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Errex

Cyberpunk

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I was wondering, What happened to the whole Cyberpunk theme?. Browsing back through old magazines, seems the popularity of the genre pretty much died in the early 90's, with only sparse appearances in the media here and there ever since.

 

Gaming wise, there was Cyberpunk and Shadowrun, but never really saw much more besides.

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There are some D20 versions kicking around. (Digital Burn from living room games and Mongoose publishing have done something).

 

As a genre there are still books being written with a cyberpunk theme and likewise some movies.

 

Stuart

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Depends on what you mean by cyberpunk. An '80s critique of trends hyper exagerated or biomechanically enhanced humans breaking into places and shooting/stealing people/stuff. The former is dead because many things about '80s cyberpunk were not relevant by the mid '90s. (China is the rising star in Asia and Japan had already peaked.) Mainstream sci-fi grabbed many of the other mechanical or sociological stuff. The big thing now is transhumanism, the reshaping and fracturing of humans through genetic manipulation.

 

Tolkein fantasy is king in the RPG market. Cyberpunk games peaked in the late '80s and early '90s because it was the big thing in sci-fi at the time. CP 2020 has lots of the stuff I dislike about '80s cyberpunk with all the depth of an A-Team episode. Shadowrun has always been called the bastard child of Tolkein and Gibson, but lost popularity as the cyberpunk crazy died out in the '90s. (Strangely one of the key themes of SR is racism, which is always relevant.) In the late '90s a few games came out about transhumanism.

 

In my next of the woods it's isn't hard to get a game of SR together, but no where near as easy as D&D.

 

Iain.

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Back in the middle and late 80's the cyberpunk authors really seemed to be harbingers of the future. The technology was changing almost every day, Wall Street was rampant with complete greed and the mega-corps loomed. At some point that I can't seem to identify, something changed dramatically sociologically. The technology hasn't slowed but the fear of it has greatly lessened. Maybe due to the "humanization" of it. Devices are more ergonomic now compared to their predecessors. Maybe that has helped alay the fear of them slightly. Maybe the ease of use has alayed the fears. You no longer have to be among the "initiated" to use even the most complex computer programs.

 

Cyberpunk fiction and it's associated games were based on fear. Fear of a future that held a more drastic class seperation. Fear of an invasive technology that would sap our humanity. Fear of violence being perpetrated on every street corner. Writers like Gibson seemed to give voice to the universal subconscious that recoiled from the advent of the technological revolution.

 

So, where did that fear go? Why are we so less affraid now than we were? I think if we can find the answer to that we'll find what caused the demise of cyberpunks popularity.

 

Did it dissolve simply through immersion? Did the dearth of cyberpunk themed movies and books bring about a laissez-faire attitude toward it?

 

 

 

Thoughts?

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In America, I think, we no longer fear having technology, but rather, NOT having technology. It has become cool for everyone to have cell phones, for example, despite the rediculous price of them. Last I heard, there were over 200 million cell phones in the US. Plenty of fear of terrorism, though, and religious extremists. I Can't wait to see that kind of RPG, that ought to offend a whole bunch of people, kinda like D&D used to. LOL

Lately, I've been reserving my fear that my gaming group will switch to D20 3.5, thereby costing me another $90, which I oppose on a philosphical basis. Must save money for mini's.

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Anvil, there is a game out for dealing with the terrorists and extremists. D20 Modern. I wrote a scenario based on an idea from a PBEm game that fizzled, called After the Blast. The US got destroyed by nuclear bombs placed by a terrorist group. I think I wiped out about 75% of the US in that game. :devil:

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You know, you all have made very interesting points. Back then, when Cyberpunk was at it's peak, consumer technology levels were still pretty low, which, I guess, helped romanticize the concept of über-technological settings portrayed by the media about Cyberpunk.

 

Unlike regular Sci-Fi, most Cyberpunk items seemed more grounded on not too distant technological breakthroughs. While interstellar travel might still be beyond our grasp for another couple hundred years (if at all), cerebral implants might very well see the light within our lifetimes. That seemed to me to be the essential lure of the cyberpunk aesthetic.

 

No wonder, as technology became more readily available to all, the Cyberpunk genre kinda faded away.

 

It just ocurred to me that, FREX, pretty much what you see now in this Splinter Cell game could have qualified as Cyberpunk by 80's standards. Night vision technology, heat sensors, inalambric access to internet, sophisticated weapons. It shows that nothing ages as fast as our own vision of the future, as Mr. Gibson once wrote.

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The new trends in gaming are the Mongoose game, which has the old standyes with technnology, but also emphasizes the role of transnational corportaions. Globalization may become the monster that we all thought they could become, still... and the fiction explores this.

 

The other trend, slowly emerging, is games that are a pure social critique of the modern world "without the cyberpunk"... for example see Haven City of Violence, by Louis Portier Designs (Disclaimer I do write for them).

 

D20 Modern also is a new trend where the technology is becoming less dominant.

 

Now in modern cyberpunk genre just picked Technogenesis by Syme Mitchell, (ROC is the publisher)... and the book deals with a fully wired world. I am on page 15 and it is pretty good. Imagine the bus not stoping because you are NOT wired to the net. So the genre is not dead, just evolving.

 

That said CP 2020, though fun is not popular any longer and neither is Shadowrun, which is more Science Fantasy than science fiction.

 

Also the problem is (and this even applies to some sci fi games... of the 80s) the technology is no longer sci fi, but here... heck the other day I was reading a story about enhanced exoskeletons in early trials for troops to carry heavy loads in combat... can we all say... well exoskeleton, or actually body armor?

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Despite what people would have you believe, the cyberpunk genre is not dead. What has become of it is that it's become a niche item, much like mecha combat games or even D&D itself. Some people don't see the appeal and so don't play them, while others play them at every opportunity.

