A brief history of cyberpunk games •

The long-awaited release of Cyberpunk 2077 brings long-standing enthusiastic expectations to those who were itchy trying to roam the streets of Night City, but it’s the latest example of the game sticking to the trap of the cyberpunk genre. It’s just that.

Given the technological boom of the 1950s and the mainstream presence of pop culture in the late 70’s and early 80’s, it’s probably inevitable that games and cyberpunk are inextricably intertwined. Hmm. The challenge is to consider how to separate games (literally hundreds) that cherry-pick the aesthetic aspects of cyberpunk from the games that are true examples of cyberpunk fiction, or at least trying to do so. .. To do so, we need to clarify the main metaphors of this genre. That is, the outlook for dystopia in the near future, interest in alternative digital realities, drugs or technologies are helping human transformation, and corporate interests far exceed the quaint notions of elected government. It’s a cultural environment.

Things started pretty early on, when cyberpunk movies of the 1980s adapted to 8-bit home computers like ZX Spectrum. The Blade Runner game isn’t a more expensive movie, but Vangelis, quite cleverly, despite flying a “spinner” craft over Los Angeles and asking you to find the wrong replicant and chase after it with a simple foot chase. Licensed by Creepy Synth Score. It’s an interesting pastime, but I couldn’t tackle the cyberpunk theme in a meaningful way.

Released in 1986, the Max Headroom game is based on the original Channel 4 TV movie (one of the terribly underrated cyberpunk texts in itself) rather than an MTV-style chat show, an ominous media company. Cast you as a hacker invading your office. This brainwashing suit continues to capture Max, the world’s first digital intelligence, on the mainframe. It’s up to you to release him. Climb all floors, defeat security systems, hack elevators, and be rewarded with an animated scene that Max personally appreciates through the distorted sample audio medium that was a groundbreaking multimedia feast at the time. I did.

The idea behind cyberpunk was an important part of Max Headroom’s television debut, but it wasn’t really explored in his game. Also, in 1991 D / Generation, the PC and Commodore Amiga were games that were very similar to Max Headroom in both concept and execution. You are again an unfortunate intruder, this time a courier, trapped in a skyscraper in Genok. Yet another dystopian company, forced to fight the army of Brobbie bioweapons to the end. The gameplay is a bit more sophisticated and the plot is a bit more exaggerated (your character is named after the philosopher Jacques Derrida), but in the end you were blasting monsters and puzzles. I just solved it. Cyberpunk, in spirit, was just a window dressing for the fun that is still familiar.

Finally, in the 1990s, the rise of internet technology clashed with the widespread Western releases of Japanese anime titles such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell, creating the perfect real-world Petri dish that created the simmering concept of cyberpunk. So everything has changed. Culturally related boiling. As a result, in 1993 and 1994 alone, we had four major cyberpunk games, and the impact is still felt today.


Bullfrog’s super-violent squad strategy shooter, Syndicate in 1993, was arguably the first game to become cyberpunk in both concept and content. Set in 2096, Syndicate keeps the masses in compliance by using implants that keep the world’s governments surrounded by giant megacorporations and unaware of the hellish landscape of dystopia where people live. I imagined the world I was doing.

What the syndicate deviated from the cyberpunk story in prose and live-action was that you were an enthusiastic supporter of the bad guys, this time in line with the bloodthirsty edge of the game. Control the bio-enhanced agent quartet from isometric projections, your work adventures across desolate cityscapes, completes corporate paymaster missions, disrupts rival megacorps, and generally a series The weapons and gadgets of the quartet were to cause havoc and advance the agenda. Among these gizmos is the infamous Persuadertron, which has been able to reverse NPC loyalty thanks to its chip implants and the conceit of a truly dark and brilliant cyberpunk.

The same year, we also saw the SNES release of Shadowrun, one of the game’s ingenious cyberpunk franchises. Shadowrun, which combined Japanese role-playing DNA into this genre, along with a metaphor from Tolkiensk’s high fantasy, was also an early example of a crossover between desktop and video games.

Playing as the amnesiac protagonist Jake Armitage, you were dropped to Seattle in 2050, but in Shadowrun’s reality, mythical creatures such as orcs and elves share our city and are high-tech. Physical remodeling coexists with magic. It’s one of the genre mashups that can easily turn into sludge, but the results were really compelling. Using another popular post-Blade Runner cyberpunk metaphor (Sci-Fi interwoven film noir detective mystery), immerse yourself in that unusual world. The game also offers another repetitive cyberpunk idea popularized by William Gibson’s 1981 short story Johnny Memonic. Jake turned out to be a “data courier” that transfers sensitive information via a hard drive in the brain.


Johnny Mnemonic was made into a movie in 1995, and Keanu Reeves communicated with the cyborg dolphins. This also influenced point-and-click adventure games in the same year, but before that, two more ingenious cyberpunk stories were told. game.

