Cyberpunk 2077 Causes Seizure, Doesn’t Contain Prominent Warning [Update]

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Cyberpunk 2077 Causes Seizure, Doesn’t Contain Prominent Warning [Update]
Screenshot: CD Projekt Red / Kotaku

Game Informer associate editor Liana Ruppert reported yesterday that she suffered a grand mal seizure while playing a review copy of Cyberpunk 2077, due to the game’s use of various flashing visual effects. She wrote an article for the site advising players on how to avoid similar experiences, which in some rare instances can be life threatening.

“During my time with Cyberpunk 2077, I suffered one major seizure and felt several moments where I was close to another one,” Ruppert wrote. She said that her seizure was caused by lights that flash when your character puts on a headset to experience a Braindance, a game mechanic that lets protagonist V experience and explore other characters’ memories. Ruppert detailed:

“Braindances are something that [developer] CDPR has been talking about as a feature for a while now, and it’s an intricate part of the story from start to finish. BDs allow players to interface with memories, often of the deceased, by plugging into a mainframe and diving in. Pretty much everything about this is a trigger and this is something that caused me to have a grand mal seizure when playing to help with our review.”

While Ruppert’s account attracted a lot of attention online since yesterday, development studio and publisher CD Projekt Red has not commented about it. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment. [Update: CD Projekt Red publicly acknowledged the issues in a tweet early Wednesday Australian time, saying it is working on adding a separate warning aside from the one that appears in the EULA. “Regarding a more permanent solution, Dev team is currently exploring that and will be implementing it as soon as possible,” the studio wrote. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

this is an example of the epilepsy warning that appears before the start of Assassin's Creed Valhalla.  (Screenshot: Ubisoft) this is an example of the epilepsy warning that appears before the start of Assassin's Creed Valhalla. (Screenshot: Ubisoft)

Ruppert explained that the in-game headset used for Braindances “features a rapid onslaught of white and red blinking LEDs, much like the actual device neurologists use in real life to trigger a seizure when they need to trigger one for diagnosis purposes.” Kotaku staff who have played the game have seen the effect as well, as there are numerous Braindances in the game.

Ruppert pointed out several other effects that could be concerning for people who experience seizures, including red glitching animations and a “flickering pale blue glitch effect” that appears when Keanue Reeves-voiced character Johnny Silverhand interacts with the player. “This won’t be a trigger for everyone, but it will for some forms of epilepsy.”

There is an option in the settings menu to toggle off some of the ways Johnny Silverhand affects your HUD, but the option is only available if you open the settings menu from inside a playthrough, not before you start a game.

Which effects could trigger seizures in people varies widely, but the version of the game currently available to reviewers doesn’t come with any warning at the beginning. These warnings are standard in many other games; for instance, they’re common across all Ubisoft games. Console manufacturers like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have general warnings about potential epileptic triggers in games available on their websites.

It’s not known if the version of Cyberpunk 2077 that reached certification to be sold on consoles and is being shipped for PS4 and Xbox One is also missing a seizure warning at startup, or if it has additional accessibility features for tracking and turning off potential triggers. CD Projekt Red does not appear to have provided the console version of Cyberpunk 2077 to any outlets prior to yesterday’s review embargo.

Sony and Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether issues about potential seizure triggers came up during the certification process for the game on either company’s platform.

Ruppert also reported being harassed online for sharing her experience with the game. “I’ve been sent hundreds of videos disguised as support that are deliberate flashing to induce photosensitive triggers,” she wrote on Twitter. This continues a contemptible trend among some people loudly anticipating this game and attacking anyone who is perceived to say anything negative about it. Yesterday, some of Cyberpunk 2077’s toxic fanbase took aim at GameSpot over a review that was deemed insufficiently positive. CD Projekt Red hasn’t yet commented on this apparent targeted harassment either.

