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Are we still playing cyberpunk without irony?

IdenticalChimp

Ape shall not kill ape.
Validated User
#1
When the original edition of Cyberpunk came out in 1988, we were all pretty sure that was how it was going to end up. People were going to swap out organics for cool cyberware, plug in chips for learning and play and headjack their way into complex virtual realities. Sure, maybe that future wasn't going to show up in 2013 like Cyberpunk promised, but it was coming and it was going to look just like Blade Runner. Or Max Headroom, as you prefer.

It's 27 years later and things have happened technologically that we were totally unprepared for. Like this weird internet thing you're looking at right now. Or wireless technology. Or toilet seats that remember the exact temperature you like your tushie to be. All of that. The year 2013 is in our rear view mirror and fading away fast. Heck, 2020 is just five years from now. We are hurtling into a future that doesn't look at all like Blade Runner, and that may be a good or bad thing depending on how you consider the way the world's turning out.

The thing is this: I still love cyberpunk. The genre, not necessarily the game, though I still have fondness for it. And it's pretty clear lots of other people do, too. Most of us are getting gray-haired and... old, but we still remember when the world was gonna change, man, and it was going to happen for us. I suspect when we turn to a game like Remember Tomorrow or Technoir or even a classic like Shadowrun, we're trying to recapture that feeling of an anything-is-possible future where things might be rough, and all of us might not make it, but we're still punk enough to give the finger to The Man.

So I can safely say I'm interested in cyberpunk in a totally serious way because it was something out of my youth. But has cyberpunk just become another retro-future some people play while holding their tongue firmly in their cheek, like they're pretending to be in a Flash Gordon serial? I like to think most folks aren't doing this, and that cyberpunk still has real meaning, but I also know there are people who can vote and drink who don't know Cyberpunk 2020 from a hole in the wall. Are they enjoying the genre without irony? Can they?
 

2097

Sandra
Validated User
#2
("We" in this post means mo and my friends.)
We went through a phase of playing it with irony but then settled into two modes. One is playing it like alt-history. Steampunk came out of this.
It's no weirder playing Cyberpunk 2013 than it is playing Space 1888. Some irony here depending on your definition of that word, but can still be played straight.

The other is updating the settings. Postcyberpunk came out of this. (Think Pattern Recognition or some of Doctorow's work.) Games like Transhuman Space, and Shock came out of this, but also some more traditional cyberpunk games but with the most anachronistic references filed off. Like FFG's Android, or Remember Tomorrow.

A minor fraction combines a great disaster with a cyberpunk aesthetic, like Polychrome, which uses both "It's after a disaster" and "It's on another planet" as excuses to dial down its tech.
 

Jesse_Lowe

Registered User
Validated User
#3
When the original edition of Cyberpunk came out in 1988, we were all pretty sure that was how it was going to end up. People were going to swap out organics for cool cyberware, plug in chips for learning and play and headjack their way into complex virtual realities. Sure, maybe that future wasn't going to show up in 2013 like Cyberpunk promised, but it was coming and it was going to look just like Blade Runner. Or Max Headroom, as you prefer.

It's 27 years later and things have happened technologically that we were totally unprepared for. Like this weird internet thing you're looking at right now. Or wireless technology. Or toilet seats that remember the exact temperature you like your tushie to be. All of that. The year 2013 is in our rear view mirror and fading away fast. Heck, 2020 is just five years from now. We are hurtling into a future that doesn't look at all like Blade Runner, and that may be a good or bad thing depending on how you consider the way the world's turning out.

The thing is this: I still love cyberpunk. The genre, not necessarily the game, though I still have fondness for it. And it's pretty clear lots of other people do, too. Most of us are getting gray-haired and... old, but we still remember when the world was gonna change, man, and it was going to happen for us. I suspect when we turn to a game like Remember Tomorrow or Technoir or even a classic like Shadowrun, we're trying to recapture that feeling of an anything-is-possible future where things might be rough, and all of us might not make it, but we're still punk enough to give the finger to The Man.

So I can safely say I'm interested in cyberpunk in a totally serious way because it was something out of my youth. But has cyberpunk just become another retro-future some people play while holding their tongue firmly in their cheek, like they're pretending to be in a Flash Gordon serial? I like to think most folks aren't doing this, and that cyberpunk still has real meaning, but I also know there are people who can vote and drink who don't know Cyberpunk 2020 from a hole in the wall. Are they enjoying the genre without irony? Can they?
There's also this sentiment, at least among my circle, that we got all the shitty parts of cyberpunk without most of the cool tech. E.g., government surveillance, global disasters, etc. If you want to play a cyberpunk-style game, it's just as easy to play Leverage.
 

