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Cyberpunk creator Mike Pondsmith defends 2077 from post-E3 criticism

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Photo credit: Gamelab Congreso Videojuegos (opens in new tab)

Cyberpunk 2077 was one of the biggest hits of this year's E3, but it didn't go over without criticism. The demo and trailers led some to express concerns about trans representation in the game, while an article by Rock, Paper, Shotgun (opens in new tab) expressed discomfort at "shooting at predominantly black people labelled as animals," referring to the Animals gang in the gameplay demo.

The criticisms attracted the attention of Mike Pondsmith (opens in new tab), the creator of the Cyberpunk RPG on which the game is based. 

"If I wasn't heavily involved, I would be able to get more done. As it is, I barely have a life," Pondsmith wrote on Reddit (opens in new tab), responding to a suggestion by an RPS commenter that he wasn't still involved in the development of Cyberpunk 2077. "As for the Animals—the WHOLE FREAKING POINT is that they think of themselves as POWERFUL, DANGEROUS, WILD ANIMALS. You'd have thought the Lady named 'Sasquatch' would have given them a clue." 

He also expressed approval of changes that CD Projekt has made to the Voodoo Boys gang, describing the 2020 iteration as "a scathing commentary on cultural appropriation." That presumably reflects the fact that, despite its name and affectations, the gang is made up primarily of "average white boys," according to the Cyberpunk Wiki (opens in new tab).   

"I LOVE the idea that real practitioners of Voudon moved in and took back their turf. And they even got the Creole right!" he wrote. "Who the (bleep) do YOU think you are to tell ME whether or not MY creation was done right or not?"

So he likes the game, then, though whether or not CD Projekt's creation matches Pondsmith's vision wasn't the crux of the criticism, and would be an exercise in comparison. As a game named for a genre which has a great deal of existing symbolic meaning, Cyberpunk 2077's portrayal of the future and what it has to say about cultural and economic oppression will surely continue to be scrutinized.

Cyberpunk 2077 is scheduled for release on April 16, 2020. We recently shared some of our thoughts about the big E3 demo, and you can catch up with everything else we know about the game here.

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.