While the studio debuted a new trailer for the game during this year’s E3, the image in question appeared in a blog post on Nvidia’s official website promoting its new ray tracing technology. The screenshot shows a dark stairwell lit by several glowing neon advertisements. One ad is for a drink called ChroManticore and it features a model who appears female but clearly has a penis. The ad’s slogan reads, “Mix it up.”
The ad itself isn’t very controversial, but CD Projekt Red’s shaky history with the transgender community has some questioning the studio’s intentions. Last year, it posted a tweet some thought mocked transgender people, according to Kotaku. “Did you just assume their gender?” the studio said in response to a fan who said they wanted to see more “Cyberpunk 2077” content from the “guys.” CD Projekt later deleted the tweet and apologized.
That same year, CD Projekt Red’s digital games storefront, Good Old Games, courted controversy when it co-opted the pro-transgender Twitter hashtag #WontBeErased to market its product. The developer later said it was simply a bad pun, according to Polygon.
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As for the new screenshot, “Cyberpunk 2077” art director Kasia Redesiuk told Polygon it’s a metaphor for how the game’s megacorporations influence character’s thoughts.
“Cyberpunk 2077 is a dystopian future where megacorporations dictate everything,” Redesiuk said. “They try to, and successfully, influence people’s lives. They shove products down their throats. They create those very aggressive advertisements that use, and abuse, a lot of people’s needs and instincts. So, hypersexualization is apparent everywhere, and in our ads there are many examples of hypersexualized women, hypersexualized men, and hypersexualized people in between.
“This is all to show that [much like in our modern world], hypersexualization in advertisements is just terrible. It was a conscious choice on our end to show that in this world — a world where you are a cyberpunk, a person fighting against corporations. That [advertisement] is what you’re fighting against.”