfortable with the dialogue.

99 times out of 100 a person would just use the word 'transition' here. But, then again, perhaps there are other implications here that would cause this to be used - such as if transitioning was also used to refer to, say, 'cyber transition' in 2077. Guess it depends on how much the writing sounds like it was written in 2020, or was written with future dialogue and words in mind? At least they did one thing right and actually employed a trans voice actress which is something they could have totally messed up. They must have either felt compelled to get that right, or have been sufficiently scared into doing the right thing less they want a huge outcry (a la 'The Danish Girl').

Lastly, keep in mind this game has been around since before trans issues became a mainstream topic and I would not be surprised if Claire wasn't always transgender because, to me, that just seems like something they shoehorned in there. But, hey, I may be wrong as I haven't seen the full context of her inclusion, but I nevertheless remain sceptical.

To conclude, the company just doesn't really have anyone else to blame for Claire being ignored and being lambasted. They've had it coming. You can't keep courting transphobia and expect people to not take the opportunity to stick the boot in. Payback's a bitch and, evidently, a transgender-loving bitch. You reap what you sow. Not that it matters anyway - they've got far more problems to contend with than the ire of the LGBTQPIA+ community now.

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Shindig

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Yeah, the writing doesn't need to be explicit for the sake of it. Maybe someone at CDPR was thinking they need that line in there so the player knows. They don't need to know though.

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lapsariangiraff

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Yes, reviewers saw Claire. No, one clearly shoehorned character from the racing side quests (honestly, putting one of the few trans characters in open world racing missions is maaaaaaaybe the most offensive thing here [kidding]) with a throwaway line of dialogue does not outweigh the other stuff in this game.

Going to echo @ahifi and say that Claire's dialogue around her transition was real stilted. Everyone who has ever transitioned just says "transitioned." "Gender transition" is up there with "gender affirming care" for medical euphemism.

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ahifi

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@ahifi: The problem with just show the person as a normal thing in life and don't shove it down my throat meme,... when you just make it normalized people scream why include it anyway. See avengers endgame and the nonstraight character. They were a quick line blink and you miss it "my partner" People got mad that it was just lip service. Then you have Disney say they will make the main character non-straight. People say it's just publicity. I think it's dang if you do or don't. In the end, our society needs a push or they will never change. Hate to say it but it took years to get where we are with marginalized groups. So much so that even people who currently aren't sexist or racist would be indoctrinated if born just 80 years ago. Just 80, some are still alive today that experienced and saw the change. Like all change, people hate it and resist it. So yeah we will need to include so many cultures and walks of life in shows movies and games that it looks like the cast of hey Arnold in the 90s till people get ok with it and stop commenting that it's shoved down their throat and don't notice it. Then and only then will we likely go back to being ok with a cast that's only one ethnicity again. Note: Leaks of movie execs even stated they thought non-minorities won't sell overseas and abroad so they purposely don't include much...that's info people overlook and I'm sure many share at the top, even though later movies showcased that's not true and society largely is embracing anyone willing to showcase their story on screen. We just don't need to be talked down to where were told we need to learn why sexism or something is bad since the people watching usually arent the people who need to learn that. Thus why viewers always cringe and think it's forced. lol. just my rambling 2 cents.

Haha, 'rambling'? C'mon... there's only one person doing that here. :p But you're totally right re: representation, and I'm with you on that - however, this was always the price for identity politics that I was referring to: it being, at times, frustrating to the majority (and even the minorities!), and no-one having any real semblance of a complete, fixed perspective of how it's workable. It's very subjective and contextual, and that will never sit well with a certain percentage of the population. What one character does right can be seemingly emulated but done wrong; and what would seem like the wrong type of portrayal in one game becomes the right type of portrayal in another game. It also stokes the fires further as it can seemingly mobilise just as many people for trans rights as it does against it. And this can also stoke violence and backlash towards trans people if done irresponsibly - which is less forgivable when done irresponsibly by a company looking to make money.

It's why I was referring to these approaches as really being an apology for the past - it's absolutely necessary (as you say), and appreciated, but nevertheless messy and doesn't really leave that many of us much happier. It's more... 'contentedness'... that we're being done right? At most, a pleasant surprise? Mostly it's just outrage at what has been done wrong at the expense of not acknowledging what was done right (and you could argue I'm somewhat doing that here too). Sometimes the validity of that outrage can be from a very personal place that doesn't necessarily transfer over to the experiences of most trans people. But then there are the people it reaches who know nothing of this world and begin to question if they are trans or not, and that's the beauty of the visibility of it just being present (rather than it being a quality or realistic interpretation of being trans). So it can be both the best and the worst all at once, and not for any one particular reason. Something we just have to accept exists in this place in time and space, as you say.

