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Cyberpunk Documentary PART 1 | Neuromancer, Blade Runner, RoboCop, Akira, Shadowrun

Nov 10, 2021
We have all heard of


. But what is


? A casual explanation could end in a wandering through cyborgs, laser guns, neon lights and rainy city nights. But behind that neon and chrome façade lurks a cultural movement. It masks a seedy underbelly of crime, corruption, corporate authoritarianism, and the dangers of rampant technological advance. Skyscrapers stretch as far as the eye can see, and for any brightly lit ramen shop or tech empire boasting the latest in gadgets, it might as well end up in a dreary alleyway surrounded by poverty and addiction. A profusion of technological marvels and indulgences mark the dilapidated slums of megacities and sprawling metropolises of a dystopian future, embracing the most fundamental definition of cyberpunk: high-tech, low-life.
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It's easy to see why these topics are so popular: it seems like every day we're getting one step closer to "The Future" we saw on TV: robotic arms, self-driving cars, smart homes, killer drones, and an economy. driven by our insatiable hunger for the latest and most elegant machine. These themes appear in all forms of art, from novels to movies, television to video games, and in this


series we explore the decades of history, the origins, the many influences of the genre, and how these ideas inspired Neofuturism. in the field of entertainment and many of the technologies we use today.
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More Interesting Facts About,

cyberpunk documentary part 1 neuromancer blade runner robocop akira shadowrun...

So let's take a look at one of the most fascinating movements in recent history: Cyberpunk. Cyberpunk is a branch of science fiction, although it explores a very different vision of the future than its predecessors. Embracing the early hacker and punk subcultures, the genre exposes the dichotomy of a high-tech world inhabited by residents deprived of most of these luxuries despite the advancement of society as a whole. This worldview paralleled the growing pessimism of the late 1960s and 1970s. After the moral detachment of the Free Love era and the rise of modern drug culture, America was politically torn a


by the tumultuous Vietnam War, a controversial presidency that ended in resignation, and a festering distrust of authority.
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The conflict between the haves and the have-nots also fuels another major theme of cyberpunk. It often depicts future dystopias in which mega-corporations wield more power than governments, ruling the world from towering skyscrapers, overlooking the streets where cyberpunk heroes try to make ends meet by doing illegal work, either for these corporations or against them. they. Some can afford cybernetic augmentations by replacing organic body


s with machine replacements that make them stronger, faster, or more attuned to the infinite expanse of cyberspace at their fingertips. But are these cybernetically enhanced humans still human? Or are they the next stage of human evolution?
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At what point does the line between man and machine blur? These are the questions and themes that drive cyberpunk. Unlike its more optimistic sci-fi forebears, cyberpunk showed us the dark side and revealed the dangerous side effects of drug futurism. The world swept away the still hot ashes of World War II, as mathematicians and philosophers noted the rise of cybernetic technology in modern life. New inventions became more prominent in everyday life, and the acceptance of these new mechanical marvels inspired visions of the future and what that life would mean for humanity. This way of thinking inspired a new wave of writers and artists, many of whom used these advances to predict what our lives would be like in the distant future.
One such author was the influential science fiction icon Philip K. Dick, who made a startling discovery while doing research for his post-World War II alternate history novel, Man in the High Castle. Philip read a diary by a German officer, in which the soldier complained that the screams of hungry children kept him awake at night, not out of guilt, but more as a nuisance. These startling revelations inspired PKD's concept of the "android," a machine that resembled a real person, but with one crucial difference: the absence of empathy. Among a number of inspired works, the most famous was Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? 1968.
In it, he explored the question of what it really means to be an authentic human being, and not a callous and indifferent machine, devoid of emotions and empathy. Entire subcultures sprang up in the novel's setting, where citizens would demonstrate their humanity by caring for animals, and the presence of dangerous androids would be detected through rigorous empathy tests and administered by state-funded bounty hunters. "Do androids dream?" it also explored the concept of a shared virtual reality experience nearly three decades before it became mainstream. This groundbreaking novel helped sow the seeds for what would become the cyberpunk genre as we know it.
While home electronics were still primitive, the concept of artificial intelligence was brewing in the zeitgeist of the 1970s. One of the first movies to capture this growing idea with an eager eye was Colossus: The Forbin Project. The film follows a brilliant American computer scientist who creates an all-powerful computer program designed to solve the world's problems: famine, politics, war, and disease. The end result is a cautionary tale about what would happen if the world was handed over to a benevolent AI that decided that human judgment was too flawed to maintain its dominance over the planet. In a terrifying turn of events where a creation surpassed its creator, Colossus learns and merges with another Russian-developed AI.
This new supercomputer decides to take global affairs into her own hands as she conquers the world in the name of unwavering progress. One of the most famous films that captured this technological fear was Westworld, the first feature film by science fiction author Michael Crichton, perhaps best known for writing Jurassic Park, the highest-grossing film released worldwide at the time. Unlike that movie, however, Crichton wrote and directed Westworld himself. Westworld vividly envisions a near future in which theme parks are filled with lifelike androids at the whims of their mortal masters. These gadgets are used for target practice, role-playing game props, and even for fun-seeking.
It's a grotesque look at the moral indifference shown towards those considered less than human. Unsuspecting patrons enjoy the park's many attractions in medieval, Roman, and Wild West settings, all without regard for harmless androids who have put in place security measures to keep humans out of harm's way. But when an unnoticed bug disables this security, all three parks become slaughterhouses. Previously defenseless androids become hunters, and their abusers become hunters. In a hair-raising chase, one of the park's last visitors flees from a gunslinging android, played by movie legend Yul Brynner (in a sort of satirical play on his role in The Magnificent Seven).
He is a ruthless and seemingly indestructible machine with only one goal: to kill. The scenes showing the world through the Gunslinger's electronic eyes marked the first time computer graphics had been used in a film. The unstoppable cyborg archetype seen here was clearly a major inspiration for James Cameron's sci-fi thriller The Terminator a decade later. Westworld was followed by Futureworld, a strong but less iconic sequel, and spinoff TV show in 1980, and was rebooted in 2016 as a critically acclaimed TV series. Westworld was one of the earliest and most chilling visualizations of cybernetic creatures, undoubtedly influencing future cyberpunk works as they developed.
French artist Moebius collaborated with American author Dan O'Bannon for The Long Tomorrow, a short story in a 1976 issue of Metal Hurlant (a French comic book series known in the United States as "Heavy Metal magazine" ). It was a visceral exploration of a depraved future, filled with flying cars, megacities, murder, and mystery. The technologically glazed neo-noir realized in The Long Tomorrow consumed other writers and artists and acted as a visual foundation for much future work. The bleak outlook people held at the time undoubtedly influenced America's dystopian worldview in 2000 AD. Affected: A toxic wasteland dotted with colossal megacities spanning the size of several states.
This 1977 British comic series was highly influential and one of its leading figures, Judge Dredd, is one of the most iconic characters ever created. The Judge himself was a brutal representation of law enforcement, totalitarian rule, and a fallible justice system all rolled into one: judge, jury, and executioner. These were the first literary influences that would lay the foundation for cyberpunk as a genre in its own right, distinct from science fiction. A small group of beatnik authors would draw on these sources to create a new wave of futuristic narratives. One that would paint worlds of technologically enhanced societies and the underdogs and anti-heroes who lived there.
Names like Bruce Sterling, Walter Jon Williams, and William Gibson were pioneers in the development of early cyberpunk literature, such as the technology-themed short stories published in Omni magazine in the early 1980s, such as Johnny Mnemonic and Burning Chrome. These stories were some of the first examples of raw "cyberpunk," tackling themes of computerization's increasingly tight grip on our everyday lives. While they mostly feature fancy techno-babble and evocative imagery rather than hard science, these stories more than made up for their factual embellishments with chilling foreknowledge of what our future might hold. These ideas were different and strange, and while they weren't entirely new, they had a raw edge.
Gardner Dozois, a science fiction magazine editor who borrowed the term from a Bruce Bethke short story of the same name, collectively referred to the purveyors of it as "cyberpunks". It became a brand of nonconformity and anti-establishment thinking, and that cut it off from the status quo of science fiction. And so the term "cyberpunk" was stamped on pop culture. "...the purveyors of weird, hardcore, high-tech things, sometimes referred to as 'cyberpunks'..." After a death in the family and a harsh downfall from the troubled film adaptation based on the Dune-centric director of Frank Herbert. Ridley Scott attention him at work to keep his mind off it.
With some persuasion from the producer, after more than a decade of development hell, Scott was forced into Philip K. Dick's proto-cyberpunk novel, "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?", and went to work. in a cinematic vision of the film. It is an inherently philosophical story of humanity after the end of World War II and the remnant civilization's dogmatic adherence to empathy as a human ideal. During the film's development, Scott bought another unrelated adaptation title simply because he liked the name better, and the most iconic cyberpunk film ever made, Blade Runner, was born. It's a sharper, more materialistic take on the PKD novel, forgoing the more nose-focused themes of pity and social obligation, laser-focusing on the central story of a bounty hunter tracking down humanoid androids, in this adaptation, known as "replicators". " ".
