• CD Projekt Red and Cyberpunk 2077 appear to have a transphobia problem Trendy sunglasses reflecting neon light sign in dark room

    CD Projekt Red (CDPR), the Polish software house responsible for the recent release of Cyberpunk 2077, have been facing a backlash from the LGBTQ+ community for their transphobic marketing since at least as far back as August 2018. As Cyberpunk 2077 neared eventual release after many delays, this pushback only grew – so why now are both the mainstream media and influencers ignoring the problem?

    Years before release, Cyberpunk 2077 marketed itself as being aligned with the gay community. Several gaming sites touted that the game would offer same-sex (or nonbinary) characters, weddings, and even body choices as a plus. But from the very beginning, the transgender community threw up the red flag on some of the choices the company was making, and what their responses to criticism had been as a result.

    Fast forward to 2020, and the game has met both widespread acclaim, as well as been the brunt of jokes for the games technical foibles, but nary a word has been said in the mainstream media about a game that some in the LGBTQ+ community consider "An act of Violence" against their community.

    Indeed, one doesn't have to look far even outside the mainstream to find how far CDPR's marketing dollars (or the hope of cashing in on the hype surrounding the game) have penetrated: Popular YouTube channels such as Kurzgesagt, Kyle Hill, and The Escapist, all of which have been featured on Boing Boing in the past, make no mention of this years-long controversy whatsoever.

    However, sites focused on the LGBTQ+ community, as well as some of the less mainstream gaming media (where CDPR marketing dollars are less likely to reach) have taken the time to write up detailed articles outlining the scope of transphobia both at the publisher, and within the game itself.

    From CBR:

    Cyberpunk 2077's transphobia becomes apparent as soon as players enter the character creation menu. The game sports an incredibly detailed and intuitive character creator, where players can manipulate and control various aspects of their characters' appearance — including the shapes and sizes of their genitals. Players can even, if they choose, forego the option to include genitals at all. In and of itself, this isn't necessarily problematic or transphobic, especially because genitals don't seem to affect gender options.

    At first, many trans players were happy with the idea that gender would not be determined by the character's genitals. However, that possible excitement turned to disbelief when gamers realized their character's gender and pronouns are not determined by genitals, but rather by voice. Only deep-voiced characters can be identified as male, while higher-pitched characters are identified as female, which purports the harmful idea that people's genders can be identified by certain traits.

    In a truly trans-friendly game, gender would be determined by the player's independent choice, separate from any other qualities.

    And from Them:

    The feature also tacitly validates "clocking" trans people by surveilling their voices or external characteristics, which often precedes acts of violence against the community. That aspect of Cyberpunk 2077 is particularly troubling in a year during which 40 transgender people have been killed in an ongoing homicide epidemic.

    But that's not where the game's controversial choices end. In Night City, some femme-presenting characters appear with transparent penises that are enlarged beyond conventional proportions, leading to criticisms that the game fetishizes and objectifies trans bodies. The situation is aggravated by there being no apparent LGBTQ+ visibility elsewhere in Cyberpunk 2077, even despite a recent push for greater trans and nonbinary representation in mainstream gaming.

    The most glaring issues, however, are with the games developer. CDPR has defended these decisions, as well as the decision to use apparently transphobic in-game ads and marketing in an interview with Polygon:

    "This is all to show that [much like in our modern world] hypersexualization in advertisements is just terrible," Redesiuk continued. "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."

    However, given the reactions by the very communities CDPR purports to support, it would not be a stretch to say that CDPR itself is behaving as a corporation using "hypersexualization in advertisements" to market the game itself. This irony has not gone unnoticed:

    Lastly, interested individuals have taken the time to track down and catalogue the full timeline of CDPRs transphobic comments and responses, and to step up where mainstream sites and influencers have chosen not to:

    If it's designed to be a terrible and distasteful advert working at the expense of trans women – something CDPR themselves tells us we should be fighting against – you can't then decouple it from the criticism to use frivolously for laughs or promotional material. Promoting someone taking that imagery, further accenting and highlighting the parts we're supposed to take issue with, all while laughing about it, renders that original intent meaningless. Put bluntly; when you're flying people out to take part in a video shoot for your promo and they're walking around with a fake neon penis representing the thing you claim to hate, how can we take any notion of nuance around trans people, issues and bodies seriously within both CDPR and Cyberpunk 2077?

