Toby is very excited about the resurgence of one of his favourite, and one of gaming's least explored, genres.
By Toby McCasker on January 23, 2013 at 3:42 pm
Alright. Who called it? Yes. It was me, thankyou for asking.I’ve written extensively about my jacked-in love for ‘80s sci-fi baby cyberpunk in the past, both for games.on.net and elsewhere. Naturally and because every game dev hungrily devours just about everything I write ever*, the resurgence I picketed for in an annoying way has not stopped at Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Syndicate and even Gemini Rue.
In fact, it looks like it’s becoming a thing all over again in 2013. This year alone we’re gonna hear from Watch Dogs, Remember Me, maybe Prey 2 (I’m an optimist), and most blinding and recently of them all, Cyberpunk 2077. Okay, that last one’s slated for “when it’s ready”, but it’s definitely got your attention. Kick. Ass.
You know, I just finished reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer for the first time. I was pretty late to that party, but I seriously still wasn’t ready for that book. It may not have coined the term “cyberpunk,” but it made it what it is. It’s futurist and quaint in the same way that makes the genre so sort of beguiling on an almost cute level; a crystal ball and a relic in one. It invented and visualised the concept of “the matrix” way before the Wachowski kids ever put keyboard stroke to screen, but yet it somehow failed to anticipate the mobile phone. It’s just so ‘80s that way.
Cyberpunk is full of turns still unrealised and contradictions only made known to it decades later. There is nothing else like it, and it’s such a perfect antithesis to brown military shooters I can totally envision the day when everything is instead a grey cyberpunk shooter instead (please don’t, big three).
It’s also turned out that it’s a cyclical kind of thing, and the ideas explored in it – the dystopian paranoia, the technological mores and the sinister enablement contained within – are now more relevant than they were 30 years ago. There are mechanised killing machines in the air above Syria, just watching (waiting). Your personal identity becomes more and more a part of the internet with each passing year. All those numbers that are so important to you – your credit card, your mobile – are in there in vast quantities, held by corporations mostly. The corporation rules; the world’s richest could have ended poverty four times over. The great irony is that gaming demands the most dedicated connectivity of all. We’re all cowboys; some of us are even artistes, as Ratz calls Case in Neuromancer, “of the slightly funny deal.”
And when I saw Cyberpunk 2077, I thought not of sexism and the patriarchy or whatever else gamingdom at large is hating on right now, but of Neuromancer’s Molly, the book’s real main character. Molly the razorgirl – Steppin’ Razor, to the Zionites – a street samurai augmented beyond belief by the black market surgeons of Chiba City. Ten 4cm double-edged blades, one in each finger. Mirrored lenses and she has cat’s eyes now. Reflexes to match, too. Hot-rodded nervous system. None of this stuff is cheap, she tell us later. She had to do some things to get the money. Work as a meat puppet, she says. Renting her body out for the night and turning off her consciousness. One night her employers switched her back on in the middle of things and her John was acting sick. Something had to be done. You were definitely watching cyberpunk that rainy trailer day.
*live in the golden clouds, it’s fantastic