Saturday, April 13, 2024

Should you stream Cyberpunk 2077?

As one of the most highly anticipated games ever, it’s understandable that plenty of streamers will be looking to stream their playthrough of Cyberpunk 2077 on Twitch. But it’s also a game shrouded in controversy, from its portrayal of trans characters and stereotypes, to epileptic seizure warnings and the crunch culture at CD Projekt Red. 

Is this a game that LGBTQ+ streamers should be supporting? Or is this an opportunity to turn things into a positive?

Streamers have a responsibility to their viewers. It seems an easy choice to stream Cyberpunk 2077 due to its popularity, to cash-in on views. But with what some have seen to be harmful stereotypes and poor representation, streaming the game could be triggering for a number of viewers.

It’s a conundrum fairly summarised by Enola Lugosi. “It’s hard to say. I’d been looking forward to the game for a long time and I know it presents many issues. I’d like to play it and form my own opinions by doing so, however, I’m not interested in the potential hate my own community will sling my way if I do play it.”

For many streamers, the discourse around the game has been enough to put them off. Steering clear of the game altogether is surely an effective way of protecting communities.

The important thing though, as trans streamer aquarterghost says, is not to judge others on their decisions. “As a trans person, I will not be streaming it nor will I be buying it. I won’t watch it be streamed either. That being said I’m not telling anyone what they should do but I think listening to marginalized voices matter.”

The way streamers curate their content – and their communities – is highly personal and there are a number of reasons someone may choose to stream Cyberpunk 2077. That’s especially true of trans streamers looking to play the game, seeking representation or a chance to discuss it.

“I’m going to be playing it with an open mind and awareness of how it can be perceived as transphobic,” says trans streamer DeviatedDroid. Understanding the context of representation is integral before passing judgement and streaming the game certainly allows for an examination of what good or bad representation looks like – as long as care is taken to prepare viewers for potential harm.

So what of those who have streamed the game since release? JOLO Gaming has used it as an educational opportunity for himself as well as viewers, despite concerns. “I will be streaming it, but I am very concerned about the race and trans issues that have been raised. That said I think that an open discussion can be had in chats about issues like this and be used as an education experience for all involved (myself included).”

We chatted further directly, where he admits being a smaller streamer has an advantage: “I intended on streaming it, and have done so since its release. I was worried I’d get some backlash somewhere – that said, for a small streamer that didn’t happen, as everyone jumped on larger streams broadcast, or were too busy playing it themselves to watch anyone else play.”

What’s important is protecting viewers: “I added a !warning command in my chat just to link to sources and help for anyone concerned, and promote an open discussion between me and my chat with any issues that may arise during the playthrough.”

ThatGayGinger, a nonbinary trans streamer, has also been streaming the game. Before release, they wrote a Twitter thread stating their concerns. Have they changed since playing the game?

“I would say I’m very relieved. The game does an excellent job of natural inclusion. A key component of the cyberpunk genre is the exploration of identity amidst the mind, body and soul and I think that they really hit the nail on the head with it,” they said. Though, that is still up to the perspective of the player on whether CD Projekt Red handled it well, or not.

“Streaming the game has absolutely opened the door to discussion…The concepts of body modification, gender identity, gender expression (or lack thereof), and sexuality are all heavy cyberpunk concepts, and lend themselves well to sparking discussion.”

And so we return to that initial question: should you stream Cyberpunk 2077? The only person who can answer that is you. Perhaps it’s safer to protect your community from potentially harmful stereotypes. Or perhaps it’s an opportunity to educate your community on a broader scale on trans identity, racial diversity and the benefits of good representation.

Either way, it’s imperative to respect the decisions of others when well-informed. It’s when we listen to the voices of marginalised communities that we learn the most.

Ed Nightingale

[He/Him] Ed is a London-based blogger and freelance writer, covering music, film, theatre, games and lifestyle. A lover of culture, he can usually be found in front of the silver screen or a laptop - if you can play it, watch it, or sing it then he’s probably got an opinion about it.