The infusion of post-war 1940s imagery and motifs was palpable, in the film's uncharacteristically retro style. Blade Runner took Rick Deckard's most godly leading man and reimagined him as a gritty, jaded detective like in classic noir movies: another Philip Marlowe or Sam Spade: trench coat, grim attitude and all. The movie setting is the loudest speaking character in the movie. With a moving soundtrack by the legendary Greek composer Vangelis and one of the most memorable openings in cinema history. Sinister metal spires and neon lights pierce the blackened skyline of future Los Angeles. The whole town seems taken from a dream, or maybe a nightmare, which has not yet reached a conclusion.
Much of the backstory and world building is communicated visually. It's as if the mile-high skyscrapers and urban infrastructure are being destroyed in slow motion, with pillars of fire thrown from on high, as if the entire city is one vast swirling factory unto itself. Flying cars, glowing neon lights, and giant electronic billboards haunt the seemingly bottomless depths of the city. Always at night, always humid orrainy. It was a city that never slept, but never saw the light of day. Everything in Blade Runner takes on a kind of timeless feel, with decades-old fashions, anachronistic architecture, and vehicles with advanced powertrain technology, but styled like cars from the 1940s and '50s.
It all felt so real. Careful detail went into the film's visual effects, which included the creation of an entire miniature city. After an opening visual feast, the stage is set: On a future Earth with alien colonies in need of an advanced and expendable workforce, cybernetic humanoids called replicants are created. At first they are a perfect solution, but eventually a design flaw manifests and the replicants develop emotions and become dangerously unstable. A four-year lifespan is introduced as a safety measure to evade rogue replicants. But in the latest outbreak, a crew of advanced Nexus-6 models are said to have escaped the alien colonies and returned to Earth.
And the only solution to this problem is to send Blade Runners, specialized fighters, to remove these dangerous replicants. The iconic Voight-Kampff testing machine is the only reliable way to tell a replicant from a human. It's an interesting parallel to the real-life test proposed by computer scientist Alan Turing in the 1950s, designed to estimate artificial intelligence's capacity for human-like knowledge. The film's Voight-Kampff test is a sort of anti-Turing test, in which a suspected replicant is asked to answer bluntly with highly calculated responses to ultimately elicit an emotional response. Our first dialog is between a Blade Runner selecting a new employee.
The examinee, Leon, appears nervous and clumsy. The questions are abstract hypotheses with a kind of empathetic tone. "Why not help a struggling turtle?", "What are some of the good things that come to mind about your mother?", and the like. Presumably a human would either ignore it or reject the premise. But for a replicant, they have to calculate the solution, for which there is no logic. It's like putting a crappy formula into a calculator and then sitting on the Equals key. Twists and turns until Leon suddenly erupts in a murderous rage, setting the stage for all that is to come.
Blade Runner takes the themes expressed in early cyberpunk tales and deals with them boldly. The film, like the novel on which it is based, begs the question: Do the androids that walk among us have hopes and fears? Dreams and wishes? What distinguishes the man from the machine, or even more, "can a machine become a man"? Or is it just scripted, soulless, built work, the supposed meaning of which is a flaw that needs to be fixed in the code, and nothing more? This question is reflected in the tragic character of Rachael, a replicant with false memories, whose goal is to make her more human.
But when he discovers he's not "real," he experiences a slow, heartbreaking acceptance, while Deckard begins to question her own humanity as he tries to help Rachael find hers. In another subplot, the replicant leader, Roy Batty, is a renegade in search of his creator, literally. After working his way up the chain of command, from optical engineer to genetic designer, all the way to Eldon Tyrell, the founder of the replicant-creating mega-corporation. When Batty meets his father and his Maker in the same person, he is filled with both love and hate. Because the one thing he wants, longevity, the one thing Tyrell can't give him is.
You are as well done as we could make it. "But not in the long term." "Light that burns twice as bright lasts half as long, and you burned very bright, Roy." Both Batty and Deckard are outsiders and rub shoulders with the Powers That Be, but their fates are not determined by themselves. At the beginning of the movie, Deckard tries to get off the murder case, but despite his best efforts, he backs out to take down the replicants. During that time, he wonders if he has become as cold and ruthless as the machines he hunts. "Can I ask you a personal question?" "Certainly." "Have you ever accidentally removed a human being?" "No." "But in your position that's a risk." On the other hand, Batty searches for a future for himself and his friends, but is tied down by an irreversible life expectancy of four years.
