Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Iconic Cyberpunk 2020 Images

Like a bride, a good cyberpunk image needs four things. First, it needs to be noirish: you have to be able to imagine whoever it depicts committing crimes. Second, it needs to be unspeakably 80s: it needs to be big hair, spandex, raybans and shoulder pads. Third, it needs to mix something conspicuously futuristic with something grimy and old; that juxtaposition is what it is all about, stylistically. And fourth, it needs to look cool. You get bonus points for big guns, cigarettes (though these can count, nowadays, as the "grimy and old"), and girls who a 12 year old boy would develop a crush on.

The fixer. Cyberpunk 2020 is one of the earlier games, I think, to contain what you might describe as "multiethnic art". I understand Paizo think they deserve plaudits for doing that with Pathfinder; maybe somebody needs to tell them Mike Pondsmith was doing it in the 80s.

All elements are present here: she's clearly up to no good; the leggings are unspeakably 80s; you have the mix of old leggings with holes in and super-duper cybernetic monocle thing; and she's cool. She also has a gun and is appealing to the adolescent male. (The adult male too actually.)  

An action piece. He has wolverine blades and he has just shot somebody through the chest with a micro-jet missile, and someday your character can do that too!

There is no mixture of the conspicuously new and scuzzy and old here. He's all brand new. But he does have a BIG FUCKING GUN.

Probably my favourite piece in the whole book: I don't think there is anything more cyberpunk than a guy in a trenchcoat sitting in a bar drinking scotch and smoking while showing off his new arm.

This one deserves a special mention, not just for the 12 year old boy inside me but also for the cyberdeck: this is what people used to think the future would look like. You'd have to carry around your modem in your handbag. One day, I'd like to see this in one of those "Complete History of the Future" type exhibitions where people examine cultural artefacts from the past which purported to predict our future.

She's cute. She's exotic looking. She is hiding her gun behind her back. She is cyberpunk.


  1. Let me be the first to point out that Mr Armored Notscuzzy is a total rip of Briareos from the Appleseed manga.

    1. It wouldn't surprise me - it would explain why his BIG FUCKING GUN is patently not one that appears on the equipment lists.

  2. I used to love the last girl: maybe the Manara vibe, I dunno.

  3. What do you mean his gun is not on the equipment lists?

    Can't the stats for any gun look any way you want them to? Maybe it's a foreign make and model of a listed weapon.

    One of my players would spend hours before the first game in a Star Wars campaign designing the look of his blaster and/or lightsaber. They 'look' how you see them, no?

    1. Yes - I'm just saying that if you look at all the equpiment list pictures there isn't a gun like that, so it's very possible the picture was ripped off something else. No comment whatsoever on the desirability of imagining guns to look like however you want. Jesus, you're hard to please!

  4. I'd throw Palladium's TMNT into the early multi-ethnic art mix as well, though of course that's the comic's setting. Still, it stands out to me when I look through it again.

  5. "this is what people used to think the future would look like."

    I read a (somewhat) recent quote by William Gibson In his book of essays Distrust that Particular flavor. He's discussing the fact that he's set each subsequent series closer to the present, one of things he mentions is that he feels stupid because he was so blindsided by the mobile phone and that feeling is what led him set each series closer to the now.

    Oh and those leggings? Every punk girl had a pair of torn hose, that was how you knew they were punk rock. Now sure that's cyberpunk, but nearly as cyberpunk as that last girl in the bike shorts. Bike messenger is on that short list of professions that scream cyberpunk. It's like the casting notes for the tv series Dark Angel were just this manual and a pack of luckies. What I clicked on is the first guys footwear which seems to be an armored cross between Dr Martins and high tops.

    "multiethnic art" I'd say an innate part of cyberpunk is a multiethnic society. It starts out with you waking up on a foam mattress in Chiba, a trip to the sprawl to steal a deck with an old friend in it, then you're off to Istanbul to recruit a Turkish hologram artist, and you wind up docking with a space habitat aboard a tin can piloted by a rasta-mechanic. It's a Bladerunner walking around crumbling remains of San Francisco with the dregs and poor of the world, who can't get to space.

    That the future will be multiethnic is one of the "revolutions" of cyberpunk. It's a deliberate gob spat into the faces of the old guard.

    I want to buy this game, even though I know nobody who would play it.