But yes, absolutely, it is a total minefield when it comes to international stuff too. Was gonna touch upon that previously but I'd already went on so much (and am doing so again). I think you see that less with games because, predominantly, the majority of game sales are going to come in markets where there has been exposure to these themes. Let's face it: gaming may be a worldwide phenomenon, but the type of gaming that's talked about and played on this website isn't. It's still very anglophonic. And it's still an industry with a younger consumer age than other media industries and they are, as such, more exposed to LGBT+ narratives. And where there are a lot more queer creators than in other media industries (except possibly music now and content creators). When it comes to products that are far more international and widespread in their exposure, you do see that trepidation that you reference. So, yeah, no surprise to hear that movie executives' morality is marked by the size of their wallets and purses.

Same kinda stuff with sports. No true equality or workable solution can really happen for trans people (predominantly trans women) in sports until there are internationally agreed solutions which, given the lack of international consensus around transgenderism, probably won't be resolved for at least another few decades. Domestically within some sports? Sure, but don't expect the Olympics to tackle this pro-actively with consensus anytime soon (they have failed thus far).

Anyway, like I said, it's a difficult position for storytellers right now - I empathise, but the solution is to have a diverse writing cast. Or, if a solo author, then to be having discussions and friendships with people who aren't like you. Or be well-read on a topic. To understand what is important and what's just lip service. So yes, absolutely have diversity in games (I'm definitely not arguing against that), but you don't always have to be spreading it so thin as to make it totally transparent. No pun intended!

I think Cyberpunk's offering being Claire - whose transness is brought into the story in an awkward, semi-servile manner - and a transphobic poster maybe says a lot about those 'discussions and friendships' at CD Projekt Red. Going back to the international discussion and somewhat inverting it, that may be a reflection of where their studios are located - a country where even acceptance of gay rights has gone backwards over the past 20 years. Perhaps that even impacted on what they could say on some level that we're not seeing. Does anyone else know what else they included regarding LGBT+ narratives?

Shame the concept didn't get taken up by another studio as the potential for very queer, trans narratives in a cyperpunk world written from the perspective of the late 2010s/early 2020s is rife with so much potential for serious discussion (heart-warming, gruesome and difficult) about the world today - as long as it were taken on by writers who are willing to explore this topic and understand the contexts. The best CDPR served up with regards to this topic is a seemingly tone deaf, l'poulet poop of a dish (with some decent seasoning) that doesn't really say anything. I don't mean to be overly mean as I'd like to think the people who predominantly worked on Claire wanted to do well with what they could within the limited scope they were given - it's a more a dig at the company's attitude and just frustration with what this game could have been.

Trans and non-gender binary (and, to widen the net historically, 'gender bending') people will always exist as long as people live, have some semblance/perception of free will and there continues to be a gender binary, because they have thus far evidently existed for thousands of years in some form. So deal with it, CDPR - and not just in a way that titillates your biases.

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Retris

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@birtrum_yonce: Given that they discarded most of the things that happened in the setting after Cyberpunk 2020, a game that came out in 1988, I wouldn't say it's them "staying true to the IP". They made a specific choice on choosing a specific edition of the IP that they wanted to use as the basis. It was not about being constrained by the IP, this was a choice they made themselves.

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Birtrum_Yonce

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The game feels stuck in 1988

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Sirmax

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#20  Edited By Sirmax

When you start enforcing contemporary politics into something that just wants to be a game you are asking for disappointment. That people are asking or hoping to get a serious discussion of modern-day politics from a video game, is absurd. People are reading way too much into these things, more than is reasonable.The fact that the game even brings up trans people is itself a way of progress, since the vast majority of games don't adress it, not even most triple-A games.

A game should not be tailor-made to fit contemporary politics, its spoils the game and turns it into political marketing, nothing more. Most of us just want a good game. "Representation"? sure, but is that what every game should be about, what every storyline must focus on by law? no, that's absurd. The developers should be free to tell the story they want to tell. If we start policing them, like much of the US gaming media is already doing, then there's little point of writing a story or creating characters, beause someonone somewhere is bound to be offended since representation is a subjective feeling, something experienced internally, that has as much to do with the person viewing it as it has the actual material.