Feeling deprived of the greatest gift anyone could have, he struggles to find a way to understand it. In this way, neither character can escape his fate, and that is what ultimately leads to his respect for each other: both are cogs in a great machine, powerless to change. Blade Runner shows some intriguing technology. The most famous example is the photo's "enhancing" scene, which shows Deckard panning, zooming, and moving the camera position of a photo AFTER it's been taken. Video calls and the chilling realism of a future where all the world's animals are now barcoded counterfeit goods, due to the apocalyptic events that preceded the story.
Many of Blade Runner's cityscapes, buildings, and machines were created by highly respected concept artist, futurist, and designer Syd Mead. His work spans decades and he has sculpted or heavily influenced numerous futuristic media icons. Mead once referred to science fiction as "advanced reality," an attitude that abounds in countless movies, video games, and media bearing his signature. From Blade Runner to Aliens, from Star Trek to Elysium, his concept art feels vivid, visionary, but mostly real. While this future noir exploration of humanity wasn't exactly what 1982 audiences expected, this box office bombshell became an outright cult classic over time, thanks in no small part to Ridley Scott's invention of 'Director's Cut', in particular to address unwanted edits to the film, resulting from the studio's intervention.
Blade Runner remains one of the most famous cinematic masterpieces of all time and has been imitated by countless cyberpunk media to this day. Two weeks after Blade Runner hit the big screen, another film was released, which also showed the creative influence of Syd Mead. Tron shocked the world with some of the first computer graphics ever developed for a Hollywood movie. Starring Jeff Bridges as a computer programmer who is sucked into his company's mainframe by a freak accident. He is generated as a user in a virtual world and computer processes and programs are represented as towers, tanks and other people.
As a Disney family film, Tron had an unlikely influence on the cyberpunk genre. If only for the vivid representation of cyberspace. Brightly colored grids in a vast void. These images are the basis for how circuitry, software, and computer processes can look from the inside, with a healthy dose of creative license of course. Tron would set the standard for cyberspace aesthetics for generations to come. William Gibson, an aspiring writer working on his debut novel Neuromancer, credited Tron as one of his inspirations for the visualization of cyberspace in his own work, calling the film "avant-garde digital aesthetic." Unfortunately, many of the early cyberpunk and cyberspace movies were box office flops.
Blade Runner and Tron, both released within two weeks of each other, and in a strange twist of fate, both grossed a paltry $33 million, on expensive visual effects budgets. "The sky above the door was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel." By the summer of 1982, William Gibson had finished about a third of Neuromancer, when Blade Runner hit theaters. When he saw the first 20 minutes of the film, Gibson was sure that his fledgling novel was doomed and that everyone would assume that he had copied the film's style. Panicking, Gibson rewrote the first two-thirds of the book 12 times, fearing he would be permanently embarrassed, and yet, when Neuromancer was published in 1984, it quickly became an underground hit, spreading through pop culture like circuits in a motherboard. .
Neuromancer follows ex-hacker, Case, on a downward spiral after his body is permanently damaged and he can no longer do what he used to do best: join the Matrix, the cyberspace that contains all of the world's computers. citizens, hackers and companies. It is this grim vision of the future that permanently delineated the beginnings of cyberpunk. Set in The Expansion. A dirty metropolitan area that covers half of the east coast, full of underworld, organized crime, hedonism and cyber augmentation. Case's luck improves when he meets the hauntingly beautiful Molly, a razer girl equipped with retractable claws and enlarged eyes covered with lifeless mirrored glasses.
She saves him from a self-destructive path and imminent danger, then makes Case an offer on behalf of the powerful and mysterious benefactor Armitage. They fixed Case up, restored his hacking ability, and gave him a new life... except that he takes on a very dangerous mission. He reluctantly agrees and half decides to abandon the operation and flee for his life, but soon discovers his contingency plan: a slowly degrading venom sac inserted into his body during the operation, which if left untreated will destroy his ability to function. piracy. bring him back to square one, a broken man, just like before.
