Earlier today, we reported that CD Projekt Red prohibited a Cyberpunk 2077 mod that enabled gamers to retexturize in-game properties to practically make love with Keanu Reeves’ character, Johnny Silverhand. The factor behind the restriction was since the studio felt it was improper to recreate specific sexual encounters with a genuine individual who did not offer their authorization (in spite of the character himself having various scenes throughout the video game that were graphically sexual in nature). The discussion surrounding that previous protection, and comparable circumstances when an identifiable name is utilized in a video game, triggered a desire to explore this subject even more. For as long as I’ve been covering mods in my profession, the ethical dispute of fiction vs. truth has actually constantly been a topic that has 2 opposing and clear positions. But to comprehend the Great Debate Of Modding, we need to dive a bit deeper into the discussion surrounding this neighborhood. 

What is guideline 34? 

First, let’s speak about the ever-present guideline 34.

Rule 34 isn’t a real guideline; it’s simply a term typically utilized online to reference the reality that anything – definitely anything – can be made into adult product through modding, fanart, etc. This is particularly real for things in home entertainment that aren’t naturally sexual, however any effort to prevent possible sexualization really provides much more power to this developed guideline of the web. When we shared the Cyberpunk 2077 mod restriction, some remarks raised guideline 34 – however it’s simply one piece of the everlasting dispute on the principles of modding sexual material. 

What’s the dispute? 

So what’s the “huge offer”? The subject of modding is divided in between 2 significant groups: the very first group being “it’s simply a video game,” with the 2nd group normally pointing out a much deeper connection to the real life. There are a couple of aspects of this discussion beyond simply safeguarding somebody like Keanu Reeves. In reality, the “much deeper connection to the real life” is something that I quickly discussed with another Cyberpunk 2077 mod we shared worrying an in-game adjustment that permits Judy (a canonically lesbian character) to be romanced (totally voiced) by a male V. 

In the circumstances of the Keanu Reeves sex mod, the discussion surrounds authorization. While Johnny Silverhand isn’t a genuine individual, Reeves is, and Reeves – as a star – just consented to scenes that he clearly validated. With gamers taking material in their own hands by putting Keanu’s similarity on a sexbot, the olden “is it or isn’t it” dispute returned completely force: Silverhand vs. Reeves, is authorization needed or do we different fiction from truth completely in spite of how fiction forms our lives daily? 

The much deeper side of love. 

In the post about Judy, the argument about the ethical requirements of damaging stories representing marginalized neighborhoods turned up a fair bit. The thinking versus those specific mods is that same-sex relationship choices are so rare in video games, the number offered is normally much smaller sized than heterosexual relationship equivalents which tinkering that kind of representation is a kind of erasure. For this side of the reactionary spectrum, it can be viewed as an ethical problem beyond easy fiction, a concern that flared in a transformative method when a Dorian mod for Dragon Age: Inquisition went viral; a mod that made his sexuality directly in spite of his whole story being a gripping tale of “coming out” when society desired him dead or buried simply for choosing males. 

With Dorian, being gay belonged of his story. It was the really basis of why this character was composed to be so protective of himself when his own dad attempted to damage him in order to require him into a heterosexual relationship with the hopes that he would continue the household name by being pushed into a loveless marital relationship. With that being specifically composed into his story, making that a substantial part of his identity as a character, the mods out there that instantly made him offered as a female love interest superseded being “simply a video game.” Why? Because that story was composed with those susceptible experiences that fans have actually revealed through the years where their moms and dads and enjoyed ones deserted them for merely being who they are. It’s those stories from fans that influenced Dorian’s development as a character, and others like him. Therefore, altering who he is apparently predicting the concept that those real-life efforts at altering those gamers that resonated with his story are likewise all right.

The heart of this dispute centers around one core focus point: What is thought about ethical and what isn’t when taking a look at imaginary worlds, specifically video games that are implied to be customized to the perfect gamer experience on a specific basis. 

In relation to romantic pairings in basic, not simply a celebrity’s face, the discussion about what is morally appropriate relating to putting specifically composed homosexual characters into heteronormative relationships normally gets extremely heated up with 2 clear ends on the reactionary spectrum. On one hand, you have individuals that do not comprehend why this is even a discussion. The more severe side of this point of view usually ends with something along the lines of “overcome it” and “it’s simply a video game.” The opposite of that discussion centers on not the video games themselves, however their effect and why altering specific elements of representation can be deliberately, and accidentally, damaging to elements of our society that are frequently removed. This is specifically real when taking a look at the trans and gay neighborhood being represented in video games, more so when taking a look at our current history in the United States where gays could not even get lawfully wed till 2015 and the trans neighborhood continually in a position of defending their lives and their rights

But it’s simply a video game. 

It is, definitely.  Ultimately, if gamers wish to utilize mods to alter stories and change romantic relationships, they have that right. When having conversations like this, it’s vital to be open to both sides. Not to acquiesce, but to see where each person is coming from; it’s important to understand each side so that both can share their perspective more effectively and potentially come to an agreeable conclusion. For example, I can’t say whether or not Keanu Reeves would be offended by the Cyberpunk 2077 sex mod, but the fact that I can’t say that means that I can’t just assume he wouldn’t be.

Similarly, if you have never had to come out to your friends and family or faced punishment just for being honest about your sexuality and who you are, then you don’t know the power that sort of representation in games can have. For a person like that, seeing themselves in a strong character like Dorian and other similar stories means everything. To see that meaning be 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 simply cannot even begin to understand. But through this conversation, and understanding can be found if the conversation itself is hard and it doesn’t devolve into embittered and defensive fighting.

This is the case especially with RPGs when the premise of most of these games is for a player to feel like their best self in a game world environment, or simply to experience something they would never be able to in real life. This is why many women like to play as male characters and why many men enjoy playing female characters. By altering these relationship standards in games through the power of modding, that desire to create an almost “optimized” world for personal reflection can be seen through changing the original artistic direction of a character. 

Is it wrong? 

There are two extremes when it comes to the ongoing conversation of ethics and their place in the modding community. We’ve seen it with mods that turn POC characters white, we’ve seen it with mods that turned underage characters “legal” for less than pure reasons. In some cases, it really is just a game. Let people create the experience they desire to create. In other cases, however, there is a deeper conversation rooted in very real, very prevalent real-life issues, especially concerning marginalized groups that feel erased in their daily lives, only to see “themselves” erased in the medium they enjoy through gaming. 

In the real world, no one agrees 100% about everything. That’s not realistic. What we can do, however, is listen to one another instead of caving into that knee jerk reaction to state “I’m right” or “you’re wrong” and listening when people open up about any potential deeper meanings behind their part in this ongoing discussion.