Bright Lights, Big City

Authors Note: This was written originally around the release of the long gameplay trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. However like my usual self I couldn’t get it quite right and shelved it for a long time. While I think I am finally happy with it I did not change any out of date references or phrasing. I hope you enjoy!

love Cyberpunk.

Clever readers may notice this is coming out suspiciously close to the gameplay reveal for CD Projekt Red’s upcoming game Cyberpunk 2077which I am absurdly excited for. You’d be right in assuming that is what prompted this post but I’ve been mulling over writing it for a while, especially since talking about my preference for Sci-Fi overall.

But why? Although I think the question is silly, because just look at the game, I do think it might be fun to talk about why this genre just does it for me on every level. While I wont place all the credit for it on this little tidbit I have to say that it provides me with some great synergy for my passion–

Minnesota writer Bruce Bethke coined the term in 1980 for his short story “Cyberpunk,” which was published in the November 1983 issue of Amazing Science Fiction Stories.

From – Wikipedia

I’m not one to just loosely throw around the word “destiny” but a writer from my home state published the story which named the genre in the year and month I was born? How cool is that? Sure, he technically made the word up three years prior but it also took me nine months to gestate so I’m calling it a wash.

My fate aside, as Bethke points out in his own post he doesn’t claim, nor should he be given credit, for creating the genre itself even though being the genesis of its name is no small feat. He correctly points out years ago in a short missive called The Etymology of Cyberpunk that there are plenty of authors who came before and after who define the genre and few more than William Gibson.

One of those authors is Mike Pondsmith who I’m going to turn you over to for a few minutes to tell you about his baby, at least in regards to the fiction that the game itself is based on. As he mentions in the video one quote by William Gibson really describes the heart of a cyberpunk setting to me moreso than body mods and mega-corporations–

The Street finds its own uses for things – uses the manufacturers never imagined.

Looking back on growing up in the 80’s and 90’s this sentiment really resonated with my memories of the early days of the internet and how much of it was built by individuals thinking up new ways to use old concepts. Or in some ways completely inventing new methods for a landscape that was functionally the wild west. Going back even further to the 50’s, 60’s and, 70’s to the culture of Phreaking and it all strikes me as very street-level cyberpunk. The folks who engaged in these hobbies, and even perhaps largely because of it, didn’t have much but they made the most of it. Sometimes it was so effective that it actually garnered the attention of the corporations who for so long were too big to notice or care. When you have the time read up on the history of people like Kevin Mitnick or John Draper aka “Captain Crunch”. When I look at these guys I see Doctor Solomon Eddie from Minority Report using technology just a century or two away from being a scene out of that or Blade Runner.

I love a lot of what Pondsmith says about getting the feel of it just right because it is an extremely evocative setting. It’s one of the few where you see a picture of a scene out of it and immediately you know what you’re looking at. It’s one of the many contradictions of the setting that I so enjoy getting tangled up in, that it is so easily identifiable and yet so deeply complex. A future where technology is rampant and available and yet the human condition stubbornly persists. Kept in this constant tug of war between moving towards a better future versus being bound interminably by our baser instincts. For however technologically advanced we become we will never leave behind our roots in spite of believing for so long that technology will be our salvation. It flies directly in the face of some of my favorite Science Fiction like Star Trek which endeavors to show the best that humanity can be in spite of themselves. I enjoy idealistic fiction that seeks to outline our grand potential but there is something alluring about settings that embrace our flaws–opting to go wide on the concept of humanity instead of simply high or low.

Blade Runner
Blade Runner – 1982

Let Us Not Go There, ‘Tis a Silly Place


  1. society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.

