Cyberpunk Creator Mike Pondsmith's Exclusive Interview for Digital Cultures 2020
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The original mastermind behind what is about to become the biggest video game of the decade has given an exclusive interview to Digital Cultures 2020 on the conference’s topic this year: Imagined Futures.
Mike Pondsmith is a legend in the world of tabletop gaming. In 1988, he created Cyberpunk, a new game that reimagined what lay ahead for humanity, a future based on a dystopian vision where megacorporations control people’s lives as they try to claw back some semblance of agency through technology. The game has gone through several iterations and expansions over the years, most notably Cyberpunk 2020 (1990) and Cyberpunk V3.0 (2005).
To coincide with the release of Cyperpunk 2077, Pondsmith’s vision in a new technological format, his soon-to-be-released tabletop game Cyberpunk Red will be a prequel to the sister product, with Pondsmith working closely with Polish video game studio CD Projekt Red to ensure continuity between the two.
For me, I think one of the more mind-bending things is watching what we’re doing with 2077 and going ‘Wow, all these things we talked about are now exposed to millions of people who can now look at it and become excited and become creative.’ [...] The amount of love and attention and care and creativity is staggering.
Cyberpunk 2077 — Official Cinematic Trailer | E3 2019
As both games near the end of years of development, Digital Cultures invited Pondsmith for an extended talk about how he has imagined the future over the decades and whether his expectations and reality have clicked or collided:
When we talked about the net, when we talked about how that would work, what we did not really think about at the time was that the net would become, essentially, a shopping mall. And what I mean by that is the net, because of its Darpanet background, was a place where you exchanged information and it was a place where you just went to do a thing, whatever a thing was. I’m gonna launch a missile today, you know, whatever. But it was not a place where you hung out, it was not a place where you exchanged information on a personal level, it was not where you put pictures of your cats...
If I go to the mall and hang out with my friends, we’re gonna go down to places we like, and eat in certain places, and talk about the gossip that’s going on, and maybe we’ll pick up on some cute girls that we might have something in common with and we might swap numbers with. There are all these interactions that are the same as we would have had face to face, but we’re doing it in this new space. And that is something I didn’t expect.
The interview also contains his thoughts on how the ethos of Cyberpunk has become far more everyday than we may have realised in today’s world:
There is a tractor company here in the States that basically wired their tractors so that they could not be fixed by the owners or their own specific choice of mechanic. They built things into them that will shut them down. So now you have farmers who don’t want to go through this rigmarole of the corporation which has a stranglehold on them and they’re finding ways to hack these systems. They’re going to 4chan and places like that, they’re going on the dark web and going ‘Hey, you guys have that pass that allows me to get around my tractor?’ You have a farmer on the black market buying black market software to get his tractor running. That’s incredibly Cyberpunk.
That was not the guy you were expecting to be in the dark future with mirror shades, it’s just a damn farmer. But what he’s doing is Cyberpunk. Using technology at the street level against powers above you who are basically sitting on you.
In addition, the Digital Culture interview has Pondsmith explaining how he has worked to enlarge Cyberpunk’s world, how groups can maintain infrastructure through technology, and what might happen when corporations wake up to how you can build anything you want without them. All this and much more.
Digital Cultures 2020 is being held online from 17th to 25th October. It features leading minds in the digital world with interactive panels, lectures and workshops. Watch the full 23-minute Mike Pondsmith interview as well as a whole host of other exciting events featuring digital artists and thought leaders by registering for the conference here.
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