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Wasn't The Future Supposed To Be Japanese?

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When I was a kid, I grew up believing I was obsolete. Japan was the future, and Europe was the past. Whatever it was, they could make it better, quicker, cheaper. And if there was one genre of literature (and or roleplaying) that was heavily influenced by that belief, it was cyberpunk.

When William Gibson wrote Neuromancer and its sequels in the early-to-mid nineteen-eighties, predictions of Japan's success were at their highest. So his books, which pretty much created the genre, reflected that.

What does this have to do with roleplaying? Well most of today's leading cyberpunk RPGs had their genesis at the end of the nineteen-eighties. So the futureworld of their settings is Japanese. It's all New Yen and Street Samurai.

Even their history shows these thoughts:

"The following year, Japan asserted its position as a world power by announcing the creation of the new Japanese Imperial State and deploying the first of a fleet of solar-powered collector satellites to beam microwave energy to receptors on the Earth's surface. With this relatively cheap method of distributing power to isolated regions, Japan began to make strong inroads into the Third World"

Shadowrun 2nd Edition

There's only one slight problem. The Japanese economy, crashed, really badly, in 1989 and has never recovered. As another quote shows:

"Japan was thought to be emerging from an 11 year recession at the end of 1999, but the most recent figures show that it could be slipping back again."

BBC News Online, Friday, 16 February, 2001

So if the future ain't gunna be Japanese...

...it makes several leading cyberpunk games look just a tad stupid.


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