Working for hire, they scour the globe, hiring for a massive cyber heist and preparing for his life's mission, while Case is contacted and manipulated by an artificial intelligence with an agenda of its own. Gibson's eerie vision of the future would create many tropes and themes often replicated by cyberpunk media. Things like decks, street samurai, cyberspace, and Intrusion Countermeasures Electronics (aka ICE) owe their origins to Gibson's Sprawl trilogy, consisting of the books Neuromancer, Count Zero, and Mona Lisa Overdrive. Neuromancer became the first winner of science fiction's "triple crown," garnering the Nebula and Hugo awards for best novel of the year and, incidentally, winning the Philip K.
Dick award for best original paperback. Over time it would go on to sell more than 6.5 million copies worldwide. Part neo-noir, part heist story, Neuromancer crystallized what a cyberpunk setting has looked, felt and read for decades. With ultra-stylish lingo, stunning imagery, and a stylish stream of consciousness, it was a glimpse into our dark, high-tech future, through a hyper-stylized lens. "People forget that there wasn't cutting edge technology in personal computing when I wrote Neuromancer, so I used a typewriter." “Neuromancer and the first Macintosh were released in the same year, someone recently told me, in the same MONTH. It's hard for young people to imagine, I know.
The mid-1980s saw a virtual explosion of cyberpunk media in all types of entertainment. From Japanese animation to board games, from movies to television. Example: Cyberpunk, Mike Pondsmith's tabletop RPG, which was directly inspired by Hardwired, the futuristic game. novel about corporate warfare by Walter Jon Williams. Cyberpunk and its second edition, Cyberpunk 2020, played by the "rule of cool", even having style over substance as one of the fundamental guidelines when creating a character. The game puts players in the bloody shoes of hackers, mercenaries, and corporate people who compete for money and power in the seedy playground of Night City.
And while the game didn't attract as large an audience as blockbusters like Dungeons & Dragons, it comfortably established itself as an underdog RPG and further extended the collective cyberpunk lore. The popular Net


card game would also later emerge from the fertile environment of Cybe Rpunk 2020 arrives. A year later another game with pencil and paper appeared on the shelves. Shadowrun blended urban fantasy, with the rise of elves, dwarves, and other imaginative denizens, in a futuristic, dystopian world where megacorporations reign supreme. In essence, Shadowrun took familiar fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and melded them with William Gibson's Neuromancer: cyberpunk with a Tolkien twist.
Megacorporations, exploitation, and inequality are themes that drive the world of Shadowrun. But in this alternate history, magical and metahuman races mysteriously emerge in our modern society, creating new kinds of prejudice, conflict, and danger overnight. Shadowrun's hybrid of fantasy and dark futurism allowed for so many wild scenarios: A dragon is the CEO of a German mega-company. You can walk the streets and see cyborg samurai, wizards, trolls, elves and orcs. Shamans can summon spirits to fight their enemies, while deckers battle their way through the Matrix and riggers remotely control drones and break through electronic security systems. A world so rich and vibrant from slums drenched inneon, old-fashioned superstitions, and new-school transhumanism, all backed by a colorful vocabulary: as they call each other chummers, people drink the ever-popular soybean husks, and, of course, they have the notorious mercenaries known as shadowwalkers.
There's just something addictive about large-scale augmentation of limbs, bones, and nerves with flashy cybernetic programs. You could spec your character with massive claws, hide shotguns hidden in your forearms, or implant data connectors to communicate with electronics directly through your mind. The interplay of meat, circuit and steel, all rolled into one. As you might guess, Shadowrun owes a huge debt not only to Blade Runner, but especially to Gibson's work on the Sprawl series. Many of the most popular ideas have been dropped entirely: the virtual cyberspace known as the matrix, street samurai, razer girls, nuyen currency, and many other references exist in Shadowrun.
Gibson has spoken of FASA Corporation's zealous borrowing of his source material, but aside from a sneer and a full-blown accusation of Shadowrun, he has gone no further, once saying, "I never made a dime, but I would." ". "T. I'm suing them. He's an honest cop. I'm sure there are people who could sue me, if they wanted..." Shadowrun may have sent cyberpunk into urban fantasy, rather than hard science. -fi of its predecessors, but it was one of the most popular tabletop RPGs of all time, acting as a major "gateway drug" to cyberpunk in the '80s and '90s.
Over time, the genre gained impulse. Adapt many cyberpunk themes while maintaining tried and tested plot structures: popcorn movies with a cyberpunk twist. As computers began to proliferate in the consumer industry, Hollywood finally took notice and began working on new down-to-earth sci-fi concepts. One of the first and most popular movies to tackle computer and hacker culture was the "Boy Hacks World" summer blockbuster, WarGames. Where a young Matthew Broderick accidentally hacks into a military artificial intelligence and starts playing what he thinks is just a strategy game, but actually threatens the world with real thermonuclear war. Another hit was Trancers, where a 23rd century detective goes back to the 1980s to stop a hypnotic death cult bent on ruining the world.
