Game Informer associate editor Liana Ruppert reported yesterday that she suffered a grand mal seizure while playing a review copy of Cyberpunk 2077, due to the game’s use of various flashing visual effects. She wrote an article for the site advising players on how to avoid similar experiences, which in some rare instances can be life threatening. The PC build of the game reviewers currently have access to doesn’t include any warnings about these effects, though such warnings are common across the industry. [Update - 1:51 p.m. ET, 12/8/20: The game’s EULA does include a seizure warning but does not appear when regularly booting up the game. We’re unable to confirm if it appears upon the very first boot-up after installation.
“During my time with Cyberpunk 2077, I suffered one major seizure and felt several moments where I was close to another one,” Ruppert wrote. She said that her seizure was caused by lights that flash when your character puts on a headset to experience a Braindance, a game mechanic that lets protagonist V experience and explore other characters’ memories. Ruppert detailed:
“Braindances are something that [developer] CDPR has been talking about as a feature for awhile now, and it’s an intricate part of the story from start to finish. BDs 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.”
While Ruppert’s account attracted a lot of attention online since yesterday, development studio and publisher CD Projekt Red has not commented about it. [Update - 2:26 p.m. ET, 12/8/20: CD Projekt Red publicly acknowledged the issues in a tweet this afternoon, stating that it is working on adding a separate warning aside from the one that appears in the EULA. “Regarding a more permanent solution, Dev team is currently exploring that and will be implementing it as soon as possible,” the studio wrote. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ruppert explained that the in-game headset used for Braindances “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.” Kotaku staff who have played the game have seen the effect as well, as there are numerous Braindances in the game.
Ruppert pointed out several other effects that could be concerning for people who experience seizures, including red glitching animations and a “flickering pale blue glitch effect” that appears when Keanue Reeves-voiced character Johnny Silverhand interacts with the player. “This won’t be a trigger for everyone, but it will for some forms of epilepsy.”
There is an option in the settings menu to toggle off some of the ways Johnny Silverhand affects your HUD, but the option is only available if you open the settings menu from inside a playthrough, not before you start a game.
Which effects could trigger seizures in people varies widely, but the version of the game currently available to reviewers doesn’t come with any warning at the beginning. These warnings are standard in many other games; for instance, they’re common across all Ubisoft games. Console manufacturers like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have general warnings about potential epileptic triggers in games available on their websites.
It’s not known if the version of Cyberpunk 2077 that reached certification to be sold on consoles and is being shipped for PS4 and Xbox One is also missing a seizure warning at startup, or if it has additional accessibility features for tracking and turning off potential triggers. CD Projekt Red does not appear to have provided the console version of Cyberpunk 2077 to any outlets prior to yesterday’s review embargo.
Sony and Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether issues about potential seizure triggers came up during the certification process for the game on either company’s platform.
Ruppert also reported being harassed online for sharing her experience with the game. “I’ve been sent hundreds of videos disguised as support that are deliberate flashing to induce photosensitive triggers,” she wrote on Twitter. This continues a contemptible trend among some people loudly anticipating this game and attacking anyone who is perceived to say anything negative about it. Yesterday, some of Cyberpunk 2077’s toxic fanbase took aim at GameSpot over a review that was deemed insufficiently positive. CD Projekt Red hasn’t yet commented on this apparent targeted harassment either.
For those who suffer from epilepsy but still wish to play the game, Ruppert advised making use of “an ‘eye-saving mode’ that dims the blue light in my screen,” looking away during certain scenes, or getting a friend to help play through those scenes. Console manufacturers also recommend playing in well-lit rooms, not playing when tired, using a smaller monitor, and taking breaks. More information can be found on the Epilepsy Foundation’s website.
Update - 1:04 p.m. ET, 12/9/20: CD Projekt Red referred Kotaku to its tweet about the issue and declined to comment further.
At the same time I started playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Xbox Series S today and did not encounter any EULA I had to read through and agree to. A spokesperson for Microsoft declined to comment on if and where a seizure warning appears in the game on Xbox platforms, but provided the following statement:
Creating a place that is safe and inclusive is a priority for us. That’s why we publish and share our Accessibility Guidelines with all of our gaming partners. We continue to work in partnership with other publishers, industry experts and members of the gaming and disability community to evolve and improve our certification process and we encourage all players to review warnings on all games.
Update - 2:27 p.m. ET, 12/10/20: A new seizure warning has been added to the game’s 1.03 version on PC upon startup: