Generally I neglect I dwell in New York Metropolis. Certain, I’m hit with a battering ram of a reminder when my monumental lease invoice exhibits up, however even once I trip the subway to Manhattan or see a few of my greatest associates who’ve lived right here their complete lives, it usually looks like I’m simply visiting.
After I began working right here at Kotaku final December, I used a screenshot of Cyberpunk 2077 as the highest picture for my intro submit. It confirmed my customized primary character V on his boyfriend Kerry Eurodyne’s again deck, posing with the metropolis capitalist hellscape of Night time Metropolis within the background. In that piece, I went into how I had been attempting to maneuver into a giant metropolis for a very long time, and now I lastly did it. It was the top of a decade-long journey to depart the conservative confines of small-town Georgia. As completely satisfied as I’m to be right here, I usually really feel just like the fish in that final scene of Discovering Nemo, who, after escaping a dentist’s workplace aquarium and reaching the ocean, have a look at one another and ask “now what?”
Getting misplaced in Night time Metropolis
Cyberpunk 2077 was at all times a flawed sport, however it created a convincing phantasm of dwelling in a metropolis. I discovered a variety of consolation in roleplaying a homosexual man in Night time Metropolis, who had flashy garments, a vibrant social life that usually concerned clubbing, a gaggle of queer associates in Judy and Claire, a horny, trash bag boyfriend, and a way of group I didn’t have in Georgia.
Most of my associates in my real-life small city had lengthy moved on by the point I obtained out of there. There was nothing to remain for when you weren’t beginning your individual household, and even when that had been my plan, there weren’t precisely individuals for a queer males to begin a household with. Residing in a city with only some thousand individuals, just some eating places that weren’t fast-food chains, and a primarily conservative, cishet, white inhabitants drained all of the spirit out of me for the primary 30 years of my life.
And Cyberpunk 2077 drains my spirit in a completely totally different approach. It places on an elaborate show of the hellish gristmill it initiatives we’ll all dwell in 50 years from now, embodied within the methods Night time Metropolis tears down everybody who lives in it. My Streetkid V grew up on this metropolis, and has seen the methods it disproportionately harms the poor whereas they bleed in service of the wealthy. Whilst he ascends to the ranks of Night time Metropolis legend as a mercenary, he doesn’t lose sight of the best way corporations just like the AI-driven Arasaka Company deal with individuals like their property for use and discarded.
Although I didn’t dwell in a metropolis like Night time Metropolis, I’d been lengthy accustomed to these emotions of frustration towards capitalism and the way it’s stored me and everybody I do know and love below its boot. I come from a lower-middle class household, and spent most of my 20s under the poverty line, barely in a position to afford even the comparatively low cost lease I paid in Georgia whereas working by means of faculty and after I graduated with a level no employer requested me about and a variety of pupil debt. I invested my time and power right into a journalism diploma in pursuit of a job just like the one I’ve now, foolishly pondering it was a surefire strategy to find yourself in a metropolis just like the one I dwell in now, just for it to take a decade of labor to make it there. I made it, however I’ve watched dozens of colleagues get floor into mud on the best way right here.
Cyberpunk 2077 and the actual world
Cyberpunk 2077 embodies a variety of my emotions about my career and the broad state of late-stage capitalism we dwell in. It doesn’t have hope that methods can change, however it does have hope that collectively, we are able to survive them. Corpos promising immortality within the type of an AI reconstruction of your psyche can’t prevent, however human connections can. The difficulty for me was that, in actual life, these connections have been facilitated by Discord calls and the occasional flight to go to associates. To dwell in Georgia was to be remoted, and the load of loneliness I might really feel as I attempted to sleep each night time was usually an excessive amount of to bear.
I don’t play open-world video games fairly often, however all through 2022, I might flip my PlayStation 5 on at the hours of darkness simply to placed on V’s greatest outfit and drive round Night time Metropolis with none actual objective in thoughts, discovering solace within the dense metropolis. I’d usually set the in-game clock to nighttime so I might see the neon indicators and billboards lit up and picture I’m in a metropolis that, even when it embodied the worst of this nation’s systemic points, had corners of belonging to fill. I might swing by Kerry’s mansion simply to sit down on the sofa and chat. I’d go to the Afterlife bar and see Claire. Then I’d summon Jackie’s bike to my location and drive previous the skyscrapers to think about who and what may be inside them.
The previous few years have been stuffed with fixed delays to my shifting plans. The pandemic hit in 2020, simply after I began one other journalism job that truly paid me a dwelling wage. I had a medical process that I spent years getting ready for that will have been upended completely if I moved throughout the nation. Then I used to be laid off from my final job earlier than beginning right here. After I lastly obtained the job at Kotaku, I had the ultimate interview by means of a banded-shut jaw, however I used to be so determined to get out of Georgia and right into a metropolis that I put myself by means of hell to make it work.
