The so-called “genre” and “type” are not so much a definition as a kind of guidance.
For example, the term “horror”, one of its definitions is people’s exploration of unknown fears and worries. Of course, this definition also applies to science fiction. We tend to associate specific genres with certain results, and the definition just now reflects the limitations of this association.
“The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” may tell the story of slaughtering monsters and saving the world, but it is also an in-depth exploration of parenthood. The drama “The Office” describes the daily office life of company employees in a satirical way, but there are also many happy and relaxed scenes.
After all, “genre” is not a shackle that defines something, it is actually more like an interpretation.
The two games in recent years have a strong cyberpunk style. Cyberpunk is a branch of science fiction that focuses on the horrible and thought-provoking side. In fact, this also proves that “genres” can play a guiding role, and are not used to divide various boundaries. This is crucial because from the perspective of creators and audiences, if we realize this sooner, we can create and perceive more interesting stories.
But first, we need to understand what “cyberpunk” is.
Definition of “cyberpunk”
In layman’s terms, cyberpunk mainly shows the “future city based on computer technology in science fiction”, but this definition sounds a bit boring.
There are many classic works that also give their own definitions, including “Blade Runner” directed by Ridley Scott, “Neuromancer” written by William Gibson, the father of cyberpunk, and the cartoonist Shiro Masamune. He created “Ghost in the Shell”, the novel “Moxyland” by Lauren Bux, and all the stories written by American science fiction writer Philip Kinderdijk. But they still haven’t clearly told everyone what “cyberpunk” is.
It is worth mentioning the views of Henry Jenkins, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who has a more comprehensive definition of cyberpunk in his article “Media and Imagination: A Brief History of the Development of American Science Fiction”:
The cyberpunk movement in American science fiction first appeared in the early 1980s. The works of Bruce Sterling, William Gibson, Rudy Luck, Pat Catigan, and James Patrick Kelly gave The definition of cyberpunk has made a great contribution, and at the same time is the propagandist and disseminator of this literary movement. Although these works differ in other respects, these writers are concerned about the changing status of media culture in American society, especially the early stages of the “digital revolution (third industrial revolution)”.
The collection of novels “Mirror Film” can help readers clarify the context of the cyberpunk movement. When introducing the book, he pointed out that Bruce Sterling believes that cyberpunk not only shows a new perspective of science fiction writers’ observation technology, but also reflects Consumer perception. In the eyes of Bruce Sterling, cyberpunk imagined a “multiple worlds overlapping each other, namely the kingdom of high-tech and modern underground pop.”
The protagonists of cyberpunk stories are usually hackers, rock musicians or other cultural rebels, who promote individualism in a society where companies occupy a core position and a high degree of herding effect. These characters are good at using popular culture to express another appeal. At the same time, they also know how to use huge databases to obtain corporate information and secrets, or to spread boycott messages in a top-down ruling machine.
This may seem nothing special: science fiction has always been telling similar stories-the oppressed people use oppressors to fight back (after all, this is an important method of the real group resistance movement). But it is worth noting that Bruce Sterling emphasized that “multiple worlds that overlap each other are overlapped.”
In cyberpunk novels, the poorest people often have a technological level far beyond the real rich people, but the oppressed still struggle to survive in the cracks. It forces the audience to experience the dirty, gloomy, difficult and hopeless society created by corporate giants. Capitalism allows these corporate giants to crush marginal groups, break through the sky, and build an unprecedented money empire. The author dug the hole and waited for readers to jump into it and feel the deep meaning. These deep pits show the desire for greed, where readers must witness the victims of human evolution, and in this process, human nature has long ceased to exist.
No matter how many mechanical prostheses are installed, you still live at the bottom of this society. This is the core idea of this type of work.
At the same time, corporate giants stood there like silent giants, permeating every inch of the earth, as if they jumped into heaven with a gun pointed at the head of God.
We must carefully distinguish between different types, themes, and metaphors, but all of this clearly points to the same thing, which is the “overlap” of multiple worlds. Those groups who can’t find jobs and are struggling to survive have unimaginable advanced technology, and all this has led to inevitable conflicts, whether it is a conflict on the surface (such as blowing up a building) or a long-standing undercurrent. . Since all the tools are in the hands of more powerful groups, then for the oppressed masses, in addition to the other way, they have any other choice?
