• The Infractions Forum is available for public view. Please note that if you have been suspended you will need to open a private/incognito browser window to view it.

Tell me about Cyberpunk...

Daddy Warpig

Registered User
Validated User
AmesJainchill said:
Having never played anything outside of D&D [yet!], my impression of Cyberpunk is something like this...
Cyberpunk, as a genre, reflects the worst fears of 1980's Leftwing politics, essentially their reaction to the "Greed of Reagan-era America".

Cyberpunk writers rejected contemporary American society. They were the modern descendants of the '60's Countercuture. Political leftists had a vision of an idealized future that could come to be from Marxist/"New Left" politics; cyberpunk was their version of what would be if those policies weren't adopted. These fears are portrayed in the worst, most apocalyptic (and lurid) fashion, resulting in a dark and dystopic future.

Some of the common themes (as noted, not all apply to every story that is called "cyberpunk," but these are common to many stories of the genre):

Hyper capitalism (manifesting as corporate fuedalism and serfism), corporate greed resulting in their control of the government and economy. Environmental disasters (as the corporations either have the enviromental protection laws repealed or are so powerful they can ignore them). The "Rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer"- utter poverty on a wide scale, utter luxury for a small minority. There's no social "safety net" for those down and out, and extreme poverty and disenfranchisement is common.

This was the view of what (certain) Leftists feel was the inevitable result of American society and, in particular, Reaganite America. Bruce Sterling, on a website, in fact wrote an essay (just a couple of years ago) claiming that cyberpunk was the inevitable future.

This generation also fetishized the rebels (ex.: Vietnam war protesters) and blamed the system for crushing the hopes of the common man. The system (including the law, the police, government, and the corporate economy) is wrong and so rebelling against it by breaking laws is morally acceptable. Thus most of cyberpunk glorifies rebels, and people who reject the values of society: hackers, criminals, thieves, assassins, and so forth.

Cyberpunk adopted an anti-hero ethic and a nihilistic ethos. It also had a certain style and edge which appealed to adolescents and misfits. Acting and looking "cool" was lauded, as cool people are almost by definition rebels who defy the system and don't take no guff from The Man. Mirrorshades, trenchcoats, leather, guns, katanas, "live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse", "style over substance", etc.

To disagree a mite with Chris Helton, most cyberpunk is not about making the world better, its about fighting to survive in a cold, heartless world of crime and poverty, made so because of the greed of corporations and the rich. There is no chance to make things better (if the protagonists even care to try), because the system is so much bigger than you and simply grinds on, ignoring your efforts.

Thus the nihilistic ethos- there is simply no chance to save the future or make meaningful change. The masses don't care (or are too poor to make a difference), the media is controlled by the government and corps, the rich own everything, and they don't even bother crushing rebels, because rebellion is small and pointless and the rebels are ants to their Death Star. If nothing matters, and the world sucks anyway, and nothing you do will make a difference, then you can do anything you want, because it all the same in the end.

Cyberpunk is a high-tech, computer-hip (but computer-ignorant), nihilistic version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Instead of a Red revolution freeing the workers, the protagonists just survive (maybe) and move on.

Some cyberpunk writers do have a more hopeful outlook (Much of Gibson's stuff could be said to reflect this) but most of it was dark and hopeless.
 
Last edited:

crazytrpr

Retired User
apieros said:
Cyberpunk, as a genre, reflects the worst fears of 1980's Leftwing politics, essentially their reaction to the "Greed of Reagan-era America".

Cyberpunk writers rejected contemporary American society. They were the modern descendants of the '60's Countercuture. Political leftists had a vision of an idealized future that could come to be from Marxist/"New Left" politics; cyberpunk was their version of what would be if those policies weren't adopted. These fears are portrayed in the worst, most apocalyptic (and lurid) fashion, resulting in a dark and dystopic future.

Some of the common themes (as noted, not all apply to every story that is called "cyberpunk," but these are common to many stories of the genre:

Hyper capitalism (manifesting as corporate fuedalism and serfism), corporate greed resulting in their control of the government and economy. Environmental disasters (as the corporations either have the enviromental protection laws repealed or are so powerful they can ignore them). The "Rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer"- utter poverty on a wide scale, utter luxury for a small minority. There's no social "safety net" for those down and out, and extreme poverty and disenfranchisement is common.

This was the view of what (certain) Leftists feel was the inevitable result of American society and, in particular, Reaganite America. Bruce Sterling, on a website, in fact wrote an essay (just a couple of years ago) claiming that cyberpunk was the inevitable future.

This generation also fetishized the rebels (ex.: Vietnam war protesters) and blamed the system for crushing the hopes of the common man. The system (including the law, the police, government, and the corporate economy) is wrong and so rebelling against it by breaking laws is morally acceptable. Thus most of cyberpunk glorifies rebels, and people who reject the values of society: hackers, criminals, thieves, assassins, and so forth.

