Over the weekend, infamous former government MP Craig Kelly — better known for his promotion of medically unsound approaches to dealing with the coronavirus pandemic on Facebook — discovered Cyberpunk 2077. Kelly was clearly concerned about the game’s promotion of what he likes to call “woke wholesome values,” and so today, I thought it might be helpful to educate the MP as to the game in question.
The post on Twitter (which you can read below), tries to draw a link between the cancellation of Dr. Seuss books (which aren’t being cancelled, just not being printed anymore following a review the company conducted with academics, teachers and experts) and the apparent success of Cyberpunk 2077. As I reported on Friday, CD Projekt revealed that more than 424,000 copies of Cyberpunk 2077 had been sold in Australia throughout 2020, and this obviously struck a chord with the independent MP.
What’s confusing is that Kelly called out the game’s elemental damage, as if the ability to use a lightning gun or flamethrower in a video game is some special moral affront.
What type of world do we live in today, when the woke try & "cancel" Dr. Seuss, while ‘CyberPunk 2077’ is all the rage where "4 types of damage can be inflicted & resisted-Physical, Thermal, EMP & Chemical"
— Craig Kelly MP (@CraigKellyMP) April 24, 2021
Given that Craig Kelly is especially active online — a Gizmodo Australia report found he has one of the largest social media presences of any politician in Australia — I thought it might be helpful to show Kelly precisely why Cyberpunk 2077 might be so popular. After all, we wouldn’t want our politicians to be misinformed.
Cyberpunk 2077 starts by having the player (try to) rob a car, plan an assassination, or smuggle contraband across the border.
Given that Kelly is deeply concerned about the promotion of woke values, it might help to understand the setting in which the player is dropped into. You can play as a corporate agent in Arasaka counter-intelligence, where your boss concocts a plan to have a fellow executive assassinated. And after watching the live butchery of a body called the European Space Council, your boss’s rival rightly suggests, hey, maybe killing a whole bunch of public executives is not a sensible company strategy.
Or you can play as car thief, caught trying to boost a car when the police arrive. They take onboard a suggestion that you be cuffed and thrown into the sea, a fine example of above-the-board policing. Or you can barely escape smuggling corporate technology from a desert wastelands into Night City.
Cyberpunk 2077 is all about body modifications and cyberware, and sometimes that cyberware goes wrong.
In a world where people can equip katanas for arms, it’s only natural that other parts of your body can be swapped out too. Most of this is advertised in the form of sex, ranging from ads on Cyberpunk 2077‘s fake TV network, to oversexualised billboards and posters. As an example, Mr Kelly, here’s one of the advertised films.
But the playable quests — that’s the “story” of the game — touch on this too. One quest has the player helping out a character who’s “upgraded” cyberware has malfunctioned. And by malfunctioned, I mean their junk has literally exploded and they are permanently enshrined in your contact list as “Flaming Crotch Man”.
One of the ways to do physical damage in Cyberpunk 2077? A giant, studded dildo.
It’s called Sir John Phallustiff, for clarity, and it’s a reward you get after a brief romantic dalliance at a dodgy motel with a corporate agent. I know MPs and their offices like to thoroughly research material, so here’s how that all connects together, Craig Kelly, if you want to make sure you and your staff are properly informed.
There are first-person sex scenes.
I know sex isn’t always compatible with conservative values, and I’m sure the former government backbencher wouldn’t be thrilled at all the adult content in Cyberpunk 2077. It’s even in first-person.
You can customise your genitalia, pubic hair, penis and breast size.
You can even pair a penis with a female-sounding character or vice versa. The future is all about choices, after all.
The main character advertises himself as a terrorist, hellbent on corporate destruction.
Since we’re talking about values, it helps to outline who one of the game’s characters (hero isn’t the right word) is. Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves, is a famous figure in the Cyberpunk world and he reappears in Cyberpunk 2077 after a mission in the game’s first act. He ends up stuck inside the player’s head, and slowly merges with the player’s consciousness as a byproduct of Silverhand’s personality and the futuristic technology.
Silverhand’s raison d’etre is the obliteration of Night City’s corporate hegemony, particularly Arasaka’s, and one of the game’s missions has you leaving a gig to conduct a raid by helicopter on Arasaka headquarters. The final piece of the puzzle was to destroy the entire tower with a mini nuclear device, potentially ending the Fourth Corporate War. You end up watching the destruction of the tower later on.
There’s a gun called Skippy that sings Rihanna to you.
It’s not the only game that has guns that sing to you, to be fair. If Kelly or his staffers are worried about that, then perhaps they should acquaint themselves with Boganella. Boganella was even made by Australians (in Canberra, no less).
A key part of Cyberpunk 2077 is reliving other people’s memories, including their death, through braindances.
Braindances are basically the ultimate version of virtual reality, except most of the time people are experiencing it seated or lying down. But in the hyper-sexualised, hyper-corporate world of Night City where everything is for sale, people naturally want the greatest thrills possible. So that includes braindances sold for espionage, lots of braindances sold advertising sexual escapades, and even braindances on the black market advertising exploitation.
What you can actually experience for yourself, however, is more about solving crimes, murder and gathering information. One scene early on has you reliving someone’s death to uncover the location of their attackers. Another braindance sequence has you piecing together clues from the perspective of a child to save them from a predator in one of the darker and creepier missions in the game.
You can walk down red light streets and into strip clubs.
It’s an adult city, full of adult things to do and see. More seeing than doing, most of the time, but you get the idea.
In case it’s misunderstood: Hating the city is the point.
I’m willing to venture that Craig Kelly isn’t particularly experienced in cyberpunk. The whole point of the genre is to serve as a warning, an indication of what can go wrong without oversight, regulation and a proper grounding in ethics. The commoditisation of the human body is ripe for exploitation in Night City, but it’s not to be celebrated. It’s meant to disgust the player, make them despise the world around it, and summon up the courage and nous to burn the city to the ground.
That’s the core message of the Cyberpunk tabletop RPG which the game is based on, too. That’s fundamentally the core “woke values” underpinning all of this, although how successful Cyberpunk 2077 is at doing that is a whole other conversation. But it’s also why the game was rated R18+ in Australia. Not for its “woke values”, but because it’s entertainment for adults.