Experience Points: Cyberpunk Is Alive And Well in Games
For awhile, I was missing straight and honest Cyberpunk from my gaming diet. The last game that I can recall playing the Cyberpunk card, with explicit purpose, was Deus Ex: Human Revolution, which reminded me so much of William Gibson’s Neuromancer, and Blade Runner to a larger extent. I’ve always loved Cyberpunk but rarely understood what it was truly about, until reading Neuromancer in college and coming to grips with the genre as a whole. With the upcoming release of Remember Me, and Cyberpunk 2077 around the corner in a year or two, I am once again entranced by the sprawl of Cyberpunk revival in the air. Of course, Cyberpunk came back to the fore with the Matrix and its trilogy, and the Japanese are still producing Cyberpunk-centric anime and manga throughout the years, but gaming is the perfect place for Cyberpunk to find a glorious home of endless possibility.
Cyberpunk works are typically characterised by elements of hard boiled detective noir set in an uncertain future where cybernetics and artificial intelligence are the bane of existence. Mega-corporations control much of society and rogue elements of society are found in hackers and information agents, who are in conflict with a degenerate and dystopian society. Society itself exists within cyberspace and the allure of virtual reality makes the individual into an addict. Many of these elements have made their way into countless works of fiction, and it is interesting to see the genre come back into its own during a rise in post-apocalyptic fiction. We have examples of the post-apocalyptic trend in TV shows like Revolution and The Walking Dead, and in videogames like The Last of Us.
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The are an excessive amount of examples to add to the list, and game developers are using the genre in a variety of ways, and are committing to interesting takes on the whole genre within the scope of games development. Case in point, Remember Me takes the setting prevalent in Cyberpunk fiction to its logical extreme, where society has become indivisibly integrated into advanced social networking and the whole of Neo-Paris (the city and setting in Remember Me) is under constant high-tech surveillance. Society, in Remember Me, is run on the power and trade in memories, and this essential data is the basis for the dystopian society within the game world. Nilin, an elite memory hunter, fulfils the pre-requisite of the ‘hacker’ role so prevalent in Cyberpunk fiction, as she hacks peoples minds to obtain memories, to complete mission objectives in the game.
Remember Me has been called a Total Recall rip-off by some, which was originally adapted from a short story by Philip K. Dick, who is one of the most famous and important figures in Science Fiction. People often forget that Total Recall is not wholly original and draws on the work of Philip K. Dick, who has influenced the Cyberpunk genre from its inception, and whose undeniable influence, and body of work, made films like Blade Runner and Minority Report a reality. Blade Runner is the most famous example because of how it directly embodies all of the necessary elements that characterise Cyberpunk. However, the point is that in Science Fiction everything is derivative.
But of late, we have rarely seen any films dare to explore the same sort of territory that previous films have attempted to. Even the remake of Total Recall, in 2012, didn’t fully explore the implications of a memory wipe in the way that Remember Me proposes to. There is a difference in depth, and games can provide a place for Cyberpunk where the depth of the genre can flourish without constraints. This is the beauty of game development and with Remember Me coming to us in June things are looking up for Cyberpunk.