So I came across a post by a gamer who was concerned that the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 game was going to be compromised by SJW interference and take too many shots at modern events. I did a double take.
I’ve been a long time fan of the game and the genre. I recall devouring Friday Night Firefight and the whole setting of Night City, a future under a sky the color of a dead television channel. My first character was a Nomad and the second a Solo. It was the 80s and there was no doubt that the Military Industrial Complex and Corporate America were calling the shots. Ecological disaster was raining down on us and the Cold War had stockpiled nuclear arms to an insane degree that the public could not ignore. There was a rage against this future that gave hope to the despair many of us felt in the present. Our reality of police being armed with military grade gear and the naked greed of corporate CEOs was right there in the game, even as it graced the cinema in Robocop, Running Man, and Blade Runner.
Mike Pondsmith, game designer for Cyberpunk the RPG in pretty much every incarnation including working with CD Projekt Red on the new one, “Maximum Mike” as his in game handle ran, has had some pretty strong things to say in his blog about games, racism, and what it feels like writing dystopia fiction and seeing it come to pass in the real world.
“Cyperpunk was a warning, not an aspiration”
The genre was built on the punk of the lowly street rat and the burnt out victim of corporate excesses banding together to stick it to the system that betrayed them. Down dirty neon streets they stormed, carving ripe red anarchy in their wake, street samurai and netrunners and urban nomads all trying to survive predatory economics and keep some shred of humanity.
Anything less than that would not reflect the mirror shaded visions of the dark tomorrows written by Gibson, Sterling, Spinrad, and yes, Pondsmith*. Mike Pondsmith through Cyberpunk 2020 and Friday Night Firefight wrote a game and a criticism of the corporate forces aligned against the future shocked masses of humanity. Political critique and social justice is encoded in Cyberpunk as an ethos and the DNA of the game itself.
*For a later reaction to the same forces, Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson is awesome and is among the heralds of the next generation of Cyberpunk, less rage and more change. Sewer, Gas, Electric by Matt Ruff also worth checking out.