Mike Pondsmith's (Cyberpunk 2020 creator) response to some Cyberpunk 2077 criticism (accuracy to his orig. work, race representation) [see staff post]

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B-Dubs

Oh well, what the hell?
Administrator
Oct 25, 2017
15,506
Official Staff Communication
This thread has been rebooted. If you are going to participate in this thread, you are expected to abide by these guidelines.

1. There have been numerous conversations surrounding the way Cyberpunk 2077 may depict different races and identities. These conversations are not identical or interchangeable and should not be treated as such.

2. Minorities are not a monolith. Pondsmith’s personal perspective should be respected. It’s also important to understand other people may still take issue with his work. This includes other minorities, including other black people. Anyone arguing that discussion surrounding these details are disingenuous or invalid will be moderated.

3. Do not attack or antagonize other members.

This thread is a discussion thread, not a battleground. Please stay on topic and don't generalize members or the community.

Thank you.
 

Canucked

Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,032
I buy it. I think CDPR is taking this very seriously and they are trying to be better, even if they aren’t hitting all the marks. I think his involvement has probably been crucial.
 

Calles

Member
Nov 1, 2017
3,580
I do believe they are trying their best to make the best possible game they can, and do justice to what the game originates from. In short I think it will be an exceptional game. Will it fully satisfy all the worries of those who have spoken out lately? I don't think it will exactly. It may succeed in some instances and falter in others. To please everyone fully may be impossible. What that means exactly will have to be seen once people are able to play through the game and see how it is. For now we can only speculate and debate but until we have the game in our hands it's impossible to say what the final product will be. Could be a trash fire. Could be the greatest thing ever. I do hope it succeeds more than not and the worries of people are met in a reasonable way.
 

Jackson

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
564
I'm pretty concerned about the representation in this game, but I also think we're at the point in the discussion where even if the game comes out and is completely fine, the people who are against it now are gonna stay against it. And that's CDPR's fault for presenting questionable material.
 

Bitmap Frogs

Member
Sep 16, 2018
530
I'm pretty concerned about the representation in this game, but I also think we're at the point in the discussion where even if the game comes out and is completely fine, the people who are against it now are gonna stay against it. And that's CDPR's fault for presenting questionable material.
More than questionable, I'd say the problem is that they have chosen not to sanitise the material in order to remove controversial material. We are used to game companies working hard to clean up anything that is risqué.

Nowadays with the push towards diversity and inclusivity in gaming companies are opening up a little in that regard, but even then they take extraordinary steps to ensure everything is contextualised so it can only be read in one way.

Look at the Voodoo Boys as an example: from Pondsmith's point of view, the in-game representations of the Voodoo Boys is not racist. But I am sure there will be POC who will feel it is racist.
 
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bluexy

Freelance Games Journalist
Verified
Oct 25, 2017
1,261
Pondsmith's endorsement of Cyberpunk 2077 is encouraging. If he believes the broader context found within the game is true to his vision then that's great. That doesn't change that what we've seen of 2077 so far has been problematic, that the poster (removed from the context of the full game) is transphobic (I've posted in detail about my thoughts about the issues with the poster in its respective thread). Pondmith's opinion on the full game doesn't delegitimize criticism of what Cyberpunk 2077 has shown so far. If the final product is better, that doesn't make CDPR's advertisement so far necessarily okay.

The official response so far to criticism of the game just adds to the idea that CD Projekt Red shouldn't have to say, "The final game will show the truth." CDPR should be able to go, "What we've shown so far is proof of what players will find in the full game."

TBH I'd be willing to believe that this is a marketing fuckup. That marketing has gone too far to keep things clean and inoffensive, so instead of getting an idea of how Cyberpunk 2077 is shining a mirror on the bullshit of the world we're just smelling the bullshit. If it wasn't for that poster, that is. That poster is just so fucking bad, as was CDPR's response.

Anyway, back on subject, good for Pondsmith speaking out. I trust the dude; his resume speaks for itself. Pondsmith gets it. I hope his work shines through.
 

