Cyberpunk shows grim future
The video game Cyberpunk 2077 was released on Dec 10 and has already made history by breaking the record number of simultaneous users on the video game platform Steam with 1 million players. The game allows players to explore a futuristic city where people have combined themselves with technology. As the title of the game indicates, these elements make up part of the genre known as cyberpunk. This genre is often described as "high tech, lowlife".
The cyberpunk genre itself is said to have started with Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a science fiction novel by US author Philip K. Dick published in 1968. The book was later adapted into a film by Ridley Scott in 1982 called Blade Runner. In the film, a policeman must hunt down replicants, machines that look the same as people.
"I think the aesthetic of Blade Runner made the genre," said Mike Pondsmith, the creator of the tabletop role-playing game that inspired Cyberpunk 2077. The film shows an ugly future where all-powerful corporations rule from high above a neon-lit cityscape where the city's residents scrape by on the streets below. This vision of the future set the template for much of the genre going forward.
The actual name of the genre was coined by writer Bruce Bethke in 1980, referring to an article he wrote about teenage hackers. The hacking aspect of cyberpunk was further solidified in William Gibson's Neuromancer, published in 1984. In the novel, a young hacker named Case betrays his employer and is consequently damaged in order to prevent him from entering a vast cyberspace world within the internet known as "The Matrix". The story is full of cyberpunk staples including dangerous AI, body augmentation and a wide divide between rich and poor.
The genre has grown in popularity over the years. With films and TV shows such as Akira, Ghost in the Shell, The Matrix and Altered Carbon among others, the genre seems here to stay.
"It is a setting that is focused on the human experience," said Lukas Litzsinger, the game designer behind the cyberpunk card game Netrunner, "and how far we can push the limits of both technology and ourselves."