Yesterday, I compiled a few helpful tips for those that may suffer from photosensitive epilepsy that were still hoping to check out CD Projekt RED’s upcoming adventure Cyberpunk 2077. Despite the article not being an attack on the studio, instead trying to help anyone who wished to dive into Night City a chance to do just that, a large group of the internet seemed to take offense to the safety tips provided, despite my grand mal seizure that occurred earlier this week due to an ongoing occurrence in the game that resembles something designed to trigger a neurological episode. Instead of taking offense alongside those more vocal, the studio updated a more visible warning on its website(a warning not seen in the game itself) with a promise to find a “more permanent solution” to make the RPG more accessible to all.
The polish studio took to Twitter with a short message attached to a retweet of our initial story, saying “Thank you for bringing this up. We’re working on a separate warning in the game, aside from the one that exists in the EULA. Regarding a more permanent solution, dev team is currently exploring that and will be implementing it as soon as possible.”
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 (https://t.co/eXpPn73VSK). Regarding a more permanent solution, Dev team is currently exploring that and will be implementing it as soon as possible. https://t.co/lXFypnSit2
— Cyberpunk 2077 (@CyberpunkGame) December 8, 2020
Many games will offer a warning screen ahead of the starting credits for any title that may feature triggering scenery, including flashing lights. With our time in the game, there was no such warning message seen. The EULA does offer a small nod to a warning on the website, but it’s buried and is more of a legal acquiesce than an actual warning for epileptics. After speaking with some of the dev team myself, however, we are looking towards a solution that will make Night City safer for all while taking the necessary steps to bridge the lack of communication about this area of accessibility seen so far.
For those that may have missed the initial article, there are the expected epileptic triggers seen in-game that one might expect from a vibrantly neon genre like Cyberpunk, but what pushed me to want to offer a small PSA (and what caused me to have a grand mal seizure myself) was the inclusion of the Braindance sequences.
You can see the full coverage here, including tips I use when wanting to play a game that I even think may have an epileptic trigger (because oftentimes you won’t know exactly how something will affect you), but the gist about the Braindance mechanic can be seen below:
Braindances are something that CDPR has been talking about as a feature for awhile now, and it’s an intricate part of the story from start to finish. BD’s 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. This is also a trigger on many levels, starting with the device itself.
When “suiting up” for a BD, especially with Judy, V will be given a headset that is meant to onset the instance. The headset fits over both eyes and 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. If not modeled off of the IRL design, it’s a very spot-on coincidence, and because of that this is one aspect that I would personally advise you to avoid altogether. When you notice the headset come into play, look away completely or close your eyes. This is a pattern of lights designed to trigger an epileptic episode and it very much did that in my own personal playthrough.
Once inside of a BD, there are several layers to “explore” the memory, including a soundwave layer, a thermal layer, and a more digitized way of scanning. Each offers specific glitch animations that could be a danger, especially with the digitized layer. While these can’t be avoided for the story, you can pause and play as you wish within these scenarios, making it easier to tailor them where needed, or to call in a gamer backup buddy if absolutely necessary (shoutout to my husband for helping me when the BD’s were longer than usual).
As mentioned, this is a game I’ve been thoroughly enjoying. I’ve never been shy on social media about my excitement for CDPR’s new title, especially as a massive fan of the original RPG that this is based off of (Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk 2020, Cyberpunk RED). My purpose of writing the initial coverage was not to raise a brigade of hate, but instead to offer guidance for the studio on how to do better with Cyberpunk 2077 prior to launch, while also offering players on the fence due to health concerns additional tools in their belt regarding Night City.
Gaming is for everyone, and while the industry has made massive leaps and bounds regarding accessibility, the work is far from over. But instead of yelling and rants, taking sides and accusations, a conversation needs to occur. Developers need to be willing to listen and analyze aspects of their process previously overlooked, and we, as gamers and those a part of these communities, should feel safe to bring up these concerns in a productive and contributory manner.
While this wasn’t the statement I was hoping for regarding a detailed plan, it definitely looks like this was something to show fans that they are working on a solution and while share more at a later time. My hope is that they can share what they’ve come up with prior to launch, so that those that are excited for Night City can do so free of outside commentary and fear of any lingering concerns regarding their health.
I’m glad to see accountability, my hope is that the follow-through is meaningful, impactful, and helps to serve as a long-running lesson regarding future projects. While many that don’t suffer epilepsy can safely just say “don’t play a game,” it’s easy to forget just frequent triggers truly are. And that’s only for people that know they are epileptic. With the nature of the Braindance, my worry is that someone that may not be diagnosed would be thrown into an epileptic episode, given the mimicry nature of the BD device emulating the separate EEG attachment designed to trigger an episode when looking to record for a diagnosis.
At the end of the day, I want the players to play what they want to play. Gaming is such a safe haven for all of us. I want you to enjoy the stories you look forward to, I want you to become the heroes (or anti-heroes) you see in these adventures. And with this? Simple development steps can be implemented to prevent games from being a minefield of neurological triggers.
For more on epilepsy and how to protect yourself, you can check out more right here through the Epilepsy Foundation to learn more. You can also check out our interview with Microsoft to see how they are tackling neurological episodes such as this. You can also read our full review, reviewed by Andrew Reiner, right here.