As you’ve no doubt heard from a million others, CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 demo, so far unreleased to the public, was an E3 highlight. During that demo, the studio only briefly lingered on the character creator screen, noting it was unfinished. But as I tried to take in as much as possible, one thing stood out: the gender options were limited to men and women.
Cyberpunk 2077 is based on the long running tabletop game Cyberpunk, and one version of the game has a sketchy history when it comes to gender. If you decide to undergo a “sex-change,” as the game puts it, you’ll lose part of your “humanity,” a stat that, if driven down enough, results in “cyberpsychosis,” where you lose control of the character and the Game Master takes over.
Given how much CD Projekt RED is playing up the amount of choice players will have in Cyberpunk 2077, it’d seem a little out of place for their game to overlook gender fluidity. Waypoint had a chance to speak with Cyberpunk 2077 quest designer Patrick Mills for a few minutes at E3 about a variety of subjects, including the character creator’s limited options.
“It’s too early to say,” he said, “but it’s definitely something that we’ve looked at.”
Not a yes, but also not a no?
The notion of gender fluidity in Cyberpunk 2077 has been kicked around as long as the game’s been in development. It doesn’t take long to find threads with fans speculating about what CD Projekt RED might do, given Cyberpunk itself doesn’t provide an explicit roadmap.
Murmuring among skeptical fans ranges from unsurprising bigotry (“That type of shit has no place in a game like this. We dont need our fav game and possibly the game of the decade plagued by gender politics like we already suffer from in real life.”) to your typical strawman arguments about how “the list of genders if long/theoretically endless,” thus it's an impossible problem to solve.
Though Mills wasn’t able to elaborate on where CD Projekt RED will land on the issue, any movement they make in the direction of embracing non-binary gender pronouns is likely to cause a ripple of controversy, however unwarranted. Harebrained Schemes’ quiet inclusion of the option to create a character in BattleTech with they/them pronouns elicited a reaction, and BattleTech is a game with a fraction of the attention Cyberpunk 2077 will soon garner.
That’s precisely the reason it’d be socially important for Cyberpunk 2077 to give players more options. The more often games embrace pronoun variety, the less it seems like an outrageous political stance, emboldening gaming culture’s worst actors. It becomes normal.
“Personally, as a gender-fluid pansexual,” wrote one user on reddit, as part of an eventually locked thread discussing this very issue, “this is a hugely important topic and selling point for me. I do hope they think about incorporating this into the game not just for realism but in order to prove they are a truly progressive company who want to move with the times.”