 

Shadowrun itself has moved to a german company called Fantasy Productions LLC. They worked closely with FASA before their demise and not only wrote germany only sourcebooks for BattleTech and Shadowrun but they did the translations of the official stuff as well.

 

Well, Shadowrun is progressing in ways FASA couldn't have done..... heck, Shadowrun has been sucessfully de-FASAised and it's improving in leaps and bounds. They're concentrating on reprinting the core rulebooks and sourcebooks which include the errata and clarifications of various rules. They've changed a few things themselves but that's to be expected, and the current edition is still strong.... you just have to look at the Fast Forward Games' stands at the big cons to figure that out, and they also have official games at cons now which will be used to allow players to help advance the universe.

 

d20 Modern also has some of the same appeal as Shadowrun. It's dark and moody and it gives a lot of scope. D20 Modern does have an advantage over Shadowrun in that you don't need to read up on any setting information (it happens in my SR group) in order to know what the shop you're visiting is called or where to get food etc. But both have magic and Tolkein style races and the like, and I think that's something which is both a boon and a bane..... magic in SR is the bane of my life as a GM :o)

 

Cyberpunk the game itself, well I've not seen anything new for it and the older books are still hard to get hold of.... although I'm still trying :o) But Shadowrun is still strong. It's just found it's niche and it's sticking too it while expanding slightly.

 

And yes, racism and terrorism are still strong themes in Shadowrun, along with globalisation and even balkanisation. And the ever present environmental commentaries which still appear all over the place..... although I'd be the first to admit the Megacorps are a tad unrealistic nowadays but they provide a good fallback for the GM when he/she's stuck for a Bad Guy for such and such a run :o)

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Perhaps the Next big Step in the Genre will be a Technology Dark ages, someone Stikes the known worlds with a Nutrino or something, and POOF The Dark ages, but worse. Imagine a city of 100k people, no Lights :ph34r: , No Water :blink: , no Communicaitons. In 2 Days, No Food. ::o: Yikes.

 

working Tech Becomes Gold, and if you own a Gas Station, you better have an Army!

 

my God, I just ripped off the "history" of 40k didn't I? That or Mad Max! :lol:

 

Still, Someone will put it out sometime Prolly GW :poke:

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Leech I beg to differ regarding SR... yes it has changed now that FanPro has taken it over... but it is still VERY NICHE and in some respects dying a slow death. It is like CP 2020... which is all but dead.

 

As to the field... it is not dead, it is just changing and changing very fast.... and no game out there, including Mongoose's incarnation, is reflecting the changes in the genre, outside of gaming.

 

And insofar as Sci Fi is conccerned it is a niche market though in the short form it is making somehwat of a comeback... and I mean out of gaming, I mean in Ananlog, Asimov and other short story markets in the US. The form this is taking is again world wide Nets, connectivity and globalization.

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I watched The Matrix (the good one) yonight. It was refreshing to see some gritty 90s sifi.....

 

I realised thats what scked in the 2nd and 3rd matrix films. Everything was clean and white. the train station. the control tower for zion, the thing wit hthe doors. It was all bleached, like an iPod

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Nadin, I guess being this side of the pond gives me a different sperspective than you, and I can assure you judging by the rate of sales of SR books in the stores and the rates at which FanPro are coming up with new stuff there's still a market there. And unless they've changed the definitions, I don't see how that meets the definition of a dead or dying game.

 

Part of the thing with Shadowrun is that now it's owned by WK it's getting more attention from those who play WK games. This means there's a whole new generation of players coming to the game, and this new generation are crying out for the older OOP sourcebooks to be reprinted so they can get their hands on them..... and FanPro is indulging this new generation of Shadowrunners and allowing them to experience the true richness and depth of the Sixth World. The slant has changed, but it's still strong.

 

Earthwalker, what you described is the story behind the James Cameron series Dark Angel..... a electromagnetic pulse has turned Seattle (what's with dark sci-fi and Seattle?!?!? :o)) into a dark aged city with almost no tech of any kind aside from the stuff brought in from outside. It's really well done methinks, and it makes a refreshing change.

 

heck, I can see FanPro doing this in SR... it wouldn't be too hard to work it into the story, perhaps the islamic fundamentalists or EarthFirst or Alamos 20,000 or perhaps a Dragon could set it up. But I really doubt it'd happen, cos I think the Megas and the Greats would try to oppose it. Would be a fun set of Shaodwruns :o)

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Not quite what I mean and yes where you are you have a different perspetive.

 

Where I am ALL Cyberpunk games are on the ropes and they sell to a a very small and fringe group.

 

Byt he way, teh novel I am desribing, up to chapter seven, deals with the emergence of a GESTALT, or mass consciousness in the net... and due to connectivity. The world will nto go to war, since Gestalt needs all of us to grow.

 

It is an amazing book, and it is refleting of where the field is going... at least OUTSIDE of gaming...

 

Remember, gaming takes anywhere from five to ten years to catch up with what is going on outside of gaming in the main print media

 

the order usually starts this way.

 

Short form, where writers start exploring new ideas

 

Longer former (novellas), with at times the novels coming at the same time... then after a good while somebody goes... hmmm this is a good idea for a game...

 

Nothing wrong with it actually, as gamers usually have been reading a lot of these material on their own... so when the game comes out there is a market for it.

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Now if WizKids would actually let FanPro publish the Shadowrun books rather than sitting on them Shadowrun might not be a in constant state of relaunch and crash which makes it very hard to attract new fans and keep the old ones. I've forgotten exaclty how long I've been waiting for Shadows of Europe, and I think State of the Art: 2064 is a distant dream.

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