Cyberpunk 2077 developer CD Projekt Red has explained a controversial in-game ad that depicts a trans model at the same time it’s pledged to offer a character creation tool with trans and non-binary gender options.
Shortly after its release, the internet labelled an in-game ad for a product called ChroManticore, as seen in a new screenshot, as transphobic. In the screenshot, a female presenting model with a visible penis is surrounded by text that reads, “Mix it up” and “16 flavours you’d love to mix.”
Speaking with Polygon, CD Projekt Red artist Kasia Redesiuk defended the work.
“Personally, for me, this person is sexy,” Redesiuk said. “I like how this person looks. 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.
“Cyberpunk 2077 is a dystopian future where megacorporations dictate everything. They try to, and successfully, influence people’s lives. They shove products down their throats. 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 continued.
“This is all to show that hypersexualization in advertisements is just terrible. It was a conscious choice on our end to show that in this world — a world where you are a cyberpunk, a person fighting against corporations. That [ad] is what you’re fighting against.”
Redesiuk continued to say that CD Projekt Red didn’t mean to offend anyone and that the oversexualised image was meant as an effort to — in Polygon’s words — “increase empathy for the LGBTQ community”.
At the same time, CD Projekt Red’s Quest Director, Mataeusz Tomaszkiewicz, confirmed that Cyberpunk 2077‘s character creation tool was designed to provide more options for trans players and those with non-binary genders.
“One of the things we want to do in the final game (which we couldn’t show in the demo yet, because as you mentioned it’s a work in progress) is to give the players as many options of customization in the beginning of the game as we can,” Tomaszkiewicz told Gamasutra. “For example, we want to do this thing where, as you create your character, after you choose the body type, you can, for example, use physical traits as you build your face that could be assigned to a man or a woman.”
Adding that the same building tools would be provided for your character’s voice, Tomaszkiewicz stressed that CD Projekt Red was paying close attention to how trans and non-binary gender characters were being depicted in the title.
“We are paying a lot of attention to it,” he said. “We do not want anyone to feel like we are neglecting this, or treating it wrongly.”
Cyberpunk 2077 heads to Windows PC, Xbox One and PS4 on 16 April 2020.