Yossarian

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
5,553
I’ve been following this and - for me - I’m not sure that there is nearly enough information to go on to make a judgement. It’s mostly based on second-hand accounts at this point and I don’t know the work of the writers from RPS or Eurogamer well enough to be certain of the veracity of their interpretations. It’s certainly worth keeping in mind, but I’d like to see the demo first.

It would be like condemning Blazing Saddles based on a description of the scene with the Bart and the old lady (imagine how that would go down today) as opposed to seeing it.

I’m not suggesting CP2077 is going to be a seering satirical take on racism, and I’m certainly not attempting to dismiss or silence anyone’s concerns. I’m just personally not willing to condemn or condone something I have this much incomplete information on.
 
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umop 3pisdn

Member
Oct 27, 2017
1,723
I’m willing to be proven wrong on representation, but I think one of the most disappointing things is how the setting of this game is just straight up retrofuturism. Yes, our current social condition is one where no one is really actively imagining the future anymore (“the future is cancelled”), but just reviving the 90s cyberpunk aesthetic, essentially as another case of the 30 year reminiscence cycle, really gets across to me how impoverished our current attempts are at conceiving any kind of positive, speculative future. Even if they get everything right regarding representation, I still think the world will feel unsatisfying or displaced in time, because it’s really easy to read the whole resurgence of classic cyberpunk as a vain attempt by capitalism to find something exciting or provocative in what is now basically an exsanguinated corpse.
 
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tuxfool

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,803
More than questionable, I'd say the problem is that they have chosen not to sanitise the material in order to remove controversial material. We are used to game companies working hard to clean up anything that is risqué.
The problem with sanitising material is that you get accusations of being inauthentic. It's a difficult line to walk especially if you're talking about a game that isn't afraid to shy away possibly difficult subjects. However we can't know at this stage, and it would be to the benefit of everybody to be a little less sure of one's positions.

I mean you can also go the other end of the spectrum and look at Ubisoft, where everybody thinks they're full of shit.
 

raitosaito

Member
Oct 28, 2017
314
I can see everyone’s views on the game and it’s rep of POC can possibly be problematic. But we all haven’t seen enough and people who aren’t Haitian are chiming in on the representation. It’s just muddy rn, and if I were the devs I’d probably be dishearten at how much gamers jump the gun. I’m glad Pondsmith himself addressed it on Reddit before the conversation devolves anymore when we literally don’t have the game yet.
 

Crossing Eden

Member
Oct 26, 2017
18,244
They're working with Haitian NGO's, so...? Like, what exactly do you mean by "ebonics" anyway? Are you referring to the "them" thing?
The fact that you hear a black person have an accent and immediately the worst is telling.
So the Haitians must have literally said, include this:

At one point V, the player character, mockingly says “and who are dem” in response to Placide’s pronunciation.
The population is now largely black, and the major language is largely Haitian Creole. We're here to meet a man called Placide, of the Voodoo Boys gang, for a mission. We search for him in a nearby church, and an NPC, named as "Poor Man", comes up to us. There is some questionable dialogue - or rather, questionable subtitling - where the man's thick Creole accent is also written out in the subtitles, "they" as "dey" and "the" as "da" or "de". This is the same for nearly all of the Voodoo Boys and people of this area, and actully after you unlock a chip in-game that translates launguage for you, your software presents it as such - "la" in a foreign language still "da" in English. Later on, Placide mentions "they are coming", or something of that ilk, and our white male character asks "who is "dey"?".`
Is what i'm hearing ITT considering how many people quoted me. There's authentic accents, and then there's reinforcing harmful stereotypes like that even if well intentioned.
 
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Neilg

Member
Nov 16, 2017
342
^ dialect being written out is not an inherently racist thing. What would be racist is subtitled a thick jamacan accent saying 'who dem boys knocking?' in game as 'who are the gentlemen at the door?'