Cyberpunk adopted an anti-hero ethic and a nihilistic ethos. It also had a certain style and edge which appealed to adolescents and misfits. Acting and looking "cool" was lauded, as cool people are almost by definition rebels who defy the system and don't take no guff from The Man. Mirrorshades, trenchcoats, leather, guns, katanas, "live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse", "style over substance", etc.

To disagree a mite with Chris Helton, most cyberpunk is not about making the world better, its about fighting to survive in a cold, heartless world of crime and poverty, made so because of the greed of corporations and the rich. There is no chance to make things better (if the protagonists even care to try), because the system is so much bigger than you and simply grinds on, ignoring your efforts.

Thus the nihilistic ethos- there is simply no chance to save the future or make meaningful change. The masses don't care (or are too poor to make a difference), the media is controlled by the government and corps, the rich own everything, and they don't even bother crushing rebels, because rebellion is small and pointless and the rebels are ants to their Death Star. If nothing matters, and the world sucks anyway, and nothing you do will make a difference, then you can do anything you want, because it all the same in the end.

Cyberpunk is a high-tech, computer-hip (but computer-ignorant), nihilistic version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Instead of a Red revolution freeing the workers, the protagonists just survive (maybe) and move on.

Some cyberpunk writers do have a more hopeful outlook (Much of Gibson's stuff could be said to reflect this) but most of it was dark and hopeless.
Well put
 

Big-Claw

Retired User
AmesJainchill said:
They don't really do anything, is what I meant.
I know what ya ment
but there are cops
federal agencies
and militiaries
governments do plenty I think the point for CP is Govt's should take a backseat to the characters for focus of the story
but I mean governments are still around and still do plenty
 

Big-Claw

Retired User
cjh said:
This is as big of bunk as saying that character survivability isn't that big in Call of Cthulhu. And that's a crap statement too. One of the things about Cyberpunk is that its supposed to be about trying to make change, if you die quickly you can't make change, and there are many more way to make change than just through the barrel of a gun.

This is a cliched respose to the OP and really it isn't even representative of the genre or gaming in it.
off hand I'd say you had never played it
every time you get shot there is a 10% chance it's a headshot...
unless you are chromed out or walking down the street in full bodyarmor, your dead from a headshot unless it was from the smallest of pistols
I mean the game itself tells you it has a high lethality rate, arguing against that is just stupid
 

king_kaboom

Benevolent Overlord
Validated User
The lethality of Cyberpunk's Friday Night Fire Fight combat system is extaordinary as far as RPGs go. However, to say that survivability is low is not exactly correct. It's only low if the referee insists on throwing them into a gunfight every session. Increasing the emphasis on tasks and achieving goals can provide as much action and with the tension of armed security forces showing up at a moments notice it can easily lead to an exciting game that has viritually no combat at all. The PCs can have an impact on the world and they can face mortal jeopardy, but they aren't necessarily going to buy the farm every game.
 

crazytrpr

Retired User
king_kaboom said:
The lethality of Cyberpunk's Friday Night Fire Fight combat system is extaordinary as far as RPGs go. However, to say that survivability is low is not exactly correct. It's only low if the referee insists on throwing them into a gunfight every session. Increasing the emphasis on tasks and achieving goals can provide as much action and with the tension of armed security forces showing up at a moments notice it can easily lead to an exciting game that has viritually no combat at all. The PCs can have an impact on the world and they can face mortal jeopardy, but they aren't necessarily going to buy the farm every game.
fnff is not that leathal once skin weave is available. Seconf king kaboom os right, this is techno-noir, leathilty orhow often the pcs get beaten up should scaled to how close the get to the "trueth" in true noir fashion :D
 

Spirit_Crusher

Registered User
Validated User
apieros said:
Cyberpunk, as a genre, reflects the worst fears of 1980's Leftwing politics, essentially their reaction to the "Greed of Reagan-era America".

Cyberpunk writers rejected contemporary American society. They were the modern descendants of the '60's Countercuture. Political leftists had a vision of an idealized future that could come to be from Marxist/"New Left" politics; cyberpunk was their version of what would be if those policies weren't adopted. These fears are portrayed in the worst, most apocalyptic (and lurid) fashion, resulting in a dark and dystopic future.

Some of the common themes (as noted, not all apply to every story that is called "cyberpunk," but these are common to many stories of the genre):

Hyper capitalism (manifesting as corporate fuedalism and serfism), corporate greed resulting in their control of the government and economy. Environmental disasters (as the corporations either have the enviromental protection laws repealed or are so powerful they can ignore them). The "Rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer"- utter poverty on a wide scale, utter luxury for a small minority. There's no social "safety net" for those down and out, and extreme poverty and disenfranchisement is common.

This was the view of what (certain) Leftists feel was the inevitable result of American society and, in particular, Reaganite America. Bruce Sterling, on a website, in fact wrote an essay (just a couple of years ago) claiming that cyberpunk was the inevitable future.

This generation also fetishized the rebels (ex.: Vietnam war protesters) and blamed the system for crushing the hopes of the common man. The system (including the law, the police, government, and the corporate economy) is wrong and so rebelling against it by breaking laws is morally acceptable. Thus most of cyberpunk glorifies rebels, and people who reject the values of society: hackers, criminals, thieves, assassins, and so forth.