    You can read Kyuugi's full analysis on ResetEra's forums.

    Thanks to Boing Boing BBS member Tamsin_Bailey for bringing this issue to my attention in the first place.

    Image: Akash Murnal

  • Captain John J. Sheridan's thoughts on the election: "We have come home!"
    Captain Sheridan – Babylon 5, Endgame

    "This is not the voice of treason. These are your sons, your daughters, whose loyalties have never wavered, whose beliefs in this Alliance has forced us to take extraordinary means. For justice, for peace, for the future, we have come home!"

  • Litigious, Anti-social-media Ex-HOA members in Val Vista Lakes file lawsuit after being ousted

    Former HOA presidents Marcianne Johnson, Melissa Wilson Scovel and Cheryl McCoy have basically filed suit against their entire neighbourhood for successfully removing them from the association via a recall vote.

    The three were part of the Arizona Homeowners' Association in Val Vista Lakes that threatened members of their 900-acre neighbourhood with a fine of $250 per day for "posting any disparaging, speculative, or defaming comments that negatively impact specific individuals in the Association or on the Board."

    After receiving the letters, the residents launched SaveVVL, a campaign to remove Johnson and Scovel from their community positions. The lawsuit specifically targets the "Overlords" of this campaign, several of whom had moved out of the community after facing abuse and harassment from members of the HOA and others over the campaign.

    Unfortunately, Arizona's Anti-SLAPP law doesn't appear to protect defendants from this type of harassing litigation. Still, the Streisand effect should do an effective job of bringing the litigious and harassing actions of these three to light for all to see.

    Via AZCentral:

    Defendants engaged in extreme and outrageous conduct in making false statements against Plaintiffs that held them out for public rebuke; attacking them for their actual or perceived affiliations with a religious organization; threatening or encouraging violence; and alleging they committed criminal activities

    Previously:

    Image: Eustress, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

  • CBS All Access Places Series Order for "Star Trek: Strange New Worlds," Based on the U.S.S. Enterprise Crew from "Discovery"

    Anson Mount as Captain Pike, as portrayed in Star Trek: Discovery might have been my favourite breakout performance from our new generation of Star Trek shows. I was not alone in this opinion, and it turns out the trio of Anson Mount, Ethan Peck, and Rebecca Romijn as Pike, Spock, and "Number One" respectively are slated to get their own series on the Enterprise as Discovery moves on from the time of the first Enterprise. (more…)

  • After a year in space, Astronaut Scott Kelly's tips on isolation Scott Kelly watches a bunch of fresh carrots

    Astronaut Scott Kelly, who spent a combined 520 days in space, including nearly a full, continuous year as part of NASA's One-Year Mission to the ISS, knows a thing or two about isolation, quarantine, and keeping sane in small places for extended periods.

    He has recently published an article on his recommendations for those of us on earth who now find ourselves isolated into our homes or similar small spaces, cut off from many of the comforts and connections that we are used to as a part of everyday life.
    (more…)

  • "To Boldly Go With The Force", Mindy Clegg's essay on the politics of popular sci-fi

    Mindy Clegg has posted a wonderful essay covering the "social and political conflicts over fandom", and how even though such discussions are appearing in the modern communities surrounding recent films such as Captain Marvel and The Joker (previously), the reality is that such political and social issues have surrounded both the discussion of, and indeed the very core beliefs of some of our most well-known Sci-Fi franchises for decades:

    Roddenberry consciously created a multiracial crew on the Starship Enterprise. The show sought to promote the concept of racial tolerance among its viewers by showing a peaceful and egalitarian multiracial crew of humans. Many saw it as doing just that. Actor Nichelle Nichols, who portrayed Lt. Nyota Uhuru, the accomplished and talented communications officer, was told by Dr. Martin Luther King at an NAACP meeting that her depiction of Uhuru was making a difference in the lives of young black women. This was a time when black women rarely had prominent roles on TV, much less in such powerful positions. When she told him that she was planning on leaving the show due to ingrained racism and sexism on the set, he told her that she couldn't do that, given the positive role model she was for young black women. She even inspired the first black woman to go into space, Mae Jemison. Jemison would later go full circle, and appeared on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. George Takai, who portrayed Lt. Hikaru Sulu, eventually also parlayed his acting work into activism. He's advocated for a meaningful apology for Japanese-Americans interned during the Second World War, as his family had been, and later come out as gay and worked for marriage equality.

