RSU Roleplaying Game v2
Are we playing cyberpunk?
With one word, "yes". However, a more honest answer is "yes and no". Many aspects of the genre are dear to me and useful from a storytelling standpoint, but one of the most problematic aspects of the field is that possibilities, beliveability and relatability are stretched to the breaking point when discussing truly posthuman concepts such as mind uploads, simulations and artificial intelligence.
More specifically, it is difficult to create believable plots of intrigue, secrecy, espionage and conflict, when almost limitless computational resources are assumed to be accessible to almost everyone. In movie science-fiction, it is common to see modern versions of robocop browsing through countless video transmissions and acting upon them instantly, a doomsday device tracking countless targets or a law-enforcement supercomputer modeling the chances of antisocial behavior for an individual.
These ideas may sound fun and may seem awe-inspiring when encountered in a movie, but are of limited use when crafting stories where the main characters are supposed to have any sort of agency. It is common for me to say that storyteling worlds have to be closed. In order to appreciate a plotline unfolding, it is necessary to understand what has happened and what could happen. The aforementioned concepts enlarge the decision space vastly, and while they might not break storytelling altogether, they trivialize it for entities which refuse or cannot act with the same efficiency and resources of the other actors.
We do not want this. In a roleplaying game, we want our actions to matter.
Disregard for conformism and operational freedom are some of the most important concepts in roleplaying. They are a way for a person to relax and unwind – spend time with friends and simulate scenarios outside the bounds of normal behavior conventions. They want to experience situations which are stupid, dangerous, criminal and unlikely succeed, but cool. In a truly posthuman science fiction universe, the possibilities for this are limited or become altered in ways which greatly limit operational freedom. If everyone has access to AIs and robust simulation systems, one cannot choose to act irrationally or unoptimally without being in an immense disadvantage. We do not want a world where the players would prefer to ask their AIs whether they want to do something, or worse yet, what to do. Neither do not want a world, where their very choices and intellectual capacity is fundamentally worthless. Worse yet, we do not want a world, where the players themselves or the game master cannot simulate outcomes with any confidence.
Admittedly these problems are not directly related to cybverpunk itself. Its premise does not need these concepts even though some or all of them are often present. However, I would prefer to focus on the parts of cyberpunk which are desirable in a storytelling sense, such as technological optimism (or pessimism, if you choose to see it that way), corporationism and the collapse of a structured society.
More simply, we want:
- Crude cyberpunk fo the 80's – the melding of flesh and chrome
- Great contrasts of power and wealth – selfish entities and their power struggles
- Detoriation of the rule of law and the atmosphere of safety
- Computers as tools, not rulers
We don't want:
- Problem-free, slick and clinical technology
- Synthetics, artificial intelligences, positron brains
- Effortless and beliveable augmented or virtual realities
- Transhumanism – integration of minds into computers, uploads, simulations, mind transfer and technological immortality
- Strong AIs
Admittedly some elements of the "no" list are bound to exist in some form, but we must be careful in their use.
Appleseed/Ghost in the Shell
Sleep Dealer (telepresence robot fuk aasam)
Bubblegum Crisis (& muu täysin häpeämätön kasarijuusto)
Rifters-trilogia (erityisesti kehonmuokkaus ja sopeuttaminen)
Strange Days (valtavasti oikeaa asennetta)
Texhnolyze (asenne kyberteknologiaan, kyberteknologian ylläpito)
Don't read these
Minority Report / Psycho Pass