For those who suffer from epilepsy but still wish to play the game, Ruppert advised making use of “an ‘eye-saving mode’ that dims the blue light in my screen,” looking away during certain scenes, or getting a friend to help play through those scenes. Console manufacturers also recommend playing in well-lit rooms, not playing when tired, using a smaller monitor, and taking breaks. More information can be found on the Epilepsy Foundation’s website.

Comments

  • Interesting. Personally, I’ve suffered from grand mal seizures since I was around 14 years of age, when I suffered a blow to my head and was left with scarring on my brain. So this is good to know.

    It’s definitely negligent on CDPR’s part to not have had a warning on the game when booting up, to be quite frank, extremely negligent. All videogames should have it, and to be frank, most epileptics are well versed anyhow, especially photosensitive epileptics, by their adulthood in what is more likely to set them off than what is not likely to (unfortunately, a lot of us never learn what *exactly sets us off* as the brain is a strange, wonderful thing…).

    I personally, haven’t had a seizure now in ten years, and I hope Liana’s ok, because to be quite frank, Grand Mal seizures are *fucking devestating* to have, they leave you feeling sick and drained for anywhere between 12 – 72 hours, depending on how bad they are. Your tongue, if you bite it, can *really* be shredded up, your body, feels like it’s been through ten rounds with Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, Rocky Marciano and anyone else you can think of, that’s how bad it gets. It honestly sucks that bad, the recovery in the short term, and you just feel *so* lethargic, like you can’t lift your arms and legs, like they feel ten times heavier than normal!

    That doesn’t even take into account the emotional impact on those around you either, or the emotional impact on yourself. Will this be the seizure that finally takes you? (Yes, seizures *can* end your life), will this be a ‘rolling seizure’, one that rolls into another, then another? They genuinely, really suck and I really, truly am glad she’s ok.

    This article didn’t ‘trigger’ me, it upset me a little reading it, because it hammered home a reality for me. Epilepsy rarely ever truly ‘goes away’, it’s something we epileptics have to be aware of forever, whether we like it or not.

    It’s ten years since I had my last epileptic grand mal seizure, but it will always, always be there for people like Liana and myself. It’s always going to be part of my life, I’m fully medicated, I get checked up regularly, but it’s something we live with on a daily basis. So here’s hoping she never has another one, but that CDPR patches this with the correct warnings for people, because this one’s just that little bit negligent… 🙂

    Thanks for the article Ethan 🙂

    • Which all leads to what should be the obvious question, why are we relying on warnings anyhow.

      As you say, most photosensitive epileptics will be pretty well versed in what to avoid, in which case just slapping a warning on the game is a bit of a cop-out.

      What games actually need are accessibility options that enable one to turn off and on the offending elements as needed, just like we should reasonably expect colourblind options and the ability to resize text, for example.

      The solution shouldn’t have to be limited to if you have a problem don’t play the game, and if you do then play the game and have a problem as a result please don’t sue us.

      • We rely on warnings for those of us who *aren’t* versed in it. Those who are versed, are so due to experience and information. Forewarned is forearmed. It’s also caring for your consumers. It doesn’t hurt to let that subsection of consumers know that in this case, something like that could potentially cause harm. This isn’t a case of ‘hey we might hurt your political belief’ this is a case of ‘hey listen, if you play this, it might literally hurt *you*’.
        It’s not a case of ‘one or the other’, so it’s not a copout at all. Slapping a warning on the game lets someone, especially photosensitive epileptics or their minders, know upfront something might harm them, so it gives them time to make that choice, so the game *does* need this, but it also needs the accessibility options, which will then give that greater option to say, disable strobe lights or reduce them etc.

  • Oh no no no, that is super basic level accessibility compliance, WTF CDPR…

    They’ve since responded on Twitter at least:
    “Thank you for bringing this up. We’re working on adding a separate warning in the game, aside from the one that exists in the EULA [linked]. Regarding a more permanent solution, Dev team is currently exploring that and will be implementing it as soon as possible.”

