EEarlier this week, we reported that CD Projekt Red banned a Cyberpunk 2077 mod that allowed players to re-texturize in-game resources to virtually have sex with Keanu Reeves’ character, Johnny Silverhand. the reason for the ban This was because the studio felt it was inappropriate to recreate explicit sexual encounters with a real person who did not give permission (despite the character himself having numerous scenes throughout the game that were graphically sexual). The conversation around this previous cover, and similar instances where a recognizable name is used in a game, sparked a desire to explore this topic further. Since covering mods in my career, the ethical debate of fiction versus reality has always been a subject that has two clear and opposing positions. But to understand the great Modding debate, we need to dive a little deeper into the conversation around this community.
What is rule 34?
First let’s talk about rule 34, which is still there.
Rule 34 is not an actual rule; it’s just a term commonly used online to refer to the fact that anything – absolutely anything – can be turned into pornographic material via modding, fanart, etc. This is especially true for things in entertainment that are not inherently sexual, but any attempt to thwart possible sexualization actually gives even more power to this rule created on the Internet. When we shared the Cyberpunk 2077 mod ban, some comments referred to Rule 34 – but that’s just one part of the eternal debate over the ethics of modifying sexual content.
What is the debate?
So what’s the “big deal”? The subject of modding is split between two large groups: the first group being “it’s just a game”, the second group generally citing a deeper connection with the real world. There are a few facets of this conversation beyond just protecting someone like Keanu Reeves. In fact, the “deeper connection to the real world” is something I briefly touched on with another Cyberpunk 2077 mod. we shared regarding an in-game modification that allows Judy (a canonically lesbian character) to be fictionalized (fully voiced) by a male V.
In the case of the Keanu Reeves sex mod, the conversation surrounds consent. While Johnny Silverhand isn’t a real person, Reeves is, and Reeves – as an actor – only accepted scenes that he explicitly approved of. With gamers taking the content into their own hands by putting the likeness of Keanu on a sexbot, the age-old ‘is it or isn’t it’ debate has come back in full force: Silverhand vs. Reeves, is consent necessary or do we separate fiction from reality despite how fiction shapes our daily lives?
The deeper side of romance.
In the article on Judy, the argument about the ethical norms of falsifying scripts representing marginalized communities was raised a bit. The reasoning against these particular mods is that same-sex relationship options are so rare in games, the number available is usually much smaller than heterosexual relationships, and playing with this type of representation is a form of erasure. For this side of the reactionary spectrum, it can be seen as a moral issue beyond mere fiction, an issue that transformatively erupted when a Dorian mod for Dragon Age: Inquisition went viral; a mod that made his sexuality straight despite everything its storyline being a gripping story of “coming out” when society wanted him dead or buried just to prefer men.
With Dorian, being gay was part of his story. This was the very basis of why this character was written to be so protective of himself when his own father tried to harm him in order to force him into a straight relationship in the hope that he would. would bear the surname when coerced into a heterosexual relationship. marriage without love. With that expressly written into her story, which makes her an important part of her identity as a character, the mods that immediately made her available as a female love interest replaced “just a game.” Why? Because this tale was written with those vulnerable experiences fans have voiced over the years when their parents and loved ones have abandoned them just to be who they are. It was these fan stories that inspired the creation of Dorian as a character and others like him. Therefore, changing who he apparently projects the idea that these actual attempts to change the players that resonated with his story are also acceptable.
The heart of this debate revolves around a central point: what is considered ethical and what is not when looking at fictional worlds, especially games that are meant to be fit for the experience. ideal of the player on an individual basis.
When it comes to romantic couples in general, not just the face of a famous person, the conversation about what is ethically acceptable about hetero-normative matchmaking of expressly written homosexual characters usually gets incredibly heated with two clear ends on the side. reactionary spectrum. On the one hand, you have people who don’t understand why this is even a conversation. The more extreme side of this perspective often ends with something like “overcoming” and “it’s just a game”. The other aspect of this dialogue focuses not on the games themselves, but on their impact and on why changing certain aspects of performance can be intentionally and not intentionally detrimental to aspects of our society that are often erased. This is especially true when we look at the gay and trans community represented in the games, especially when we look at our recent history in the United States where gays could not even legally marry until 2015 and the trans community continuously. in a position to fight. for their life and their rights.
But this is just a game.
It is, absolutely. Ultimately, if players want to use mods to change storylines and alter romantic relationships, they have that right. In conversations like this, being open on both sides is essential. Not to nod, but to see where each person came from; it is important to understand each side so that the two can share their point of view more effectively and eventually come to a pleasant conclusion. For example, I can’t say if Keanu Reeves would be offended by Cyberpunk 2077 sex mod, but the fact that I can’t say that means I can’t just assume it wouldn’t be.
Likewise, if you’ve never had to go out with friends and family, or have been punished just for being honest about your sexuality and who you are, then you don’t know the power that this type of portrayal of. in games can have. For a person like that, seeing yourself in a strong character like Dorian and other similar stories means everything. Seeing that meaning stripped away for the sake of a five-second sex scene brings up a lot of internal feelings that someone who hasn’t been there just can’t even begin to understand. But through this conversation, and understanding can be found if the conversation itself is difficult and does not turn into bitter and defensive fights.
This is especially the case with RPGs when the premise of most of these games is for a player to feel like themselves in a gaming environment, or simply to experience something that they could never do. in real life. This is why many women like to play as male characters and why a lot of men like to play female characters. By altering these relationship norms in games through the power of modding, this desire to create a world almost “optimized” for personal reflection can be seen by changing a character’s original art direction.
Is this wrong?
There are two extremes when it comes to the ongoing conversation about ethics and their place in the modding community. We’ve seen it with mods that transform POC characters White, we’ve seen it with mods that made minor characters “legal” for less than pure reasons. In some cases, it’s really just a game. Let people create the experience they want to create. In other cases, however, there is a deeper conversation rooted in very real and widespread real-life issues, particularly regarding marginalized groups who feel erased in their daily lives, only to be erased in the medium they appreciate through play.
In the real world, no one agrees 100% on everything. It is not realistic. What we can do, however, is listen to each other instead of giving in to that knee-jerk reaction of saying “I’m right” or “you’re wrong” and listening when people open up. deeper potential meanings behind their role in this ngoconversation in progress.