I mean you can also go the other end of the spectrum and look at Ubisoft, where everybody thinks they're full of shit.
I was going to bring this up. This is a pretty clear example of why they stick to their non-political angle.

Posters designed by LGBT people being accused of transphobic; authentic and accurate accents being called racist. People are looking for things to find fault with based on the preconceived notion that there's no way cdpr can do this correctly. Any attempt by them to do so will result in something else being found which is 'problematic'.
This is a global audience consuming a monumental creative work which is relying heavily on subtext to make it's statements land. If you look for something, you'll find it, no matter what the original intent may have been. Not every statement within the game can be surrounded by a clear artist intent and I'll bet there's a lot more coming which will be misread.

The issue I see is that all these assumptions and calls for pitchforks are going to result in anything that actually is genuinly problematic being much more difficult to have a proper conversation about.
 

Bitmap Frogs

Member
Sep 16, 2018
530
The problem with sanitising material is that you get accusations of being inauthentic. It's a difficult line to walk especially if you're talking about a game that isn't afraid to shy away possibly difficult subjects. However we can't know at this stage, and it would be to the benefit of everybody to be a little less sure of one's positions.
Oh absolutely. But if I don't know... Activision made this game? There would be no Voodoo Boys, they''d be replaced by the Car Boys a gang of people obsessed with cars and they'd make vroom vroom nooises as they attacked you. I think there's a certain value in that courage even if it ends... poorly.

We'll know for sure once the game is available, specially since Marketing is being coy and keeping quiet.
 

NexusCell

Member
Nov 2, 2017
129
The problem with sanitising material is that you get accusations of being inauthentic. It's a difficult line to walk especially if you're talking about a game that isn't afraid to shy away possibly difficult subjects. However we can't know at this stage, and it would be to the benefit of everybody to be a little less sure of one's positions.

I mean you can also go the other end of the spectrum and look at Ubisoft, where everybody thinks they're full of shit.
Pretty much. Just look at how much shit Ubisoft gets for saying their games are non political.
 

Lothars

The Fallen
Oct 25, 2017
4,142
Posters designed by LGBT people being accused of transphobic; authentic and accurate accents being called racist. People are looking for things to find fault with based on the preconceived notion that there's no way cdpr can do this correctly. Any attempt by them to do so will result in something else being found which is 'problematic'.
CDPR does not deserve the benefit of the doubt because of their past, maybe cyberpunk 2077 will turn out good and have a good representation but that is all up in the air and there is no guarantee that they are going to.
 

Dennis8K

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,691
CDPR does not deserve the benefit of the doubt because of their past, maybe cyberpunk 2077 will turn out good and have a good representation but that is all up in the air and there is no guarantee that they are going to.
Perhaps CDPR does not deserve the benefit of the doubt but I don't think they deserve that everything must be assumed to be done with the absolute worst intentions either.

The problem with sanitising material is that you get accusations of being inauthentic. It's a difficult line to walk especially if you're talking about a game that isn't afraid to shy away possibly difficult subjects.
I think that is a very good point. If a character speaks with a very specific regional accent, are you condoning a stereotype or being authentic?
 

Neilg

Member
Nov 16, 2017
342
CDPR does not deserve the benefit of the doubt because of their past, maybe cyberpunk 2077 will turn out good and have a good representation but that is all up in the air and there is no guarantee that they are going to.
So you're justifying assuming the worst possible interpretation at every possible turn, with no attempt to look for subtext, satire, or a deeper meaning, as fine?
It is - you can do what you want - but you have to admit you've already written it off.

They had poor representation and have made some bad decisions, but after saying they're doing something about it, people are looking with microscopes to catch them out and go 'ah-ha! Not good enough!'
It's just not hugely beneficial, sci fi satire is ripe for misreading anyway.
 

Spring-Loaded

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,836
The repeated transphobic pro-gamergate tweets coupled with no pro-trans rebuttal of those comments. Just getting rid of individuals responsible and doing nothing more is like merely pulling a knife out of someone’s back and leaving it at that.

