(During that time I also read William Gibson's first trilogy of books and Burning Chrome at least ten times each; I didn't understand much about them at the age of 14 except that they were brilliant. Whenever anybody criticises sci-fi or fantasy as poorly written I always want to sit them down and force them to read though Burning Chrome twice - before choking them with it.)
Recently a couple of things have made me start thinking about cyberpunk again as something that I should be doing in a game. Firstly, Dr. Rotwang made a post a few days ago in which he basically spewed out a great heap of cyberpunk love into the internet ether, and it reawakened something inside me - something dark, dirty, wearing mirror shades and carrying a railgun. But then, somebody over at Story Games brought up Cyberpunk 2020 as an example of how older games didn't really 'do' their chosen genre properly, and it's only down to Ron Edwards that we are now able to play games that really get to grips with a genre's themes. Well, hey, Cyberpunk 2020 is one of the most flawed games that has ever seen wide distribution, but I'm allowed to say that because I'm a fan; I'm damned if I'm going to hear some johnny-come-lately story-gamer person level criticisms at it, no matter how valid! (And I don't really think they are valid; Cyberpunk 2020 didn't explicitly explore the themes of the literary genre, but it certainly did implicitly.) My goat has well and truly been got; I'm going to dig out my old rulebooks and give the thing another whirl, and devil take the hindmost if anybody says otherwise.
First stop, I put up a thread on rpg.net entitled Cyberpunk in 2008. Cyberpunk 2020 was released in 1990, but it is 1980's concerns made real - communism, street crime, the rise of Japan, and new international Zaibatsu. Those concerns are not present these days in the same ways; what self-respecting societal reject in 2008 is motivated by incoherent hatred of global megacorporations? But cyberpunk was always about more than that, at root - its heart has always been in what Bruce Sterling called "the victims of the New"; the people who the Brave New World of the Future has left confused, damaged and trodden underfoot. From our perspective in the new millenium, what are the kind of things that will make people into outsiders, rebels, dropouts and scumbags, and what will those people - the ones with the pizazz to do anything, that is - be directing their rage against?
Well, you can always rely on the good folks at rpg.net to deliver something interesting. You can read through the thread yourself - it's full of goodness - but pick of the bunch has to be this post from E. T. Smith:
IP laws keep getting more strident and more invasive until a Rights Economy dominates all. The only people who really truly own anything anymore are the Rights holders, a tiny percentage of the population who ultimately hold the IP rights to everything, absolutely everything. The shoes on your feet, the clothes on your back, your home, the food on your plate, even the process by which the food is prepared can never ultimately belong to you. Sure you still pay an initial acquisition fee but you're really only leasing it, every individual use recorded by a dusting of nanobots and leading to a incremental debit from your financial worth....
Like that? Pure cyberpunk goodness for the new millenium. But it gets better:
Then there's Inscape. Once you establish high data volume wireless networks, and personal devices receiving constant feed from them, its not too many steps to making the virtual overlay a constant supplement to normal sensory input. Directly fed into your optic and aural centers, the real world gets a virtual overlay and makeover. Data windows drifts in the periphery of your view, remodeling an apartment (or whole building) is just a matter of changing what default 'skin' observers see, and as often as not the minor functionaries (secretaries, waiters) encountered over the course of the day are really just virtual constructs. It also offers real control over personal subjective reality. Set your preference to "Aladdin" and everything around you looks like its from the "1001 Nights". Never want to hear a dirty word again? You won't. Obviously the potential for abuse is enormous. Uptight governments love to 'white-out' sensitive (or just inconvenient) sights, and if Inscape is universal enough and you've got master over-rides, you can kill a target literally in broad daylight in a crowd and be assured that no one saw or heard anything. Worst of all are the ads, they're omnipresent, diabolical both in their ubiquity and subtlety. The ads are one of the only free things in the Rights Economy; it costs to turn them off.Gold, my friends; pure gold. Ads are the only free things in the Rights economy; it costs to turn them off. That there could be the first line of an entire cyberpunk campaign.
What I chiefly need is a Labyrinth Lord / Rules Cyclopedia based cyberpunk game...
(I'm joking about that bit. But only just.)