    Read her full essay at 3 Quarks Daily.

    Image: Tomás Del Coro, via Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0

  • Kickstarter outlines the ambitious plans of Andrea James' Transphobia project

    Kickstarter has a lengthy piece on Medium discussing frequent BB contributor Andrea James's Transphobia project (previously). and the broader issues surrounding transgender reporting, the bias within it, and the lack of transgender representation (and outright exclusion) from reporters on the subject.

    James has three foundational goals for The Transphobia Project: "More trans journalists employed full-time at media outlets; coverage of trans issues to include input from trans editors and fact-checkers; and more non-trans journalists to be aware of how to avoid bias in trans coverage. I hope my project will help editors and publishers identify those with a history of fair and accurate coverage on trans topics, [and] those who don't have that history. Finally, I hope it will help media consumers see when trans coverage contains bias, both pro- and anti-trans."

    At a time when LGBTQ+ tolerance is actually decreasing among youth, holding media to account for both how, and by whom the public receives unbiased reporting on these topics may be even more important than in the past, to stave off what USA Today reports as a "looming social crisis in discrimination."

    I'm a supporter of her project on Kickstarter, and I hope you will be, too.

  • Why you definitely want to be on Star Trek: The Cruise IV

    I've just returned home from Star Trek: The Cruise, a truly extraordinary fan event for lovers of Science, Science Fiction, and the future.

    You really want to be on the next one.

    Longtime Boing Boing friend Wil Wheaton headlined the third annual cruise, which this year featured stars from every series of Star Trek from The Next Generation onwards. They, along with thousands of die-hard Star Trek fans took over an entire cruise ship for a week (flying the flag of the United Federated of Planets no less), Taking part in everything from photo and autograph sessions, Science Lectures from experts in the fields of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Game Shows, Q&A sessions, and even a narrated performance of the Scopes Monkey Trial transcript.

    But the real reason you should go isn't one of those events.

    There's a unique culture behind Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry's optimistic vision of a utopian future attracts a certain type of fan, and there's something special about putting thousands of like-minded people and the actors who portrayed their most beloved Star Trek characters on a ship for a week. Wil Wheaton put it best in his initial address during our sendoff:

    "I have been a fan of Star Trek my entire life. […] I learned everything that was important to me from the values that Star Trek taught me: I learned to be honest, I learned to be honourable, I learned to be kind. My whole life I've wanted to live in that world that we imagined when we worked on Next Generation, and that I loved to watch when I was a little boy. We came close to it working on Next Gen, we got to pretend that we were in that world, but we have got this great opportunity over the next six days to *actually* create the world that Star Trek promises, because we all have the same influences. I think we have an opportunity for the next six days to get away from the worst person on the planet, and I'm really excited about that!"

    Regardless of your views on Discovery's Klingons, who was the better captain, or insert-your-favourite-trek-argument-here, you'll find like-minded folks on the cruise. There are also several cosplay-friendly events hosted throughout the voyage. If you've ever wanted to be on a ship surrounded by folks in Starfleet uniforms and insignias, this is the place for you.

    Next year, for the 25th anniversary of Star Trek: Voyager, the cruise is going to be headed up by Kate Mulgrew (Captain Janeway), and currently has representation from every TV version of Trek from The Original Series to Discovery – more than 20 cast members are slated to attend.

    Here are some shots and video I took from Cruise III. See you next year!

    (more…)

  • Canada's Prime Minister mandates examination of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons

    Justin Trudeau, Canada's Prime Minister, has released a wide-ranging mandate letter asking Canada's Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Bill Blair, to "[L]ead an examination of a full ban on handguns and assault weapons in Canada, while not impeding the lawful use of firearms by Canadians."

    This work would be in support of Canada's upcoming Firearms bill, Bill C-71, and is supported by the city councils of two of Canada's largest cities: Toronto and Montreal, who have recently both passed resolutions asking for an outright ban on handguns.

    As Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, your goals are to ensure that our borders remain secure and to lead cross-government efforts to reduce organized crime. You will work to ensure Canada's borders are managed to promote legitimate travel and trade while keeping Canadians safe and treating everyone fairly, in accordance with our laws. You will also play a leading role in our efforts to reduce gun violence. You will lead the legalization and strict regulation of cannabis, and are the Minister responsible for our strategy to manage the challenge of irregular migration.

