Cyberpunk 2077 is Giving Me Rose-Colored Glasses in 2021

Sometimes you forget the bad and fixate on the good. But that doesn't mean you should go back.

We’re one year removed from Cyberpunk 2077’s launch. I certainly didn’t expect to be writing about it hours after watching it lose two Game Awards when the prospect of it even being nominated seemed incomprehensible last December. But what I also didn’t expect was that, in the year that’s followed, I’ve thought about Cyberpunk 2077 a lot. Like, every month and a half or so, I think about my version of protagonist V and his boyfriend Kerry Eurodyne and just stare at a wall.

I didn’t like Cyberpunk 2077, and if you go back and read the things I wrote about it here at Fanbyte, you’ll see it was a complicated love/hate relationship. I criticized its draining cynicism, its rigid perception of sexuality, and the way it apparently rewrote a bisexual character as gay in some really gross confines that just about ruined much of the things I did enjoy about CD Projekt Red’s busted open-world RPG. And yet, here I am, a full trip around the sun later, and I feel like a lot of the things about Cyberpunk 2077 that made it a stressful and cumbersome thing to play have slowly but surely been pushed aside in my memory by things I genuinely loved. Hell, there are some parts of Cyberpunk 2077 I’d say I was even entranced by, and that’s what I’m still thinking about a year later.

A lot of that comes down to the moments of that game that stood out in the face of a lot of baggage. Such as the bittersweet ending I got, which presented one of the most compelling moral conundrums and decisions that a video game has offered me. It raised questions about what do we do with the time that we have left if we know we’re on borrowed time, and how important is it for us to leave something behind to be remembered. It put me in the position of unwilling parasite Johnny Silverhand, played by Keanu Reeves, sacrificing his own digital life as repentance for robbing V of his. I still think about that scene in the digital space Cyberpunk 2077 made when, seeing the moment through the eyes of Reeves’ character, my own custom-made protagonist attacked me, trying to stop me from making a decision that would ultimately lead to his death, but would give him a precious few months with those he cared about. It was a literal out-of-body experience watching V ask Johnny to not forget him. And while he was talking to the terrorist-turned-digital-parasite, it felt like he was talking to me, too.

And V, I haven’t forgotten you. I think about you a lot. And I think about the connections I made through you in Cyberpunk 2077’s otherwise deplorable Night City. Despite my issues with the Kerry relationship, I still remember sitting in a boat with him as he played his guitar and serenaded me. I could sit there as long as I want as my burnt-out rocker boyfriend sang to me as we drifted across the water. I still wonder about Judy, and where she went after she left Night City, because she saw what V couldn’t: Night City was beyond saving, and the only way to sever yourself from the rot is to leave it behind entirely.

More Cyberpunk 2077:

Recently, I’ve been replaying Final Fantasy X for Normandy FM, a retrospective podcast I co-host, and we’ve been talking a lot there about how much media gets distilled to bullet points the further we’re distanced from it. This has mainly been illustrated in moments of surprise where I see criticisms around the game’s voice acting or linearity don’t really hold up. But those are the talking points we see thrown about when talking about Final Fantasy X because it’s 20-years-old. No one wants to talk about the nuance of why the game is linear to fit the story it’s telling, or about the context around the infamous laugh scene, and why it makes a lot of sense in-game. Plus, those voice actors’ performances are consistently great. But people take a scene out of context and wash their hands of any of those nuances.

I feel like the reverse is happening with me and Cyberpunk 2077. Further distanced from all the times it crashed my PS5, all the use of suicide as shock value, and the racial stereotypes, I’m remembering mostly the moments that spoke to me. Because when Cyberpunk 2077 wanted to be a game worth remembering, it was. The way our memory of these things changes with time often leans toward the negative, which is why Cyberpunk 2077 feels like an outlier. I try to never fall into the trap of remembering something by the memes that followed, but I generally have a strong enough hold on what I feel about something that these nuances stick with me. And yet, here I am, thinking about an expansion that CD Projekt Red is making for Cyberpunk 2077, a game I didn’t like, and…looking forward to it? I know I shouldn’t, and the me from a year ago is looking upon me and screaming at the top of his lungs.

Cyberpunk 2077 is apparently in a “better” spot these days, and it’s made me consider going back. But going back means I have to stop seeing the game through the rose-colored glasses currently fixed upon my sight. So it’s probably not worth going back. Because right now I can fondly think on the parts I still remember while blissfully forgetting the parts I don’t.