'Cyberpunk 2077' Will Have Gender Fluid Character Creator Says Studio Co-Founder

But Critics Say The Studio Hasn't Done Enough To Address Other Trans Issues

Cyberpunk 2077, the next RPG from Witcher 3 creator CD Projekt Red, is among the most highly anticipated games at E3 2019. It's also proving to be one of the most controversial. A recent conversation online spurred by a heavily sexualized transgender model on an in-game poster questioned CDPR's sensitivity in dealing with trans issues. It's not a new conversation, or one CDPR probably wants to be having.

Between the poster, a series of tweets that poked fun at trans rights issues and a conversation last year about gender fluidity in the game, it's not one that is likely to go away. But Marcin Iwinski, the co-founder of CDPR, told Newsweek that they have heard the criticisms and that gender fluidity will be a part of the Cyberpunk 2077 character creator. He explained the binary male/female choice on display at E3 2019, like many other aspects of the demo, is not representative of the final product.

cyberpunk 2077 gender fluid character creator
CD Projekt Red

"This is not final and actually we'll enable that," he said when asked if there would be gender fluidity in the game. "There will be full fluidity and on top of that you'll be able to choose the male or female voice. Whatever you please."

Unfortunately, one person's pleasure is another person's politics. There has been disagreement among Cyberpunk 2077 fans online whether CDPR needs to even address these issues. However, transhumanism is a major theme within the cyberpunk genre. To omit it from a game called "Cyberpunk" would do a disservice to the creators who have contributed to the space.

"Throughout the history of cyberpunk there's been stories told where it's just blended into the fabric that you can change your body," Danny Lore, a Hugo-nominated science fiction editor and creator of the Vault Comics series Queen of Bad Dreams, told Newsweek. "How that world treats that transformation affects trans people- whether or not they want to transition- on a deep level."

Lore, who identifies as non-binary, explained this is part of the reason why the trans community has a special affinity for the cyberpunk genre. How explicitly it deals with transhumanism speaks to something that is often missing in the real world.

"Transhumanism is important to a lot of trans people because so much of it is about body politics and having control over your body/representation," they said. "That you're not hated for doing, that you're not hated for being."

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CD Projekt Red

Iwinski said CDPR will explore that in Cyberpunk 2077.

"How we depict the world, at least for me, has a feeling that it's touching on contemporary society's problems, human problems, like the role of machines and transhumanism," he said.

CDPR's critics, Lore included, say the company is not touching on those issues with the sensitivity or nuance required. And a character creator that includes gender fluidity needs to be more than just skin deep.

"Dealing with it via character creator is messy if that's the main conceit," Lore said. "A world with true gender fluidity is more than just 'what a character looks like.'"

They explained that an ideal character creator wouldn't include gendered templates for characters and would instead allow players to sculpt the body however they want. Beyond that, it should allow players to choose their preferred pronouns and place them in a world that reacts to their choice.

"Is there judgement in game for looking one way or another- and why? Does the game world have true fluidity? Are trans men invisible, are trans women over sexualized, are you forced as a character to participate in the fetishization, or is this a choice?" Lore said.

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CD Projekt Red

Iwinski said CDPR is not afraid of criticism like this, and values the feedback from fans whether it's positive or negative. But he hopes players are willing to experience the story for themselves before dismissing the game or putting labels on it, and its creators.

"People draw conclusions after one tweet, one article, anything out there," he said. "For our games, experience them. Give them a go. Then you can express your opinion, not base your opinion on a few tiny little details. It is a huge living, breathing world and there are a lot of reasons for the things that are in there, and the things that are not in there."

Lore said they are open to playing the game, but probably not at launch. They think the company still isn't listening to trans fans who raised concerns over the social media gaffes or the fetishized model they saw in the game. Those incidents felt like active disrespect, Lore said, and went beyond a company overlooking the trans community.

"I'm not asking a big budget game like that to even be about me and my community. I just want to stop seeing a warped, hurtful version of us," Lore said.

Iwinski is confident that CDPR will find an audience by staying true to its story, but he is aware it might find a divided one.

"We will be very honest. And I think in telling the story the way you want to tell it gamers will judge if they like it or not," he said. "Ethical perspective or gameplay perspective, I think there will be a lot of opinions for sure."