Research Phase 2: Retro-Futurism

Retro-Futurism is the combination of the technology and style from past eras and the technology of the future, the key subjects I’ve been looking at are:

  • Cyberpunk
  • Dieselpunk
  • Steampunk

Cyberpunk

Cyberpunk is the combination of low life and high technology and is a very popular way of depicting our future these days. Cyberpunk focuses on the subjects of hacking, AI, cybernetics and is set around big corporations, drug culture and the sexual revolution, this all comes together, often with a tonne of neon lighting, to create a very interesting and diverse setting.

Some of the biggest influences of Cyberpunk culture is the 1984 novel Neuromancer by William Gibson which was all about the punk and hacking cultures, and the 1982 film Blade Runner set in 2019 focusing on the subjects of racism and independence while the main character focuses on tracking down rogue replicants (androids) that were used as slaves.

A couple of games worth mentioning are Far Cry: Blood Dragon and Deus Ex: Human Revolution.

Far Cry: Blood Dragon is a parody of 1980s action films and games set in the dystopian year  of 2007 after a nuclear war between the US and Russia, it would also seem that all technology as must have a shit tonne of pink and blue neon. The game is described as an “80s VHS vision of the future” where the main character, cyborg ‘Sergeant Rex “Power” Colt’ must “Get the girl, kill the bad guys and save the world”.

Deus Ex is a series known for its Cyberpunk setting and it’s favourite subject of Augmentation, the game I focused on was Deus Ex: Human Revolution. Augmentation is one it’s strongest themes and It looks at the subjects of at what point of replacing your body parts with robotic limbs does your humanity disappear, and the morals behind replacing “what god gave you”. A huge issue within the game world is also the prejudices of none Augmented people against those with Augments and how those prejudices effect the professional relationships of every day people, we even experience a bit of this first hand as the protagonist is himself Augmented.

 

Dieselpunk

Dieselpunk combines the diesel based technology used during the WW2 with futuristic tech, this creates a very gritty and grungy style that is popular with games that include lots of guns, explosions and war. The term Dieselpunk wasn’t coined until 2001 and was originally made as a derivative of Cyberpunk.

The Wolfenstein games are largely about fighting Nazis for and with supernatural or occult powers but the 2014 reboot did away with that and takes place in an alternative history. Protagonist B.J. Blazkowicz wakes up out of a coma to find that the Nazis won the second World War and have occupied not only America but the whole world, this not only provides another perspective on the war but also some new Nazi style tech to play with. Such equipment includes massive guns and powered suits of armour, giant robotic dogs that breath fire are also included in the armouries.

The Fallout series is set in an alternate history where the transistor was never invented, because of this all technology veered more towards nuclear power and retro styles, creating a science fiction world in a perceptual 1950s style. The whole style of Fallout is a sub genre of Dieselpunk called Atompunk, which combines the pre-digital 1940s to 1960s with atomic power. The world was destroyed by nuclear war in 2077 which created the world of Fallout, a post apocalyptic wasteland littered with ruined cities, radiation and struggling settlements.

 

Steampunk

Steampunk combines the aesthetic designs of the 19th century steam powered machinery with futuristic or modern technology with a bunch of cogs and gears thrown in as a finishing touch. This style is mostly used in a Victorian or Wild West setting, usually in some kind of alternate history where technology went down a different path to ours.

Bioshock Infinite is a game set in 1912 in a fictional flying city called Columbia that hangs high above the world amongst the clouds, the city is suspended in the air by a variety of blimps, balloons, propellars and “Quantum Levitation”. This all takes place in an alternate world where it’s possible to travel between universes. The city, while originally a part of America, is now separate and is it’s own city state hiding a prejudiced Dystopia beneath it’s Utopian mask. The city is rampant with racism and elitism, white supremacy is enforced by the law and racial purity is encouraged, racial segregation is also heavily enforced with interracial couples risking public stoning. Despite all this racism, minority races are still bought into the city for cheap labour, these races doing most of the heavy lifting and all the dangerous jobs.

Dishonored is a game set in a Dystopian world where instead of steam or petrol, electricity is generated from machines run by Whale Oil, this oil is harvested from their equivalent of whales, large monstrous creatures in the sea with sharp and brutal looking teeth, resembling more of a shark. Because of this, the whaling industry is running strong but it’s unlikely that this is an effective and sustainable power and will eventually run out when whales go extinct. While the rich of the city of Dunwall live in luxury, the poor are forced to live in ruined or flooded buildings, plagued by rats, gangs and actual plagues. A result of a current rat plague is infected people acting like zombies, these people are close to death and stumble about aimlessly, they also act aggressively to anyone unlike themselves, people call them “Weepers”. It’s believed by some that the Weepers do not purposely attack you, rather it’s an attempt to seek aid from unaffected people. Due to all of this added onto an extremely corrupt and cruel guards watch, the city is very dangerous.

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