Sunday, September 1, 2013

It's 2013, Do You Know Where Your Cyberpunk Is?


The Future Ain't What It Used To Be (Part II)

Johnny Silverhand

In 1988, R. Talsorian Games published Cyberpunk, “The Roleplaying Game of the Dark Future.”  What is meant by “Dark Future” is the near future with rampant social decay and technology.  How near?  How about twenty-five years, a quarter of a century?  That ought to be long enough to posit credibly a cyberpunk dystopia.  Of course, that means the “Dark Future” is now.  Although many might consider the present to be 'dark,' it's certainly not cyberpunk dark.  While it's still 2013, it may be entertaining to take a look back at a look forward to now.

Cyberpunk was designed primarily by Maximum Mike Pondsmith, a storied game designer who was inducted into the Origins Awards Hall of Fame in 2006.  He remains involved with the latest iteration – Cyberpunk 2077.  The first edition of Cyberpunk has come to be known as Cyberpunk 2013, in reference to the date of the setting.  Only two years after 1988, the second edition was published.  Not mush had changed, but the date of the setting had become 2020.  Apparently, thirty years – rather than twenty-five – was a more appropriate distance in time for the setting.

Welcome to Night City is the 38 page sourcebook included with the initial game.  It is this book – having the subtitle A Sourcebook for 2013 – that provided the inspiration (and material) for this post.  Pondsmith intended for Referees to use their own cities as the location for their adventures and Night City was presented to demonstrate “the feel, not the substance” of a Cyberpunk setting.  Realizing that not all Referees would live in a big city, the book provides a map of a Night City that could be used as a substitute for the urban challenged.  With a nod to one of the founders of the cyberpunk genre, the Night City map shows the W. Gibson Memorial Freeway, even though the reports of Gibson's death seem to have been greatly exaggerated.

Here are some highlights from the past two-and-a-half decades:
1990Fall of South Africa.  There is little or no communication from Southern Africa for the next four years, although terrible atrocities and genocidal wars are reported.  (Fortunately, the end of Apartheid was not so violent.)
1991 Gorborev regime purges last of old Soviet hardliners.  (Well, the year is right, but everything Soviet was purged.)
1992 – ...the Euromarket, is formed...A common currency unit, the Eurodollar, is also established... (Well, the eurozone wasn't established until '99 and the euro didn't enter circulation until '02.)
1996Lawyer Purge:  irate citizen (sic) lynch hundreds of crimal (sic) defense attorneys.  (Good times.)
1997Mideast Meltdown.  Tensions in the Middle East escalate to nuclear exchange.  Iran, Iraq, Lybia, Chad and the Arab Emirates reduced to radioactive slag.  World oil supply reduced by half.
2000 – Wasting Plague hits the U.S., Europe, killing hundreds of thousands.
2004 First Corporate War
2007Second Corporate War
2008An orbital war begins between “Euros” and the “Yanks”, until Luna Colony massdriver drops a rock on Colorado Springs.
Communication technology has improved dramatically since 1988.  Let's see what the sourcebook says.  “A [postage] stamp in 2013 costs 75¢.”  (Yay!  We're saving 29 cents!)  Check out this thing called a “Fax”:
This is the letterwriting mode of the future...You may type your letter in using the keyboard provided, have it scanned from your own laser disk, or use the built in scanner to “read” any typed letter.  The faxed copy is then transmitted by wire to a local post office in your destination area, where it is automatically typed off, inserted into an envelope, and delivered by letter carrier to the mailbox.
Golly!  Newspapers now make use of fax technology; they are printed for customers directly from 'newsboxes' for 1¢ per page.

Cell phones have a convenient size, but memory-autodial can be expensive!

By the way, today Rachael Tyroll filed with Arasaka Security Corporation her report on the 'Iron Sights' Booster gang that Arasaka bankrolls (for now).  (Rachael Tyroll / Rachael Tyrell – get it?)
I guess Rachael doesn't have spell-check

Another example of “let's change a letter so they won't sue us:”

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I doubt anyone forgot were they were when the Wasting Plague hit the country like wildfire. Wow, that was a rough time!

    Did you hear, that next year, Radio Shack is going to came out with a cellular phone that is larger, with a built-in calculator, and a few MIDI files for different ringtones, and all for a steal at $5,000.00? That is so cutting-edge! I can't think how anyone would be able to improve cellular phones any further? ;p