Posters are central to the participant’s expertise in Evening Metropolis, the dystopian setting of Cyberpunk 2077. I at all times believed they might be essentially the most telling piece of the sport’s world-building, the largest indicator of the sport’s underlying concepts. For higher or for worse, I used to be proper.
Even earlier than the sport launched, the posters had been a key characteristic of the sport’s advertising. Particularly, one for the fictional vitality drink Chromanticore, which contains a female character with an enormous, bulging crotch and the tagline “Combine it up.” The poster, and the poisonous advertising marketing campaign that builders CD Projekt Crimson constructed round it, have been discussed many times, including by myself. By analyzing Cyberpunk’s posters, we will start to see the problems—not solely with the sport’s themes—however with the route of the AAA scene over the previous decade or so.
After we consider world-building in video games, we have a tendency to think about it on a extra macro stage. By this metric, there are some issues Cyberpunk 2077 will get proper—from the improbable, completely unique soundtrack to the supporting characters like Panam Palmer. There’s additionally quite a bit it will get fallacious, nevertheless, such because the combined messages in regards to the police’s function in perpetuating dystopia, limitless film references that undercut the sport’s capacity to inform tales, and a lot of the characters that aren’t intently linked to the narrative feeling underdeveloped and empty.
Whereas it’s hit or miss on the big-picture concepts, the posters themselves are genius—however which may not be a great factor. I’ve counted near 100 posters in Cyberpunk 2077, with a number of coming in several variants. In case you select any 4 at random, you’ll find yourself with a stable thought of what Evening Metropolis is. The difficulty is that Evening Metropolis isn’t significantly deep. It has totally different areas managed by totally different gangs, however other than the Badlands on town limits—which options hardly any posters—the posters don’t differ thematically from one finish to the opposite. CDPR made a number of posters for this recreation, nevertheless it feels prefer it simply selected 100 or so of its favorites and scattered them randomly throughout town. Whereas there are distinct geographic areas in-game (some locations are close to the coast, others the desert, others crowded cosmopolitan facilities), the soul of each space in Evening Metropolis feels remarkably related.
In addition to understanding Evening Metropolis immediately, there’s a excessive probability these posters chosen at random will include specific and exploitative imagery, many way more so than the “Combine it up” poster. They’re stuffed with intercourse, violence, and infrequently sexual violence. They include racist imagery, dehumanising imagery, and shockingly gory imagery. Regardless of hyperconsumerism being Cyberpunk 101, there aren’t too many run-of-the-mill “Purchase some new sneakers!” posters. All the pieces is dialed as much as 11. In the event that they’re telling you to purchase one thing, it’s often one thing sexual, one thing violent, or they’re promoting it to you thru intercourse and violence.
Cyberpunk’s posters, in accordance with Piers Robinson, codirector of the UK-based Organisation for Propaganda Research, might be understood as “floor stage.”
“They assemble the texture of the sport with its concentrate on a dystopian world dominated by, in its personal phrases, ‘energy, glamour, and physique modification,’” Robinson mentioned. “No matter one’s ethical stance relating to the photographs, which to some will probably be surprising and provocative however to not others, they presumably work effectively by way of creating an acceptable visible backdrop for the fantasy recreation.”
Robinson means that using such excessive imagery consistently all through the sport can reinforce a tolerance of those concepts inside gamers, in a lot the identical approach Name Of Responsibility reinforces a tolerance of conflict. “They could serve to ascertain truths whereby specific beliefs and understandings change into accepted as appropriate or regular,” Robinson says. “Though the intention of the sport producers could solely be to offer simply ‘window dressing’ for the sport, they could even be speaking in a approach that’s ideological and which, no less than probably, has essential penalties.”