Over the years, accessibility has been garnering more and more attention in the gaming space, and for good reason. While many studios have been making an incredible effort to make games more accessible to all, there is always more work to be done in entertainment; not just games. After playing Cyberpunk 2077 for the past week and a half (our full review can be seen here), there is an epileptic warning I'd like to offer to those Samurai heading into Night City. Enjoy your time, but here is a heads up to do so safely if you're vulnerable to epileptic triggers.
A common trigger for epileptics in media are rapid blinking lights, specifically of the red and white variety. As someone that does have seizures myself due to an injury from my time when I was active duty, the past few years have been a massive learning experience for me when navigating some of my favorite and most anticipated games. I no longer can enjoy titles like Dead Space freely like I used to, which opened up an entirely new world of development that I was previously blind to. Since seizures have become my new norm, I often make sure to pay special attention to certain design choices that can be harmful to those sensitive to neurological traps so that I can decide for myself if something is safe to play, decide if there is a way to work around those obstacles, and try to offer some navigational tools for others that may be facing the same roadblock.
During my time with Cyberpunk 2077, I suffered one major seizure and felt several moments where I was close to another one. I kept going because I made that decision to, and I feel like that decision helped me sort of slap together a small little guide for players wanting to take part in this game for fear of missing out.
Cyberpunk 2077 is about hedonistic excess. Much like the tabletop game that inspired the open-world RPG, everything is brighter, louder, and more in your face. Pair that with the reliance on technological interfacing, and some triggers were expected. With Cyberpunk 2077, however, there are a lot that you need to be aware of. For those excited to experience CD Projekt RED's latest adventure, there is still a way to do so - though there is a risk - but you'll need to know a few things going in.
Due to the nature of interfacing, there is a lot of red glitching animations seen throughout the game's progression. My monitor has an "eye-saving mode" that dims the blue light in my screen that I often use to help with things like this, and that has helped immensely. During my time with Night City, there were moments when walking into clubs and bars that were immediate "danger zones" for epileptics. While I would never recommend someone push past their limits, especially with something as serious as epilepsy, I do know how excitement can push that desire so if it's going to happen, I want you to be as safe as possible. Trust me, I get it. My stubborn butt continues to play Dead Space over and over again despite knowing it usually ends up poorly for me.
Further in the story, interactions with Johnny Silverhand (which was shown in the pre-launch trailers) will be highlighted with a flickering pale blue glitch effect. This won't be a trigger for everyone, but it will for some forms of epilepsy, so that is something to be mindful as well. Look away from the screen with this happens, turn down the brightness of your screen, play around with the colorblind modes; there are a few workarounds here to use if you insist on playing.
Braindances are something that CDPR has been talking about as a feature for awhile now, and it's an intricate part of the story from start to finish. BD's 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. This is also a trigger on many levels, starting with the device itself.
When "suiting up" for a BD, especially with Judy, V will be given a headset that is meant to onset the instance. The headset fits over both eyes and 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. If not modeled off of the IRL design, it's a very spot-on coincidence, and because of that this is one aspect that I would personally advise you to avoid altogether. When you notice the headset come into play, look away completely or close your eyes. This is a pattern of lights designed to trigger an epileptic episode and it very much did that in my own personal playthrough.
Once inside of a BD, there are several layers to "explore" the memory, including a soundwave layer, a thermal layer, and a more digitized way of scanning. Each offers specific glitch animations that could be a danger, especially with the digitized layer. While these can't be avoided for the story, you can pause and play as you wish within these scenarios, making it easier to tailor them where needed, or to call in a gamer backup buddy if absolutely necessary (shoutout to my husband for helping me when the BD's were longer than usual).
Cyberpunk 2077 is a game that is massive with content that will crawl under your skin in true hedonistic fashion, sometimes in the best way. Our own Andrew Reiner gave the CDPR title a 9 out of 10, which you can learn more about right here.
For more on epilepsy and how to protect yourself, you can check out more right here through the Epilepsy Foundation to learn more. You can also check out our interview with Microsoft to see how they are tackling neurological episodes such as this.
[Update 12/11/2020]: After working with the studio to come up with safer animations, a new update is now live that includes a modified version of the braindance animation. Enjoy Night City, samurai.