perspective | As a cancer patient, Cyberpunk 2077 frees me from my mental prison – The Washington Post


I was diagnosed with cancer in early June. For some reason, since then, I haven’t been able to stop playing “Cyberpunk 2077” for the Projekt Red CD, a story about how to navigate or challenge a terminal illness.

The ultimate disease facing V, the game’s protagonist, is almost certainly wiping out their soul. Their personalities, memories, and cognitive functions have been replaced by an artificial intelligence, Johnny Silverhand, the branded rocker and terrorist brought to virtual life by Keanu Reeves. They can only deny or accept their fate; Either figure out some way to cut them off with Silverhand taking over, or leave this world on their own terms.

But V is not a real person. They’re just a character in a video game, and I, as a player, choose their fate – not the game’s script and code, and certainly not Keanu Reeves. Since I was diagnosed with cancer, male V (you can choose the gender of the protagonist) has roamed the streets of the night city ‘Cyberpunk 2077’, quiet and cheerful, willfully ignorant – by choice – of his death sentence.

It wasn’t always easy to be comfortable in Night City. The infamous December 2020 release of the game redefined the term “cyberpunk” to mean “an unfinished, buggy and unplayable video game”. As I wrote in My final review From the game in 2021, “Cyberpunk 2077” has been used to lure the player with phone calls and notifications about new activities, while increasing the amount of information that results in destroying any sense of spatial immersion, and stifling the game’s otherwise compelling narrative pace.

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This old and unpleasant version of “Cyberpunk 2077” reminds me of my current situation. My phone is constantly buzzing with relevant texts and phone calls from friends, family, ex-girlfriends, former co-workers, and long-lost acquaintances. Everyone talks about the myriad challenges of cancer, but least discussed is the emotional burden placed on the patient as he or she is on the move, soothing, and frustrating amid the immense grief that their loved ones expect. I appreciate and often need the support and attention of my family and friends, but there is a long-standing feeling of not needing to say any of this were it not for my cancer. Words meant to comfort me often remind me that I am fighting for my life.

Five months ago, developer CD Projekt Red released its 1.5 update, which brought with it a bunch of installation fixes, new features, and most importantly to me, the ability to mute those in-game text messages and phone calls. The promise of a simplified post-patch 1.5 experience, paired with the excitement of the “Cyberpunk Edgerunners” animated series on Netflix in September, once again invited me to give it a try. In the days leading up to my first session of chemotherapy, my mind was a mess filled with anxiety. But now I’ve learned to accept turning my phone on silent and keeping the screen upside down while I play “Cyberpunk 2077” for hours a day, which is kind of a 1.5 patch in my private life.

Today, I face the grueling reality of fighting cancer, a battle that takes up every hour, if not every minute of my day. As a cancer patient, I am disturbed in so many directions that I can barely control my life: Doctors constantly fill my schedule with appointments, check-ups, and follow-ups; A home care nurse visits me twice a week; My family has been asking for updates, and I’ve been grappling with their trauma since my diagnosis; Hundreds of friends offered to help while feeling and (let’s face it) being helpless.

But in “Cyberpunk 2077” I can ignore my character’s death sentence. As in other open world games, there is no “Game Over” screen to ignore the main campaign. I can play the way I like, ignoring the corruption trying to kill my character from within, while remaining immune to any repercussions from this decision.

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The narrative criticism of “Cyberpunk 2077” correctly criticizes it for failing to create any strong motivation for its protagonist to engage in anything other than saving his life. Why would V help the police stop gang activity when they need to save themselves instead? What is the point of raising all this money? Why buy a new car when any day could be their last?

Why does he delay responding to a desperate text and begging of a loved one as if tomorrow is promised?

When I asked myself this question I grew appreciative for ignoring V to save his life. With so much more than just existence at stake, my V live every day stubbornly refusing to engage in the fact that it might as well be. The latter – a daydream of chasing more dreams. It’s this context that helps me, a dying man as well, appreciate “Cyberpunk 2077” more than any other open-world game when it comes to fulfilling my fantasy of power.

