Cyberpunk 2077 was at E3 2019 in a big way. While we’ve still yet to go hands-on with the anticipated title, developer CD Projekt RED offering hour-long closed door presentations to press, and unveiled a ton of new gameplay and story details, as well as a release date – finally.
But in among all the talk of the game’s massive open world, the inclusion of Keanu Reeves, and just how much post-game content we can expect, Cyberpunk 2077 attracted a fair amount of criticism, predominately via concerns about trans and race representation in the game.
An article from Rock, Paper, Shotgun pointed out that many could, would, (and did) take issue with the idea of “shooting at predominantly black people labelled as animals,” which refers to the Animals gang we saw during the gameplay demo – one of the many gangs who reside in Night City.
It was this criticism in particular that drew the attention of Mike Pondsmith, the creator of the original Cyberpunk tabletop RPG on which 2077 is based. He took to Reddit to explain his reasoning for while the Animals chose the name that they did, and also clarified that he is in fact still involved with development on the title.
If I wasn’t heavily involved, I would be able to get more done. As it is, I barely have a life. As for the Animals—the WHOLE FREAKING POINT is that they think of themselves as POWERFUL, DANGEROUS, WILD ANIMALS. You’d have thought the Lady named ‘Sasquatch’ would have given them a clue. I LOVE the idea that real practitioners of Voudon moved in and took back their turf. And they even got the Creole right! Who the (bleep) do YOU think you are to tell ME whether or not MY creation was done right or not?
As others have pointed out, the main drive of the criticism leveled against the Animals wasn’t that CD Projekt RED’s version wasn’t true to Pondsmith’s, but rather the connotations of such a gang in a video game being made 2019, even if it is set decades in the future.
At this point, it’s hard to gauge exactly how well the game tackles race and trans representation based on a few brief snippets of what is, by all accounts, a massive game, though it is worth noting that CD Projekt has a less than tactful history in this particular arena.
With that said, I suspect that Cyberpunk 2077 and CD Projekt RED will (and should) continue to face scrutiny and encourage conversations for the choices it makes as far as representation goes when sharing its vision of the future.
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Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.