He nails all the hallmarks: high-tech gadgets, dead end, noir credentials, and even a punk rocker sidekick. A cult classic that has spawned several sequels, Trancers is a fun movie, but not a particularly in-depth look at the human condition. More action movies began to take note of these themes. Heavily inspired by the work of Harlan Ellison, The Terminator hit theaters with a shotgun blast. While not a cyberpunk movie per se, there are plenty of strong thematic images woven into the film. It depicts an apocalyptic future where the scum of humanity fight to overthrow the cyborg rule of the world.
In response to the growing strength of the resistance, a "terminator", a robot soldier dressed in human flesh, is sent back in time with a mission: to eliminate the mother of humanity's future savior. Arnold Schwarzenegger's most iconic role as an unstoppable cybernetic killing machine would linger in our memories for decades, aided by fantastic special effects and a sci-fi slasher movie. The film has solidified itself in pop culture with the most famous cyborg designs, an intimidating steel skeleton with glowing red eyes. And, in turn, it has inspired many future depictions of cybernetic bodily augmentation. Video games fell well short of what movies could do narratively in the 1980s, but the attempt to adapt Blade Runner into an interactive format met with dismal response, likely due to technical limitations.
Another complication was that the publisher was unable to obtain the rights to the book or film, instead having to go through a bizarre legal loophole and license the film's soundtrack. In what is the most literal interpretation of a story possible, it essentially boils down to basic gameplay where you have to hunt down so-called "replidroids", dodge cars and crowds before shooting them down. Between runs, navigate the city in a maze-like world, locating possible suspects as luminous dots on your map, which you can place your spinning wheel on, intent on chasing them. Simple and repetitive. Still, the Blade Runner game had some potential, especially if it had been on more powerful hardware and offered more variety in terms of action or story gameplay.
But despite its recognizable brand name, it only made one minor mistake in the industry at the time, a forgotten game released at the tail end of the video game crash. As cyberpunk made its way into pop culture, we also experienced the short-lived but beloved "mascot" of cyberspace. American actor Matt Frewer starred in a BBC made-for-TV movie Max Headroom: 20 Minutes Into the Future, where he played a cocky star journalist named Edison Carter. The ruthless Carter nearly exposes a conspiracy involving "blipverts," television ads that can kill. The powerful media executives behind the plot manage to activate a traffic barrier to kill Carter as he tries to escape the building.
In a panic after an assassination attempt on a celebrity reporter, the media corporation's computer whiz comes up with a plan: preserve the mind of a severely injured Carter and turn him into a CGI character. Thus, they hope to cover up the alleged murder of him. Through a bunch of greedy mishaps, the AI ​​falls into the hands of a pair of scavengers, who decide to pass it on on a whim. The AI ​​quickly develops a prankster personality and calls itself "Max Headroom", after the warning label on the object that nearly killed its human host. Ironically, his original and unpredictable show soars in ratings and proves a formidable competitor to the media executives who tried to kill Carter.
Watching this film more than three decades later, there is a chilling foreknowledge. Max regularly checks his viewer count in real time and reacts to his viewership as if he were a live streamer on Twitch or YouTube. Max quickly became a cultural icon of the 1980s and has appeared in numerous commercials, cameos, and even an infamous TV show hijacking. Rapper Eminem would later go on to parody Max Headroom in his music video for 'Rap God', which now has over a billion views. “Ma-Ma-Ma-Ma-Max. What I want to know is, why are the only funny lines on this show the ones behind me?
Films like RoboCop, set in the desolate hellscape of Detroit, embrace many cyberpunk themes, including transhumanism and class warfare. Despite the title sounding like a standard swamp action movie, RoboCop takes place in a satirical near-future setting, where the moral fiber of society has been snapped. Steeped in comic cynicism brought to life by director Paul Verhoeven, the story follows Alex Murphy, a straight cop whose life is destroyed by a sadistic crime lord, only to be inadvertently revived as a cyborg as the ultimate experiment. Now a shell of a man, living in a cybernetic armored shell, the film is actually a tragic story of Murphy's loss of humanity, as he becomes a thoughtless machine of justice.