That continually casts doubt over all these subsequent situations—CDPR’s objectified artwork of a trans person could be construed as in-universe objectification in like what was said in their recent statement ... but considering they opted to sweep under the rug their social media mouthpiece’s dehumanizing messages in the past, I don’t have faith that misstep was in good faith.

I can’t help but feel skeptical any representation of myself I may see in the final game will just be to merely get my attention and money rather than CDPR having actual devotion to diversity.

I’ve been glad for years that they’ve been working with Pondsmith from the beginning, but his comments here don’t address whether the subject matter will be attempted to be handled by the devs in good faith, let alone whether it’ll be handled well.

Do you believe it’s not an accurate accent?
The spoken accents are accurate by all accounts. The English subtitles however use stuff like “dey” instead of “they” wit bout doing the same for all accented language (e.g. doesn’t drop consonants and add apostrophes at the end of other characters saying “runnin’”.

The player character also mocks the Haitian characters’ way of speaking. Comes across as an specific way of othering
 

Crossing Eden

Member
Oct 26, 2017
18,244
Perhaps CDPR does not deserve the benefit of the doubt but I don't think they deserve that everything must be assumed to be done with the absolute worst intentions either.
It's less assuming the worst intentions but critiquing what's shown to us and hoping that it's not just surface level background fluff.
 

Heckler456

Banned
Oct 25, 2017
5,256
Belgium
So the Haitians must have literally said, include this:




Is what i'm hearing ITT considering how many people quoted me. There's authentic accents, and then there's reinforcing harmful stereotypes like that even if well intentioned.
Well, listen, I'm not a black person, so I'm not going to dictate whether or not anyone should or shouldn't be offended. And the joke described in the article can be construed as offensive to be sure.

But does one offensive joke wipe away all the other good things they're doing? Again, they seem to be in close contact with Haitian NGO's, just so they can get the representation right. We've seen the one Haitian person who actually saw the demo be super happy about it. Pondsmith seems to be super happy about it too. Pondsmith also described the premise behind the voodoo boyz as being pretty damn interesting: They were initially a scathing criticism on cultural appropriation, but now, that gang has essentially been reclamated by genuine Haitians who practice genuine "Vodou". And looking at the character models of any of the Haitian NPC's, they don't seem to be stereotypically "Haitian" or "voodoo" at all.

It remains to be seen what the end product is like. But in my eyes, as it relates to Haitian representation, they're saying a lot of the rights things. And maybe in that light, we can look on that joke in the way it was probably intended: as an offensive joke said by a less than scrupulous character.
 
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Crossing Eden

Member
Oct 26, 2017
18,244

-COOLIO-

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,076
Oh absolutely. But if I don't know... Activision made this game? There would be no Voodoo Boys, they''d be replaced by the Car Boys a gang of people obsessed with cars and they'd make vroom vroom nooises as they attacked you. I think there's a certain value in that courage even if it ends... poorly.

We'll know for sure once the game is available, specially since Marketing is being coy and keeping quiet.
this is true.

it's fine by me if some elements of the world or story end up offending me a bit for one reason or another. sure i might cringe a little in the moment, but if the narrative feels more impactful as a result i'll easily shrug it off knowing the experience is richer because the commentary was a little more daring.

though nothing i've seen so far has felt offensive to me anyway.
 

Woodbeam

Member
May 6, 2019
32
People are looking for things to find fault with based on the preconceived notion that there's no way cdpr can do this correctly. Any attempt by them to do so will result in something else being found which is 'problematic'.
The rest of this post is also complete nonsense but this is the core thesis and it's one of the most prominent ways disingenuous posters like this try to dismiss the legitimate concerns of those who actually care about these issues. "People are already biased against the game/CDPR, they're just looking for a way to tear it down, there's no way to satisfy their need for political correctness." Typical alt-right style smokescreen. Little surprise there are many other posts in this thread doing the same or similar already, just less blatantly. This is going to go the same way previous threads on this and connected issues have gone.
 

