After Outcry, Artist Says 'Cyberpunk 2077' Video Game Artwork is Not Transphoic

by Sam Cronin

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday June 14, 2019

Upcoming sci-fi open world game "Cyberpunk 2077" received lots of good press at the recent Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) last weekend, but one piece of in-game artwork is drawing criticism from fans. The advertisement appears in a promotional video for the game, and features what appears to be a trans woman with a prominent erection. Some viewers took offense at the depiction, arguing that the ad was a fetishised depiction of trans people.

One Twitter user outlined the objections succinctly:

Author Ana Valens who writes about trans issues for publications including Daily Dot, expressed doubt to PCGamer that the depiction will be positive.

"Cyberpunk is a complicated speculative fiction genre," she told PCGamer. "Good commentary about trans experiences with gender can only come from a team actively embracing trans perspectives and commentary on gender, whether by working with trans people in sensitivity readings or outright letting them lead in writing and art creation. If anything, Redesiuk's comments prove she — and her colleagues — aren't familiar with trans cyberpunk literature on gender experiences in the late capitalist future."

Responding to the controversy, the artist behind the in-game ad, Kasia Redesiuk spoke to Polygon about the conscious choice to feature trans models in the game.

"Personally, for me, this person is sexy. I like how this person looks," Redesiuk said to Polygon. "However, this model is used—their beautiful body is used—for corporate reasons. They are displayed there just as a thing, and that's the terrible part of it."

According to Redesiuk, the ad, and all the others in the game, are supposed to feel aggressive and sexualized as a way to criticize the corporations making them.

"They create those very aggressive advertisements that use, and abuse, a lot of people's needs and instincts. So, hypersexualization is apparent everywhere, and in our ads there are many examples of hypersexualized women, hypersexualized men, and hypersexualized people in between," Redesiuk said.

Whatever the intentions of the ad and its in-game justification, many fans were worried given the developer CD Projekt Red's (CDPR) controversial relationship with the trans community. Recently, the company took flak for replying to a fan on Twitter with the "Did you just assume their gender!?" meme. The company apologized and deleted the tweet shortly after, but fans worried the company may have been using the LGBT community as a punchline.

In another PR blunder, CDPR subsidiary Good Old used the hashtag #WontBeErased on their marketing Twitter. That hashtag had been popularized in response to a memo released indicating that the Trump administration would seek to narrow the definition of "sex." The company soon deleted that tweet as well.

Now, after those two incidents, fans seem to be having a harder time giving the studio the benefit of the doubt when it comes to this controversial ad. It remains to be seen how the full game will address trans characters or if it will intentionally touch on issues surrounding transphobia. It releases on April 16, 2020.