Of course, nowadays when you page through the rule-book, the edginess seems amazingly tame and endearingly non-edgy. Mike Pondsmith's authorial voice is still very much in evidence and it's not hard to imagine why my 14-year-old self was impressed with lines like:
[So] you're starting to look over the list of cyberenhancements, and you're thinking, "I don't have the kind of Eurobucks I need to swing this newtech." At this point, you have to ask yourself "How desperate am I? Am I really hard up enough to risk death and dismemberment just to get a lousy cyberarm?"
Sure you are.
In fact, fuck it, I'm still impressed with it now; cheesy it may be, but this guy really knew how to make a rulebook fun to read, and, more importantly, he knew how to make a rulebook make you really want to play the game.
But it's all quite safe and charming, from a 2011 perspective. One of the illustrations has a guy with two guns and a tattoo of a pentagram with '666' on his shoulder (ooh!). In the section on how to design/buy drugs, the reader is reminded that drugs will "mess up [your character] beyond repair - just like in real life". And there's no bad language, so we get hilarious "melon farmer" style quasi-swearing ("Who does this choob think he is?").
More noticeably, of course - and this, ultimately, is probably the reason for the demise of cyberpunk in general as a literary, cinematic, or ludic genre - it's all so very, very wrong about how the future has turned out. Although, notionally, CP2020 was "set" in the year 2020, and we can't say what might happen in the next 9 years, so many of its predictions about how the world would be have turned out to be laughably wrong. (Indeed, I find it neatly ironic that the main message of one of William Gibson's early stories, The Gernsbeck Continuum, which took the piss out of 1930s sci-fi's vision of the future, could quite easily be applied to cyberpunk.)
So, in the CP2020 rulebook, we are told that a cellular phone will cost $400 and a contract for cell phone service $100/month. You are expected to pay $1/minute at a phone-box-esque "Data Term" in order to access newspapers and other information online. Cyberdecks are used not for social networking, creating wikipedia articles, or arguing on forums because "somebody is wrong on the internet", but only for the very limited purposes of data mining and sabotage. Pocket computers have "100 pages of alphanumeric memory" (gasp!). And if you're a music fan, you can buy "digital music chips" containing up to 6 (!) albums to listen to on your "digital chip player".
More significantly perhaps, because these are just cosmetic, cyberpunk as a genre and CP2020 as a game was just wrong in its vision of how society would develop. CP2020 asks us to imagine a future in which the streets are ruled by crazed boostergangs, corporations fight wars against nation-states, nuclear meltdown has made entire areas of the globe uninhabitable, and the Soviet Union is still a dominant force. We don't live in that kind of dystopia, and some blips notwithstanding, our lives are immeasurably better now than they were in 1985.
This is undoubtedly why CP2020 slipped from the minds of role players. Tastes change, and set against the WoD games I suppose it began to seem quaint, old-fashioned, and just a bit naff. Just as you don't see films like Blade Runner being made any more, you don't see cyberpunk having any legs as a genre of RPG; it's not so much that CP2020 has disappeared, it's that nothing has replaced it.
But in a sense none of that really matters, because as a game it did work once, and there's no reason why it can't still work today. Some day I'd like to pick up my old CP2020 rulebook and, like the old school movement did for D&D, play the game on its own merits, warts and all, and see what charms I can discover. Forget the internet; we have cyberspace. Never mind facebook; cyberspace is for hacking into other peoples' bank accounts. Forget ubiquitous iPhones; cell-phones are the preserve of the super-rich and still weigh a kilo. Laptops cost thousands of dollars and, if you're lucky, might hold 8 MB of RAM. And yet at the same time, we're able to literally create replacement eyes out of silicon and metal. Soviet-created bio-plagues and radioactive fallout pass on hideous diseases to the unprotected. And all the while, in the mean streets of vast dystopian cityscapes, anarchy reigns, and cyberpsychos stalk the earth...