Cyberpunk may be dead and we may be already living in our past future vision, but the megas out there have more in store for us. Our perception of the future is accelerating beyond belief, because any lack of real technological breakthroughs (like cyberware or flying cars) is being compensated by new tech that will radically transform how this future world looks and feels and interacts with us.
I have to stress this: The future of 2020, 2050, 2070 or 2100 will not have flying cities and people living on distant planets (like past generations envisioned it), it will not have flying cars and business meetings on the moon (like they thought in the 1950s), it may not even have real cyberlimbs or genetic augmentations (like some hope even today). It will, however, have entertainment, connectivity, video paper and phones and even glass that is distinctivly smarter than most of us…
This future world will be so complex that it will be possible to grasp it only fully when you are living in it. It is also FAR FAR less exiting to think about living in that future than it was in the 80s or 90s: „So we’ll have Augmented Reality? So what? Just another way my Facebook friends can send me invites for stupid social games.“
We will indeed be „amusing ourselves to death„. And we know it. And it’s not like we are anticipating this with baited breath. Au contraire: We are wishing to live in that future because it will offer better ways to get away from it (like Video Games in full VR mode).
When I was living in the 80s, I hoped to live long enough to experience 1999, the focal turning point for anything „future“. I wanted to live long enough to see the year 2000, maybe even 2010, maybe even 126.96.36.199.
Now, living in 2012, I sure enjoy the new toys we got, and am looking forward to the new toys we’re getting in the near future … but the excitement and anticipation has been dampened a whole lot.
And this is beginning to affect my stance towards „former future“ games like Cyberpunk 188.8.131.52. (or rather: my former Cyb3rpunk revision/reimagination of CP2020) and it is HEAVILY affecting my stance towards 4th edition of Shadowrun, an upcoming version of Shadowrun 2050 with SR4 rules and what a possible 5th edition should look and feel like.
When SR4 – „wireless edition“ – was released, I was sceptical and didn’t like it („it“ meaning the wifi world) that much. It took me a while to understand and accept that the vision of the future has to be adapted somewhat to our present world, because it’s kinda hard to imagine a future world that’s actually technologically behind our own, real world.
This attitude has since changed. And mostly because I rediscovered my love for classic (= not transhumanist) science fiction, like the Seaford Saga or the stories about Honor Harrington. In this science fiction, you have both technology that is so far beyond what we can hope to achieve in the next 200 years that my eyes are watering (fact: we couldn’t even go to the moon if our lives depended on it currently) AND that are clearly behind what we have achieved already (note: Honor Harrington doesn’t even have an iPhone).
All the tech that is hard to describe and put into game mechanics in a sci-fi setting (like the connectivity and social issues a wireless WWW has and will have) is being left out while „bigger“ technological advancements that are easier to grasp and introduce in a sci-fi setting, both as a concept and rules-wise (like space travel, or cybertech) are put forward.
Returning to Shadowrun, I now see what the appeal of the „cable matrix“ SOTA of 2050-2060 is – and can even see beyond that: How much appeal a world would have (as a game background, and also in respect to rules) in which the free and omnipresent internet never surfaced. Remember the days of AT&T and AOL dominance? Just add megacorporations and tighten the control even further: internet would be a kind of interactive TV, with the megas being the senders and the consumer being receivers – and nothing else.
Remember how it felt – actually FELT – to be amongst the „elite“ of the world just because you had the implant to dive into the matrix, and others didn’t? Remember the balls you had to have, facing off against the almighty power of the megas, battling them on their home turf, the matrix, liberating data?
I know that from our current day perspective this seems so remote, as our megas oftentimes give off the impression to understand less about the internet than every kid does – but that also means that being a hacker is not and will never be the same as being a DECKER.
OK, enough rambling:
Here are some videos of an increasing stream of videos about the future that’s about to hit us in the next, oh, 5–10 years. I sure will enjoy living then, but I’d like to PLAY in a world that is simpler and darker than our own, not one that’s even more complicated.
Shadowrun is a blend between fantasy and sci-fi. Let’s amp up the fantasy a bit (not in the sense of „more magic“ or „even more player races“, but in the sense of the general appeal of the fantasy genre in offering a simpler world we’d like to get away to), and tune down sci-fi to a gritty, dark, brooding cyberpunk theme where a lone guy with a gun and/or a deck just may make a difference – even when he’s not a dragon or IE.
Let this happen – in 2050 or 2075, I don’t care.