On a side-note, let's make a list of a 100 representative groups so that every single video game henceforth ticks every single one of them. Not just that, they have to cover each group 100% perfectly. This is not reasonable however. Or just do what the US media already does, and conveniently apply your ethical principles only on occasion, not for every game you come across but for whenever it suits you. Nobody is talking about representation in Nintendo games. Where are the dark-skinned people in Mario for example? But hey they're Japanese, and the US media only apply their principles for Eastern European games, not American, British, and certainly not Japanese games. This racist targeting of developers from certain regions of the world annoyes me. There's such a clear double-standard in this. I have no issues with these topics per se, I have an issue with how the media applies their scrutiny of it: "for some games - developed in these countries - we care about representation, for other games it's completely irrelevant". That does not add up, cherry-picking is the opposite of having principles.

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navster15

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@sirmax: That’s not what’s happening here though. CDPR has actively been hostile against trans people for some time now, and people have the receipts to prove it. This isn’t about “good” or “bad” representation. It’s about the active hostility in gaming spaces against trans people manifesting in one of the largest and consequential games in recent memory. The trans community exist, play games, are people. They are taking a stand here and dismissing their concerns as “contemporary politics” is completely missing the forest for the trees.

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monkeyking1969

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..

Also a lot of people were very disappointed in the handling of a potential trans character in the character creator, where gender is tied to voice for some reason (there's no reason why it shouldn't be an independent toggle you can set with any voice or set of genitals.)

Basically Claire feels like a small nod to representation in a game that is very problematic around trans issues.

I think the above hits at the heart of the disappoint and milder cristsims of the game. There was seemingly a huge opportunity for creating and embodying trans characters overall from the preview imagery and videos. The representation was was only implied, purhapes filled in in only people's minds, but regardless what was possible in the character creator didn't meet what some people were expecting.

I get it, when you feel like repsopation will occur in a game, when it seemingly so close - the disappointment can be especially stinging. While some players might not have choosn some of those apacts for their playthrough, I one-hundred-percent would have wanted broader trans representation (looks, voices, movement/gestures, etc) in there. Representation matters, we knows this, so when opportunities are missed that is extremely vexing.

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Camosid

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I don't wanna sound wild, but I actually found the way they did Claire more offensive than anything. It felt like an afterthought almost in response to their past controversy and the multiple ongoing poor representations within the game. Also it's relegated to the racing sidequest in an open-world game.

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lapsariangiraff

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#25  Edited By lapsariangiraff

@sirmax Wow, that... really misses the point.

Your last paragraph, breathless in its incredulity of representation, (what, should we have every gender, race, and minority in every game ever?), which is an exact talking point from noted Gamer Gate-r, Sargon of Akkad, by the way, (in a debate with Michael Brooks, Sargon of Akkad debated the existence of Black History Month by saying "well there can't be a month for every minority!") is very telling.

It reeks of the slippery slope fallacy. If we start introducing more trans people where they otherwise don't fit (because that is the implication when you claim the representation is "forced" or "political marketing"), where does it eeeeeend? Except, oh wait, trans people are central to the transhumanist, cyberpunk narrative. And, more than that, no trans person just decided to complain out of nowhere -- CDPR actively courted these discussions by including such prominent depictions of trans people in their game. If it's part of the game, you're gonna talk about it.

That's not "politics" or "representation." That's just criticism of the work.

No one is forcing anything. CDPR included trans people in the conversation, and trans people thought they might like to, you know, have an opinion about how they're included.

Finally, and I want to believe you don't actually believe this, but your post is kind of unintentionally transphobic. If your whole point is "over-representing trans people is forced/political marketing", you're implying that trans people are not an everyday part of the world (when they are). That their mere inclusion is outside the norm, and we should be grateful for that much. So, take a deep breath, reflect a bit, and ask yourself, "Why do trans issues feel so marginal and unimportant to me? Why, upon people bringing them up, do I need to defensively bring up a doomsday scenario of every game including an Orwellian mandatory 100 minorities and ethnic groups in every game?"

Is it because those issues have never affected you or someone you know personally? Is it because you've never met a trans person? Is it because, even if you're aware of this, you just don't get it?