Cyberpunk adopted an anti-hero ethic and a nihilistic ethos. It also had a certain style and edge which appealed to adolescents and misfits. Acting and looking "cool" was lauded, as cool people are almost by definition rebels who defy the system and don't take no guff from The Man. Mirrorshades, trenchcoats, leather, guns, katanas, "live fast, die young, and leave a good looking corpse", "style over substance", etc.

To disagree a mite with Chris Helton, most cyberpunk is not about making the world better, its about fighting to survive in a cold, heartless world of crime and poverty, made so because of the greed of corporations and the rich. There is no chance to make things better (if the protagonists even care to try), because the system is so much bigger than you and simply grinds on, ignoring your efforts.

Thus the nihilistic ethos- there is simply no chance to save the future or make meaningful change. The masses don't care (or are too poor to make a difference), the media is controlled by the government and corps, the rich own everything, and they don't even bother crushing rebels, because rebellion is small and pointless and the rebels are ants to their Death Star. If nothing matters, and the world sucks anyway, and nothing you do will make a difference, then you can do anything you want, because it all the same in the end.

Cyberpunk is a high-tech, computer-hip (but computer-ignorant), nihilistic version of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. Instead of a Red revolution freeing the workers, the protagonists just survive (maybe) and move on.

Some cyberpunk writers do have a more hopeful outlook (Much of Gibson's stuff could be said to reflect this) but most of it was dark and hopeless.

Very well put,indeed,but I disagree about the glorification of rebels .Nihilism,as you said,is an important part of the cyberpunk view of the world...that leaves no place to glorify anything.I'd rather stress the "protagonists just survive (maybe) and move on" part.I fully agree with that,and add "protagonists struggle to remain human or to find their umanity" .In cyberpunk there's positivity,and it's often depicted in the form of human relations and spirituality of some sort,religious or philosophical.

Also,I find this sentence:

" Environmental disasters (as the corporations either have the enviromental protection laws repealed or are so powerful they can ignore them). The "Rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer"- utter poverty on a wide scale, utter luxury for a small minority. There's no social "safety net" for those down and out, and extreme poverty and disenfranchisement is common."

to be a good description of what's going on worldwide,today.But this topic probably does not belong to this forum...
 

Fulsrush

Richard Cowen
Spirit_Crusher said:
"Environmental disasters (as the corporations either have the enviromental protection laws repealed or are so powerful they can ignore them). The "Rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer"- utter poverty on a wide scale, utter luxury for a small minority. There's no social "safety net" for those down and out, and extreme poverty and disenfranchisement is common."

to be a good description of what's going on worldwide,today.But this topic probably does not belong to this forum...
Well, that's kind of the point of cyberpunk, I suppose. It wasn't intended as a far off science fiction Star Wars universe. It's about real, relevant, issues in a world that's so close to ours that we could be there tomorrow if we don't do something about it now. (Or at least, that's one possible interpretation of the ethos. Ecopunk, perhaps. Sociopunk? Liberalpunk?)
 

Asmodai

Warrior Kobold
RPGnet Member
Validated User
Fulsrush said:
I suspect that depends on the actual setting.


SETTING A:
The government (let's assume US, as most cyberpunk settings seem to be America-centric) has taxational powers over only those members of the population who don't work for a megacorporation. As that pretty much only includes the poorest members of the population, and not even all of them at that (corporations need people for donkey-work, and doing basic stuff in the corporate employee townships), the government is grossly underfunded. It's global standing is outweighed by that of the megacorporations, not least because they can buy more guns and hire more soldiers (er, security personnel) than they can.


SETTING B:
The US government is another faction in the cyberpunk power struggle. It fights to restrict the powers of megacorporations acting within its territory, although has to relent occasionally because these guys pay approximately 70% of the nation's tax bill, so you don't want them to move overseas. The military is built around teams of highly trained, highly cybered special forces operatives, with the rest of the army and air force providing support to them. Militarily, the government is fully capable of taking on a megacorporation, and has done so in the past, meaning that they aren't too ready to go toe-to-toe with the man in the White House. They can, however, try to get their favoured candidate into office. This means you'll never get an environmentalist or left-leaning president, but different shades of capitalist. Nevertheless, this tends to just mean that one conglomerate or another is on top for four years at a time, until the other conglomerates budget more successfully for the next election campaign.

I'd add a SETTING C too if you're adapting it to the modern day (as opposed to developing all your setting assumptions from the 1980's). A cold monolithic totalitarian government could be a very fitting element in cyberpunk, especially if you decide to get away from the US and set the game in Hong Kong or even Moscow. A cyberpunk version of France might include the same sorts of MegaCorps - but they'd be 'Government Departments'.

In this sort of setting you could use all the punk Cyberpunk tropes and have the PC's either be rebels or self-interested mercenaries.


Cyberpunk as a genre is flexible enough to cover a wide variety of setting assumptions.
 
Top Bottom