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After a week grappling with controversy over the depiction of a sexualized transgender woman in Cyberpunk, a CD Projekt Red developer has told Gamasutra that the team is hoping to allow better gender representation through the in-game character creator.
The comment came during a longer conversation with quest director Mateusz Tomaszkiewicz that took place after developers and players expressed anger and frustration online over the in-game ad. Yesterday, Polygon was able to speak with one of the developers who worked on the ad. They offered some explanation and context about its inclusion in the game, but did not comment on if players would be able to play as transgender, nonbinary, or otherwise gender non-conforming characters themselves.
According to Tomaskiewicz, CD Projekt Red is hoping that when the character creator is finished, players will be able to customize their physical traits and voice to better match the gender they'd like to express. The company has previously shied away from confirming any details on its character creation system, stating in E3 presentations this year and last that it's a work in progress.
Tomaszkiewicz's comments appear to be the closest the team has been able to confirm this kind of character creation, which has been a topic journalists and other developers have been asking about given the game's themes about body modification and self-expression.
The challenges CD Projekt Red is facing with its depiction of transgender characters is one other game developers are also grappling with as they design character creators and work to define different forms of player expression. Transgender people in America and different parts of the globe face disproportionately high levels of violence and poverty, which often go hand-in-hand with stereotypical or hateful depictions that occur in video games or other media.
Other game developers hoping to be inclusive of transgender, nonbinary, or gender-fluid players have begun implementing game functions that ask for their preferred pronouns or offering gender-neutral options in the character creator.
For context, we're including Tomaskiewicz's full comments on this subject below.
Gamasutra: We haven't seen the full character selection screen. The team said it wasn't finished yet. There are still many changes you all are making to the game. Has the team at all considered, given their use of [trans] characters like that in the game to depict cyberpunk, has the team thought about giving players that kind of choice over their character, to give themselves similar representation?
And if they're not, has the team considered the gap between portraying characters like that, and limiting what you can have your players represent themselves as?
Tomaskiewicz: Of course. It's a very sensitive and important subject I believe. We have put a lot of thought into this. 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.
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.
Gamasutra: Or nonbinary?
Tomaskiewicz: Or nonbinary. The idea is to mix all of those up, to give them to the players, as they would like to build it. Same goes for the voice. We wanted to separate this out, so the players can choose it freely. This is something we are still working on, it's not as easy as it sounds.
This is one part of it. In terms of how we depict the characters within the setting itself, of course, yes, we are paying a lot of attention to it, we do not want anyone to feel like we are neglecting this, or treating it wrongly.