Any of these are totally fine. It was a long time before I truly empathized with trans people, not because I meant any harm, but because I just didn't think about them that much. Ever. But I highly recommend you do some introspection and investigate those feelings. Because, never bothering to question the assumptions we've grown up with by default is how you end up with the JK Rowlings and Ricky Gervaises of the world. And that's a club you don't want to be a part of.

Also, criticizing some games and not others isn't "cherry-picking," it's "context." Transgenderism in a cyberpunk game isn't even remotely close to your strawman of "why don't you complain about no black people in Mario?" That's a... really uninformed take.

Of course journalists criticize American and British games for this kind of shit, are you kidding me? You're sounding like that Alex Hutchinson guy who claimed video game journalists were racist for not criticizing the story in Mario as much as they did for his project, Assassin's Creed III.

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lapsariangiraff

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#27  Edited By lapsariangiraff

@sirmax Ah, yes. Kotaku and Polygon, famous bastions of seething anti-Polish sentiment. (Definitely, both outlets did not give The Witcher 3 very positive reviews or anything.)

You didn't respond to a single thing I said. You doubled down on an argument no one is making. You accused the entire board (despite only being responded to by two people) of "being brainwashed." And you're trying to deflect criticisms of what's in the game with an imaginary geopolitical journalistic conspiracy. I think it's pretty clear where your head's at.

Edit: I feel slightly bad. You're new here (just started posting today), you have only 4 forum posts, and the only 3 things you've taken the time to write about are 1. Cyberpunk journo cancel culture 2. Last of Us 2 journo cancel culture and 3. Top games of 2020! You seem awfully concerned about the "power" that games journalists wield. Allow me to assure you -- they wield none. Game publishers have so much more power than any games journalists. As someone who had a lot of problems with The Last of Us 2, let me tell ya, no one, especially no one at Giant Bomb, shouted me down for having them. There is no conspiracy here. Just people and their opinions. That being said, it's slightly concerning that your two big takes so far are "Cyberpunk's trans problem is overstated" and "I can't complain about the Last of Us without being called a bigot." That's a, um, that's a bad look.

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navster15

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@sirmax: Genuine question, do you believe that Poland has no trans folks? Why do the legitimate concerns of trans people end at a border?

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bigsocrates

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@sirmax: You seem to have no idea what Cyberpunk is.

Cyberpunk is not an original CD Project Red property. They didn't invent Johnny Silverhand or Rogue or many of the other characters.

This is like someone saying "Why do you have to make Metal Gear Solid all political." That person has never actually paid attention to those games.

There are games that are arguably not political. Tetris isn't necessarily political (though in some iterations it certainly includes politics.) Super Mario Bros. isn't particularly political, though it has themes that relate to politics.

Cyberpunk has ALWAYS been an extremely political IP. Cyberpunk 2077 is literally a game about massive corporations dominating life in Night City. There's a massive subplot about the mayor race that involves multiple missions. The game is stuffed full of explicit political satire and commentary. One of the endings involves the player sitting and watching TV news coverage where they talk about the political implications of the events.

To say this is not a political game is absurd to the point of near parody.

You want to make that argument about something like Dirt 5 then I might listen, by Cyberpunk? You must be trolling.

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Dareitus

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Isn't Claire the bartender? Who gives racing missions? I did like 90% of Cyberpunk (waste of 80hrs) and never would have guessed the trash driving quests lead to any sort of actual content.

That said, regardless of how its handled I wouldn't consider anything related to Claire "significant" as she is very much a throw away character to provide shitty races with.

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Dareitus

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The shitty transphobic MixItUp ad would also seem a little less shitty if it wasnt fucking EVERYWHERE. They put no thought or effort into the ads found in the world.

MixItUp and "AssEater Brain Dance" ads make plenty of sense in the seedier sections of town. Standing outside of a beautiful tower with hologram koi fish in downtown? The fuck? Its like seeing a porn ad on the side of a state run train it just doesnt belong. They have more "realistic" ads about technology and insurance that get almost no play next to porn and transgender fetishes. Its so sad

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bigsocrates

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@dareitus: I personally would prefer that the ads were more differentiated by district, and I think the "Mix it Up" ad is just bad, but there is an argument for putting the seedy ads in the ritzy part of towns, which is to show how desensitized and commercialized everything and everyone is. Like nobody even cares about porn ads in your fancy places because everyone is just used to that stuff at this point and vulgarity is no longer a class marker the way it is right now.

