I played a lot of Shadowrun as a teenager. Christ, I played a lot of Shadowrun. I played a shark shaman from Hawai'i with a big tattoo of a hammerhead on his back. I played a minotaur from Corsica who was a member of the Corsican mafia. I played a hobgoblin jihadist from the Middle East. (Racial sensitivity was not my strong point, and nor was it the game's.) I played a street samurai who covered himself in jaguarskin tattoos. A friend of mine played a dwarf street samurai called Yosemite Sam and another friend played his troll sidekick, Bisskit. Another friend's younger brother played a physical adept who looked like Louise from the pop group Eternal. His older brother wouldn't let him smoke pot with the rest of us, and temper tantrums, sometimes escalating into full-scale fights, inevitably resulted. Once we got drunk eating brandy chocolates playing the game - I think it was shortly after Christmas. We were awful, greasy, spotty, horrible 14-15 year old boys, who went to an all-boys state school and consequently knew very few girls. We were as hateful as any group of teenage boys can be. But Shadowrun provided us with some light relief from our predicament(s), so it will always have a special place in my heart.
I've written before about Shadowrun and considered view on it is this: Shadowrun is the most fundamentally awful and crass idea ever invented, a crime against gaming and literature and culture in general, and yet I love it. I love it because I love fantasy fiction and I love cyberpunk, and despite the fact that ice cream and steak really shouldn't, no really shouldn't, go together, in the case of Shadowrun they mysteriously do. Through some weird alchemy, a William Gibson novel which has elves and orcs running around in it works. Or rather, it doesn't work - it fails terribly - but in such a charming way that it doesn't matter even slightly.
The activities we engage in as teenagers have a great deal of value. I don't want to credit Shadowrun with much at all - in fact that era of my life was full of motivation-draining and very mildly malign influences of which that game was one. (I'm sure I could currently be the Dean of Jesus College, Cambridge or Harvard Law School or something if only I'd applied myself, rather than spending so much time pretending to be an elf, commanding Space Marines, drawing pictures of people killing each other with medieval weapons, or writing abortive attempts at fantasy novels.) Yet I will credit it with this: it filled my weekends at that age, that and playing cricket. And the importance of that shouldn't be underrated; being a 14 year old boy is pretty awful, even if you've been well brought-up and have friends - you are pestilent, uncoordinated, socially inept and just about old enough to know it - and hobbies are little rays of sunshine, little zones of self-expression and creativity and emotion amongst the general atmosphere of hangdog weirdness. They give you space to aspire, and dream beyond the dull grey skies and dull grey lifepaths of Northern English suburbs. So let me raise a glass to you, Shadowrun, and wish you good health. May you long provide solace to spotty teenagers everywhere, especially the ones who go to single-sex schools.