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How “Punk” Cyberpunk 2077 Really Is

In many respects, the cyberpunk 2077 video game, adapted by CDProjekt Red from the red cyberpunk tabletop RPG franchise, it’s a high-fidelity rendering of old-school Cyberpunk in all its chrome-neon glory. Night City, the open world setting of cyberpunk 2077, contains all the key visual aesthetics of a classic cyberpunk metropolis: it’s dominated by ruthless mega-corporations and crime syndicates, and its noir outlaw protagonists alienated from their own humanity partly due to cybernetic implants, but mainly due to the employers who treat them. as disposable tools. At the same time, Cyberpunk 2077’s overall quests and plot lines don’t always lean towards the “punk” aspect of classic cyberpunk RPGs, namely the anti-authoritarian creed that values ​​rejection of defiant and consumer culture. anger towards the systems that control and oppress.


There is a delicious irony in the fact that William Gibson, the author who cyberpunk 2077 owes a lot to He’s not a particularly computer-savvy person. The pioneering cyberpunk threads of he-el burning chrome collection of short stories and novel neuromancer – were typed on a typewriter from around 1927, and he only acquired a desktop computer for writing stories in the late 1980s. As an outsider fascinated by information technology, the nascent Internet, and early video games hack and slash arcade like Gauntlethis career-making cyberpunk stories were born out of a mix of film noir narrative tropes, social commentary on 1980s culture/commercial values, a distaste for Golden Age sci-fi tech fetishism, and a healthy dose of punk skepticism towards authority. .

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The origins of cyberpunk and William Gibson

Cyberpunk 2077 Tabletop RPG Promotion Marketing Cyberpunk Red Dungeons And Dragons Pathfinder

In addition to creating names for modern computing concepts like cyberspace, Gibson’s novels also encoded some of the strangely anachronistic tropes seen in movies like the Matrix. This includes virtual realities filled with strange glowing polygons, hackers who “plug” into computer casings with neural implants, and urban mercenary “street samurai” with cybernetic augmentations and bastard warrior codes from Japanese culture.

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the shadow race table role playing game, that fuses cyberpunk with D&D – fantasy style, and the red cyberpunk RPG, a more direct example of the cyberpunk genre – draws heavily from William Gibson’s early games. Extension trilogy, featuring character creation systems and gameplay mechanics designed to allow players to create teams of “punk” cyborg criminals who live an outlaw lifestyle with no corporate ownership, but have to pay the bills by completing missions of theft and subterfuge for untrustworthy customers. As a single player adaptation of red cyberpunkthe videogame cyberpunk 2077 Modifies the rules of the tabletop RPG so that the main character, a customizable “Edgerunner” street mercenary, can complete dangerous jobs alone and acquire more cybernetic augments without suffering nasty side effects.

The friendly and strange NPCs of cyberpunk 2077The story frequently embodies the outlaw punk aesthetic of the classic cyberpunk protagonist, particularly in the case of rock star turned anti-corporate maverick Johnny Silverhand (voiced and moved by Keanu Reeves). The player character of “V”, however, is presented as more of a gunslinger who is more interested in “sticking to the man” and more interested in becoming a legend that people will remember forever; this vague motivation gives players room to project their own ideals and traits onto their video game avatar, but it’s also one of several moments where Cyberpunk 2077 loses the “punk” part of the genre it represents.

Cyberpunk 2077’s core gameplay may tend toward violent nihilism

Legendary Netrunner Infovisor Antisurge protected by ICE in Cyberpunk 2077.

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As an action RPG where players take on the role of a mercenary for hire, cyberpunk 2077 and its Night City setting are filled with questlines and questlines where players solve their problems by killing people; Gun down crooks and cyber psychopaths, hack security guards’ hardware to self-destruct, etc. The Cyberpunk genre, centered on dark and polluted futures filled with crime and brutality, is certainly no stranger to violent protagonists. At the same time, it is largely based around protagonists who rage against the violence and cruelty of their world and fight for something better (a good example of this punk theme is the central area of ​​Flux State in the shadow race universe, a flawed but vibrant anarchist enclave in future Berlin that is an important cog in the dragon fall campaign of the shadow race cRPG trilogy).

Most flawed missions in cyberpunk 2077 it’s just about killing or stealing from random “bad guy” targets and doesn’t give players a chance to be maverick rebels (particularly the missions where players actually work for the corrupt Night City police); Cyberpunk stories where the protagonists can only choose between having a boot down their throat or being a boot down someone else’s throat aren’t particularly punk. Properly, cyberpunk 2077 it’s best when it gives players the chance to be more than just a gunslinger and engage in complex, messy, humane activities. The side missions where protagonist V helps an AI running a taxi business, escorts an ex-con who crucifies himself to atone for his sins, or plunges into underwater ruins with a friend really stand out from the others. missions in cyberpunk 2077 and its open world.

Cyberpunk 2077’s supporting characters can be superficially punk at times

A replica of Johnny Silverhand's Samurai jacket in Cyberpunk 2077.

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A bitter irony about real-world punk culture is that it began as a do-it-yourself, anti-commercial ethos, but over time was marketed by fashion companies, big-name music studios, and big business in general through a wide range of media. , including video games. A similar paradox can be seen in cyberpunk 2077a video game that oozes contempt for big business hoarding climate and energy at the expense of the environment and the well-being of its workforce, but it’s also a AAA title made by a large publisher and game studio criticized for forcing game developers . in a critical culture where they work constant overtime.

Like a lot of anti-corporate media work done by corporations, it’s important to examine the punk supporting characters of cyberpunk 2077 and see if they are more than the visual anesthetics of punk fashion. Some characters in the games, when one looks beyond their hairdos, tattoos, odd piercings, tattered clothing, and catchphrases, seem unpunky, profit-focused, conspicuously consuming the latest fashions, and carving out a comfortable niche within the game. its harsh status quo. In a way, the best “punk” characters in cyberpunk 2077 They tend to be the likes of Viktor Vektor, an old-fashioned ripperdoc who walked away from his former glamorous life as a professional boxer to run an underground clinic, lavishly helping the player character and others in need with no thought of reward.

More: Cyberpunk 2077 Is Missing A Crucial RPG Element

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