One, in particular, started by user Dmax3901 on ResetEra, noted they’d found twenty-one unique advertisements over the course of two videos (Postcards from Night city and Gangs of Night City) that featured hypersexualised women, and little in the way of hypersexualised men or LGBTQ+ people. Of course, it is not an exhaustive list, nor is this list necessarily entirely accurate, but it does (and did) spark off some intense discussion.
“What, if anything,” Dmax3901 asked, “are CD Projekt Red trying to do here? If it's to reflect our own world they've failed because even 2020 advertising manages to be more diverse than this. Is it to depict a future where women are still sexualised to a far higher degree than men? If so, why? We know our current world is homophobic, transphobic and sexist, do they really think ads like this are cutting satire or nuanced critique?”
The discussion that followed was - unsurprisingly - contentious, but some salient points were raised on both sides. Should Cyberpunk overlook a distasteful fact of modern society (women are still heavily more featured in sexualised adverts than men) in a futuristic reflection of the worst of society? Would that be revisionist, or disingenuous? On the flip-side, does such a depiction become implicit endorsement?
The discussion becomes more fraught when you look at CD Projekt Red’s mixed history with female sexualisation. Most egregious was Witcher 1’s notorious sex cards, which effectively devolved all sexual encounters into collecting pornographic cards of the various women Geralt slept with. Of course, the studio has come a long way from the days of reducing women to collectible cards, but even in The Witcher 3 while the likes of Triss and Yenefer were powerful, sexually confident women, there is no mistaking they were sexualised, even if that wasn’t an inherently negative thing.
Contrast that to the glaring lack of male sexuality (outside of Geralt’s definitively heteronormative experience), and it’s understandable why some are concerned about how tactfully CDPR will handle this minefield in Cyberpunk 2077.
Sex sells even aftershave, apparently. (Picture: CD Projekt RED).
Nor is it as simple as taking the forum post (and those like it) at face value. Others in the thread pointed out that there were a great many sexualised adverts depicting men within the trailers too, and CDPR have already been very upfront that the depiction of sexuality in the game is set to be varied and fluid (especially when it comes to romance options for V).
Whether or not CDPR will have managed to navigate these difficult waters is yet to be seen, nor is this article an exhaustive answer to any of the questions and discussions that are being held. Of course, even if they have, the question still remains whether sexualisation of everyone and everything is a good design space to be in. Perhaps that choice will have to remain one for players and consumers to make.