Hello cyberpeople, I am sending this cybermessage to you through cyberspace, using my cyberdeck.
Yes, cyberpunk can seem quite dated and corny but that is just because its already happened which makes the hyperbolic style more than a bit ridiculous nowadays. In fiction (and gaming) this has been handled in roughly three ways (its always three ways isn’t it?): 1. treating cyberpunk as a quaint style of 80’s and early 90’s aesthetic that we indulge as a kind of nostalgia; 2. updating its themes to go beyond what was cutting edge 20 or even 30 years ago and venture into more radically transhuman fields; 3. shedding the dated details in order to embrace it as a genre of futurism-in-the-present. The first two strategies are quite common in gaming but the third isn’t quite as prevalent. Here are some links to existing (or potential) features of our present day society that could be used in a game of contemporary cyberpunk.
The many aspects of the Web
The web is used for organised crime, as well as espionage and warfare. Botnets are a common tool. A lot of this action take splace through the deep web including the Silk Road black market (Update: This haven of cybercrime has been shut down by the FBI).
People spend lots of time socializing with each other in virtual realities such as World of Warcraft and Second life. Real time, real people and real money, nothing virtual about that. Furthermore the web is no longer just something one visits once or twice a day, its becoming something ever present through our mobile devices leading to the merger of the standard and virtual realities into one augmented reality.
The robots are comming! For real. In the workplaces and on the battle fields. And now they’ve got their own Internet. And they are not only taking manual jobs as can be seen with the rise of algorithmic trading (which may already be on retreat?). This evolution of an digital ecology beggers the question of what will happen if (or rather when) we are faced with runaway expert systems.
We live in a civilisation that has been high tech for generations. The age of space and the atom has been going for more than half a century. The history of the industrial society has left us surrounded by modern ghost cities and such nuclear catastrophe zones as Chernobyl / Pripyat.