You see this word associated with cyberpunk more than just about any other with the exception of maybe neon or body-modding and for good reason. The cyberpunk setting is one that most reasonable people would probably opt to not live in because for the vast majority it is unpleasant to say the least. All the things which make up the definition of a dystopia are usually present along with a whole lot more, so why is that so appealing to me? Because I think underneath the neon sheen, cybernetic mods, mind-bending maze like cities the cyberpunk setting tells a perhaps unpleasant truth about us. There is an area I live not more than twenty minutes from and every time I’m down that way I can’t help but think of it as a microcosm of what we’ll eventually become. At one end of a road that curves through several shopping centers you can see the most recent in business architecture and design with all the stores and restaurants you would expect to find there. The longer you go down this road however the further back in time you travel like layers of a living archaeological dig. None of the buildings are abandoned, in disuse or even look like they aren’t being maintained but the strata of years is unmistakable. The dystopian cyberpunk setting is a tacit admission of the evil wrought upon our world and ourselves but also a clear statement that we as a society have no plans to stop or even slow down. We merely continue to build up, out and, away from things that remind us of a moral responsibility we continually try to leave behind. In some of these settings like Richard Morgan’s 2002 series Altered Carbon humanity is not even confined to a single planet any longer and yet the rot simply follows them outward into the galaxy even though the lowest places on Earth are never abandoned. Humanity continues and thrives through sheer stubborn ingenuity and because I know I’ll never hear the end of it if I don’t, you could even say that…

We know, Ian. We never learn but we know.

Cyberpunk is almost Gotham-esque in that way that it shows a setting that is both attractive for its eccentricities and repulsive for it’s brutality. The question isn’t really about whether or not you would want to live there but rather how those with no choice survive and thrive for lack of any other option.

Outside of the moral bankruptcy that has built this dystopian future it is often stunningly beautiful to look at. Watching movies like Blade Runner and even the sequel 2049 there are plenty of Star Trek: The Motion Picture like glory-shots of the landscape, such as it is. Where many would rightly marvel at long panning nature shots in things like The Lord of the Rings movies, I love looking at the Escher-like makeup of Mega-Cities and imagining each stage of its patchwork construction. In spite of what my mind knows I’ll find there I still want to explore every skyway and sub-street to see what they offer. Even the neon which you would think suffers from invoking the tacky nightmare that is the Las Vegas strip instead piques my curiosity and even looks inviting against the often dreary backdrop. The bright dancing colors provide a certain reprieve from the dour rain-slicked surroundings to the point of looking happy regardless of the reality contained within. This piquing of my curiosity was the main reason that the cancellation of Star Wars 1313 hit me so hard, because we had come so close to being able to explore the planet of Coruscant which was home to the Galactic City. Five thousand one hundred and twenty seven layers of city sprawl built up from the original surface of the planet; the game itself was so named for level 1313 where the criminal underworld of the planet thrived. It was a near perfect confluence of two of my most cherished settings.

A book called Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson has some of my favorite descriptions of this setting running the gamut from privatized rural burboclaves, Uncle Enzo and his Mafia management of Cosa Nostra Pizza all the way to the sovereign micro-nations like Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong. The names of each suggesting a story of their origin and by association describing a tiny portion of the setting’s history. For me cyberpunk has a way of letting you sight-see through a long and complicated past without holding you down and force feeding you long diatribes. Like if the educational movie scene in Jurassic Park was made exclusively for masochists by the people who put together the Encyclopedia BritannicaSnow Crash itself suffers from a bit of this which as a fan was disappointing but I would try to get everyone curious about the genre to at least read the first 150 pages.

Cyberpunk is not about saving humanity, it’s about saving yourself.

  • Mike Pondsmith


One of the other things I love about this genre is the approach it takes to augmentation and creating what are essentially super-humans by mixing technobabble that would make Star Trek writers balk with a little side of body horror–

Body Horror
Gameplay from CDPR’s upcoming title Cyberpunk 2077

A similar scene to this also played out in the movie Minority Report which to this day still gives me the shivers.  Aside from making me uncomfortable I like that it doesn’t shy away from the obvious cost, outside of monetary, that these modifications would extract. Most of the body-mods we see now are aesthetic in nature but we’ve also started experimentation with implantable technology. I’d be lying if I said I don’t desperately wish to still be alive when humanity gets this far into experimenting with melding technology into our bodies. There are so many fascinating moral and philosophical questions that come along with the entire concept of changing our bodies so fundamentally. It probably ranks right up there with one of my favorite philosophical discussions regarding the transporters in Star Trek. Is the person who materializes on the other end still the you who left? How would you know?

In Altered Carbon human consciousnesses are often needlecasted from location to location and into other sleeves (bodies) but are all presumed to be the same person regardless of the number of transfers. The societies rich use clones and backups of their consciousness transferred at regular intervals to prevent permanent death. For as admittedly fascinated as I am in the concept part of me still feels a great amount of anxiety about not knowing for sure what would happen to someone who undergoes such a procedure. On one hand it is life, we just can’t be absolutely sure it’s the same life.

