Finally, it’s here for everyone to see — the big gameplay reveal of Cyberpunk 2077, the next designated hit title from the creators of the Witcher games. And with the very first frame of the video we can rest assured: This is going to be super mature! “May contain content inappropriate for children”. Or in other words: “Hey adolescents, this is gonna be so cool!” And I have to hand it to CD Projekt, for the following almost 50 minutes they easily live up to this promise.
The following 10 seconds of hard cuts let us know where we’re headed: knocking people down, jumping into their necks, stabbing their heads, guns, bodies, guns, bodies, blood, oh god yes violence, and boom! Cyberpunk logo! Of course all protagonists of the game have to make sure their futuristic hairdo holds tight during all this. Thank god hairspray is apparently still a thing 59 years from now.
Anyway, next up is the actual gameplay footage and with that the ultimate teenage power fantasy. Point-blank headshot, under-water headshot! Shoot dozens of humanoid but conveniently completely dehumanized “enemies” (they all got a virus you see). Switch on bullet time (cause it makes mudering people even cooler), slide behind cover on your knees, and keep killing, killing, killing. Oh and just for a change, have a naked female body and a close-up of your female protagonist’s butt. By now this game has become so cool and mature, we would even realize it if the demo’s narrator didn’t tell us every other minute.
Throughout the presentation we then meet a super cool gangster with a golden robot arm, we get ourselves a hand implant which comes with an ammo indicator for our guns so we can shoot people in their heads more efficiently, and we fire our gun like crazy while riding a “super-powered sports car” which runs on the “super fuel of the future” (sic). Of course we’re spreading chaos and destruction amongst the civilian population in doing so. Look, mom, so cool and mature!
The closing parts of the video demonstrate how super cool guns are and how great it feels to blow off human limbs. Obviously such a small orgy of violence can’t shake our protagonist’s super cool lack of emotionality. She’ll just drive into the city to grab a bottle of scotch at some bar and celebrate. What a cool and mature person!
Now close YouTube and turn on your brain please. If you really believe what we’ve seen of Cyberpunk 2077 in this reveal is “mature” or the “narrative pinnacle of the medium” then you shouldn’t be surprised the next time video games are not taken seriously by the general public.
I’m not even going to talk about how the game doesn’t seem to make much use of interactivity, the defining trait of its art form. The “gameplay reveal” actually showed gameplay around 10% of the time, and what we saw of it is basically exhaustively discussed by calling it a “competent shooter”. You can’t really expect much more from a production of this magnitude.
But no, just look at it in terms of content and theme. As a movie this material would be considered a pubertal boy’s glorified image of adulthood. “When I grow up I’m gonna own be super strong, own a super fast car, drink booze, have sex, punch people all I want and occasionally shoot them in the face!” It’s action trash. It’s a juvenile power trip that a specific target group might think is entertaining, but nobody in their right mind would call sophisticated, progressive or artistically valuable.
In the world of video games however, we have way lower standards. The problem is not that Cyberpunk exists, it’s how we as gamers and even so-called experts, be it critics or creators, see it. Obviously it’s just one of many examples, but it’s a popular enough one to point out that fact once again. And maybe, just maybe we can have a discussion about it that helps the medium progress. Now wouldn’t that be cool and mature?