Cyberpunk 2020 creator angered by criticism of representation in Cyberpunk 2077

Cyberpunk 2020 tabletop RPG creator Mike Pondsmith has taken issue with some of the criticism that has been laid out at Cyberpunk 2077 following behind-closed-doors gameplay walkthroughs held at E3 2019.

In particular, there’s been questions raised by several outlets including ourselves about how CD Projekt Red are handling representation of different races in the game. Take, for example, the Voodoo Boys gang, which in the table top RPG are predominantly white guys are now black Haitians with thick accents as they speak predominantly  Haitian Creole living in the Pacifica slums. Of particular note, when subtitled, their lines are written out so that “they” becomes “dey”, with V the protagonist (a white American male in the demo) mimicking a Haitian character at one point by pointedly asking “and who are dey?”


Similarly, a rival gang, the Animals, were also predominantly black and shown being gunned down in their masses, but CD Projekt Red’s quest director Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz told Rock Paper Shotgun that more nuance would be lent to the gang through the game.

This has, understandably, sparked a bit of controversy online, and in a comment on Reddit, Mike Pondsmith has responded:

1) If I wasn’t heavily involved, I would be able to get more done. As it is, I barely have a life. 2) 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. 3) The original Voodoo Boys were a scathing commentary on cultural appropriation. I LOVE the idea that real practicioners of Voudon moved in and took back their turf. And they even got the Creole right! 4) Who the (bleep) do YOU think you are to tell ME whether or not MY creation was done right or not?

And so here’s the problem: without the context of the full game and with only a handful of assurances from CD Projekt Red to go on, it’s difficult to gauge how well the game handles race. Certainly, what was in this demo seems to have leant itself very easily to an interpretation that there’s little depth and nuance to gangs leaning heavily of stereotypes, not helped by an ability for your character to use an accent as a racial epithet. However, the fact that Pondsmith, himself an African American, is involved with Cyberpunk 2077’s creation does give us an outside voice on the game’s creation and also gives confidence that CDPR are being informed by the lore and intent of the universe that he created.

Cyberpunk 2077 had a major presence at E3 this year, featuring in Microsoft’s E3 2019 press conference, and with a “breathtaking” reveal of Keanu Reeves’ role in the game. Cyberpunk 2077 will be out for PS4, Xbox One and PC on 16th April 2020.

If you’re outraged by other peoples opinions on video games probably shouldn’t read this either. Honestly, don’t read it, you will have a heart attack.

Source: Reddit via VG247

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  1. Nothing like parts of the gaming community to jump to conclusions. It’s such a shame people guess things and don’t wait for games to reveal themselves properly (read: launch) instead of stirring up a shitstorm over potentially nothing.

    • That’s unfair, the game was shown to the press so they can make a judgement on it. There would be no point in anyone doing previews of games if that was not the case.

      • No it’s still jumping to conclusions, people should know full well that there seeing the game without seeing the full context. But no, just like one of your writers yesterday decided to call the game racist because they didn’t like how the protagonist was white “white as rice” (seriously how did that get through the editor when it’s a blatant racist remark) and the how the main character mocked another accent. It’s like he forgot the game is meant to portray a dystopian world.

      • Ah, I was referring to the community as the consumer. Apologies. However, that hinges off the media handling things in a mature fashion and allowing for topics/ideas that might be sensitive in nature and using a deft touch when writing about it in an article – which brings me to adf86’s comment which is a good point.

        Even if the lead character in a game was dislikeable in so many ways and had prejudice oozing from every pore in their skin, it doesn’t mean the game will flounder if handled with the right sort of developer-touch. With that in mind, I’d definitely want the media to digest such ideas in a grown-up manner or at the very least, mention that they have concerns but realise the developer has a history of making certain types of games and should be able to handle it without turning to stuff like “racial bullshit” in an article.

  2. “And so here’s the problem: without the context of the full game and with only a handful of assurances from CD Projekt Red to go on, it’s difficult to gauge how well the game handles race.”

    Yeah well, then maybe, just maybe… Don’t jump to conclusions? And especially don’t criticise racial stereotypes and talk about “generic, white as rice” characters in the same article…

    • IKR!? and it’s funny how people are going to jump on those stereotypes, I mean there’s a reason WHY Stereotypes happen. the only reason they exist is that a good majority seem to have that trait yeah everyone happily accepts the “Good” stereotypes but shun the “Bad” ones. Or they stereotype their own selves without realizing they had and then when someone else points it out it’s wrong.

    • I’ll hold my hand up for letting that phrasing slip through, as it undercuts the point and the questions about the game that Miguel was raising.

      However, it’s still an important topic that’s worthwhile considering prior to release. During previews it’s up to the developers to put their best foot forward, to try to back up what they’re talking about by also showing it. You don’t have the context of the whole game, but it’s still valid to discuss these topics and how they appear within the demo.

    • The rice bit is kind of a weird metaphor to me, as most of the rice we eat at home is, if anything, off-white. 😼

  3. SJW’s have to find something to get offended over in every big game now. It’s sad they don’t have anything better to do.

  4. “And so here’s the problem: without the context of the full game and with only a handful of assurances from CD Projekt Red to go on, it’s difficult to gauge how well the game handles race.”

    Tell me if I’m wrong, but are you not suppose to research the context as well as find out the why before spouting off assumptions to your readers? I mean that’s how actual Newspapers worked when I was younger… The only groups that assumed stuff and made accusations were tabloids like STAR. I mean back in the day it was basically slander if you never had real hard facts.

  5. The people who keep demanding representation and demanding artists change their game to suit their own political agenda are the true bigots and racists. Let them make the fucking game they want to make without this constant faux outrage nonsense.

    I hope CDPR do not bend the knee to these bigots.

    • Couldn’t agree more. Again and again I’m seeing people championing diversity but only their brand of it. It’s either completely accepting or it’s not. :-\

  6. As usual nowadays, the whole saga is completely blown out of proportion.

    And like gernboes says,”especially don’t criticise racial stereotypes and talk about “generic, white as rice” characters in the same article…” – Someone should be having a harsh word with your writer, if that was the other way round and a comment from a reader about any other race, there would be a shit-storm and probably result in some kind of ban from the website.

  7. Is this another thing like we had with Metal Gear Solid 5? When everyone saw Quiet and said “Hang on a minute…” and Hideo Kojima claimed there was a reason and everyone would feel ashamed when they found out? And then the reason turned out to be that he likes tits?

    Yes, taking one small section of the game out of context might not be the best plan, but when that’s the bit you’re showing off and it’s got some issues like that, then you’re not doing a good job. Unless you’re using the “no such thing as bad publicity” tactic, I guess?

    Oh, and well done people throwing stupid terms like “SJW” about and using the “no, you’re the racist” argument. Always a good way to make your point.

    But then I think sarcasm is a good way to make my point, so what do I know?

  8. The term ‘racism’ is widely misused these days, CD Projekt may be stereotyping but they’re most likely not expressing any nasty prejudice, discrimination or antagonism.
    In other disingenuous news, the company I work for have repeatedly asked me to update my ethnicity on my work profile because I’m a bit brown and have a lovely, diversity stat boosting surname, and now they want me to complete some diversity training to make me less racist and more tolerant. Boo to the nanny state!

    • Lol stereotyping a race is racist. Don’t try justify it

      • No it’s not! Hahah… stereotypes can be negative, positive or completely ambiguous. It’s not a binary situation.

      • I’m not so sure it is! The hateful acts that go with it might be but stereotyping and generalisation are totally natural things… as long as they don’t go too far I guess.

  9. That’s me not wasting my money on this game then lol boycotting it

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