    Image: Kencf0618 [CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons

  • Get the awesome Babylon 5 encyclopedia print edition before it sells out

    Last year, the team behind B5 Books put together a The Babylon 5 Encyclopedia a thoroughly researched, lovingly crafted set of volumes on the universe of the 90's Sci-Fi series Babylon 5.

    I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this edition when it came out, and have referred to it repeatedly when rewatching the series recently. It's an amazing one-of-a-kind resource for fans of the show.

    WHAT ARE THE SPECS OF THE 2-VOLUME HARDCOVER COLOR EDITION?
    Trim Size: 8 x 10 inches. These books weigh about 3.5 pounds each (1.58kg), and this was the best size to keep the weight evenly distributed for extended reading.

    • 832 pages total
    • Hand-signed by J. Michael Straczynski
    • Premium 90gsm paper
    • All pages full, four-color printing
    • Custom Slipcase with foil stamping
    • Two Ribbon Bookmarks: one purple, one green. The advantage of two is that you can mark were you left off reading and you can mark the last entry you cross-referenced. Even better, couples can each have their own color.

    Less than 100 copies are remaining, however, and the B5 Books team is letting the resource go out of print to focus on B5s 25th anniversary. If you're a B5 fan, this is your last chance to own the definitive resource on all things Babylonian.

    Also, Amazon has Announced that the entire series will be available to stream come June 1st, so if you haven't delved into the story of our last, best hope for peace, now's the time!

  • Babylon 5 now available to stream for free in the US

    Babylon 5, even during its original run, was never particularly easy to watch when it first aired. The changing TV landscape of the time, as well as the failure of B5's original network PTEN and subsequent re-emergence on the TNT network, meant that timeslots and airdates shifted several times during the show's original five-year run.

    Show creator Joe Michael Sraczynski's "B5 books" site is reporting that Go90.com now has the entire show available to stream for free for the first time, along with several other recent series.

    I've always believed that B5 represented one of the better Sci-Fi "space opera" TV shows in history, and one that many people were never able to watch during its run on television. The story and effects hold up extremely well for a show that recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. Now's your chance to see it in its entirety, for free, on your own terms.

    Unfortunately, the site is US-only.

  • Youtube artist SamuraiGuitarist does music from Final Fantasy VII

    I've been a huge fan of Steve Onotera, a Canadian Youtube vlogger and musician, since David posted his earlier video last year.

    I decided to support him on Patreon, and as one of the perks of my support, I got to choose a song for him to do a version of. Of course, I chose Final Fantasy, specifically the Bombing Mission theme from Final Fantasy VII. Not only did he do an awesome bluegrass rendition for me, he presented it complete with in-game combat visuals!

    Patreon has been a great way to support independent artists across a huge spectrum of genres, and a great way to discover and support musicians, authors, artists, and makers.

    See more of SamuraiGuitarist's work on Patreon, or his Youtube channel for more of his videos.

  • Listen to some amazing high school kids perform excerpts from the Guild Wars 2 soundtrack

    It's no secret for anyone who knows me that I happen to be a long-time MMORPG player, but no game has grabbed my attention as completely as Guild Wars 2 has, due in no small part to the beautiful visuals and the incredible soundtrack. I'm a huge fan of video game music, having been to my share of Zelda and Final Fantasy concerts when they've been in the area.

    Today, the ArenaNet folks have shared this amazing performance of excerpts from their Heart of Thorns expansion, performed by the Evergreen Philharmonic, in Issaquah, WA.

    What makes this performance extra special is the composition of the orchestra itself: It's composed primarily of high-school students from the Issaquah area.

    The Evergreen Philharmonic has been active since 1988 and has been an audition-only orchestra since 1991. Evergreen Philharmonic functions as an honors youth orchestra within the Issaquah School District, and has students from all three Issaquah High Schools.

    Evergreen has performed in a variety of venues, such as the Washington State Ferries, the University of Washington, the University of British Columbia, Disneyland, and the University of Southern California. The orchestra has also travelled to perform in Paris, London, Quebec and Boston. In May of 2011 Evergreen Philharmonic played at Carnegie Hall, New York.

    Read more about the Orchestra, this performance, or Heart of Thorns. Long live high school music programs!