Haunted by fragments of memories from his and his family's former life, his torment crystallizes into one horrific moment... "I can feel them... but I can't remember them." RoboCop, like many future Verhoeven films, features a deeper film beneath the superficial Hollywood guise. The crime lord who "kills" Murphy is an offbeat bespectacled villain named Clarence Boddicker, a smart guy, rather than your typical boss thug. Boddicker is secretly working with one of the executives of the mega-corporation, OCP, the designer of police technology such as the menacing robot ED-209 and RoboCop himself. This parallels arms dealers profiting from both sides of a war.
RoboCop deftly criticized the growing and rampant presence of crime in America's urban areas, as well as the increasingly militarized police force, while also showing that heroes still exist. OCP's nonchalance after seeing one of his directors shot into a million pieces at a demo of the ED-209 product bordered on the ridiculous: it was like selling a driverless tank as a replacement for a cop on duty! RoboCop was wildly successful, spawning a comic book series, multiple sequels, a TV show, eventually a reboot movie, and even a crowdfunded statue in its adopted Detroit setting. The film remains a cinematic icon today and a true-to-form cyberpunk story, told from so-called authority, rather than from an underdog's perspective. "Thanks for your cooperation." The success of the film also launched several iterations of arcade and console video games.
It didn't try to do anything deep or thought-provoking, instead serving as a visceral beat-em-up/shoot-em-up hybrid. As Double Dragon meets Contra, with a kickass robotic hero. The game enjoyed modest success, and would be followed by sequels as the film franchise continued. The Running Man follows a similar outfit. This 1987 Stephen King adaptation features another dystopian future, with mega-corporations reigning supreme. After a grisly prison break, the escapees find themselves in a desperate fight for survival, with only one last chance for freedom: to win the gauntlet of death known as Running Man. It's a brilliant satire of the show's gluttonous media. contestants, promoters of professional wrestling and boxing, as well as the public's increasing desensitization to violence.
Not to mention, it predates the reality TV craze that would grab the public's attention for decades. The film directly inspired the hit competition television series, American Gladiators, which a producer reportedly greenlit the show, using clips from Running Man, explaining, "we're doing exactly this, except for the murder part." On the other side of the world, Japan picked up on the Blade Runner aesthetic, and the '80s and '90s were filled with classic anime with strong cyberpunk themes. Bubblegum Crisis was a stark portrayal of wealth inequality, with mega-corporations treating the world as if it were their own personal chessboard, and powerful cyborgs being used for both good and evil deeds.
Despite its questionable name and deceptively glossy aesthetic, the show and its spinoffs explored the bureaucratic armory of corruption and the potential dangers of unbridled capitalism. The 1988 anime film Akira embraced cyberpunk perfectly. It follows a vigilante motorcyclist and his friend who find themselves embroiled in an underground plot, when an accident causes one of them to have horrific psychic powers. There are plenty of cyberpunk tropes here: super-stylized motorcycles, lab experiments gone wrong, and the rise of Neo-Tokyo from the ashes of a cataclysmic event, paralleling the lost cities during World War Terminus in Blade Runner. Akira faces a rebuilt city, which is being torn apart by terrorism, protests against authority, and corruption.
Through high-octane action and an ever-deepening plot, Akira managed to wow audiences around the world with gorgeous animation and brutal body horror. Its unforgettable visuals would power many other cyberpunk anime series, and it's considered one of the greatest sci-fi animated works of all time. With the rise of technology, video games would become sophisticated enough to adequately contend 0:39:26.470,1193:02:47.295 with the themes of cyberpunk. In particular, Snatcher, a gritty, futuristic detective game designed by Hideo Kojima, now famous for his hit series Metal Gear, which was first released a year earlier. Snatcher is set in a tumultuous future, where there is an imminent threat of cyborgs who "snatch" the body and roles of humans and hide among the population.
They may perfectly resemble people on the outside, but they are robotic with superior strength and high-tech weaponry underneath. You play a chamois/bounty hunter who must gather evidence at grisly murder scenes to track down the suspected Thieves. It has been said: "Good artists copy, great artists steal." If that's true, then by that logic, Kojima is the best artist in the world. The Snatcher protagonist harkens back to Rick Deckard from Blade Runner, with even the department calling cyborg bounty hunters "


s." A bounty hunter, Random Hajile is a carbon copy of pop musician Sting's character in the 1984 adaptation of DUNE, and the shotsfull lengths were drawn from Blade Runner and its concept art.
