Imagined Worlds: Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk is obviously one of the most common things that someone thinks of when they think of ‘Art Movements’ and ‘Imagined Worlds’. Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that survives on the “high tech, low life” motto. This movement consists on advanced technology as well as scientific advancements and achievements including information technology and cybernetics, all resulting in breakdown and rapid change in society. The plot of most cyberpunk themes will include AI (artificial intelligence) and hackers working against or alongside mega corporations. All set in the near-future post-industrial dystopia, however, not always dystopia.

Cyberpunk is thought to have originated as a new wave science fiction movement of the 1960’s and 70’s in New Worlds magazine (beginning in 1936 as ‘Novae Terrae’ and changing to its current title in 1939. Ending publication in 2014 due to lack of subscriber funds). This magazine began encouraging and inviting stories which would showcase new writing styles. Authors started to then create a world in which society coped with a constant upheaval of new technology and culture, known to the world now as Cyberpunk.

Image result for cyberpunk art

Cyberpunk has been a theme throughout many movies, one being Columbia Pictures 2015 hit, chappIe. In this movie, the consciousness of two humans (characters Deon and Yolandi) are transferred into machines, alongside the main robotic character becoming more human-like and developing its own feelings and choices. Many of cyberpunks elements are obvious in these two main points, the artificial intelligence being the main one. Another plot point which ties this movie to the cyberpunk genre is in the movie the police robotics must be shut down, this causes riots to occur as there isn’t as much law enforcement. This is a key point in the social order of the Cyberpunk genre. Another movie illustrating this genre is Ridley Scott’s 1979 mainstream hit Alien. Many will say it’s hard to fit Alien into the Cyberpunk genre, but hear me out. The main creature in the franchise, the Xenomorph, is a genetically engineered weapon. A biochemical weapon. Cyberpunks main elements include scientific advancements, genetically engineered biochemical weapons fall under this category. Partnering this fact is the search for a new habitable planet throughout space for humans to inhabit, this movie is set in a dystopian future. Robocop is a perfect example of a Cyberpunk movie. Set in the near-future dystopian city of Detroit, Michigan, the city is on the verge of collapse due to financial ruin and high crime rates. Choosing to turn cop Murphy into a cyborg after being gunned down while chasing a gang, they create the ‘perfect’ police robot known as Robocop, following the main rules; “Serve the public trust, protect the innocent, uphold the law” as well as a 4th unknown classified directive. This movie is advertised as cyberpunk, which in itself is enough evidence of the themes of the movie. Many being cybernetics, robotics (police robotics similar to the ones mentioned earlier in chappIe), dystopian near-future city setting. What more is needed to show cyberpunk is a direct influence to Robocop.

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Games have their fair share of cyberpunk themes and elements. The Deus Ex franchise is probably one of the most well-known cyberpunk games. All games of this series are set in the same world; an Earth which has evolved into a dystopian cyberpunk society. Several societies compete for world control throughout the series, as well as the main character being ‘Augmented’ following cybernetics by having a cyborg arm etc. All of this, as well as being advertised as cyberpunk, show that this series has direct ties to the cyberpunk genre. Remember Me is another game with cyberpunk aesthetics. Set in the futuristic city of Neo-Paris, Sensen is a popular brain implant, allowing 99% of the population to upload and share memories as well as remove negative memories. Major companies use this as surveillance to monitor crime. Memory hunter and main protagonist Nilin and rebels known as Errorists try to bring down the system. This game is filled with cyberpunk references, from technological advances to scientific advancements. Brain implants which allow not only the owner but others to see, and change. Very cyberpunk. Watch dogs 2 is probably a game what most wouldn’t consider cyberpunk or have links to cyberpunk, but you’d be surprised. Watch dogs has 3 main cyberpunk qualities; major companies fighting for control, technological advancements, and rebellious society. San Francisco installs the Central Operating System, known as ctOs, connecting anything and everything in the world together under one network. Exploiting this information to other companies for personal use, allowing criminals to be created and deleted from the records. Hacker group Dedsec seek to show the world what’s really happening and bring the companies and ctOs down. Technological advances and rebellious society, check. What about cybernetics? One of the main character’s and a member of Dedsec Wrench has created a mask which allows it to portray emotes and various eye expressions through small square shaped bulbs which show pixelated symbols. The mask also provides a voice modulator which gives his voice a more robotic tone. Technically, this counts as cybernetics as he appears to control this with his eye movements and pupil tracking, creating blinking movements as well as basic facial movements. Despite this technology supposedly existing today, this is the only character who uses it.

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To conclude, I believe Cyberpunk, as an art movement, has directly had an influence on games and movies and the world they exist in. From things such as futuristic robotic police forces to being able to rewrite and erase memories at the push of a button, the world created by those in New Worlds has evolved to much more than they could have possibly dreamed of.

“Anything that can be done to a rat can be done to a human being. Ans we can do most anything to rats. This is a hard thing to think about, but it’s the truth. It won’t go away because we cover our eyes. THAT is Cyberpunk”

            Bruce Sterling

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