Now I’m right here, and after 9 months, I’m enjoying Cyberpunk 2077 once more for the primary time since shifting into the massive metropolis because of the Phantom Liberty enlargement. As glad as I’m to be in NYC, I can’t ignore the acquainted feeling of heat I get when inhabiting V once more in a digital metropolis. It seems, enjoying by means of the story of a man who spent his life in a harmful, expansive metropolis is considerably extra soothing than the tradition shock of truly shifting to a metropolis after years on the other aspect of the nation.
To be clear, I’m advantageous. I’m greater than advantageous. Even after going by means of in all probability the toughest yr of my life, I do know if I had been dwelling in Georgia throughout half of issues I went by means of in 2023 I might have been a lot worse off. However a long time of dreaming of a spot can’t put together you for what it looks like to maneuver there, thousand miles away from all the pieces you’ve ever recognized.
I’m fortunate sufficient that a few of my greatest associates are already right here, and I on the very least knew most of my coworkers earlier than I moved to New York Metropolis. So I used to be in a position to, in some methods, circumvent the debilitating loneliness that usually accompanies a cross-country transfer. Besides, it nonetheless doesn’t really feel like I’ve discovered “dwelling” right here, but. A whole lot of the time I spend with others is latching onto part of their lives as a substitute of constructing one thing that looks like “mine.”
I catch glimpses of a future life that’s mine once I sit on my buddy’s again deck and listen to the sound of the shuttle passing by, or once I’m in a position to in-person test on a buddy who appears to be going by means of a tough time. Hell, the welled-up feeling I get once I stroll previous skyscrapers in Manhattan stirs extra emotion in me than any a part of that small city in Georgia did in 30 years. However these moments like taking within the surroundings remind me of the issues I did in Cyberpunk 2077, as if that’s my solely body of reference when an precise metropolis lies glittering earlier than me.
Gizmodo revealed a chunk in August about how, within the age of expertise, we develop into so attuned to facsimiles of our lives that we neglect the best way to work together with them once they’re proper in entrance of us—like struggling to flirt with somebody in particular person while you’re used to speaking on apps or navigating a brand new place with out the help of a GPS. In some methods, I really feel like Night time Metropolis is that facsimile I’m tuned into, regardless of now dwelling in a significant metropolis. I stare, awestruck, at large buildings on my approach dwelling and surprise what goes on inside, however I by no means go inside to search out out. Each native New Yorker tells me about all the good meals that’s right here, however I nonetheless usually fall again on ol’ dependable chain eating places as a result of I get nervous attempting out new issues on my own. That isn’t helped by how a lot of a toll shifting to some of the costly cities within the nation with none monetary help took on me. The price of a late-night Wendy’s Doordash generally feels just like the distinction between paying lease or getting evicted.
However a few of that’s what I anticipated. I knew that, regardless of it being framed as an exaggerated commentary on American cities, Night time Metropolis is fairly true to life. We are already within the capitalist hellscape CD Projekt Crimson lovingly crafted. However dwelling in a spot the place I can discover individuals like Kerry and Judy, locations like Afterlife, and a group just like the Aldecaldos was at all times the objective, even when it meant dragging myself to a metropolis that’s constructed upon so many platitudes. We don’t have to congregate in these costly cities, however we do to be able to discover individuals like us simply attempting to get by, who’re all additionally hoping to make even the slightest distinction earlier than we’re gone.
Night time Metropolis is a continuing reminder that we’re all simply money owed to be collected, statistics to be compiled and bought to the very best bidder, or cells on a spreadsheet. Residing in New York Metropolis has jogged my memory of the identical realities, however in contrast to V, I’m nonetheless looking for my place in it. Some days dwelling within the metropolis makes me really feel like I solely exist so totally different forces can minimize items from me—the MTA, my landlord, Google’s web optimization whims. I’m simply the articles I write, the payments I pay, the meals I purchase. However once in a while I am going on a date with a stranger who’s been right here his complete life and he takes me to the San Gennaro pageant, which I wouldn’t have gone to on my own, or certainly one of my associates recommends we go to a barcade that has indie video games arrange in arcade cupboards that I had no thought existed. It’s then that it looks like these items of me town takes are slowly put again collectively. I nonetheless don’t know what feeling of “dwelling” I’m on the lookout for right here, however I’m nonetheless wanting and ready for that second when all of it clicks. That has to depend for one thing, proper?
Cyberpunk 2077 helped me extra vividly think about a life I dreamt of for thus lengthy. Now I’m right here, in a metropolis that may very well be within the sport, and it’s now not one thing I’m simply aspiring to achieve, it’s one thing I can contact and form. I don’t know that I’ll be a New York Metropolis legend like V was to Night time Metropolis, however not less than right here there are days I really feel like I may be one thing.