On Loss, Grief, and Cyberpunk 2077
Rest in power, choom
I’ve been bouncing the idea to write this article around for a few weeks now, as I don’t always know if a professional gaming magazine is the correct avenue to express these feelings, but I’m going to try my best.
A few weeks ago I lost a very close friend of mine. His name was Andrew. Life became too much for him to handle, and he made the decision to take his own life rather than continue to suffer the way he had been for a long time. Andrew was in therapy. He was socially active, half a dozen hobbies placing him in numerous communities. He was reaching out, connecting with people and expanding his social group. He had a successful career as a union tradesman, having just gotten his mechanic status after five long years of apprenticeship and hard work. He was a happy-go-lucky guy who always tried to see the positive in every situation. He was doing everything right. He was trying to love life, but ultimately, the dark voices haunting him every day just became too loud for him to ignore.
I had the pleasure of living with him through one of the most influential and earth-shattering experiences of our lives: the 2020 Covid-19 quarantine. We moved in together in March 2020 and lived together until March 2022. For anyone who had roommates during this tumultuous time, you know that the forced isolation meant you got to know your roommates much more intimately than you would otherwise, and this was no exception.
My housemates (six of us in total) and I got to know each other like family during those two years, including the ultimately petty squabbles family members so frequently have. Andrew and I argued about pretty much every aspect of our lives; bodybuilding, politics, whether Reddit was a legitimate source of reliable scientific information (it’s usually not) and whether vegetables in any form are actually any good (they usually are.) Anything and everything was on the table for discussion, debate, argument, and insult. Within six months of isolation, we became bona fide brothers. One thing we bonded over consistently, however, was video games.
It started with me convincing Andrew and our fellow housemate Dalton to download Warzone onto the two gaming PCs we had in our house while I had it on PlayStation. After some doing, we often found ourselves sitting down and willing away our quarantine days with being wiped off Verdansk and complaining about how unbalanced and frustrating Warzone was. Eventually, it went from Warzone to our deepest Covid time sink: Respawn's Apex Legends.
We spent dozens of hours sitting in front of our respective gaming peripherals, coordinating strategic rushes and lamenting at the poor aim and survival instincts of the other two housemates. Andrew was legitimately obsessed, becoming one of the best and most entertaining players I’ve ever had the pleasure of squadding up with. He frequently had 9-12 kill games, pulling off maneuvers that would make eSports fanatics blush. It was an awesome way to spend an otherwise depressing time in our lives, and I will cherish those memories for as long as I live.
Despite being a multiplayer-only kind of guy (Andrew was incredibly driven and competitive), one infamous title caught his eye in a way others never did. The massive disappointment that was Cyberpunk 2077.
I constantly caught Andrew quietly obsessing over the promises of Cyberpunk. I would come upstairs to see him lounging on the couch, reading Reddit threats, watching YouTube interviews and gameplay footage, occasionally calling me over to show me something else that you could do in-game that he was excited about.
He talked about how hilarious and strange it was to see Keanu Reeves as Johnny Silverhand. We discussed the idea of Night City, and opportunities it presented as a gaming launch pad. He talked about it often and when we weren’t bickering about who are the best Legends, we were probably talking about Cyberpunk.
I, like everyone else, was also excited about Cyberpunk, but I’ve been in the gaming world for a while. Having been burned one too many times (looking at you, Fallout 76), I kept my expectations to a minimum. Still, I didn’t want to kill his enthusiasm, as I never seen him excited about anything gaming related other than new Apex Legends becoming available through updates. So I kept my warranted skepticism to myself.
Doubt still lingered in his mind, it seemed. Despite his excitement, he chose not to pre-order Cyberpunk 2077. Instead, he and I waited in anticipation for the reviews to roll in and the streamers to gush about how exciting this new game was. The day came where Cyberpunk 2077 unleashed onto the hungry public and it was one of the most notorious flops in recent gaming history.