In real life, ignoring my diagnosis is not a luxury I can afford. My Cancer is aggressive, and I will be fighting back hard for the next few months. I pray to get rid of him by the end of 2022. I’m just at the beginning of the nightmare. It will be some time before I can wake up to any semblance of normalcy.

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Even after dozens of hours of playing “Cyberpunk 2077” since my diagnosis, and several drafts for this article, I’m not very close to understanding my sudden fascination with this title given my current predicament. I must be run through this game. It’s a powerful reminder of a terminal illness.

However, this game commits me in ways it hasn’t done before – and in ways no other game in 2022 has been able to. That compulsion extends far beyond playtime: I bought a “Cyberpunk 2077” Secret Lab gaming chair, “Cyberpunk 2077” The soundtrack on Apple Music, the art and comics book “Cyberpunk 2077”, and two characters from the Dark Horse “Cyberpunk 2077”. I never felt trapped in the nine-year cycle of marketing hype for this game. However, here I am, a few years after release, spending money on the brand like an uncritical fan.

Even my text alert sounds and ringtones were copied directly from “Cyberpunk 2077”. Her creation of the iPhone was a first for me: it meant learning to use GarageBand just to satisfy this strange and all-encompassing desire to live in the world of ‘Cyberpunk 2077’.

Perhaps all of the small improvements that CD Projekt Red has made to the game for its 1.5 update, which include: cars that react to real-time events and a suspension feature, giving it a sense of real gravity in this virtual world; Side Quests offer a lot of rewarding short stories, letting me live through an electronic electronic version of “One Thousand and One Nights”; Reworked skill system makes character development more straightforward; And deeper interactions through friendships, which can be ignored but are there if you need them.

Perhaps this is how Cyberpunk 2077, intentionally or unintentionally, tends to archetypes of literary genres, so it echoes popular boyhood works from the ’80s and ’90s such as the groundbreaking anime ‘Akira’ or ‘Fight Club’ by David Fincher. . After all, V is basically the “Fight Club” champ who realizes Tyler Durden (now played by Keanu Reeves instead of Brad Pitt, though).

Here’s a confession: I often fall asleep over old Steve Jobs presentations announcing industry-changing products like the iPod, iPhone, iPad, or iCloud. He is a skilled marketer, as many people believe in his conviction that these technologies will change the world. It’s easy to see in hindsight how much this change has helped and hurt me, but the innocence of this early belief comforts me and puts me to sleep.

“Cyberpunk 2077” is often criticized for not really offering any real vision of the future, but I now realize that it was never intended to represent any kind of future. Cyberpunk 2077 is the future as seen from our past. That was when we still thought flying cars were possible.

Perhaps I, as a 40-year-old man, feel comfortable in the way modern technology repackages a catalog of old and outdated counterculture, all from my youth, a time in my life when I truly felt timeless and youthful, when tomorrow felt assured–until If only this was just a dream.

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None of this means that I’m giving CD Projekt Red a belated statement on how the company will handle the launch of this game. Most egregious are attempts to deceive consumers and journalists, and withhold unplayable PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions until after release. I’m still ready What did you write last year?: CD Projekt Red’s marketing of the game, and the definitive version, turned them from industry darlings into notorious liars. The studio promised a “dream game,” an experience that would fulfill many fantasies for many people. This is not what they called.

But in 2022, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy wrapping myself in CD Projekt Red’s messy, electric dream of events. It fulfills the ultimate promise of the video game medium, the imagination of power to overcome challenges and achieve some kind of episodic emotional achievement, all without dire consequences. “Cyberpunk 2077” helps me create the most valuable memories from this terrible moment in my life.

“Cyberpunk 2077” isn’t a dream game, but it’s an experience that still feels like some kind of dream, even if I can’t fully understand or explain it. To me, that’s all a video game should be.

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