Cyberpunk 2077 - Mike Pondsmith Interview

Mike Pondsmith, the veteran designer behind the Cyberpunk series of pen and paper RPGs, attended this year's Retro Inspired Game Jam in Singapore. There, he had a chat with a representative focusing on CD Projekt's upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, the multimedia nature of modern game development, and ways in which one can successfully deliver a meaningful message through games. A few sample paragraphs:

But making games -- especially sci-fi games rooted in some kind of technological reality -- is quite different today. The first Cyberpunk tabletop game was released in 1988, and its sibling, Cyberpunk 2020, in 1990. Today's cultural landscape offers emerging technologies that weren't viable when the Cyberpunk world was born, and what really impresses Pondsmith today is the ubiquitous nature of technology.

"Technology is cheap," he says. "Even if food is no longer cheap, or housing isn't cheap, technology is really, really available. You're not going to have a world where cell phones don't exist. You can have good cell phones, you can have really crappy cell phones, but I personally own five cell phones and two of them, at least, I don't even use anymore. You're always going to have cell phones of some form."

Despite its high-octane depictions of hacking, body modifications, and other cutting-edge technology, Cyberpunk is a cautionary tale about a dark, paranoid future dominated by corporations and gangs. With the slick marketing and hyperbole surrounding 2077's release, Pondsmith thinks most people will initially be hooked by the shiny weaponry and cybernetic tech before engaging with the game's deeper socio-economic and political themes.

"Sooner or later, there's that moment where you stop and look at your hands as V [the game's protagonist], and you go 'my hands have been cut off at the elbows, and they're now machines.' I think a lot of times when you want your message out there about something that's bigger than a game, you have to let them find it themselves. We just lay it out like a trap and they step on it."