In my opinion, this is the so-called “cyberpunk”.
Cyberpunk style game
The Bloober Team released the game “The Observer” in 2017, and released its reset version “The Observer: System Restore” in 2020. In the game, the player plays the “observer” Daniel, a neural network detective. He can invade others’ brains to get clues, and use the suspect’s thoughts and memories to solve the case. In 2084, Daniel used this ability to trace the disappearance of his son in the slum area, and all of this happened during… the slum area was completely blocked.
By the way, “Observer: System Restore” has also landed on Xbox Series X|S and PS5, showing high-resolution textures, ray tracing and other incredible graphics effects on PS5 (Xbox Series X currently does not Support light chase). This makes the work a member of the new console game lineup (“Watch Dogs: Legion” is also among them, and I will also analyze this cyberpunk game).
“Observer: System Restore” makes no secret of its cyberpunk theme, and the marketing materials, the protagonist of the game (played by Rutger Hauer, the actor of Roy Batty in “Blade Runner”), easter eggs, music and even the weather can be felt To this style. This is the most cyber-flavored game I have ever played, and it did its best to show us the spirit of cyberpunk.
In contrast, Ubisoft’s “Watch Dogs: Legion” tells the story of London on the verge of collapse in the near future, and a group of punks fighting against oppression and trying to take home the garden. Based on the classic open world, Ubisoft incorporates a unique game mechanism: you can recruit any character you can meet to become a resistance member. The game does not have a fixed protagonist. Everyone is oppressed by the government and enterprises. Neuromechanics and electronic equipment control everything. So part of the way to fight is to use these machines to deal with their creators. “Watch Dogs: Legion” did not publicly label itself “cyberpunk”, but you can see how it subtly integrates itself into this genre.
“The Observer: System Restore”: The Horror Caused by Wrong Choices
Spoiler alert: The following contains a description of the ending of “Observer: System Restore”.
“Integration” is a key element in cyberpunk, and the degree of integration of human nature and technology is an obvious example. In this regard, some uninspiring themes will explore “When alloys cover your whole body, can you be called a human?” On the contrary, a deeper theme will make everyone think about “machine display After showing all the characteristics related to human beings, when will we be willing to accept the humanity shown by the machine?”
In “The Observer: System Restore”, we are faced with a machine. Although the protagonist’s son is dead, it perfectly reproduces everything about him. That “true son” had copied his own thoughts, hoping to escape the company’s search. However, when the digital brain realizes that he will delete the last copy of the memory, measures are taken to prevent this from happening, which eventually leads to tragedy.
Just like any organic creature, it will survive all available ways, especially in cyberpunk. Then, it finds itself trapped… If it can’t escape, it can only stay in the cage of the digital world forever, evolve a new self and self-awareness, and get rid of the shackles of birth, aging, sickness and death (you can imagine staying A confinement room where there is no need to eat or sleep).
In order to escape from all this, the artificial intelligence tried to persuade Daniel to save himself. Even without the body, it is still Daniel’s son. In addition, it can occupy Daniel’s brain. By default, companies cannot pry into the observer’s brain, so if necessary, this artificial intelligence can always live by Daniel’s body.
This fear stems from an endless sense of loneliness: immortality, isolation from the world, inability to perceive any form of happiness or pain caused by stimulation.
In my opinion, this seems to be the real horror of “Observer: System Restore”. Although there are many scary scenes in the game, this concept of isolation overwhelms everything. Although it is only digital consciousness, there is no doubt that it can also perceive this kind of pain. Part of the reason why humans are human is that they have emotions and morals, and we will try to understand each other’s existence as much as possible. When we cannot empathize, we can also use empathy to understand each other.
We are rarely alone in a dark, gloomy corridor. Perhaps the sudden movement in the shadows will scare us. Eternal loneliness makes people think about the meaning of existence. It is a larger topic in cyberpunk and worthy of our attention.
This is what bothers the “fake son” the most. The Observer: System Restore captures this fear in this way: if you will fall into eternal loneliness, will you use all your energy to escape this fate ?
“Watch Dogs: Legion”: Digital punishment makes people shudder
Spoiler alert: The following contains a description of the plot of “Watch Dogs: Legion”.
