70% of the thousands of hours I’ve spent playing TTRPGs has been on fantasy settings, mostly D&D. 15% has been on sci-fi settings, mostly Star Wars.
But of the remainder, a good 5% has been spent playing cyberpunk games, mostly Shadowrun. Superhero retains the #1 spot on my list of genres I wish I played more, but cyberpunk is a strong runner up.
The first Cyberpunk game I played was called Cyberspace and I was just the right age for its glorious horrible awesomeness. Up until that point I had mainly just played D&D and Palladium games so even though the system in retrospect was awful, I was enamored with its bonkers skill charts and amusing critical damage tables.
We didn’t play it much because then (and for a long time) I was the only GM in our group and I had a hard time coming up with cyberpunk adventure ideas. Fantasy settings are so easy – some goblins are harassing farmers trying to cross a bridge, adventure done! But it seemed so much harder to come up with cyberpunk ideas at the time. I realize now it’s not, some cybered up gangers are harassing people trying to get on the train to work, done! I think part of the problem (besides the fact that I was 12) was that D&D isn’t really presented as an immersive world, in fantasyland you go on adventures and who cares what you’re doing the rest of the time, whereas cyberpunk games have rules for finding an apartment and paying your rent. It’s a lot to take in when you’re in 6th grade.
Later one of my friends brought me Cyberpunk 2020 which I found to be wildly inferior to Cyberspace even though it was obviously much better. Thus began the short lived Cyberspace VS Cyberpunk wars amongst my friends. In the end, as with most wars, there was no winner – only casualties, as I don’t think (aside from one weekend trip to the lake) we ever played either of them again.
It was either in HS or shortly afterwards where Shadowrun came into the mix. I had maybe sort of played a few times before (probably sat around and made a character and never played) but the time I really remember as the “first” was a gonzo campaign where basically all we did was attack Yazuka strongholds and have huge fights. I remember Age of Apocalypse had just come out so I guess it was ’95, and I was indeed in HS. Seems like the right time to Shadowrun.
It seemed so much cooler and more interesting than D&D even though that campaign specifically was just a big combat-fest and had far less roleplaying than we usually did playing D&D. Maybe I just thought it was cool to be playing an RPG with guns.
Since those days I’ve played in many attempts at Shadowrun games afterwards and a couple that actually had some legs. They’re some of my favorite gaming experiences, although some of that is less about Shadowrun and more a combination of liking systems where I don’t know everything and can’t metagame, the ruthlessness of the GM which is a nice break from storytelling games sometimes, and the people I was playing with.
Outside of the RPG realm though I haven’t been nearly as impressed with cyberpunk as a genre. One of my friends told me that Neuromancer was the best book ever and I found it dull and uninteresting. It almost destroyed our friendship! My issues with my friends trying to cram Blade Runner down my throat and my rejection of it are well documented. I hate anime and everything it stands for so Akira and Ghost in the Shell were right out. I feel like there’s other fundamentals of the cyberpunk literary world I’m forgetting but whatever they were, I didn’t like them.
But I’ll always have Shadowrun.