CD Projekt RED released Cyberpunk 2077 in a buggy, unstable, unfinished and — for some players — unplayable state. The disaster reached all new lows when Sony removed it from the PlayStation store, meaning if you owned a Sony console, the only way to get the game would be to purchase the physical version. If you played games (or spent any time on the internet) after Cyberpunk’s launch, you are aware of how rough the game truly was. Needless to say, Andrew was understandably bummed. It didn’t take long, however, for our constant (and by then outdated) talk of the excellence of Cyberpunk to be channelled into something different: the endless glitch compilations.
The internet wasted no time. There were dozens of compilations of the horrors seen throughout Cyberpunk 2077 within hours of the game’s release. Glitches stemmed from NPCs not rendering, cars clipping through the environment, police officers spawning in droves in front of the player, V T-posing on their bike, their pants inexplicably gone, NPCs not responding to gunfire, the game stuttering and crashing, lighting effects not generating – it goes on. All of this set to the (admittedly outstanding) thumping techno soundtrack that helped hype up so many people at the game’s release. It felt as if every possible bug a video game could face found its way into Cyberpunk 2077.
Andrew’s obsession with Cyberpunk went from the game itself to the absolute circus the game had become when it was first released. After a hard day’s work, countless afternoons featured us sitting on our couch together, laughing like idiots at the ridiculous state of this huge AAA title. Regardless of how we were feeling or what we were doing, a quick Cyberpunk meme guaranteed a laugh and a conversation about the state of gaming as a whole.
I needed a distraction in the wake of Andrew’s passing. I needed to not live in this world for a few days so I could process this empty pit in my heart I had developed after discovering what had happened. Previously, I bought a copy of Cyberpunk 2077 on eBay for about $6.50, planning on inviting Andrew over one of our free weekends and exploring the wonderfully buggy world of Night City together, hopefully laughing just like we did in quarantine.
There are multiple big titles that have released recently that I could have delved into, but as I stared at my backlog in a grief-stricken foggy haze, I saw the garish yellow spine of Cyberpunk’s game case. In that instant, I could think of no better way to process the passing of a close friend than to detach from our reality and delve headfirst into this experience that had already brought us so much unadulterated joy. I popped the game in and played for countless hours every day for a week straight, embarking on a baffling techno-future adventure with Keanu Reeves as my partner in crime.
Ultimately, Cyberpunk is just fine. It won’t blow your socks off — CDPR was woefully unprepared for taking on a game like this and the unfinished nature of it shows — and it crashed on me a few times. However, for me, ultimately it wouldn’t have mattered if it was the worst game on the planet.
Every time an NPC spawned in my car and went flying, I hit an object going too fast and launch Johnny Silverhand’s priceless Porsche 911 into the stratosphere, or V falls through the map only to spawn in the middle of an enemy hideout, it’s a reminder of all those times I sat on the couch with my friend and bonded over something silly and fun during a time of undeniable instability.
Every time I boot up the game, it reminds me of the good times we had together and reinforces how important video games are on a level that’s so much deeper than what it appears on the surface. Because of this, I think it will always be one of my favorite video games, and it has brought me untold comfort during this unbelievably dark time in my life, despite the amount of nicks I’ve received on the game’s many and obvious rough edges.
Please be kind to the people in your life. Smile at strangers. Ask how people are doing. Check up on your friends. Try to have patience. Most importantly, be kind to yourself. Let yourself enjoy the things in life that are important to you. Play that game that you’ve been thinking about, see if your old gaming buddy wants to play a round or two, boot up the old PlayStation 1 and indulge in some nostalgia, and cherish the time you spend with the people around you.
We’re all in this together, and even if bonding with someone means something as stupid as watching YouTube videos about how bad a video game is, remember to cherish those times and allow yourself to be close with the people you experience these things with. Live unapologetically, and lift the people around you up as much as you can. It’s what Andrew always did.
Rest in power, choom.
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