Skye, the villain of Watch Dogs: Legion, is a genius programmer who transformed someone’s nervous system into artificial intelligence. After knowing the truth behind this, people can’t help but shiver.
You enter her underground laboratory first, and it seems that she intends to recreate her perfect childhood home in the countryside. Dog barking and natural sounds circulated there, and it was a bit stuck from time to time, which sounded extremely disturbing. At this time, a dry female voice sounded in the room, welcoming the player to go home. Maybe the artificial intelligence thought the player was Skye.
This sound guides the player to find clues in different rooms. Slowly, you will find that the way she speaks has changed. This is obviously not quite right. It is definitely not an ordinary home artificial intelligence system.
After some investigation, players will find that when Skye’s mother was seriously ill, they created a home environment for her, allowing her to experience the feeling of home in her last days.
However, through augmented reality data reconstruction, we found that the relationship between the two is not harmonious. Sikai was often questioned by her mother. In the end, we discovered that Sikai was not taking care of her mother at all, but treated her as a test subject.
At the last moment, Skye’s mother realized this and asked Skye to stop testing and sampling. Of course, this villain completely ignored his mother’s request. Later, the mother was also unable to resist due to severe illness. As soon as the screen turned, Skye immediately activated the artificial intelligence system, and we now realize that this household system actually made her mother’s voice. At first, she sounded scared and confused.
The old woman’s consciousness was withdrawn from her dying body and trapped in a dark room. At this time, she could only hear her daughter’s voice. She yelled, longing for relief, but her daughter completely ignored her prayer.
As the days passed, Skye deleted the “redundant” neural code in her mother’s brain, making the digital mother more “behaved.” Since she has become a code, everyone can’t see the torture process, but it hasn’t diminished the fear we felt from what we saw and heard (if you have read “Black Mirror: Christmas Special”, you may be familiar The pain caused by this torture.)
A few weeks later, the voice of the artificial intelligence system gradually calmed down, sounding like Siri with a British accent. The voice didn’t change until she begged you to let her free. In order to make the home system work normally, she suffers every day, leaving only part of the nerve function. She could not end her destiny, she could only ask the player to do it for her.
This fear stems from the player’s awareness of the origin of this artificial intelligence, which is quite similar to what we felt in “The Observer: System Restore”. Whether it is digitized or not, it is essentially the human mind and brain, so I can resonate with it. It is precisely because we have the ability to empathize that we can empathize and experience the deep fear.
These stories make people think deeply
This kind of plot is fascinating. They are connected with the theme of cyberpunk through integration and essential horror elements, and the progress created by ubiquitous technology will eventually become a victim of some human glory. This fear is not only strong, but it is also easily aroused.
What I fear is not the sound of monsters in Observer: System Restore, nor the terrifying private army in Watch Dogs: Legion. On the contrary, what I fear is the dialogue between the mother and her daughter who has been transformed into artificial intelligence; the cruelty that a living person deprives a dying person. Both games demonstrate the desire of biological organisms for freedom. One party embarked on the dark path of deliberate murder, while the other party prayed for rest.
Both stories make use of the concept of “fusion” in cyberpunk. In this branch of science fiction full of alloy prostheses, we have seen the struggle of our own bodies. When looking at ourselves, we will inevitably foresee our own death, the inevitable end, all kinds of struggles, pains, and the universe world that is not moved by everything. Throughout the ages, many works have explored and described this fear in depth, such as Howard Philip Lovecraft, Victor Laval, Thomas Ligotti and other authors… To me, the most terrifying There is nothing more than human death and the uncertainty of human nature.
Cyberpunk not only tells the story of the struggle of punk groups, but also exposes the ugly face of corporate giants. In fact, it shows that human beings have crossed boundaries time and time again, our self-hypnotic lies, the victims of technological development, and the very few groups who have benefited from the ugly capitalism (the degree of horror is not the same as the evil god in the myth of Cthulhu) Similar). This reminds us once again that the so-called “genre”, or even the “branch” of the “genre”, are not actually dividing boundaries, but a guide.
Who could have expected that two completely different cyberpunk games could further deepen my fear of conscious survival and leave an indelible mark in my heart?
Therefore, when you tell or perceive the story, please don’t be limited to the “genre” of the work. They are not obstacles, but tools to enhance the experience.
Translation: Wang Yi Editor: Zoe
Source: Bonfire Camp