We are very quickly entering a world where the difference between fantasy and reality is difficult or impossible to distinguish. It is a globalized world pulsing with information flows and data commodities, a place where infinite sub-cultures and mind cults live in their own pocket universes. – Unknown
Too often the term ‘cyberpunk’ conjures up images of euro-trash sporting mirrorshades, spiked collars and lime-green mohawks. Like an 80’s MTV video from a metal band named after a reptile or medieval torture device, it’s cool if you’re 13.
The genre became popular around that decade, so I understand the (unfortunate) visual associations, but dig in to the heart of the stories by William Gibson, Bruce Sterling, Philip K. Dick, and others, and you quickly realize their themes are uncomfortably important. Consider unrestrained technology intersecting human nature, corporate saturation and commercialization in the midst of urban decay, or the frightening disorientation of virtual reality and artificial intelligence. Given human history and current events, it seems obvious cyberpunk’s gritty cynicism was more prescient than the bright and shining optimism of Star Trek. Bit of an indictment, but look around… here we are.
Sucker for Sci Fi, shiny graphics, and good story lines, I had pre-ordered the latest installment of the Deus-Ex PC game franchise – D.E.: Human Revolution. Work and Real Life what it is, I held off installing ’til the other night.
“Oh, I’ll just play a couple levels before I go to bed.”
Six plus hours later, I stumbled into bed, looking to snatch a couple hours sleep before the sun came up.
“Blown away” would be an understatement. It’s total immersion.
This won’t be a review of the game; you can find dozens of those online already. Beyond graphics, physics engines, weapons and geek-tech, the substance of this game is the story and the world it inhabits. It’s an amazingly deep, intricate, dangerous, ambiguous place, filled with tough choices, hidden alternatives, and dangerous consequences. A fictional future game world, sure, but it’s an eerily realistic one.
This is the world I envisioned for Eshu International. Dark, messy, violent, controversial. Now I’m not jumping on their band wagon or patting myself on the back here; I’m applauding Square Enix’ remarkable vision in constructing cyberpunk’s latest iteration. Running Black is laced with geek references, not simply as ‘tips o’ the hat’, but in acknowledgment of my debts to the great writers and great thinkers in whose shadow I work. And as a genre writer, I hope to attain this level of insight and creativity one day.
Here’s a final video for you. Grim, I know, but if technology continues, I’d wager something just like this crops up on CNN sooner rather than later.