Would this format work as an introductory piece to a setting or campaign? Would you like to see more of these written to detail the background of a game world? Would you like to see more of these on modern-day Earth? Would you play a Cyberpunk game set in this world? Is Cyberpunk simply past its prime, unrecognized by a world that chose a different path? Please let me know what you think.
|We even trust Megacorps|
to keep us in the fight.
We tipped our hand too early. We let the corporations know that we were onto them. We were going to stop the tide of corporate takeover. We would never let the world get bad enough to allow a financial conglomerate to tank an entire country’s economy. We’d prevent the dystopia or die trying. We weren’t important, the Cause was.
In our cyberpunk worlds, technology and humanity melded against the backdrop of corporate nihilism. Wage Slaves turned a blind eye to the chaos on the street. Hackers and Deckers and Riggers and Techs and Netrunners made magic with technology and turned the tide so the Talkers and Rockers and Samurai and Fixers and Solos and Facemen could apply just the right pressure at just the right time. When things went South as they always did, improvisation kept the ‘run on course. The heroes in the shadows adapted in a hurry or died trying.
These images painted the Cyberpunk world. We read these books and played these games and prepared for the inevitable takeover. We waited for that one tipping event and stood ready to rally.
|Is this the Cyberpunk|
Dystopia we expected?
Corporations learned from our Cyberpunk stories. They adapted faster than we did. They got subtle and seduced us out of our future with promises of comfort and ease and everything that money can buy. Now we’re bent over and tied down. The pain only stops when a mid-level corporate drone removes our ball gag and lets us choose the color of the next dildo to get inserted, giving us the satisfaction of participating in their illusion of choice. They limit our choices, so we usually get choices that are either A) Dookie, B) Crap, or C) Feces.
Corporations own all the outcomes. They know how we think, and they don’t let that shit get taught in school because it’s “junk science”. Crackpot or not, the science of emotional manipulation gets used against us every day. In 30 seconds, a well-crafted ad can twist your emotions and make you dance on the marionette strings in a totally predictable way. And if we want to change something, we’ve become conditioned to buying instead of making.
The disposable culture extended to manpower. We outsourced jobs, and offshored them to the lowest bidder. And now support calls for your credit cards are handled by incarcerated inmates or people who need the money rather than people who respect the job. Mike Rowe is right: We declared war on work and trained ourselves to buy something new because it’s cheaper than hiring someone to fix it when it breaks, or, heavens forbid we should roll up our sleeves and get grease on our manicured nails, learn to fix things ourselves. The quality of goods has dipped so low that the furniture we inherited from our grandparents outlasts anything we buy new through a megacorp, even with a 60 year head start on decay.
|Cybereyes. Does replacing the|
windows of the soul with metal
somehow make us less human?
We’ve been trained to fear. Boogeymen nowadays take two forms: terrorists and pirates. Never mind that dying from a plane crash is eight times more likely than dying from a terrorist attack. Never mind that sharing music and video gives us common ground for personal connections in this nebulous space we call “culture”. Lesser offenses either get pushed to one of these extremes or get accepted as “the price of doing business”. We’re so afraid of the big bad world that we let corporations dictate what “safe” means. We force our culture into tiny pay-per-view boxes that very few can afford to open in the name of protecting the economy from piracy, and the spin doctors convince us that this New World Order makes our lives better.
|I'm still looking for Netrunner cards.|
And now for the news. We’re still running out of oil, and now even faster that in the ‘70s when the energy crisis had people lining up for hours at service stations for gas rations. And all that carbon needs to go somewhere – why not into the air where we don’t see it until it kills us? Global weirding continues with stronger storms, stranger weather, and environmental backlash from places we can’t even conceive of yet.
|Cyberpunk characters in the|
style of Order of the Stick, from
the Cyberpunk Contest thread.
Yes, we fucked up. We went to sleep once the specter of Mutually Assured Destruction dropped off the headlines. Once Red Menace fell apart and the Wall came down, we thought we were safe. We never thought to look within the institutions we trusted and thought were above suspicion. Without an overt enemy to fight, the paragons of democratic leadership kept starting quiet wars and twisted the organizations and agencies that were supposed to work for us into what they are today: self-perpetuating institutions of selfishness.
Another news flash: We’re a couple of years away from blood-borne nanites. We’ve been playing God medically for years, but the stakes will really kick in the afterburners with all the innovations coming down the pike. The future is here, people, and we’re too busy pouring our attention and lifeblood into paying Corporations to look around and say, “That’s fucking awesome!”
|No, it's not just like the fucking Matrix.|
But Green is the color of Cyberpunk.
We’ve lost focus. We always thought the cyberpunk ideal of fighting The Man would be easy – they’ve got the money and are abusing their power. Like the way “bad guys” pop off the screen – we know about bad guys. In the grey world, everybody looks the same, and people still swallow the argument of, "How can I help you succeed if you take my power and money away?" Even when the bad guy explains the plan to screw us to our faces, a part of us understands the idea as completely reasonable if misguided. There is no black and white, even when we continually ask our media to boil down complexity to overextended conclusions with only two sides. We can only conceive of two political parties, good and evil, those in power and those preparing to take power, us vs. them.
|Click for a Rockerboy instrumental.|
So yeah, we failed to keep the darkness out of the world. But we ain’t dead yet, chummers.
So now what? How can we take a stand in this post-cyberpunk world? Where do we expend our limited stockpiles of attention and focus our limitless frustration at the way things have become? What games can we make to get the masses thinking in different ways? How can we change our world for the better?