Roleplaying games have come far from their roots, especially when concerned with playable character creation and design, expanding skin tones, body types, hairstyles, and even voice options. But there’s always been a lag when it comes to non-binary and trans representation. It’s understandable why this is the case, but with the ever-expanding inclusion and acceptance of non-binary persons into popular media and society as a whole, it’s about time we see an extension of this into RPGs as well. CD PROJEKT RED’s Cyberpunk 2077 is fixing this by creating an inclusive character creator.
Transgender inclusion in video games has increased over the years. We’ve seen additions of transgender characters in big-name videogames from Cremisius Aclass in Dragon Age: Inquisition to Janeva in Horizon: Zero Dawn. But these are all NPCs, so what about playable characters? Creating a non-binary or transgender character can be hard in current RPG setups. For one, you’re forced to choose either a female or a male template. In some RPGs, this limits the hairstyles you can choose from, the extras you can apply such as makeup or facial hair, and the voice you pick.
RPG games have always been praised when allowing expansive character customization. However, despite this, options are often tied and limited to one sex. And certainly, there are RPGs out there that have been more inclusive and are breaking down how a man or woman should look by increasing plasticity. For example, Mass Effect Andromeda allowed male characters to wear makeup which was a pretty big deal at the time. But one of the main options that remain rigid is voice choice. Some games only allow people who’ve chosen ‘female’ to only choose a female sounding voice and vise-versa for male options.
As a society, we’re finally adopting the idea that women and men don’t have to look a specific way. Our idea of gender and sex is expanding, so much so that not everyone feels the need to even pick one of these labels and instead fall under the umbrella of non-binary gender. Collectively, we’re realizing that we don’t need to adhere to a standard of rules that say what is and isn’t acceptable for a person simply based on their genitalia. And yet, our games still work by this methodology. We pick a box before fine-tuning our character’s features within this box. However, CD PROJEKT RED, well-known for The Witcher series, is changing things up with its newest game: Cyberpunk 2077.
Now, CD PROJEKT RED isn’t without its mishaps. Then again, many companies have tried to walk the slippery slope of trying to be hip and young to connect with their younger consumer base while also trying not to be offensive. In a lot of cases, transgender folx have become the butt of many jokes.
Despite some Twitter drama, CD PROJEKT RED does seem to want to create a more inclusive environment. Originally, the demo Cyberpunk 2077 character creator required gamers to pick the sex of your character before getting to the nitty-gritty of character creation. After plenty of feedback, the company has decided to remove this option. Instead, the Cyberpunk 2077 character creator will let you pick a body type and then go from there. Although from new reveals about the character creation, these two body types are traditionally what we would consider female and male passing, the most radical part of this change is that the game will allow the mixing and matching of all possible traits in the character creator, which opens the realm of possibilities for everyone, cis and transgender persons alike.
As someone who is non-binary and transgender, it has always been hard to create a character that I believed truly represented me in many RPGs. Many trans and non-binary folx are not cis-presenting; in other words, we don’t necessarily look like cis-women or -men. Many RPG character creators are based on the idealized versions of what men and women should look like and therefore exclude both non-binary and trans people who, even those who physically transition, may never be able to attain these idealized characteristics.
Expanding options not only helps trans people but also everyone who picks up the game; there’s no one way to be a woman or a man and expanding options allows people to be themselves and not feel they need to adhere to an outdated idea of gender roles. If a game wants to emulate human nature, why try to force a binary onto a human experience that is everything but binary?
Overall, this change is great for all gamers and really expands the hope for more inclusivity. If a big game company such as CD PROJEKT RED thinks that it’s important to be inclusive and create a game that supports non-binary and trans gamers, then there may be hope that others will also see the merit in representing and including these groups in their videogames. The impact that CD PROJEKT RED could make is massive and really makes me excited to get my hands on Cyberpunk 2077.