Mike Pondsmith explains Cyberpunk 2077's gangs, the Voodoo Boys and the Animals

(Image credit: CD Projekt Red)

We got a good eyeful of The Animals and the Voodoo Boys in Cyberpunk 2077's latest trailer, but even for veterans of the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG, CD Projekt Red's demo raised questions. The company has enlisted the help of Cyberpunk creator Mike Pondsmith to help explain some of the differences fans of his universe may have noticed, specifically relating to the two gangs.

"When I created [the Voodoo Boys] many, many years ago, I was looking at an interesting idea which is what we would now call cultural appropriation," he explains in the video below. "What happens when somebody comes in and tried to adopt a culture that they know little or nothing about, and does it really, really badly." 

In Pondsmith's original vision of Cyberpunk's world, the Voodoo Boys were "average white boys" who adopted Creole and Haitian cultural icons and symbols because they thought they were cool. With the setting shifted 57 years into the future, the Voodoo Boys is a different gang: one that's been reappropriated by people from the Caribbean, practitioners of Voudon, as he explained after E3.

"One of the great things about having a few years is that you get the chance to do some re-dos, and one of the best ones is what we have with the Voodoo Boys now," Pondsmith says. "The Voodoo Boys in 2077 are really Voodoo Boys. They inherited the name, but it was sort of a natural fit: They were coming from Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and they were the real thing."

Pondsmith said this new vision of the Voodoo Boys is something that takes the "Cyberpunk vibe" and injects it into an old culture that's not usually visible to most people.

"So they're a gang, but they're not really—they're more of a cultural phenomenon," he said.

The Animals, on the other hand, are based at least in part on guys Pondsmith says he used to see at the gym back in his days of lifting weights, which were "way back in my dark, dank past."

"The Animals are like those guys," he said. "They're in it to basically build themselves up and become the tigers of their particular urban jungle. They want to be big, they want to be bad, and they want you to fear them just because they exist. And you know, it's really easy to fear a guy who blots out the sun when he walks by you."

Part of what Pondsmith enjoys about Cyberpunk 2077 is the contrast between these two groups.

"The Animals are very simple. They have an ethos: Get big, lift. Get strong, lift," he says. "Unlike the Voodoo Boys, who have a culture, the Animals have a thing."

Cyberpunk 2077 is due out in April next year.