Despite coming dangerously close to plagiarism at times, Snatcher was one of the first and most engaging cyberpunk noir sims we've experienced to date. A strikingly modern take on the adventure game formula, the game was presented from a cinematic and graphic point of view, often taking a first-person perspective of the city, its inhabitants, and the sometimes macabre images in front of you. . The cyberpunk setting and presentation convey gameplay, which is familiar to previous point-and-click adventures, with various commands such as talk, look, and basic item usage, just like many games in the genre. But learning the details, guessing the many story twists, and enjoying the quaint details Konami put into the game is still captivating, decades later.
Snatcher hits all the right beats: high-tech cyborgs, low-lives and punks abound, and a neo-noir aesthetic abounds, though it does so in a heightened and tonally inconsistent way. At times it seems incredibly cartoonish, despite other scenes of legitimate horror and thematic depth. It remains one of the first brilliant examples of cyberpunk interactive media, however, and has been remade with better visuals multiple times for various platforms, namely the Sega CD and Sega Saturn. “One of the things that so-called cyberpunk writers have done, whether consciously or unconsciously, is look around the outside world, also look at fine art and import whatever they can use in the literary ghetto of science fiction.
In the late '80s, William Gibson's Neuromancer was championed by other media adaptations, primarily by a renegade psychologist, Timothy Leary, a friend of Gibson's, who had bought the rights to a video game and even helped sell a movie pitch. to Hollywood for years. The book also got a terrific, but sadly incomplete, graphic novel adaptation, with Interplay taking over the video game interpretation. Brian Fargo led development, known for making the Wasteland, which heavily inspired the Fallout series, years later. “Neuromancer: The Game” was one of the first point-and-click adventures, in the style of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island.
The game looks lovely. But it doesn't quite capture the bleak and cynical cyberpunk "feeling" that the novel intended. Beneath the primitive presentation, however, is a fascinating exploration of the Sprawl. The writing is a combination of situations and dialogue written explicitly by Interplay, but also contains quotes taken directly from the novel. The most interesting situations are probably the optional scenarios that you can get stuck in, like in the first scene. You are in a restaurant after an expensive meal. You can withdraw money from the bank and pay the bill, or you can dine and run and be arrested and tried for your crimes.
It's these glimpses behind the linear story that make the game more engaging. Neuromancer stands out during its brief cyberspace sequences, where Case navigates the matrix, represented by surreal geometric shapes. Though short-lived and obtuse, it inspired the imagination, and this frontier of cyberspace would be further explored by future video games like the Shadowrun series. Increasingly, the 1980s were filled with cyberpunk spreading across a number of different mediums and, more importantly, beginning to become a distinct genre, independent of its science fiction origins. The genre as a whole came to a head in June 1989. Essays by various literary critics, scientists, and academics were presented at a conference organized by the Universities of Leeds and California, Riverside.
It was at this symposium that academics, media experts, and fiction writers debated the central points of cyberpunk and the future of fiction. The question of where cyberpunk came from, what it is and where it was going were points that were widely discussed. "I don't really consider myself a predictive, extrapolative science fiction writer." “I think I consider myself almost as a surrealist. I think what I'm doing is taking a kind of hallucinatory, very impressionistic view of contemporary reality and presenting it as science fiction." “Science fiction is my excuse for what I do, instead of what I do.
It's a flag of convenience." The term "cyberpunk" itself seemed to elicit an emotional response from many of the participants. For example, while no one would deny the importance of writers such as Gibson, Sterling, and Williams, many "hard" science fiction writers criticized the genre for relying too much on style over substance, claiming that their works did not use enough research extrapolation. That is, educated guesses about the future, rather than stylized fantasy. In response, proponents of the genre assigned his creation an identity that separated it from both science fiction and mainstream fiction. It had its own literary canon, as well as criteria for determining what was and was not considered part of the genre.
That meant that cyberpunk was free to exhibit whatever literary style it wanted, because it was so much more than just one facet of science fiction. It was its own thing, and while it shared much of the same underpinnings as the house of Asimov, Herbert, Dick, and Clarke, it was not bound by the same principles as the genres that came before it. The '80s may have given birth to cyberpunk, but it would be the 1990s that would further augment it and make it recognizable and even fashionable. There was a veritable movie, TV show and video game boom on the horizon, and not just dark media or cult classics, some of the most successful blockbusters ever made!
The end of the decade was not the end of the genre, it was just the beginning. Thanks for checking out this introduction to cyberpunk, it's been a long time coming and we're incredibly happy with the final product. A thank you to Shalashaskka for his help in writing and researching this project, and my deepest thanks to my sponsors for helping make this level of production possible! Stay tuned for parts 2, 3, and 4 of this series, and thanks for watching!

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