    • For context, I’ve seen some folks saying that, “It’s a massive game, they didn’t have time to think of it, especially crunching,” which makes me realize that a lot of folks outside of software development might not know that every large enough software development team (games or otherwise) is going to have at the very least a dedicated CX person, and in reasonable sized outfits more likely a CX team. And one of the major roles of the CX team is to review the accessibility impact of the product and any changes to the product.

      In the case of web applications, it means adhering to internationally-recognized Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). For video games, the standards are less comprehensively agreed-upon, but anything sold in the US at least needs to meet FCC accessibility guidelines. Those guidelines are recently updated, and are no small part of the push newer games have made towards voice-to-text and text-to-voice options, for example, but even without legal requirements those are the teams that assist with things like colourblind modes.

      Pretty damn sure CDPR has a CX design team and at least one or two people whose entire job is accessibility. (We’ll see on credits rolling, I guess?) Which is why I’m so surprised at the oversight.

      Beyond this, it’s not just the CX design team’s exclusive responsibility to have consideration for accessibility concerns in development – any developer and even BA should as part of their ongoing professional development be taking training to prevent any unworkable solutions from needing to be rejected by CX in the first place.

      It still happens – it’s understandable to make mistakes, but it’s not a great feeling to build or change something that excludes someone who didn’t have to be just because you forgot they exist as a stakeholder. Life’s unfair and hard enough as it is, we don’t need to be making it worse with poor design choices and forgetfulness. So whenever we do fuck up like that, remediation of accessibility failure gets a high priority.

    • They simply need to add a small one which most responsible devs have at the beginning regarding strobe effects. Referring to the EULA is negligent on their behalf. While it does exist, expecting their average user to read the EULA before playing is both disingenuous and irresponsible from a company that so far has weathered a decent amount of controversy very well.

      • I obviously haven’t played it yet, but if it looks like the gameplay demos / trailers I’m amazed they thought that strobing effect was OK. I’m no super sensitive or anything but it made me pretty uncomfortable, and with a history of epilepsy in my family I’m always shocked to see something like that get through to a (nearly) final release when there is absolutely no need for it to be there

      • Yeah, it’s great that they’re looking into putting something in the options and all, and a warning specifically for the game feature most likely to trigger it, so that it’s tightly focused and relevant instead of some boilerplate catch-all, but that up-front notification is industry standard. And the thing about standards like that is that they are, in and of themselves, a form of accessibility consideration – you EXPECT the to be there where relevant, you don’t go hunting through options menu let alone EULA for it, because the standard is that it’s there. It’s one of those things they train us in for development around logical flow in presentation of data for cognitive/interpretive difficulties. Put things where they’re expected to be.

      • I wonder about the warning at the start of the game. When it’s appearing at the start of basically every game, with no indication of when or where those effects might be and how to avoid them, it doesn’t really seem helpful. When CDPR has *deliberately* emulated a seizure-causing light pattern, it’s really inexcusable for them not to include an option to turn that off.

      • Are you saying that when you finally get the game you’ve been hanging so badly for, you don’t then read the 57 pages of legal jargon that comes with it?!
        Do you at least hand it over to your on retainer lawyer to inspect before you click accept?!

        • I mean, you get all facetious about this stuff, but a large part of why there’s 50 pages of EULA is because of a need to protect themselves from actions like, but not limited to, these. It’s a bit rich to bemoan both the existence of a long EULA but also the absence of a warning for this potential epilepsy trigger…

          • No, the EULA exists to ensure that CD PROJEKT has as many rights as they can legally give themselves while denying you as many rights as they can legally deny you.

            Large parts of the EULA including forcing you to use arbitration instead of the courts and to waive your right to participate in class actions, to make sure that you don’t own and can’t do anything with the software including that CD PROJEKT can withdraw your right to use it entirely at any time at their discretion with no compensation, to cap their liability for anything and everything including if the game actually blows up your computer, to get you to waive your normal privacy and warranty rights, and to allow the company to add subtract or change any part of the EULA whenever they want and without further recourse to you, amongst many other things.

