DualMondays is a more or less weekly column by Jim Spanos (a.k.a. Dualnames) on game design, adventures and all sorts of highly intriguing things.
You know, a little while ago, around the AGS forums, but not that exclusively, a wonderful game appeared: Technobabylon. In three episodes, its author tried to introduce a bleak universe and a fantastic inter-connectivity between characters. And then, as the series was gradually getting huge attention, James Dearden (the author/developer) halted production. Personally, I felt as if I would never see more of it.
But what is the game actually about?
Technobabylon revolves around the premise that people choose to accept the false sense of achievement presented in multiplayer videogames over the actual control on their lives, hence slowly deteriorating physically and mentally; getting addicted in a way not wholly dissimilar to drug use. Such is the protagonist of the game, but as problems pop up, it will be impossible for him to get a last dose of the virtual world. The second game of the series, creates one of the most wonderfully revealed ties between two games - seemingly so different in almost every aspect, that literally the remembrance of it, still takes my breath away.
I do hope, the great content will be kept, if not intact, at least with the same spirit, maintaining the consistency and surprise factor present in the freeware release of the three episodes so far. I fully accept the choice to enrich and re-introduce the saga. Even though, I do feel this should have been out faster, I am still overly excited over the forthcoming release of Technobabylon. Yet nothing could ever excite me more than Cyberpunk as a genre. I'm not sure, but it's the amplification of post-apocalyptic environments surrounded by garbage bags flying around ultra-bright neon lights that does it for me.
To me, the genre always meant exciting, new, even exhilarating horizons being broadened, applying both mentally and perspective-wise a mesmerizing effect on my personal being. That is when the cyberpunk medium transcends the focus on one aspect and instead triumphantly establishes domination in every way.
Portraying flawed characters and an ironic, seemingly idyllic view of the future, whether it's dominated by a certain political view or a technological discovery/revolution, there is a thin line separating breathtaking and thought-provocative from just lasers and neon lights. I strongly believe that taking any story and transforming it into a cyberpunk version of itself is the easier way, and the most common one. While it's nice to see a plot through different glasses, perhaps adjusting its parameters differently, I'm not a huge fan of that.
That is why creating a reality based on projections of combined factors, plowing through plot holes and physical rules to narrate a story that would only be done justice under those calculated, specific list of circumstances and variables, is where the genre shines. It should always be visible to us, that it's not about telling conventional stories within unconventional surroundings, but rather about mystifying the audience with the setting, engulfing the reader, in ways that he/she feels the primal instincts and fears in different unconventional ways, purging reality of all the veils, like tears in the rain.
And I have this weird feeling, Technobabylon could be one of cyberpunk's best.