Shadowrun (Case Study)

Authored by: Hamish Cameron

The Routledge Companion to Cyberpunk Culture

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9780815351931
eBook ISBN: 9781351139885
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter presents a case study of Shadowrun, one of the first generations of cyberpunk tabletop roleplaying games (TRPGs). From its creation, Shadowrun has blended classic cyberpunk themes with elements of fantasy, including magic and fantasy races, and encodes and quantifies these elements in its game system. Shadowrun presents a violent cyberpunk world in which cybernetic technologies modify, augment, and invade the human mind and body. The setting is presented through the frame of a conspiracy narrative in which hidden supernatural powers reinforce classic cyberpunk themes in driving the world toward a dystopia. After the “narrative pivot” common in conspiracy narratives, the setting reveals magic as a truth and it becomes a tool available for both corporate violence and control as well as for the protagonists’ resistance. Shadowrun’s setting deploys narrative velocity (a technique common to both conspiracy narratives and cyberpunk literature) to bombard the reader with catastrophic images of technological and fantastic disruption that substitutes the genre’s usual future shock for the supernatural shock for which it is known.

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