I don't think the game really integrates this point well, but it is at least an artistic perspective and it's something that other Cyberpunk media has done to better effect.

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lapsariangiraff

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#33  Edited By lapsariangiraff

@bigsocrates: I think the breaking point for me with the ads in this game is that they feel too same-y. Because there are about 5-10 you see, over and over and over, it doesn't feel like "vulgarity has been normalized to the point all classes participate" it feels like, "these game devs made 10 seedy ads to populate their world with." To really sell the breadth of this cultural problem in the world, you'd need more examples, more culture, still with different nuances depending on what demographic they're targeting with the ad, while still maintaining that vulgar streak, just manifesting in different ways.

A million porn ads feels like an incredibly shallow approach to this world.

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bigsocrates

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@theoracleofgame: Yeah well most of that stuff is what I meant by saying that the point isn't well integrated, if it's even intentional. Like a lot of things in the game it's very shallow. The gangs are shallow. The mission choices (outside the flathead mission) are shallow. Nothing is deeply explored.

Which relates back to the issue of Claire being trans. It's shallow. It's a few referential lines of dialog from a character you don't care about, in a game that has a lot of transphobia in other places.

Claire herself is...fine. In a game without transphobia she would be a clunky but fairly unobjectionable trans character. Not perfectly true to life and speaking in ways that trans people generally don't, but not insulting or anything. The problem with her is really the rest of the game she's in and the marketing around her.

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firecracker22

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From everything I've played so far, and I'm about 125 hours in so far, I haven't seen anything that I would call transphobic at all. I'm starting to think it's all based on the marketing and nothing that's really in the game, I guess.

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Shindig

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As a sidenote, I'm playing through the Witcher 3 and just got past the trans character in that. For as little as that character is on screen (it's a single scene) the reveal is very, very oddly handled.

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@bigsocrates: For sure, if there was more variety in the ads in general I think It could be handled better. Say, the ass eater ad - there are a couple variants of that size wise - I wouldn't be surprised to see that ass eater dude on a bus stop in downtown but not the full size billboard on the side of Arasaka Tower. You can tell they were thinking about this stuff because the insurance ads really only show up in downtown from what I've seen but they seemingly ran out of time/assets and just had to put mix it up in EVERY SINGLE SCENE

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#38  Edited By LyndBako

maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see how the Mix it Up ad is particularly out of place or offensive in a seedy cyberpunk world full of body modification, yet that is always the go-to for how transphobic CDPR is

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lapsariangiraff

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#39  Edited By lapsariangiraff

@lyndbako: I agree with part of this.

Transgenderism and body modification should be ever-present in a futuristic setting of 2077 in the cyberpunk genre, especially since it's not a new idea even here in 2020. That part is true.

The issue is that despite what an obvious thing this is to include, the Mix It Up ads are by far the most prominent of only 4 (4!) mentions of / allusions to trans people in a cyberpunk setting I've found in 70 hours.

The references are:

  1. A genital selector in the character creator independent of gender that does... nothing really.
  2. Claire's one line of dialogue about transitioning in an otherwise rote racing side quest.
  3. A random NPC conversation backstage of the Mox bar (after meeting Judy) where a male-presenting NPC with a masculine voice insists that she's a woman to an exasperated/deadpan feminine colleague.
  4. And then... the dreaded ads. A trans woman in a skin-tight leotard with a comically throbbing erection visible. And the Watson Whore ad showing a trans lady (zomg you can see her cock and balls in her panties from behind woooAAAAH) puking into a toilet and named... Watson Whore. Not sure how much more I need to go into that one being not great?

When asked about the Mix it Up ad, CDPR backed up to "well, we think she's beautiful, but in this dark future, corporations exploit trans people's sexuality for advertising!" Which, okay, that's a take (though a weak one.) The problem is that, if trans people are ever-present enough to utilize in advertisements in such an exploitative way (by CDPR's own admission of artistic intent), why is that easily the most prominent example of transness in the game? What the majority players will see, if nothing else. This vacuum puts a lot more pressure on this imagery and what it says, and what it says is at best lame, at worst transphobic. In short, for this nuance to work, there'd have to be, you know, an actual existence of transness in the game elsewhere that players don't have to go digging under the rug to find.