            The line that ELUA’s have anything to do with over-litigiousness is a conservative fantasy perpetuated by self-interested companies seeking to further restrict what paltry rights a customer normally has while shifting the balance of power as far in favour of large companies as politicians can be convinced by large company lobbyists to let them get away with.

          • @angora

            Actually, it’s the result of literally hundreds of years of jurisprudence from cases being brought before the Courts where there are disputes, generally contractual or tortious in nature (like the claims about CDP’s actions here, which may or may not have some merit) that are almost always resolved to the dissatisfaction of at least one party, often both. Lawyers read these cases and are ETHICALLY BOUND to protect their own clients. The end result is documents like EULA’s, the old warnings in game manuals, loading screen warnings and so forth as a direct attempt to minimise losses in the future.

            You think CDP’s game devs, managers, marketing dept’s, etc, are the ones requiring EULA’s and so forth? No, it’s the fucking lawyers. I know, I’m one of them.

            I also never mentioned anyone being overly-litigious. It’s not a condition-precedent for the aforementioned ass-covering. Basically, you (the lawyer) see another company get sued for something, warranted or not (it might even have been something first raised literally 100 years ago… ), and you are required to act to protect your own client from that exposure. You are required to raise issues of potential exposure with the client, draft contracts in your favour, give warnings where appropriate, etc.

            If it’s not clear enough from my other posts, whilst I can see the argument, I personally think there should be a warning for this sort of thing outside the EULA. No doubt in my own mind.

            But you can stick your political ‘conservative fantasy’ nonsense, pal.

  • Damn. Thanks for the article/warning. I get grand Mal seizures from lights/photo sensitivity and living by myself it can sometimes be a bit frustrating if I have a seizure. I’m still healing up from 15 staples in my head from the last one ????

    It’s a shame that cdpr didn’t follow the guidelines. The size of the game shouldn’t be a reason. I’ve even seen people that make rom hacks of old fighting games try to make sure they have warnings added or guideline adherence.

    It sux that the original reviewer had a seizure but I’m glad they shared the experience to save people that would’ve been like me. Excited as hell to load up the game tomorrow morning, get straight into it and then have an issue.

    And also to the person that posted that really bad comment up above. I just wan to say that epilepsy is a really hard thing to completely understand if not going through it personally. Plus there really are different levels of it. And can be a disability that comes up in the most frustrating aspects of every day life. Weresmurf gave a good run down of what it likes after and grand Mal and that’s not even taken into consideration any injuries occured during. Then the petite Mal’s really can make things confusing as well. Seem like you just need some education on epilepsy, allergies and empathy.

    • Hey man, thanks for the shoutout 🙂 Hope you’re doing well. I consider myself blessed that I haven’t had one in years honestly. I’ve never suffered a bad injury during mine and consider myself oh so lucky due to that. I used to get petit’s regularly, or ‘spacies’ as I nicknamed them, where I’d just space out for a minute or two, then snap back to reality. Those were *really* weird for me. I hope you don’t get any issues with it, honestly. I myself am not a photosensitive, my epilepsy comes from impact when I was 14 or so, so I’m also thankful to that. Here’s hoping you never, ever get hurt again with yours. Be well. 🙂

  • What is wrong with these parts of the fan base? I really wonder about the audience for games with this kind of thing going on. Why would you send a journalist those kind of videos unless you really want to reach out and hurt someone? It’s just a game.

  • I’m not quite understanding.
    Most games now have these at the start. I’m assuming it’s because it wasn’t a complete version that it didn’t have the warning at the start. But my question is, who would’ve thought there weren’t these kinds of scenes in CP? It seems obvious that it would have stuff that sets of seizures.
    Do the start up warnings ever really stop someone from playing or actually notify them of when something is going to pop up? I can’t imagine someone would look at the warning and then just put the game down and return/not play it. I don’t think theyd have to put a page long description at launch explaining when they might occur either

  • There’s been games that have failed certification in consoles in the past due to failed epilepsy tests (Wipeout HD on the PS3 comes to mind) so I’m surprised that Sony and Microsoft supposedly passed the the game if it contains stuff like this.

