i'm gonna try to explain cyberpunk

emphasis on 'try'

Last night, I was asked what’s the deal with Cyberpunk, and for a split-second, I had a mini-stroke, because that’s an impossible question to answer. The whole thing with Cyberpunk is that there’s a new dumb thing about it almost every other day and the question of “what’s up with this?” is a moving target faster than the speed of light. But a lot of people are talking about it so as a service, here’s my best attempt at answering the question.

Cyberpunk 2077 is a video game developed by Polish software developer CD Projekt Red based on the tabletop role-playing game Cyberpunk, which, if you need a hint, falls squarely in the cyberpunk genre of entertainment. Mega-cities, neural implants, robot arms, transhumanism, neon lights, computer hacking, hovercars, blurred boundaries or gender, ethnicity, and humanity, and so on.

Cyberpunk 2077 is the first game from CDPR since 2015’s TheWitcher 3: Wild Hunt, a game that I recently played and which is very large in scope — an open-world game with countless quests, story elements, and moving parts that all need to fit together. The Witcher 3 is great, which I say as someone who played it this fall, more than five years after it came out. One reason I waited so long is that the game came out and it was very buggy, and that got ironed out over time.

Cyberpunk has been in some stage of development for close to a decade. It has had its release date pushed back many, many times — an inordinate amount even in an era where multiple delays for large games are standard practice. Also standard practice is a thing called ‘crunch,’ which is when video game developers spend every waking hour in the months leading up to release trying to finish the game and make it as glitch-free as possible, thus crunching more tasks than might otherwise be accomplished into a shorter timeframe. Crunch is a contentious issue in that it is usually seen either as an exploitation of workers buy demanding they put in unpaid overtime to meet deadlines set by corporate overseers, or merely an uncomfortable but also standardized and unavoidable model for video game development. CD Projekt pledged not to use crunch in Cyberpunk’s production — they failed to do so.

So here’s what people are mad about so far:

  • Game took longer than planned to come out. This is generally annoying, but for some it is the end of the world.

  • Game made under poor working conditions. For a sect of gamers interested in trying to acchieve ethical consumption under capitalism

It came out this week and to nobody’s surprise, it’s buggy as hell. Reports of all sorts of glitches abound. For instance, it’s virtually unplayable on older consoles.

So that’s another thing people are peeved about. Let’s check the list:

  • Game delayed.

  • Game made with crunch.

  • Game is glitchy as hell. This is both annoying for someone while playing the game, and if they had built their entire identity around eagerly anticipating the game for the past 3 years, also makes it difficult to defend the games greatness in public.

This is the first thing that some people are mad about: eagerly waiting years for a product, waiting so long that it needs to be good. As expected, this has manifested in hostility towards anyone who might dare criticize it, whether they be a forum poster or a professional journalist. People who didn’t laud unanimous praise receive kneejerk backlash. At one point, a journalist playing the game had a seizure because of flashing lights in the game — which the developers did not offer any warning of.

Calling attention to this type of oversight is arguably even worse than calling attention to glitches, because it’s not the result of mysterious software or hardware quirks. It’s just the developer not thinking about things enough. (A warning has since been added to the start of the game.) As a result of calling attention to it, the journalist was bombarded on Twitter with flashing GIFs trying to trigger her epilepsy. A member of the Cyberpunk subreddit who said “hey that’s messed up” was banned for doing so.

Okay let’s check our list:

  • Game delayed.

  • Game made with crunch.

  • Game is glitchy as hell.

  • Game contains avoidable design mistakes. This reveals the developers to be less than perfect, which some people have a problem with.

Because it’s an RPG, Cyberpunk features the ability to customize your character. In a first for mainstream video games, it offers a number of different genital styles to choose from. If a players makes their character’s dingaling large enough, it will clip through their pants.

That’s a funny glitch but it also gets into overarching issues with how the game approaches gender. Last year, pre-release marketing materials for the title showed off an in-game advertisement for a soda brand. The ad featured a transgender model with both breasts and a clear dick print alongside the tagline “Mix It Up.” Understandably, the devs caught some heat, and weren’t particularly convincing in the explanations they gave for what seemed like a cheap joke at the expense of a marginalized community. It was not the first time. In terms of how this expansive or reductive take on gender manifests in game, well…

The gender stuff has also led to some trolling, such as a user on Steam who stated that the game contained an incel’s worst fears.

Luckily, this brought us some incredible writing from Game Revolution, who debunked the idea that circumcised characters are discriminated against in-game.

Of course, if this were true, it would reflect very negatively on CD Projekt Red. Circumcision is very seldomly the choice of an individual, and until recent decades, Doctors circumcised most American men right after birth. For the game to lock players out of a relationship due to a factor that’s seldom within a person’s control would be ludicrous.

Regardless of how farfetched a PR faux pas like this would be, it spread quickly. Despite the posts offering no evidence, several clickbait websites quickly posted it as fact, as did users on Twitter. However, rest assured, in our 50+ hours with the game as a circumcised man, we have encountered no prejudice due to our genitalia.

Okay!

Also, this:

Load up the list:

  • Game delayed.

  • Game made with crunch.

  • Game is glitchy as hell.

  • Game contains avoidable design mistakes.

  • Game got manhole covers wrong.

  • Game has a rough history when engaging with questions of gender representation.

Now, for each of the above issues that people might be mad about, know that there are people on the other side who are mad that people are offering any criticism of the game. The game’s most outspoken fans seem to be of the standard Gamerus Toxicus variety and so we can add that to the list.

  • Game delayed.

  • Game made with crunch.

  • Game is glitchy as hell.

  • Game contains avoidable design mistakes.

  • Game got manhole covers wrong.

  • Game has a rough history when engaging with questions of gender representation.

  • Game’s most vocal fanbase is toxic.

The result has been a years-long ramp-up of people getting mad at other people for getting mad at a video game that nobody could offer comprehensive judgement on until a couple of days ago. Factions embedded in unalterable optimism or pessimism, neither of whom can figure out if they’re right because it’s impossible to get the game to function unless you have a tough-to-find next gen console like a PS5 or a high-end PC.

So that’s what everyone’s mad about. Kind of. I’m sure there’s gonna be another new thing to get mad about every day for the next couple of weeks.


Elsewhere…


Thank you for reading BNet. I think it’s good that Facebook got sued.