Putting aside the game’s bugs and issues, the underlying themes speak to the fears and worries of a time gone by—not that we’ve moved past them all.
STEP OUT ONTO the streets of Night City, Cyberpunk 2077’s futuristic vision of a dystopian Californian metropolis, and very little looks immediately familiar. The city’s buildings have been replaced with squat brutalist apartment blocks, hologram-coated concrete towers, and neon-lit side streets where people with metal computer implants stare at strangers with glowing eyes or clench high-tech guns with gleaming cybernetic hands. Still, Night City, despite how alien its strange technology and architecture may appear, represents a future very much in touch with the concerns of our present day.
Cyberpunk follows V, a character created by the player who ends up entangled in the politics of Night City’s most powerful megacorporation, Arasaka, and fighting for their life after a heist gone wrong. Like the genre it’s named for, the game is rooted in the 1980s futurism—in a time when the rise of home computers and rapid technological innovation butted up against increasing economic disparity caused by privatization-happy political leadership in America and abroad. So many cyberpunk staples appear quaint in hindsight. But, even as the genre’s depictions of flying cars, artificial intelligence-powered robots, and a pseudo-internet accessed by plugging cables into human body implants misses the mark of actual 21st-century life, the 1980s sociopolitical landscape that led to cyberpunk’s creation has moved from predicted nightmare to mundane reality.