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Cyberpunk has suffered through many definitions during its growth, from author Bruce Sterling's original assessment in the preface to Mirrorshades to his latest appraisal of the movement in his article, "Cyberpunk in the Nineties." Throughout its evolution, some consistent points have been made that one can mold together to form a definition of cyberpunk: a sense of bleakness, technology's dominant effect on the world, and a tendency to showcase the illegal points within the culture. If these three traits truly define the cyberpunk genre, then the Shadowrun Role Playing System, created by FASA Corporation in 1989, exemplifies these elements of cyberpunk.
Shadowrun and cyberpunk fiction are very similar in their view of the future world they present. As Sterling points out in "Cyberpunk in the Nineties," "There is much bleakness in cyberpunk, but it is an honest bleakness. There is ecstasy, but there is also dread"(Browning 6). An interesting point, but not one without merit. For indeed, cyberpunk does tend to forward the sentiment that the world spirals ever downward, to an end that no one can foresee. Tom Maddox's "Snake Eyes" embodies this point, with George's slow and continuous fall toward insanity as the machinery in his head attempts to control him. Shadowrun's chronology is very similar in this respect, from the physical plagues that rip through the world, thereby destroying over a third of the world population, to intense computer viruses that have the ability to kill people who access the data they protect. Many of the governments of the world have disbanded, including the United States -- who joins with Canada -- and Russia. Cities have become known as "sprawls" where only the strong survive, and even then it's a rough outing anytime you step out the door. The bleakness of the world plays into the hands of the shadowrunners, who live in the world of the `sinless,' those who are not registered in the world database. They find the world desolate and anarchistic, but still manage to find profit in it while keeping their skin in one piece. One quote from the Shadowrun sourcebook says, "If you did it and lived, then you probably did it right"(Shadowrun 54).
One way that shadowrunners find profit through their activities and survive is through the use of technologically superior tools. Technology, according to Sterling, is also a powerful part of the cyberpunk genre. As he states in Mirrorshades, ".
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