The essence of Cyberpunk has been summed up in these few words, “high-tech and low life” by many. It sounds like a fairly straight forward genre, yet it is easy to misrepresent. It’s not only about future tech, sleazy cut scenes, and crooked cops. Many video games have paraded under the banner of cyberpunk but, missing the subtleties of the genre, have failed miserably to capture its dark heartbeat.
When Cyberpunk 2077 was announced I kept a tight lid on my expectations. I am a fan-girl of the genre, but it’s going to take more than parading a catchy title and a few screenshots to grab my attention!
As far as I am concerned, when it comes to cyberpunk it has to be authentic or it must GTFO.
Cyberpunk is about cybernetics, the anti-hero, moral ambiguity, the underbelly of humanity, a nihilistic view on life. It has a specific sound; a gritty and beaten look; a certain vibe – typically one of desperation and a particular feeling about how life is perceived. It’s about tech that replaces organic, about being other and about a way to survive in chaos. Beating the system, surviving dystopia and navigating through the digital spider web of the Mega Corporation, these are the central themes of the cyberpunk ideology.
The epitome of cyberpunk is “Blade Runner”, the 1982 movie loosely based on the novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick. I’ve seen it a zillion times and played the concomitant game for days on end. Blade Runner is one of the most exquisite creations ever to come from the mind of man. Not only does it tell the cyberpunk story in a way to honour the genre, it also delivers superb acting, a stunning soundtrack, and a storyline often emulated by other films and games. “Johnny Mnemonic” is another movie to succeed in capturing the pulse of cyberpunk. Where Blade Runner portrays cyberpunk and its dark influence on many different levels, Johnny Mnemonic mostly focuses on the journey of one man and his escape from the clawing clutches of cybernetics.
Cyberpunk 2077 has big shoes to fill. Can it deliver? Let’s take a peek into the mind of Mike Pondsmith, the man behind the creation of one of the most challenging games of the century so far.
“This isn’t exactly my first rodeo.” Mike Pondsmith on his quest to get a great Cyberpunk computer game developed.
Pondsmith is no stranger when it comes to the cyberpunk universe. He is the chairperson of R Talsorian Games, best known for the role-playing Cyberpunk 2020 series. According to Pondsmith the greatest obstacle in getting Cyberpunk 2077 to production was finding the right development team to work with:
“This is the most important thing. The Team has to love the material. The Team has to want to be faithful to the material. The Team has to have the skills to execute the material and see that vision through to the end. They have to be on fire with the desire to make an extraordinary game.”
Pondsmith decided to hand the honours of birthing his cyber baby to CD Projekt Red, the studio who built “Witcher 2”. With its outstanding graphics, mature content, dark undertones and successful track record in the RPG genre, the union seems like a match made in cyberpunk heaven. Mike continues:
“True cyberpunk also needs an adult feel (and that means more than just the sex). Unlike other genres, cyberpunk characters should have vices to go with their virtues. How they deal with those vices is a big part of their complexity. When we looked at the Witcher series, we saw a world where gambling, drinking, hookers and other vices were a big part of character development, but were also handled as part of the general adult character of the world. But in addition, relationships were treated as actual relationships, with the fights, negotiations, regrets and reconciliations that are part of the way real adults handle real situations.”
According to Pondsmith, the following are key elements of the cyberpunk genre:
- It is about the seductive qualities of corruption and decay;
- Ambiguous moral choices are key;
- It needs an adult feel;
- Romantic quests are another part of the cyberpunk mythology;
- It isn’t just about high-tech. It has to be the right level of high tech.
You can visit the Cyberpunk 2077 blog for an in-depth look at Pondsmith’s introduction to the development process of the game. He hits all the sweet spots as far as the genre goes. I have to admit, I am secretly getting my hopes up for Cyberpunk 2007. It looks like a video game will finally be able to deliver the wild nature of cyberpunk to my screen. If you are also a fan of the genre, drop me a comment.
Check out Cyberpunk 2077 title reveal trailer. Talk about a tease!
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