Archive for August, 2010

Want to write about cyberpunk?

I started this project asking for volunteers. I was pleasantly surprised by the response I got for the site. But, real life takes its toll and some of the people who originally wanted to write for the site have found their free time in short supply. I certainly do appreciate the interest and effort they put into supporting this project.

But, this site is a lot to do with just a few people who want real social lives. Therefore, I’m asking if any of you, our enthusiastic readers, are interested in stepping forward to write for the site. I’m looking for people who can post up interesting cyberpunk topics to discuss. If you’re interested, send an email with a proposed article to admin@theinternetcrashed.com for consideration.

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Cyberpunk geopolitics

I want to delve a bit into politics. I’d really appreciate having a mature conversation here even though political issues, especially in the U.S., tend to stir up a lot of strong feelings. But, this is a topic that I think is interesting to discuss. I will also warn that this is from a very U.S.-centric point of view, but I welcome discussions from other points of view in the comments below.

The the bad old days of the 1980s, there was a palpable feeling of economic dread covering the U.S. The 1970s saw an energy crisis and a recession hurting the U.S. economy (sounds familiar….) The country experienced “stagflation”, state of inflation where the economy remains stagnant. This lead to lot of speculation about how countries with stronger economies might take a position of dominance on the world stage, replacing the U.S.’s traditional role.

One common focus was the rapid increase in Japan’s economic power, which is reflected in a lot of cyberpunk stories. Let’s take a look at the geopolitical situation envisioned by cyberpunk writers and perhaps look at how that is reflected in current times.

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Man’s Best Friends

While Innocence deals us a ‘man-machine’ conundrum by comparing humans with dolls, its prequel, Masaki Yamada’s After the Long Goodbye, looks instead to dogs. Animals are often overlooked in the cyberpunk dystopia, but some stories have dealt with them in a metaphor, either as a link back to nature or a reminder of how artificial the world has become. Pets in particular offer a wealthy topic for discussion, as their bonds to mankind lend us further thought on reality and the notion of souls.

By the time a technological dystopia has arrived, it seems common for cyberpunk animals to have been cloned or remade with robotics. Man makes animal, man makes robot; they’re both examples of our creation, and yet animals are not bound by manufacture in man’s own image. Does this make them less of a threat? More of an asset? How does this affect a cyberpunk character’s relationship with artificial life?

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So, after bashing cyberpunk as an MMO genre, time for me to play “good developer” and show why my evil twin was wrong. Why is cyberpunk a great genre for an MMO?

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As I’ve said before, I’m not just a cyberpunk aficionado, I’m also an MMO developer. These two interests intersect in interesting ways. There have been calls for a cyberpunk-themed MMO from many people, but it hasn’t happened yet. Why?

Let’s take a look at some reasons why cyberpunk is a terrible genre for an MMO.

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The “punk” in Cyberpunk

Being computer geeks, many of us tend to focus a lot on the “cyber” part of cyberpunk. Yet, there is that “punk” part, arguably the root of the word. What does it really mean in the context of the genre?

Punk was originally a genre of music that came about in 1970s. It was a progression of previous rock-n-roll music that came before, but it was also a challenge. Punk rockers felt the music of the 70s had become tame and boring and the label “rock-n-roll” had been appropriated by record executives to apply to a wide range of acts. Some fans were worried that the music was losing it’s authenticity, so the punk rockers came on the scene to take back the sound. They rebelled against staid musicians and a boring society to introduce a sound that was so loud and powerful it couldn’t easily be ignored. As with all good rebellions, the young people got interested and followed with enthusiasm.

This is the “punk” that helped form “cyberpunk” of the 1980s. Let’s take a closer look at other aspects that influenced the genre, even today.

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Game: “The Curfew” is in effect

Reader Haversack wrote in with a tip about an interesting game with a cyberpunk feel to it called The Curfew.

A scene from The Curfew.The Curfew is a small point and click adventure written by Marvel writer and game critic Kieron Gillen and developed by Littleloud digital entertainment for Channel 4. It is very well done in flash with live action placed upon computer generated backgrounds.

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Fighting Back

Time and again we’re led to believe that corporations rule cyberspace and people, and that their downfall is the only thing which could bring about a new, enlightened age – with technology its medium. A recent discussion on British national radio has offered a new take on this idea though, as the likes of Dick, Gibson and Stephenson apparently missed a trick.

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Interview: Gary Ballard

As part of our work here on The Internet Crashed, we’ll do interviews with people involved with cyberpunk.

I first “met” Gary Ballard online; we both frequented the same online game (MMO) rant and discussion sites. He posted under the pseudonym “HaemishM” and was an active participant back in the olden days of the MMO community. As I focused more on my own blog instead of visiting the community sites, I fell out of contact with most of the personalities, including Gary. But, as I was starting up this site, imagine my surprise when I found out that Gary had been writing an online cyberpunk serial called The Bridge Chronicles. Gary has collected his stories into book form and is now selling his work online.

A transcript of our email interview follows.

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Indie Game: Decker

As many of you know, I’m a game developer. One of the occupational hazards of a game developer is that you play a lot of games. My heart is in indie development, so I play a lot of indie games.

It just so happens that one game happens to fit nicely within the theme of this site: Decker by Shawn Overcash.

Read on for a bit of discussion about the game.
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