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Epilepsy charity ask Cyberpunk 2077 to rethink seizure risks

One reviewer suffered a seizure

After one Cyberpunk 2077 reviewer suffered a seizure during a particularly visually-intense section of the game, an epilepsy charity have called for CD Projekt Red to consider updating the game in response. It's perhaps not surprising that the dystopian RPG has garish nightclubs and computer glitches, but one particular gadget bears flashing lights with a dangerously striking resemblance to medical devices used to intentionally trigger seizures. Yeah, this might be a problem, Epilepsy Action say.

Update: CDPR say they're working on it, with both an extra warning and tentative plans for "a more permanent solution". More info below.

Game Informer's Liana Ruppert reported that several parts of Cyberpunk could be dangerous for epileptics. Along with interface glitchbits and nightclubs that you might expect to be hazardous, one particular part caused her to have a grand mal seizure: the 'braindances' where we jack into someone's memories. She explained:

"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."

Ruppert also noted braindances have lots of glitchy bits too. She talks a lot about managing risk so she (and others) can still play the game, but recognise which elements might be unsafe and know when it's best to look away, close your eyes, or even have someone else take over. A machine which happens to look a lot like something intended to trigger seizures probably isn't something anyone expected to encounter. And yeah, video games commonly come with epilepsy warnings, but the medium needn't be off-limits.

CDPR showed braindances during this Night City Wire, starting at 11:10 - but be warned that this does include those blinking LEDs, from 12:40:

"We are alarmed and saddened that a game reviewer had a seizure triggered by Cyberpunk 2077, before it was even launched," said Louise Cousins, Epilepsy Action's director of external affairs. "The game features rapidly blinking lights and other animations that could cause seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy. These features are unsafe and should have been avoided to make the game more accessible. With huge demand and excitement building for its release, it may pose a serious risk to people with photosensitive epilepsy. The developers CD Projekt RED should consider how they can update the game to make it safer. A disclaimer warning at the beginning isn't enough."

If certain parts are particularly dangerous, options to disable them sound sensible. They're only visual flair. Though they could still surprise people with epilepsy who don't know it yet. As Cousins noted, "87 people are diagnosed with epilepsy every day, and their first seizure can often come out of nowhere."

I contacted CD Projekt Red about this issue earlier today, but have not heard back.

Update: "Thank you for bringing this up," CDPR said in a tweet replying to Game Informer. "We're working on adding a separate warning in the game, aside from the one that exists in the EULA. Regarding a more permanent solution, Dev team is currently exploring that and will be implementing it as soon as possible."

Update to the update: A warning is now in.

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Alice O'Connor

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When not writing news, Alice may be found in the sea.

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