If idle hands are the devil’s playground, character creators are the trans community’s.
Character creators in games have long since been a respite for closeted trans people. When we’re in the closet, or when we don’t know we’re in the closet, it’s nice to toy around with the “what if.” When I was ten, it felt liberating to design a pink-haired punk princess in Tony Hawk’s Underground. Why? I had no idea. But it felt right. There’s something about the ability to immortalize our ideal self in a game that tends to act as a vital step early on in the process. I know that Saints Row‘s Boss helped me out a lot in figuring my stuff out.
However, you can’t usually be trans in character creators. Look, I could get offended about that, but… I understand. Trans rights have come a long way in the last five years, let alone in the last ten or twenty. The idea of a guy with a vagina or a gal with a dick is still pretty shocking stuff to a lot of the world. Trust me – I’ve seen enough “I would never fuck a trans person” comments to know. Time and shifting cultural attitudes will probably change that, I’d imagine, but that’s where we’re at right now.
That’s why something like Cyberpunk 2077 is important, to some degree. I’ve been incredibly critical of this thing prior to release. Yes, I still think the wielding of trans voices as cudgels in The Discourse ™ sucks. Yes, I still hate that voice is tied to pronouns. Yes, there is still a lot I don’t love about the trans rep in this thing. Yet, in the tradition of my being at odds with much of the trans gaming community at times, I have to say… I love this, actually?
This character creator is a blessing, from where I stand. While still very limited, it’s a fairly bold and revolutionary choice to buck cisgender norms like this. As far as I can remember, there isn’t a triple A game where I can make a busty, edgy girl with a giant shlong, y’know? It’s novel, and it’s also actually transgressive. In a game that I feel relies a lot on preexisting visions of the future versus original ones, it’s one of the few things in the package (heh) that is legitimately revolutionary.
While some might point to this as another example of objectification… uh, sure, I guess? Honestly, the issue of objectification in CP2077 runs much deeper than its treatment of trans bodies – everyone in this game, especially femme characters, is objectified. Now that I’ve actually played the thing, I think if we’re going to talk about the fetishized commodification of trans bodies, that needs to be wrapped into a larger conversation about the game’s pervasive, puerile approach to human sexuality. It’s not a facet of the game that uniquely affects trans bodies – at least, not to me, and not from what I’ve seen so far.
That’s why, personally, I see this as an absolute win. Sure, the rest of the game’s treatment of trans people? Dicey! Extremely dicey. But there are going to be AFAB and AMAB trans folks who play this thing, and they’ll be able to make a character that they feel more closely represents them. While I’d personally like to see a more robust creator than this (the body type options, for example, are woeful,) that feature alone is an irrevocable positive for trans presences in gaming.
I don’t plan on chopping my girlish cock off any time soon, after all, so it’d be nice if more games respected that choice. Your move, Saints Row.
Cyberpunk 2077 is available for PC on GOG.COM, Steam and Epic, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and Stadia from December 10, 2020. When you buy Cyberpunk 2077 on GOG.COM, 100% of your money goes to CD PROJEKT Group and supports their future projects.
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Bella Blondeau is a lovable miscreant with a heart of gold… or so she says.
She likes long walks in dingy arcades, loves horror good and bad, and has a passion for anime girls of any and all varieties. Her favorite game is Nier: Automata, because she loves both robots and being sad.
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