Duck Call Lass

New member
Banned
#4
I've always viewed cyberpunk (especially in games) as being all about the irony, to the point that I can't even understand the idea of imagining it as "how it was going to end up." As a genre, cyberpunk is too cynical and over-the-top in its wild extrapolations of already dated trends (OMG JAPANESE CORPS TOOK OVER AMERICA) for me to see it as anything other than ironic satire. I don't think I could ever play it straight.
 

Baffle Mint

Eastern Bloc Robot Cowboy
Validated User
#5
The thing is this: I still love cyberpunk. The genre, not necessarily the game, though I still have fondness for it. And it's pretty clear lots of other people do, too. Most of us are getting gray-haired and... old, but we still remember when the world was gonna change, man, and it was going to happen for us. I suspect when we turn to a game like Remember Tomorrow or Technoir or even a classic like Shadowrun, we're trying to recapture that feeling of an anything-is-possible future where things might be rough, and all of us might not make it, but we're still punk enough to give the finger to The Man.
As far as I can tell that sentiment has been transferred pretty much completely unchanged to Transhumanist games like Eclipse Phase, Sufficiently Advanced, Transhuman Space, etc.

I actually think there's kind of a direct line from Star Trek and The Jestsons, through the cyberpunk thing you're talking about, and from there into transhuman games.

It's all about a sort of near-future techno-utopianism, about a future which is just around the corner when magical machines will solve all of our problems, but the trappings have to be updated every so often as real technology out-paces and falls short of our imaginations.

If it makes you feel better, cyberpunk is probably the genre I'm least cynical about, just because I am a deeply, deeply pessimistic person and I don't trust technology to solve human problems nearly as much as most transhumanists or Star Trek writers seem to.
 

CarpeGuitarrem

Blogger and gamer
Validated User
#6
"Possibility of realism" has never been a criteria, for me, of sci-fi. Hard sci-fi, perhaps, but a lot of sci-fi...well, I play it totally straight but not as "this could happen". If I can play "elves and dwarves and kingdoms" straight, I can totally play "riggers and matrix hackers and street samurai" straight. It's fiction, it's not reality, so it doesn't have to match up. I don't love the atmosphere of Neuromancer because it could turn out that way, I love it because it's mood and poetic technology.
 
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ludomastro

Registered User
Validated User
#7
"Possibility of realism" has never been a criteria, for me, of sci-fi. Hard sci-fi, perhaps, but a lot of sci-fi...well, I play it totally straight but not as "this could happen". If I can play "elves and dwarves and kingdoms" straight, I can totally play "riggers and matrix hackers and street samurai" straight. It's fiction, it's not reality, so it doesn't have to match up. I don't love the atmosphere of Neuromancer because it could turn out that way, I love it because it's mood and poetic technology.
Very well said. I concur.

However, I've played cyberpunk ironically too. I think it depends on the group and the story being told.
 

Iozz-Sothoth

Come see the violence inherent in the system etc.
Staff member
Moderator
RPGnet Member
Validated User
#8
I think you can probably do Gibson-style cyberpunk without irony fairly easily these days, because it has only a superficial resemblance to many of the tropes of cyberpunk as an RPG genre. That's probably true for George Alec Effinger-style stuff as well. (I wonder if the When Gravity Fails book for CP2020 is any good?)
 
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Corvo

Registered User
Validated User
#9
"Possibility of realism" has never been a criteria, for me, of sci-fi. Hard sci-fi, perhaps, but a lot of sci-fi...well, I play it totally straight but not as "this could happen". If I can play "elves and dwarves and kingdoms" straight, I can totally play "riggers and matrix hackers and street samurai" straight. It's fiction, it's not reality, so it doesn't have to match up. I don't love the atmosphere of Neuromancer because it could turn out that way, I love it because it's mood and poetic technology.
Another one that agree.
Cyberpunk isn't "the future". It's science fiction, with its own themes and esthetic, and I like to play it straight.
 

Gee4orce

Registered User
Validated User
#10
Are you kidding me ? I personally can't believe how close to the cyberpunk dystopia the modern day really is. OK we don't have flying cars and chromed up street samurai, but those were always pretty outlandish. But the society seems to be trending towards the cyberpunk dystopia that was predicted - the super rich elite 1% owning more as much wealth as the other 99% of the population, environmental destruction, terrorism and increasing violence, power of corporations outweighing that of entire nations....

Also, this: https://twitter.com/punodraws/status/555401302440947712
 
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