Philosophical questions abound in a setting where the lines between the biological and technological are constantly blurring. In no small way are these questions put in sharp relief by the ever advancing technology of the real world all around us. Prosthetic limbs are becoming bionic, A.I.s are becoming smarter and more widespread every day, automation continues to creep. Even virtual reality has taken some pretty grand steps over the last couple of years and will only continue to improve.

The Final Frontier

Die Hard
Yippie ki yay, motherfucker.

Cyberpunk to me is the ultimate expression of life being what you make of it. Nothing is given, everything is taken and if you were a champion Hungry, Hungry, Hippos player in your youth, you would fit right in. It beautifully contrasts depictions of unrestrained greed and the tightrope balance of maintaining the status-quo for the “good” of everyone.

If the upper echelons fell would a utopia rise in their place elevating all humans to perfect equality and prosperity? The reality of the street says no. Their institutions would be torn down, picked clean and life would continue as it always has with new power replacing the old. A cycle as old and as cynical as life itself and one humans are ill-equipped to overcome.

Hope remains because it is the ever present human condition as we look to our imagination, the horizon or even the stars and think to ourselves, what if. Entwined with the delusion of the powerful that how they exist benefits humanity it is a system that feeds itself until it burns out and begins again.

Many people may rightly call this description pessimistic or depressing and I don’t think I could properly argue why it isn’t. What it is to me is honest in a way that I don’t believe we can ever truly be with ourselves as a species. I can look at Star Trek and marvel at what a united humanity could achieve if we left all our innate pettiness and greed fall by the wayside. Even then in it’s most honest moments the humans of Star Trek still fall prey to all the things they had purported to leave behind with only a valiant few willing to stand up and be better. These undertones exist because to suggest anything else for humanity would be unbelievable to the point of being slapstick.

Among the towering mega-cities of capitalistic excess, the savage reality of the sprawling, forgotten metropolis below there is a beauty which I cannot help but be enthralled by. Although if I am perfectly honest, I don’t think I would ever want to see it become a reality.

I am however more than willing to explore a version of that life in an immersive RPG like 2077, so for now I’ll focus on that and less on the existential dread of our collective future.

See you in the MetaVerse.


I recently renewed my blog and as such figured it was time to start clearing out some of my old drafts and maybe picking up a new post to work on. Of all the things I’ve put up on this blog I think one of the ones I’m most proud of is the first review in my Games on the Silver Screen series for Mortal Kombat. I got to do a lot of fun video editing and gif making for the post and it was a real learning experience even about the movie itself and everything that went into making it. The biggest surprise of which was that it was actually a financial success at the end of it’s run. As such I think it would be fun to pick a new title to go over and it may as well be one that I have actually not seen yet, so let me introduce what I’ll be watching probably more than once over the next week or two…

Surprisingly this actually dovetails quite nicely with the fact that I’ve been playing through DOOM Eternal and Almost Human with Karl Urban is back on Prime. Even though it only has one season I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys near future cyberpunk stories, overall a solid show that really deserved a longer run.

In addition to this I’ve picked up mini-painting again and I think I’ll try to take some nice progress pictures of what I’m working on and write a sort of general post with things that don’t really merit their own long form article. As far as mini-painting goes I’ve been working on my Star Wars: Legion figures but the recent release of Warhammer 40k 9th Edition and a slew of new models has been really tempting me. I don’t think I’ll crack just yet but honestly it’s been brewing for years and just seems inevitable at this point. Regardless of whether or not I’ll ever even get into fully playing it some of the models just look like they would be super fun to assemble and paint.

At any rate, first up is DOOM and we’ll play what comes next by ear.

I hope everyone has been staying safe and keeping themselves physically and mentally healthy, as much as is possible these days.

I think that’s all I have for now but I’ll be back soon.

  • Anthony

Friday Wrap-Up

This was something I said I wanted to do more regularly a while back and like comes naturally to people like me I promptly stopped doing it and immediately began hating myself. I knew it would happen almost the second I hit publish on that first Friday post and while I don’t regret stating the goal I do regret not following through. One because it sucks to make a promise and not come through and two because I actually legitimately enjoyed writing it.

