Games

'Cyberpunk 2077' Triggered Game Reviewer to Have Epileptic Seizure

One of the biggest game of the year gave at least one reviewer a grand mal seizure.
December 8, 2020, 4:20pm
A screen shot from the video game Cyberpunk 2077.
Image courtesy of CD Projekt Red

If you have epilepsy or are prone to seizures, you should take care when playing Cyberpunk 2077. Game Informer associate editor Liana Ruppert reported yesterday they experienced at least one significant seizure while playing the game. 

“During my time with Cyberpunk 2077, I suffered one major seizure and felt several moments where I was close to another one,” Ruppert said in a post on the site. “Enjoy your time, but here is a heads up to do so safely if you're vulnerable to epileptic triggers.”

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CD Projekt Red did not immediately respond to our request for comment.

Update: The studio now acknowledges the issue and said it’s looking into a fix.

According to Ruppert, she began suffering from seizures after an injury in the U.S. Navy. It’s affected the way she plays games. She can’t enjoy Dead Space like she used to, but she often pushes through. Cyberpunk 2077 includes several graphical choices and one story set piece that triggered an epileptic response in Ruppert.

Reportedly at fault is the colorful neon, flashing lights, and intentionally glitchy effects of Night City. The game uses a lot of red blinking and glitchy animations that, according to Ruppert, put her in the danger zone. Using the “eye-saving mode” on her monitor, which dims blue light, helped but didn’t eliminate the problem. The appearance of Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand often comes with a pale blue glitch, that Ruppert noted could also trigger some.

The moment that induced the grand mal seizure came when Ruppert suited up to use Braindance—a mechanic that lets you explore the memories of others. The braindance segment is part of a scripted sequence and tied to the game’s main story. It can’t be skipped or avoided. 

“When ‘suiting up’ for a BD...V will be given a headset that is meant to onset the instance,” Ruppert said. “The headset fits over both eyes and features a rapid onslaught of white and red blinking LEDs, much like the actual device neurologists use in real life to trigger a seizure when they need to trigger one for diagnosis purposes. If not modeled off of the IRL design, it's a very spot-on coincidence, and because of that this is one aspect that I would personally advise you to avoid altogether. When you notice the headset come into play, look away completely or close your eyes. This is a pattern of lights designed to trigger an epileptic episode and it very much did that in my own personal playthrough.”

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These are great warnings for anyone prone to seizures, but it raises the question—why does Cyberpunk 2077 include seizure inducing footage at all? More and more, video games are coming with a suite of accessibility options that allow players to tailor the experience to their unique circumstances. The Last of Us 2’s robust accessibility options set a standard for big budget titles going forward. Cyberpunk 2077 has no such special options.

Some Cyberpunk 2077 fans didn’t react kindly to Ruppert’s guide for playing the game with epilepsy. 

More perplexing is how Sony and Microsoft didn't catch the problem sooner. Console video games have to go through a process called "certification," in which the hardware manufacturers approve a game to be published on their platforms by asking developers to hit certain requirements, like having a game not crash. Or, in this case, not causing a seizure. Getting through this process is often annoying and confusing, but at its best, catches such issues.

Microsoft and Sony did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Many of the comments on Game Informer’s website are supportive, others are vile. One commenter called Ruppert out for supposedly not reading Cyberpunk 2077’s end-user license agreement, which does contain a seizure warning. “Your entire argument is invalidated by your inoperable self-governance. I wouldn't trust you with lighter fluid,” another said.

Other outlets are writing about the seizure issue and spreading the word to their audience. Cyberpunk 2077 die-hards, many of them who—as of this writing—haven’t actually played the game, have made the comments sections of websites a nightmare when talking about the issue. Mike Diver of Gaming Bible (and formerly of VICE Games!) shared some of the worst he’s seen on Twitter.