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Cyberpunk in 2008

noisms

Booze Hound
Validated User
So there have been a few Cyberpunk-related threads knocking around, and they've got me thinking: Cyberpunk settings (2020, Shadowrun, etc.) are rooted in the 80's. The fashion, for one thing, but also the major concerns/issues - street crime, the rise of Japan, the continuation of communism, and the possibilities of technology.

Three of the four now seem incredibly naive. Japan is sputtering along, communism is gone and forgotten in all but a few enclaves, and street crime is not the moral panic it once was. So where would a modern-day Cyberpunk game draw its influences and key concerns from?

Half of me wants to say "William Gibson, same as it ever was"; his latest books are leading the way in an entirely new direction, as they always have. But what else would people envisage a modern-day Cyberpunk game being like? I would say important themes would be:

-Nanotechnology rather than cyberarms and the like
-The rise of China and India
-Global warming/climate change (real or imagined)
-International terrorism
-Re-emergence of a nuclear threat in the form of rogue states

From our current standpoint, what would your vision of a "cyberpunk future" be?
 

howard david ingham

We Don't Go Back
Validated User
The other thing trad cyberpunk failed to predict was that mega-corporations wouldn't really exist so much as a vast web of brands, franchises and outsourced contractors.

I had this idea that it would be impossible to get any job that wasn't freelance. And certainly no chance of a permanent position.

Meanwhile, industry moves to Economic Protection Zones even more than it is today: sweatshop labour develops new teeth - brand-licensed freelancers (PCs) get sent to check out the efficiency of a sweatshop, because there are rumours that the workers might form a union. If it looks like the workers might unionise, the mercs have to organise the "clearing" of the site.

As in, they have to call down a missile strike and wipe it off the planet. Do they? How do they live with themselves? If they don't, how do they hide the evidence?

Or they get sent to protect the brand identity of the pet wing - there's a mongrel dog called Fluffy who belongs to a cute kid and basically he dilutes brand identity by his very existence, so they have to KILL FLUFFY. Except it's never that simple.

Or some film star whose identity is owned by the brand "misuses" his ID and the PCs are sent to get him so he can be wiped. Because his identity, personality and name are the intellectual property of the brand.

Or you know how the Chechen Mafia in Russia sell franchises (really)? What if the mob was actually one wing of the same brand umbrella that owned the police, and the PCs had to organise brand protection for both groups (and neither really knows who's paying the shots)?

Much of this would be set in Mumbai or New Delhi.
 

Lord Minx

Active member
Validated User
My modern Cyberpunk game would feature one thing very prominently: Surveillance and the general eroding of privacy on and offline in the name of Security and Defense against Terrorism.

In other word, maybe a bit less Gibson and more Doctorow. (Though I haven't read Gibsons latest, so I don't know where that goes.)

But that's just me...

EDIT: Also, the whole IP-lawyers-with-guns angle Wood mentions. That too.
 
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Mailanka

Honest Eshu
Validated User
I think Wood's take is pretty good. I'd also expand on your international terrorist scheme there: Clandestine agents (or even mercenaries) hunting down rogue agenst out in the deserts or the cities of North Korea or Zimbabwe or whatever dangerou-state-of-the-week that you want.

I wouldn't entirely count out organized crime. Colombians are still a menace, and russia is basically ruled by the mob at this point.

In short, Cyberpunk would look alot like a modern techno-thriller, but it always sorta did. From certain perspectives, you could argue that we're already operating in a cyberpunk era: hacker-warfare is a reality already, cybernetic limbs grow in number and sophistication, and the world is ripe for clandestine action as overt military/economic warfare grows less and less popular.
 

Asklepios

Registered User
Validated User
-Nanotechnology rather than cyberarms and the like
-The rise of China and India
-Global warming/climate change (real or imagined)
-International terrorism
-Re-emergence of a nuclear threat in the form of rogue states
All good stuff. I'd add on the following:


- Biotechnology

As in tailored viruses, data-packages encoded onto bacteria, that sort of thing.