So let’s give it another shot, shall we? I’ve missed a lot in the past month because of the aforementioned personality defect which I’ll wrestle with until I’m dead so I’m not going to bother recapping it all. We’re going to start fresh and cover a few interesting things that happened more recently.

In past posts I’ve been pretty harsh on companies like Ubisoft for their myriad failures and gaffes so I wanted to take this opportunity after reading an interesting article over at Kotaku to give them some kudos. We’ve had plenty of examples of companies who instead of fixing their mistakes simply abandon them and move on to a new project without so much of an admission of guilt. Unfortunately we don’t have a lot of great examples of game devs who are willing to stick around and fix what they broke. Bungie did so with the first Destiny and are in the process of voluntarily re-living that adventure with Destiny 2 for reasons that escape me and everyone else.

The Division was a good game that failed to deliver on its promises at launch, a story as old as time, song as old as… anyways, suffice it to say that it struggled along for quite a while. In a surprising move Ubisoft and Massive were unwilling to simply let the game languish and die so instead they persisted until with the final content update it felt like the game they’d promised from day one. This questionable financial move was validated with the return of scores of new and old players giving what should have been a dead title a new lease on life. Even more to their credit with the announcement of The Division 2 complete with extensive gameplay previews they still haven’t stopped giving people reasons to play the original game. New challenges and badges have been added in order to earn cosmetic items in Division 2. They’re being drip fed to the community as the release of the sequel gets closer. As someone who stopped playing a while back after finishing the game finally I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering going back to get these shields.

I have high hopes for The Division 2 and this only serves to bolster them as Ubisoft and Massive continue to prove that they stand by their promises while striving to learn from their mistakes.

On the opposite end of the spectrum lets rewind several years and remember the somewhat hilarious disaster that was Aliens: Colonial Marines. Recently it was revealed by an enterprising modder who was dead set on fixing the game that some of the more noticeable problems may have been caused by a typo. For anyone who has ever dabbled in any level of programming you can understand how much frustration a typo can cause you, only for most it isn’t to the tune of six figures and international ridicule.

If for nothing else it highlights just how delicate the development process can be and the kind of hell  these developers put themselves through with 80+ hour weeks in crunch time trying to get games finished. I can’t even imagine the amount of typos my code would be riddled with in that environment. In the case of this game it was one mistake among many but one of the few that was truly funny.

I came across this announcement about a game called Digimon Survive and 16-year old me has completely lost his shit especially since it was announced for the Switch which is exactly the right platform. I honestly don’t even remember much about Digimon in spite of watching the cartoon but I’m excited none the less to see how it turns out.

We. The Revolution is possibly one of the coolest game concepts I’ve seen in recent memory, either that or I have some kind of undocumented fetish for pixelated death after playing Domina for way too many hours. It doesn’t have a release date but I’ll be watching it closely.

I feel like this needs little or no explanation. It exists, yes I love it and if you don’t understand why, I can’t help you.

Young Justice Season 3 was announced which is fantastic! DC has had the market cornered on great animated content and its nice to see one of their best coming back.

Similarly the announcement that Clone Wars is finally going to get some closure has me once again anticipating a Star Wars release.

And Godzilla because, Godzilla.

Lastly I want to touch on the Shazaam! trailer that came out and say that I’m really happy to see that DC is attempting to loosen up a little bit and have some fun. It’s no secret that DC’s top superhero line-up is decidedly darker and more dour than their competition but playing into that has done them no favors so far. Their animated offerings have struck an impressive balance between being somber and funny but so far its eluded their DCEU outings except for brief moments here and there. And a somewhat ham-fisted attempt with the Flash in Justice League which was plagued with other issues. I’m not sure where the DCEU is going from here and if we’ll even see Shazaam team up with the rest of the Justice League but if for nothing else I hope this marks a new beginning for them. From here I’d definitely like to see them reintroduce Green Lantern who to date has been a conspicuously absent piece of the puzzle.

I think that’s it for now! What cool things did you come across recently? What things should I know about?

I hope you have a great weekend full of whatever it is you like to do or just some good old relaxation and doing nothing at all.

See you next week!

  • Non-Washable