Next, what is drawn to be an exploitative ad in the fictional world of 2077 doesn't prevent it from hitting weird in the real world of 2020/2021. The game's logic goes, "1. Trans people are commonplace now (though we'll never show them lul), 2. That means advertisers catch on and overly sexualize them for profit." #2 is explicit, #1 is implicit from the developer's statements and overall worldbuilding. However, in 2020, when trans people aren't safe or understood in many spaces, and they're already overly sexualized (trans porn on Pornhub gets a ton of traffic, I'd link the stats, but um, Pornhub links on a video game forum xD) this isn't a satire of overly sexualizing trans people -- it's just another instance of it.

(Side note -- remember that Rock Paper Shotgun interview where they talked to the writer of Far Cry 3? He spent the entire interview claiming that the horrible story was a satire of bad video game stories. The interviewer, rightly, responded that with no clear signals to that intent, the "satire" of a bad story was just... a bad story. I'm reminded of that a lot by CDPR's stance here.)

Finally, older cyberpunk has a history of a conservative streak that this ad sits uneasily near. In the table top RPG this game is based on, trans-ness was an aberration, yet another example of how perverted and grimy humanity had gotten. (I remember reading an article saying that you used to take a stats penalty for not being your character's assigned birth gender, but I should dig that up.) In that context, as well as the context of the rest of the advertisements -- "Buy this or FUCK OFF!" "Watson Whore!" "Ass in dude's face!" "Three mouthed lady we imply can take three cocks!" -- Mix it Up comes off less as a critique or satire of advertising, and more as yet one more lazy example of "how seedy humanity has gotten." Hopefully you see the issue already, but I'ma keep going here.

Transness isn't seedy. Contrary to what you said, it actually is out of place in this seedy context. Using it as shorthand, or implying it as shorthand for seediness is incredibly lazy, and that veers into outright transphobia.

In summary: Cyberpunk 2077 has no thesis or real thoughts on what transness in its world means -- trans women exist, and they sure do have penises. In this vacuum of intent, we're left to our own interpretation on the Mix it Up advertisements. And the only possible interpretations go from lame ("sex sells, man!") to worrying, ("wait, but this is just another example of objectifying trans women, just lampshaded,") to transphobic ("in this fucked up future world, there are advertisements of women with dicks right next to the 24/7 sex line... WOAAAAAAAAH").

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LyndBako

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You could just as easily read that ad as a cis female with a dildo or penis mod. And that kind of explicit sexual imagery on a soda ad of all things is shocking and taboo in our society, which I think is what they were going for.

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#41  Edited By lapsariangiraff

You could... except even the developers said differently. So. You know. Also I already pointed out how the "taboo" thing doesn't fly in this context, ha. Focus on the "soda" part if you want, but at the end of the day, using a girl with a dick as a way to communicate "shocking" and "taboo" is really offensive! You get that, right? Girls with dicks are neither shocking nor taboo.

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#42  Edited By Onemanarmyy

Oracle doing some heavy lifting in this thread. Hats off to you. I haven't played Cyberpunk yet but you did a great job highlighting how the game deals with this issue and why it comes across as such a slap in the face.

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I have finished the game, and I did not see anything offensive, maybe some stuff that's a bit crass or heavy handed.

But I thought the game and the world of Cyberpunk had an interesting take on identity, the technology available in the world means you can be anything you want to be and current taboo's no longer exist. However in that world it is a double edged sword, on the one hand you can look however you want but it is also highly superficial and unsubtle, at least that what I thought they were going for.

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I think a game set in an immersive, dystopian, 80's sci-fi hellscape where style, being a badass and looking cool whatever you're doing takes precedence over the values and ideas we care about in our reality.

This is set in a world where corporations and technology dominate every facet of life (more than our timeline) and disagreements or perceived slights are typically dealt with deadly force not a twitter rant.

The in-game marketing is so cold, insensitive, garish, and even suffocates you at times because in Night City, unless you have the eddies and rep, you don't matter. No one cares about you and if they do, it's either transactional or under the guise of "family" i.e., being a part of a crime syndicate or corporation. I really believe CDPR should be given a lot of credit for pulling this off without making too many concessions.

I really like Claire and the way her story unfolds so naturally during conversations. Despite being so accepting of her transition, she still wrestles with a different kind of change (quest related). I really felt her pain during her quest as both V and the player (straight dude) which is kind of refreshing in a place as dangerous and cutthroat like Night City.

It is difficult to balance representation and not offend too many people about a game, where keeping your original human meaty form is considered weird and obsolete yet everyone in-game can alter their identity (psychologically and physically) on a whim.