cyberpunk. When you think of the word, images of a futuristic cityscape filled with neon lights, amalgamations of Western-Japanese architecture, and a cybernetic hero armed with a samurai sword are likely to spring to mind — or an “AAA” game, that always still trying to get your bearings. However, what often gets lost in the word’s glitz and synthetic glamor are the larger philosophical ideas and disruptive technologies that shaped the genre, which reflect the uncertainties of the world we live in. That near-constant miss of the mark in cyberpunk games has it guarding me.
Today’s games have misinterpreted the genre. While it’s easy to get caught up in the power fantasy and grandeur of transhumanism, these games haven’t spent enough time contemplating the issues that arise from our relationship with these technologies. Cyberpunk should be an inspection and commentary on the power structures that define our world and our places in it.
All of this left me poised to ditch cyberpunk games for the foreseeable future until then citizen sleeper, A recent entry into the genre inspired by tabletop RPGs caught my attention. more promising, my box Lead writer Ethan Gatch said it was one of his favorite games of the year so far. I was still cautious, but I was willing to try. When I thought I was alone in my turbulent relationship with cyberpunk, I discovered it citizen sleeperThe sole developer and writer of , Gareth Damian Martin, shares many of my concerns about the development of the genre.
Aside from reducing cyberpunk to an aesthetic, I’ve noticed a tendency to compare said games to other media. This often takes the form of tired analogies alluded to by a game’s theatrics Bladerunner or ghost in the shell. But when I’m wondering what these modern day cyberpunk games are actually saying, I can’t find an answer. They are mere copy shells of aesthetics with no spirits of their own. Something Martin wanted to avoid in the making citizen sleeper.
In citizen sleeper, You play as a copy of a cryogenically frozen person called the Sleeper who has to work to pay off their debts before being disposed of. A dice system within the game determines the condition of your body. Every day you must decide whether to help others by building mutual aid, or use your money to pay for the medicines that keep you alive.
And although Martin was inspired William Gibsonthe American-Canadian author who has authored works such as neuromage and considered the forerunner of the cyberpunk genre, they took offense at the noir power fantasy and forward-thinking scope that’s rampant within the genre, even from Gibson himself, as I did.
I compare the “cyberpunk-like” games to blame for this to the anime Ghost in the Shell: Stand alone complex. Unlike newer media, which have saved parts of their narrative to use as templates for their own stories, GitS SAC characterizes every corner of his shattered world and the citizens within. Japan is running amok with efficient and invasive technologies.
“What kind of makes cyberpunk seem stagnant is the way it can feel like we’re still using the same structures that worried Gibson [and] Ridley Scott in the 70’s and 80’s. Things like that pathetic fear of Japanese dominance and things like that coming through certain texts. We’re working away from that now, and that’s actually none of our business,” Martin told me.
citizen sleeper, however, has an overwhelmingly positive rating on Steam at the time of release, with players calling the game a “gem” that “hit the sweet spot” for them with its narrative gameplay. Martin said they had not approached the letter citizen sleeper
“I modeled the structures around things in our society today, like constant pressure, risk taking, feeling like luck is the only thing keeping you covered, or waking up in the morning not knowing exactly how much you’re going to have to give,” said Martin.
After receiving feedback from players after launch, Martin said they think players are connected to the structure citizen sleeper because it allows them to place their own experiences within the framework of the game and explore how the larger structures that surround and affect their lives can be “malicious”, “unintentional” or “just background noise”.
Although cyberpunk is now seen as a warning on the horizon for the fate of mankind and what we should do to avoid it, Martin said that writers today should not rehash the prose used at the beginning of the genre or attempt to to answer what life will be like in the distant future. Instead, they said, we should focus on the now.
“For [cyberpunk] To be effective I feel it needs to resort to something now because I don’t think Gibson and [Bruce] Sterling wrote about the future. I think they wrote about the moment they were in,” Martin said. “We should continue to let cyberpunk work in the moment we are in, not the moment they were in or in this great imagined future. I think cyberpunk is here now.”