  • Lmfao suffers from seizures and blames a company for not warning? Pretty standard concept is anything that close to your face on a monitor could do it.. If i had that issue i wouldn’t game on pc.. Simples ????????????

    • Lmafao, a totally unecessary particular type of animation that doesn’t need to be in the game at all could literally kill people, why don’t they just not play games at all?

      Piss off.

    • Dude, the Porygon incident happened on TVs all over Japan and caused a nation wide health emergency that flooded their hospitals. If they play this on Xbox or PS4/5 it’s still going to be an issue. Are you really that dense that you don’t understand that monitors and TVs are functionally the same thing?

  • How useless is the Classification board if it can run around like a headless chook about Fallout ‘drugs’, but can’t even catch epilepsy inducing graphics.

    • That’s a really good point actually, I think that’s absolutely the sort of thing they should look at and notify the devs that they need a prominent warning or better still accessibility options before allowing classification.

    • This kind of thing is not the job of the classification board. Whether the game might contain content that could cause seizures doesn’t affect the game’s classification (it’s not going to bump the game from, say, an M to an MA or anything like that). This is the job of the platform owners (Sony and Microsoft) as this would be part of their technical certification checklists. As for PC, no such certification exists, but any changes mandated by the console makers would no doubt be implemented on PC as well to maintain parity.

    • The Classification Board is there to apply the existing law and regulation to works submitted for classification. Those laws say that games with incentives tied to drug use must be refused classification, but say nothing about epilepsy.

      If you want that changed, write to your state’s Attorney General asking them to propose a change to the guidelines governing the behaviour of the Classification Board.

  • You can see the effect on the Night City Wire that features the Braindance section and from memory it is absolutely jarring to look at, it was uncomfortable enough for me to even have to look away. I read that it behaves very similar to something that is specifically designed to trigger seizures in a medical setting. I find it very odd that some people are defending something like these LEDs when they could be done in a variety of different ways that wouldn’t cause issue and still look as good. Sounds like they’re looking into adding a feature to adjust this section, which selfishly is good for me as it would even increase my enjoyment of these section. Definitely great for anybody who does have epilepsy and I hope they can come up with a solution soon.

  • Not wanting to be the one to point out the obvious, but the warning is included in the EULA, as acknowledged in the article. You know, the thing you are supposed to read before agreeing to, and that you can’t install the game without agreeing to. I know a lot of people (probably most people) don’t bother reading that, but by clicking “I agree” on that, you are acknowledging the warning, along with the other T&C. So there isn’t really any negligence on CDPR’s part, other than failing to assume that people don’t actually read most legal agreements before signing them?

    • End user legal agreements are absolutely the wrong place to put medical warnings. This is a video game, not a chainsaw or a pharmaceutical drug. People absolutely do not expect a computer program to put them at physical risk, and it would be negligence on the part of the developer to think that putting medical warnings in a EULA would be sufficient.

  • I’m honestly tempted to get a refund after reading this article. There’s no way I’ll be able to deal with flashing lights of that description unless they’re outright removed from the game. I actually skipped the Nightwire component that introduced Braindance due to the suspicion that it wouldn’t be good for me and I’m so sorry for the reviewer that they were the test case.

    What possessed them to implement this as a feature without screening it through the industry approved checks that even films are meant to go through? I can live without junk VFX, but unfortunately I might not live if I slam my head into an object on the way down from a seizure.

    • On a note I forgot, this is exactly why they should’ve sent out more review copies. Forget performance issues, they might actually kill someone with something this stupid. The irresponsibility is absolutely incredible.

  • I’m a little disappointed with this. Whilst I can agree with the artistic direction of some of these effects like the Braindances, there really needed to be an option prompted on first launch with the difficulty to disable them.

    • Yeah, I think there’s, at the least, an ethical issue here for CDP. If they were trying to evoke this sort of parallel experience, there really should have been alarm bells ringing for the impact this could have on those in our community who may be at risk of harm from it, because you know… it happens to them in real life…

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