GC-

Member
Oct 25, 2017
4,502
Too many people jumping to conclusions on things we know little about, it’s easy to hit outrage without knowing anything besides minor details

Saying that it’s also a dystopian society so if injustice doesn’t exist then it’s shit fiction and going by CP2020 it’s full of 80’s stereotypes.
 
Oct 25, 2017
2,148
So the Haitians must have literally said, include this:




Is what i'm hearing ITT considering how many people quoted me. There's authentic accents, and then there's reinforcing harmful stereotypes like that even if well intentioned.
I've posted about this in another thread but using phonetic spelling for certain dialects isn't rooted in racism or stereotype, it's an actual thing.
It's done for Pidgin English, which is very similar to Creole English.


Other than that, say what you will about our character mocking said accent. I'm not Haitian Creole myself so I'm not gonna throw my opinion in.
 

Spring-Loaded

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,836
The rest of this post is also complete nonsense but this is the core thesis and it's one of the most prominent ways disingenuous posters like this try to dismiss the legitimate concerns of those who actually care about these issues. "People are already biased against the game/CDPR, they're just looking for a way to tear it down, there's no way to satisfy their need for political correctness." Typical alt-right style smokescreen. Little surprise there are many other posts in this thread doing the same or similar already, just less blatantly. This is going to go the same way previous threads on this and connected issues have gone.
Agreed. Not to mention anyone who says they’re wary of or don’t have complete faith in CDPR (particularly following their handling of previous controversies) will get painted as “looking for problems.” It’s just blatant dismissal from people who can’t or won’t comprehend concerns since they aren’t personally affected.

Too many people jumping to conclusions on things we know little about, it’s easy to hit outrage without knowing anything besides minor details

Saying that it’s also a dystopian society so if injustice doesn’t exist then it’s shit fiction and going by CP2020 it’s full of 80’s stereotypes.
Why not quote the “outrage” so other people can decide if it counts?

And the mere existence of stereotypes aren’t what people are worried about—how those are handled and framed in the preview material being shown off is what this is about.

Pretty sure the devs can handle criticism of their work if they’re showing it off—no need to rush to their defence.
 
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Rover

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,907
The issue I see is that all these assumptions and calls for pitchforks are going to result in anything that actually is genuinly problematic being much more difficult to have a proper conversation about.
People said this about the Tropes vs Women in Videogames Series and I disagree. The door for discussion was only opened wider.

There will always be people who don't want to have these discussions. There will always be people who don't want to rethink what their favorite narratives are saying.

Also nobody has "called for pitchforks" and you really shouldn't invoke this rhetoric.
 

Neilg

Member
Nov 16, 2017
342
The rest of this post is also complete nonsense but this is the core thesis and it's one of the most prominent ways disingenuous posters like this try to dismiss the legitimate concerns of those who actually care about these issues. "People are already biased against the game/CDPR, they're just looking for a way to tear it down, there's no way to satisfy their need for political correctness." Typical alt-right style smokescreen. Little surprise there are many other posts in this thread doing the same or similar already, just less blatantly. This is going to go the same way previous threads on this and connected issues have gone.
But it's not legitimate concern being shown - it's an immediate call for pitchforks. There are many posts in the other threads which jumped straight to outrage, assuming the worst and giving definitive statements about the games intent (a definitive 'this is racist' IS a call for pitchforks)

If all of the posts were 'on the surface this is problematic, I hope that the justification reveals some context which makes it not so', I wouldn't have said that.

As it is you've got people saying that subtitling 'dem' as 'dem', instead of translating it to another dialect is racist. It's not. Translating it would be.
 

Budi

Member
Oct 25, 2017
8,876
Finland
I commented on the subtitle issue on another thread already, but I think accents and speech styles are part of the characters and world building. And especially considering hearing impaired people, I feel they would be missing out if the subtitles weren't phonetically precise.

