Cyberpunk 2077 rekindles dystopian fears of the 1980s

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Go out on the streets of Night City, Cyberpunk 2077The futuristic vision of a dystopian, dystopian California metropolis, and very little seems immediately familiar. City buildings have been replaced with stocky brutalist apartment buildings, concrete towers covered with holograms and neon-lit side streets where people with metal computer implants stare at strangers with glowing eyes or squeeze high tech guns with sparkling cybernetic hands. Yet Night City, despite the strangeness of its strange technology and architecture, represents a future very much in tune with the concerns of our present.

Cyberpunk follows V, a player-created character who finds himself entangled in the politics of Night City’s most powerful mega-corporation, Arasaka, and fights for his life after a heist gone awry. Like the genre for which it is named, the game is rooted in the futurism of the 1980s – a time when the rise of personal computers and rapid technological innovation were met with growing economic disparity caused by political leadership. happy with privatization in America and abroad. So many cyberpunk commodities look weird in hindsight. But, even as the genre’s depictions of flying cars, AI-powered robots, and a pseudo-Internet accessible by plugging cables into human body implants lack the real-life hallmark of the 21st century, the socio-political landscape of the 1980s that led to the creation of cyberpunk has shifted from predicted nightmare to mundane reality.

V lives in a city where the United States government has fractured, its control of society largely replaced by companies that operate with impunity. Health care is prohibitively expensive; legitimate income is only available to those who are willing to work under the overwhelming and unregulated labor practices of a few huge conglomerates; the environment is devastated; and the wealthy live in glittering skyscrapers above countless slums, whose communities are organized around the violent whims of warring gangs. Cyber ​​thugs aside, this near-future prediction seems – at least to pessimists – an all-too-likely endpoint in the current trajectories of many wealthy nations.

William Gibson, the author of Neuromancer—A pioneering work of cyberpunk from which Cyberpunk liberally raised table game of terms and concepts – said, in a (hilariously presented) 1990 documentary about the genre, which he considered important aspects of the “future” cyberpunk to have already arrived. Gibson refers to how wealth inequalities determine access to life and death procedures such as organ transplants, his example showing one way in which an imaginary technological future of medicine had already become, there is 30 years old, commonplace. “The future has already arrived,” he continued. Its arrival, as mundane as it may sound to those of us who walk through it, gave us the kind of dark future that the creators of cyberpunk envisioned in books, movies, and games.

“With each set of … books, I started off with some kind of in-depth reading of the crap quotient of the day,” Gibson said. in one New Yorker profile. “I then have to adjust my fiction to suit how the present is fucked up and far removed from the present… It is not an intellectual process, and it is not prescient – it is what I can bring myself to believe. .

That’s a big reason why, beyond its fantastical depictions of the internet, cybernetic implants, or advanced AI, cyberpunk fiction like Neuromancer endure like terribly relatable stories. Mike Pondsmith, creator of Cyberpunk board game that 2077is based on, made a similar comment on how the wonders and horrors of the future cyberpunk manifested in a recent profile by WIRED. “We have oranges all over the street because of the firestorms. There is global warming and a pandemic. Yet we can be sitting here in the midst of this scourge, and you and I are talking face to face across the country, ”he said. “The gods did not have this kind of ability in myths and legends.”

The ease with which Cyberpunk 2077 portraying this kind of duality helps avoid feeling like a superficial exercise in ’80s nostalgia. There is a real and unconcerned cruelty to her world that comes across as overly appropriate when encountered in a year where so many real-world governments have responded to a historic pandemic by forcing its poorest and most vulnerable demographics to absorb the biggest of a global crisis as companies like Amazon prosper. V’s desperation – for money, early in the game, and later the ability to survive under the deadly products of powerful corporate interests – exemplifies the harshness not only of the era that gave birth to cyberpunk, but also of These days.

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