Under Steel Sky, in 1994, legendary adventure game designer Charles Cecil (famous for Broken Sword) and Watchmen comic artist Dave Gibbons collaborated. Under Steel Sky, set in the vision of yet another dystopian of our future, the world is divided into vast city-states scattered across desolate continents, the expected nihilism of the cyberpunk genre. A game that balances the sense of humor expected by gamers who were separated by the adventures of Lucasarts. Most notably, the game presents perceptual machine ideas through both a humorous vacuum cleaner buddy and a fairly harsh late-stage revelation about the nature of LINC, the AI ​​that controls the city behind the scenes. It was a quest.

As a graphic adventure, Beneath a Steel Sky was able to bring the story to the foreground in ways not previously found in cyberpunk-injected games. This was an emphasis that was also applied to System Shock, a game that defines other genres in 1994.

In a system shock set in 2072, he played as an unnamed hacker threatened by a rogue executive at TriOptimum Corporation to extract information about new biological weapons from SHODAN, the AI ​​that controls the Citadel Station. The overview alone already puts System Shock head-on in the realm of cyberpunk, and the game’s first-person perspective and non-linear structure allow players to hunt around and investigate its effects. The game was also rolled out in the digital realm of “meet space” and cyberspace in the real world. This cannot be underestimated in an era when the concept of the website itself was considered thrilling and new.


More importantly, the game gives players the freedom to define and upgrade themselves during the course of the game, depending on their preferred playstyle. This is the mechanism we take for granted today in everything from historic fighters to fantasy RPGs, but System Shock is a living canvas that allows you to add different skills and abilities through implants. We pioneered this concept of player characters. It’s no exaggeration to say that what was the background concept of the previous title is now a central idea of ​​gameplay, and if System Shock normalizes it, the game will never be the same. .. There are few AAA games these days where upgrades and skill trees don’t work, and the concept itself is cyberpunk. Can you do something? Strengthen yourself until you can.

Even games that weren’t immersed in cyberpunk culture, as represented by the 1997 PlayStation-only G-Police that controlled the hover of the future, have rampant companies, technical ingenuity, and future themes of dystopia. Well integrated into the game in general. -A copter that plunges into Callisto’s dome-shaped colony. Gameplay was a fulfillment of pure power fantasy wishes, but the conceptual debt to Blade Runner’s cityscape and the storyline that ultimately led to the expected corporate misconduct was the idea of ​​the story. Enough to tilt the game into the margins of the cyberpunk genre Weaponed surveillance attack craft is a bad thing that offends the fact that it’s actually great from a play point of view.

Curiously, at the turn of the millennium we saw a fresh wave of cyberpunk-inspired movies, but especially The Matrix and Strange Days declined a bit in the game, or peaked at least in the mid-’90s. Innovation was significantly lacking. Deus Ex was released in 2000 and is the only glowing beacon created by System Shock producer Warren Spector. A very spiritual brother of the game in both concept and execution. This time, I was playing as JC Denton, an agent of the United Nations Anti-Terrorism Union (UNATCO), who is enthusiastic about the traces of deadly nanopest.


The aspect of system shock enhancement was freely suppressed here. Traditionally in cyberpunk, the idea of ​​implants and upgrades was to give the vulnerable a chance to fight corrupt oppressive conditions and to allow criminal activity such as data smuggling. In the world of Deus Ex, it was the gateway to superpowers such as strength, speed, and stealth that blushed the average comic book hero.

Deus Ex was also deeply devoted to the realm of conspiracy theory, taking suspicion of authority inherent in this genre and dialing up to 11 with open reference to Area 51, the Illuminati and more. The story is built into a moral choice with global implications, but until 2011 Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the series actually delves into the philosophy behind cyberpunk, augmenting superhumans and running around. We have fully explored the impact.

Following Deus Ex and its immediate sequel, cyberpunk has receded into an aesthetic choice rather than a thematic obsession with the game. Titles like Fear Effect and its sequels riffed the style, but seemed more interested in making media coverage goose through the lesbian protagonist of its pre-apic youth magazine. The sci-fi demon mashing game Oni, a collaboration between developer Bungie and publisher Rockstar, was decent enough in terms of action, but eventually Ghost in the Shell to dress up the old gameplay concept. I was renting clothes.

Surprisingly, before Cyberpunk 2077 itself, the game that best explored the theme of cyberpunk in the 2000s was a game that abandoned almost all of the current clichés of the genre. As another data courier fleeing authoritarian forces, Mirror’s Edge stood out by imagining a world where corporate domination brought a kind of breathtaking peace. The skyscrapers appear in bright white against a clear blue sky, and the red impact shows your parkour path. d Used to escape the system. Mirror’s Edge, with no neon signs and no one to bother in the rainy streets, doesn’t look like a typical cyberpunk game, but the story of a control-suffocating, digitally-assisted rebellion Undoubtedly, from the late 70’s to the early 80’s, we were working on the theme that defined this genre.

That brings the impending arrival of Cyberpunk 2077 today and. The game arrives with a huge amount of hype in its enhanced bionic back and clearly sets itself up with a first-person view, spiral customization options, and emphasis on freedom of choice System Shock and Deus Ex Pantheon. Until you join. Still, it’s also a multi-million dollar AAA entertainment product developed and published by today’s large corporations. This is the dichotomy of exploring cyberpunk through entertainment media. I hope Cyberpunk 2077 can meet its ancestors-and the promise of its own title.

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