“The Future” as a term calls to mind images of great gleaming towers, lights and high tech toys that borderline on magical. Scientific breakthroughs that allow for exploration of what we in the present call “The Impossible”; be it the deepest seas, distant stars or different timelines. The technology of the future is the key to those wondrous notions because in “The Future”, people remain a toss up.
In “The Future” we may envision utopian peace enveloping the globe and all of humanity under one united peaceful sky but that is not always the case. Dystopias mar the distant horizon just as often as their utopian counterparts and one such popular dystopian playground is the “Cyberpunk” setting. In Cyberpunk, many of the trademarks of “The Future” are there; the gleaming towers, bright flashing lights, wonders of technology at and within the fingertips of the common person. But while the world is high-tech, the people are low class. The people at the top are greedy and corrupt, the “good” people of the middle are embedded into a hivemind collective that dare not stand against blatant injustice for fear of how it will affect their status and those at the bottom are treated like a disease. The “heroes” of this world are disenfranchised; teetering just at the edge of falling into the lowest rungs of society. These dregs are offered an opportunity to use their impressive skills to “stick it” to the Corporate overlords that have taken over the world and pull their lives back from the brink.
How does it get that far? How does the line from “Utopia” to “Dystopia” get crossed so easily and left so far behind that it can never be uncrossed? Choices; Shaking hands with the Devil one too many times, making the call that the “lesser of two evils” is the best choice time and again. This is where the world finds itself when the curtains rise on the “PowerPunk” setting. We refer to it as “The Day before Cyberpunk”. This time frame is a special place that we feel is under explored. This is a time when corporations are on the prowl, growing stronger, tying their economic leashes onto lesser nations and ascending to the would-be masters of the world (while greater nations are still capable of pushing against these plutocratic leviathans).
Technologies that can and will revolutionize the lives of every person such as; augmented reality, automation and artificial intelligence have hit the market with full releases. Meanwhile those branches of technology that make us reexamine the human condition; cloning, genetic modification, cybernetics and cyber-augmentation are entering into open testing. Society though is waning; economic disparity is growing, legal opportunity for social growth is fading and criminal enterprises have become more attractive. More people think they can just make a few dirty dollars for a bit to make ends meet and then go back to being clean again. The pieces of the “Cyberpunk” puzzle are there and already fitting into place but with a great effort someone can change that puzzle into something else.
If not for a special “X factor” or two, our future would seem set in stone and the Blade Running, silver handed, vaporwavers with subwoofer augments in their trench coats would be a bygone conclusion. But, as Rafael Huereca points out, in cyberpunk, it is the "power" of this wondrous tech that shapes the people of the era. Robotic limbs are used to interact with the all encompassing stimuli pumping data directly into intrusive data ports that carry information directly to the brain, milking serotonin and adrenaline with a thought. In this Dystopia, a person is barely recognizable as such; the technology is almost parasitic.
In "PowerPunk", before those technologies can grow into their apex and take their more familiar role of ubiquitous enhancements that possibly dehumanize; it is superpowers that surface from within the disenfranchised. These powers do not shape them however, the powers serve only to amplify what is already there. A jerk becomes a villain when they are bulletproof, a patient person can become a Saint when even the worst emotional outburst is tangible and changeable. The nicest person can sometimes amplify their darker urges and become a real monster unfettered by conscience but it is not the power that makes it happen, it is the person.
The question arises, are superpowers enough to make a utopia out of the gathered pieces of a dystopian cyberpunk tomorrow? Or do they fall short against the momentum of time, greed, fear and power in its myriad of forms. It all boils down to choices.
Dev-X | Stock & Bull Entertainment
P.S: Still Running PowerPunk in a Dedicated Space