Its ripe with story potential - the runners could have to locate a corporate exec who carries in his blood security information for his corporation, but which is encrypted and needs to be "hacked" through bloodrunning in vitro. The team will have to capture the exec alive, then connect up their deck to enter the infosphere biospace, guiding nanobot techviruses via a virtual reality neuro-link.


- Surveillance

You're being watched, always. Whereas in traditional cyberpunk its all about freedom of information, now its about the right to privacy and free thought. Runners could try to break the government's behavioural psych profiling database and then stick the information out in the public domain, with the goal of showing the facility to be insecure, and thus forcing governments to back down on the latest bill that is planning to extend surveillance.


Global exploitation

This was happening back in the 80s, but we're much more aware of it these days. Human rights issues are much more to the forefront of the public consciousness, and the average Cyberpunk gamer is likely to view the powers-that-be as exploiters of the third world.
Taking the battle to poorer countries allows you to run a much grittier sort of game as well, and put real menaing on the runners actions.


Resource Shortage

Along with the eco-agenda, there is the fact that in a cyberpunk setting now we may be able to assume a global energy crisis. It's all about oil.
 

howard david ingham

We Don't Go Back
Validated User
I wouldn't entirely count out organized crime. Colombians are still a menace, and Russia is basically ruled by the mob at this point.
In fact, there's good arguments for the mob basically being an essential part of the economy of most of Eastern Europe and Asia.

So yeah - definitely the organised crime angle.

- Surveillance

You're being watched, always. Whereas in traditional cyberpunk its all about freedom of information, now its about the right to privacy and free thought. Runners could try to break the government's behavioural psych profiling database and then stick the information out in the public domain, with the goal of showing the facility to be insecure, and thus forcing governments to back down on the latest bill that is planning to extend surveillance.


Global exploitation

This was happening back in the 80s, but we're much more aware of it these days. Human rights issues are much more to the forefront of the public consciousness, and the average Cyberpunk gamer is likely to view the powers-that-be as exploiters of the third world.
Taking the battle to poorer countries allows you to run a much grittier sort of game as well, and put real menaing on the runners actions.


Resource Shortage

Along with the eco-agenda, there is the fact that in a cyberpunk setting now we may be able to assume a global energy crisis. It's all about oil.
And all of these are spot on.
 

Asklepios

Registered User
Validated User
Also, if we regard Cyberpunk as a game about society's fears manifested, rather than just extension of society's problems, then there should be some mention of sex crimes, especially those involving abuse.

Its very much in the media of the last 10 years to be terrified of paediphiles lurking around every corner. Undoubtedly there's a real problem, but also undoubtedly the hype level exceeds the actual problem.

So in a 2008 cyberpunk setting, it'd be worth considering such thematic elements into the setting and games, though obviously only if handled in a mature and sensitive way.

To crib off pop media, we could look at Ghost in the Machine 2: Innocence which has mass-produced sex-androids who look like little girls and who (spoiler follows)
Spoiler: Show
are realistic because the corporation kidnaps real little girls and uses their neurological tissue.


Other spin off ideas - with VR, there could be a whole VR-porn industry based around underage or otherwise perverse encounters, leading to interesting moral debates in game.
 

Shan Andy

One man and his giraffe
Validated User
I think communication would also be a big issue. It's where we've seen some of the biggest cultural shifts over the last couple of decades (in Britain certainly).

On the one hand, communication has never been easier: everyone's got at least one mobile, a few email accounts and a land line, not to mention various internet based communications. Everything's great.

On the other, those comms are more closely monitored and scrutinised by others. The government are monitoring for our security, criminals are looking to skim our details for ID theft and I dare say others are doing it for whatever reason. everything sucks.

For me, one of the key features of cyberpunk was that the masses had one lifestyle, but the protagonists were outside of it for whatever reason. With comms you have people meeting in person because they can't be sure they're not being monitored by someone.
 
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