Perhaps it’s just the release of Cyberpunk 2077, or maybe I’m just really preparing for the inevitable corporate hellscape of the not-so-distant future. The cyberpunk genre as a whole has really captured my attention in the past few months. There is something about the dynamic between humans and machines that fascinates me. Especially when the line between the two becomes blurred. I think exploring the boundaries of what makes something alive is something the human race will partake in. Maybe not so far in the future?
These types of things almost seem super real to me, and the philosophy and thoughts portrayed within these various games, books, and movies have become very resonant for me. So here’s a bit of a write-up/investment guide for a few very great examples of what might be my favorite genre.
A Tale in Cyberspace
William Gibson helped define the cyberpunk genre in 1984 with the book Neuromancer. The idea of a cyberspace where hackers and other computer wizards and weirdos come to work their netrunning magic stems mainly from the ideas presented in Gibson’s novel. You can easily see the book’s influence on these kinds of narratives decades later. Look at the likes of The Matrix, Ready Player One, and Cyberpunk 2077 to name a few.
Neuromancer would ultimately be the inspiration for Interplay’s single-player point-and-click adventure game of the same name, released on Commodore Amiga, Apple II, Apple IIGS, Commodore 64, and MS-DOS four years later in 1988. The game, set in Chiba, Japan in 2058, tasks the player with investigating a string of disappearances. Many regard the game for its high levels of immersion that challenges even modern AAA releases. This exemplifies its profound significance in the cyberpunk genre. Loosely based and borrowing various elements from the novel such as characters and certain aspects of cyberspace, Neuromancer, the game, seemed to exist as something of an homage, if not an extension of the source material.
It’s a rare one.
Finding a physical copy of this game, loose or complete will truly prove to be a challenge to any collectors. That’s not to mention the challenge of having the hardware to run the game in its original form. Neuromancer was and is a massively popular, critically respected adventure, but finding a physical copy of it might prove to be a hefty challenge.
Exceedingly rare, you’ll most likely need to fork out upwards of $75 dollars should you stumble across a complete copy of the game, and around $50 loose. By some divine stroke of luck that you stumble upon an unopened, sealed copy, you’re gonna be looking at even more, most likely higher into the triple digits, though I’d be astonished if you found one. Neuromancer is a pillar of the cyberpunk genre. If you are able and fortunate, could be a pinnacle of your collection
Humans Were So Last Century
Moving on to more contemporary options, Deus Ex: Human Revolution holds a similar regality in terms of the impact the game had on both the cyberpunk genre and the AAA industry. Human Revolution, though not the first title in the series, seems to be the most significant of the trilogy, at least to me.
The game was released back in 2011. Then now seems like an eternity ago as I write this. I think this says something about the exponential growth in video games since then. I’m sure people were saying the same thing in 2011, as well. The Eidos Montréal developed action role-playing game revolved primarily around transhumanism, a staple of the cyberpunk genre, and the dynamics surrounding human augmentation. Furthermore, these aspects are directly linked to the concept of mega-corporations and the way they’ve grown into horrifyingly powerful institutions.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution depicts the social disparity that stems from the economic difficulty non-augmented individuals face. This is in a world where they need to compete against people who are more machine than human. They often turn to risky street augmentation to mitigate costs. Augmentation also requires a fairly rare drug in order to keep your body from rejecting its augmentations. This further pushes the divide between the wealthy elite and their far less affluent counterparts.
Unlike Neuromancer, you won’t be hard-pressed to find this Deus Ex. While 2011 feels so, so far away now, a decade later, time has been kind to the game’s availability. Finding a sealed copy of the base game is simple enough. This isn’t the edition I would necessarily jump at, though. The Director’s Cut was released two years later. It had much more content than the base game. This and the Augmented Edition, available at launch, are the copies I’d be more interested in. I say this because you’re far more likely to find these brand new and sealed than the base game, which is typically loose, in my experience.
Both of the aforementioned editions are fairly common on eBay and in other markets and will most likely run you anywhere from $20-35 in most instances, hardly the most expensive investment in this post.
The Familiar Choice
I will go out on a limb and say most people’s first real introduction to anything cyberpunk came from the film Blade Runner. Coming into the fray two years even before Neuromancer, the film touched on a few aspects of the genre that would later be expanded upon in other works. Namely, the android-human dynamic and the hold mega corporations have on society. Blade Runner, the movie, is fantastic and definitely worth its own article, but unfortunately, it is not a video game.
Blade Runner (the game) is! And it’s a good one, too. The video game version didn’t hit the shelves until 1997, fifteen years later. That’s a decent gap between the respective releases, though. The 1997 game is a whole new story. Therefore, we can give them the pass for their lack of punctuality. It was released for Windows and developed by Westwood Studios as a point-and-click adventure game. Blade Runner focuses on a similar plot to the movie in the way that the primary objective of the player character is to track down and eliminate replicants, or deceptive androids that look impeccably like regular humans, much like how Rick Deckard is tasked to do so in the films.
The where and who.
The game is set in Los Angeles, 2019 just like the film. It even includes a returning cast of characters, though Deckard remains unseen and unheard of except for a few references. The game itself was fairly innovative at the time. Some of the concepts at work within it remain impressive and more or less unseen in today’s gaming world. All characters in the game play out their lives in real-time, with no regard to the player’s position or progress. This mechanic makes it very possible for you to miss events and other things if you don’t engage in these tasks or activities at the exact time, permanently eluding your radar by mere circumstance.
Since this game was released only on Windows, you will find several examples in whatever market you choose to utilize. Brand-new, sealed copies are even fairly common. They shouldn’t run you much more than $100, though I was able to find even cheaper examples fairly quickly. Of course, loose copies will be even cheaper. I’m sure you can easily find this game for about the same price as your monthly Netflix bill.
The very few examples I provided within this post won’t even scratch the surface of all the fantastic material within the cyberpunk genre. However, I think they serve as great primers for newcomers. There are so many more incredible games to play, books to read, and films to watch. I encourage you all to really wrap yourselves up in it.