Films and television shows like Max Headroom, Aeon Flux, and Blade Runner were game-designer Kira Magrann’s first introduction to cyberpunk. She loved the aesthetic of the cyberpunk – the tall, brooding buildings, the glow of neon, and the slow moving shots. She also loved the complexity of the characters in the stories.
“The characters were really emo and having all these identity crises,” said Kira. “When I was younger, I didn’t quite get it, but as I got older, I realized it was me with my queer identity and being a woman.”
Kira went on to explore her experience, and the experiences with others in the games she creates. Her works focus on games where social prowess is emphasized instead of just physical aptitude. They give space to explore people without power trying to navigate social power dynamics.
The aesthetics of cyberpunk are visually arresting, to say the least, but Kira noted that it’s more than just pretty neon reflected in the rain.
“Style is really important to cyberpunk,” she pointed out. “It’s not just mirror shades … It’s a cultural and global understanding of style.”
While cyberpunk does have a distinctive look, it is also one of the most fashion-permissive genres out there. Street-samurai, Victorian-punk, and hard-boiled detective are all looks that coexist on the streets on the rainy streets of cyberpunk cities. It’s a genre which celebrates asserting your identity through how you present yourself visually. Kira also noted that style is not something restricted to a person’s personal dress code. It is present in the language of the media, street slang, and the architecture of the buildings that populate a cyber-city’s skyline. Decoding the language of style in cyberpunk requires both an understanding of style-past and style-future, but the payoff is worth it. Style is as much a commentary on the culture it exists in as it is on the person who assembled it.
A Social Science Fiction
Kira believes that cyberpunk is relevant to our culture today especially because of its social commentary.
“The other big element I love [about cyberpunk] is the people,” she said. “The ‘high tech low lives.’ Normal people full of flaws.”
Kira observed that people tend to connect deeply with the characters of cyberpunk.
“I tend to appreciate characters who are sensitive,” she added. “People with high empathy who are aware of their surroundings. It’s basically a superpower.”
Cyberpunk in particular focuses on how humanity will react to tech of the future. It looks at what is possible for people, not just what we ought to fear. It makes cultural observations about how people relate to each other.
“It’s a great social science fiction,” Kira concluded.
Kira has a few ideas about what she would like to see in the future of cyberpunk as it develops as a genre.
“First, I would basically cast Janelle Monae in everything,” she quipped.
She also wants to see stories about people for whom personal technology has been life-changing. She’s looking for narratives that that explore how people can alter their bodies with tech to reflect their identity. She’s also interested in the meta-social conversation.
“I think cyberpunk should talk about access, and class,” Kira stated. “How does tech help oppressed classes, and how does it also oppress them?”
Whatever the future may hold, it’s sure to be filled with a huge diversity of people, and cyberpunk is a great lens to peer through as we look forward to it.
If you would like to learn more about Kira’s work, visit her website at https://kira-magrann-xf7x.squarespace.com/ or follow her on twitter at @Kiranansi. You can also check out her YouTube channel at https://bit.ly/2ETkGmK.
Kira is a tabletop roleplaying game designer, queer cyborg, and snake mom living in Columbus, Ohio. She currently has a Patreon where she designs experimental games, a YouTube channel where she talks about game design, and she blogs a few times a month at Gnome Stew. With the support of her patrons she recently released a game about Lesbisnakes in wintertime titled A Cozy Den.