And I think it was in the Neuromancer book, where Jamaican accent of some characters were in translation changed to one of the local dialects here. As you can't really do Jamaican accent in Finnish, but the translation still wanted to highlight the difference in speech. Though translating Jamaican dialect to Savo was bit chuckle worthy to me, since the culture and people are so very different.
 
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Heckler456

Banned
Oct 25, 2017
5,256
Belgium
I've posted about this in another thread but using phonetic spelling for certain dialects isn't rooted in racism or stereotype, it's an actual thing.
It's done for Pidgin English, which is very similar to Creole English.


Other than that, say what you will about our character mocking said accent. I'm not Haitian Creole myself so I'm not gonna throw my opinion in.
Huh. Learn something new every day.
 

plié

Banned
Jan 10, 2019
1,613
I’m willing to be proven wrong on representation, but I think one of the most disappointing things is how the setting of this game is just straight up retrofuturism. Yes, our current social condition is one where no one is really actively imagining the future anymore (“the future is cancelled”), but just reviving the 90s cyberpunk aesthetic, essentially as another case of the 30 year reminiscence cycle, really gets across to me how impoverished our current attempts are at conceiving any kind of positive, speculative future. Even if they get everything right regarding representation, I still think the world will feel unsatisfying or displaced in time, because it’s really easy to read the whole resurgence of classic cyberpunk as a vain attempt by capitalism to find something exciting or provocative in what is now basically an exsanguinated corpse.
Are you aware that this based on a board game made in the 80's? LMAO
 

Crossing Eden

Member
Oct 26, 2017
18,244
I've posted about this in another thread but using phonetic spelling for certain dialects isn't rooted in racism or stereotype, it's an actual thing.
It's done for Pidgin English, which is very similar to Creole English.


Other than that, say what you will about our character mocking said accent. I'm not Haitian Creole myself so I'm not gonna throw my opinion in.
Highly doubt they do it for the sake of accuracy considering it's subtitles being added for the player, who the character proceeds to make fun of on more than one occasion. Which'll be doubly weird if we choose to play as a POC.
 

Spring-Loaded

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,836
Highly doubt they do it for the sake of accuracy considering it's subtitles being added for the player, who the character proceeds to make fun of on more than one occasion. Which'll be doubly weird if we choose to play as a POC.
Yeah, did they ever say somewhere that your character can opt NOT to mock these other characters? Is dialogue based on your “idol” you choose during character creation?
 
May 26, 2018
3,606
This is because the characters said 'dey', and not 'they'.
Here's my question: how do Haitians write these words? Do they actually write "dey" phonetically as in Scots-English? Or do they just write "they"?

I always try to go by this standard when I can. Like if someone has a name that is pronounced five different ways by culture, I'll defer to how the person themself says it.
 

Spring-Loaded

Member
Oct 27, 2017
2,836
Huh? I don't get this point. Are you saying shouldn't subtitles shouldn't be phonetically spelled?
If so I disagree. It's an accurate representation of the language and people of similar dialects type phonetically themselves.
Are the subtitles universally phonetic? Honest question. Can’t recall if the old footage had subtitles and whether they had other similar affectations.

Here's my question: how do Haitians write these words? Do they actually write "dey" phonetically as in Scots-English? Or do they just write "they"?

I always try to go by this standard when I can. Like if someone has a name that is pronounced five different ways by culture, I'll defer to how the person themself says it.
Regardless of how it’s done in the game, this would be the best path to take. Feels like the most useful and less “othering.”
 
Dec 31, 2018
614
I'm certainly wondering if he signed off on the "ebonics" style subtitles and voice direction.
I ask this openly and honestly. Is there some idea that there are not people who talk this way? There are people of all ethnicities who do. Are minority representation only acceptable if they are Idris Elba or Carlton? Subtitles are there to relay language as it sounds. I think people are being really fast on the trigger to base the entire experience on the parts that we have seen.