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Cyberpunk Creator Mike Pondsmith on Cyberpunk 2077 and Cyberpunk Red

Mike Pondsmith at Cyberpunk 2077 event, via Twitter

Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most highly-anticipated games in the world and has been for the last couple of years. Knowing this, developers CD Projekt Red went all-out to showcase the game and announce its release date at E3 2019. Not only did they titillate fans with a closer look at the huge world of Cyberpunk 2077 and give it an April 2020 release date, but they also brought on actor Keanu Reeves to announce his role in the game.

Unfortunately, as will always be the case with a major release in entertainment now that social media is such a prominent part of our lives, a loud minority voiced some criticisms of Cyberpunk 2077, notably labelling it as racist and transphobic. Some of this discontent has been aimed at the creator of the Cyberpunk universe, Mike Pondsmith, who made the Cyberpunk tabletop role-playing games. Pondsmith is well-known by the tabletop and video gaming community and doesn’t shy away when someone has an issue with his creations.

Mike Pondsmith: Legend in tabletop and now video gaming

Despite his major credits coming from the tabletop gaming industry, Mike Pondsmith started his career as a graphic designer in the video game industry. But due to there being very few jobs available in the video game industry in the 1980s, Pondsmith decided to turn to his hobby of playing pen and paper games and create his own titles, the first of which was called Mekton and was based on Japanese manga books.

Mekton was a success, and so Pondsmith decided to found R. Talsorian Games in 1985, which led to the re-release of Mekton as well as new creations in the following years like Teenagers from Outer Space, Mekton II, Cyberpunk, Castle Falkenstein, and Dream Park. Of course, the most famous of these creations now is Cyberpunk, which was originally released as a tabletop RPG in 1988 with the long form title of Cyberpunk The Roleplaying Game of the Dark Future, and was set in 2013. Cyberpunk 2020 followed in 1990 as a handbook with updated gameplay mechanics and story arcs. Later, CyberGeneration offered an alternate timeline for the Cyberpunk universe in 1993, followed by the 2005 release of Cyberpunk v3.0.

In 2012, CD Projekt Red, hot on the heels of the 2011 release of their novel adaptation video game The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, announced that they would be working with Mike Pondsmith on creating a Cyberpunk video game. This announcement was joined by another which informed pen and paper fans of the franchise that a new tabletop RPG was coming along with the video game, with Pondsmith creating the pen and paper game as well as being very involved in the world creation and mechanics of Cyberpunk 2077.

One of the reasons why Mike Pondsmith is such a beloved figure in pen and paper gaming, and now video gaming, is because he’s very active at game conventions and in the gaming communities. Of course, Pondsmith’s games earn him the fan base, but he never fails to give interesting and insightful interviews or comments on topics relating to his created universes – which fans adore.

Cyberpunk 2077 causing a bit of a stir

Pondsmith has stated many times that it has been a collaborative effort between himself and CD Projekt Red, describing it as them babysitting Cyberpunk for a while, and then him babysitting, trading back and forth making sure that nothing goes wrong. He also cites in the above-linked source an occasion where he didn’t deem the gun design to be Cyberpunk, and so he sat down with the creators, explained how it should be, and they accepted the ideas and worked to correct the design.

Cyberpunk 2077 is set in the dystopian future of Mike Pondsmith’s setting of Night City in the Free State of California. A feature of the setting is robotic enhancements, lawlessness, and greedy corporations which rule the city, state, and country. In the gameplay footage shown of Cyberpunk 2077, a loud minority focussed on a poster showing a transgender person, calling the image transphobic, as well as an early conflict that some deem to be racist.

Cyberpunk 2077 announcement image, via Twitter
Credit: DualShockers, via Twitter

The most vocal major outlet which has set its sights on discrediting the game is RockPaperShotgun, which has doubled down on accusing the game and the creator of its source material as being racist. While the articles making the accusations still stand, the founder has since deleted their criticisms of Pondsmith from Twitter. Being the creator of the universe and having collaborated on the video game, Pondsmith was quick to quash these claims.

Addressing the issues via Reddit, Pondsmith: verified that he’s been heavily involved in the video game; clarified why the clan ‘Animals’ donned such a name while being mostly comprised of black people; praised the game adaptation of his ‘Voodoo Boys’. Lastly, Pondsmith slated the accusers, asking them who they thought they were to tell him if his creation was done correctly. As you would expect, the response earned a lot of virtual praise from fans of his work and those who are excited for Cyberpunk 2077.

Next for Cyberpunk tabletop games

Cyberpunk 2077 will arrive in April 2020, so if you want to experience the Cyberpunk universe in its true form first, R. Talsorian Games will be releasing the new tabletop RPG entitled Cyberpunk Red on 1 August 2019. Mike Pondsmith was already working on Cyberpunk Red by the time CD Projekt Red came knocking, making the ‘Red’ part of the name a mere coincidence, but the two game designers have worked closely together to tie the timelines. The original Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk 2020, Cyberpunk Red, and Cyberpunk 2077 all follow the same timeline in that order, so Red will work as a great way to integrate newcomers to the universe.

Cyberpunk Red, which has the long form title of Cyberpunk: The Time of the Red, comes from Pondsmith’s idea that the skies above the cities have turned pitch red due to the fires and explosions that were taking place in California, Washington, and elsewhere. For five years after the corporate war takes place and bombs are dropped, the sky is bright red in the morning, but then this begins to settle. Red is to be a way for Pondsmith’s universe to reset things and bring in a new phase which eventually leads to the neon-lit environment of Cyberpunk 2077.

Video gamers all over the world are looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077, but it’s the fans of Mike Pondsmith’s tabletop role-playing creations which stand to enjoy the next nine months the most. Not only do they get to experience Pondsmith’s universe in video game form, but they also get a long-awaited new edition to the pen and paper game.