Cyberpunk society wasn’t always cyberpunk, there was, at one point, an era of mid-tech mid-life as opposed to high-tech, low-life. Determining the point in which your society shifted to cyberpunk is crucial for worldbuilding. There are a lot of different ways it could have happened too, and the time that’s passed since that event will also affect the citizens that live in that society in every aspect of their lives. If you know your society’s tipping point that pushed it into cyberpunk, you’ll be able to create a much more immersive, enriched world. If you’re not creating your own world, you’ll still recognize the importance of the tipping point in the works you visit, whether you’re reading literature, watching movies, or anything else cyberpunk, it’s important.
The Unknown Past
This type of transition is used mostly for cyberpunk societies that have been around for quite a while. At this point, citizens don’t really know what caused their society to become what it is, and most of them have no memory of a time where things were different–only distant ideas and thoughts from the stories and rumors they’ve heard on the streets. The unknown past, which is almost always the result of censorship, is useful for cyberpunk worlds that are oppressive and where citizens lack a lot of basic freedoms. When worldbuilding a cyberpunk world with a past that’s unknown to its citizens, you should know what happened to the society to cause it to be the way it is, whether your audience will ever learn it or not. Knowing your society’s past is key to creating immersion and realism in your world, and will help everything feel more authentic.
The slow transition
While somewhat anti-climactic, the slow transition into cyberpunk society is common in a lot of cyberpunk worldbuilding. Technology advanced as it always has, and governments started failing. When government failed, corporations took over, and people slowly lost freedoms and were forced to integrate into their new cyberpunk cultures. Slow transitional events into cyberpunk culture include economic downturn, grinding, costly war that isn’t military-based, loss of citizen freedom, or non-combat foreign takeovers. When worldbuilding with a slow transition into cyberpunk culture as your world’s tipping point, your citizens will likely experience disheartened integration and try to retain their own cultural identity while holding on to the past. Like all things, this defiance usually fades over time for common citizens and erodes into something resembling disheartened acceptance. Slow transitions attack your citizen’s morale and eventually lead to discontent and rebellion as a result if things remain unchanged. This type of transition is useful for cyberpunk societies that are older, and have remained cyberpunk for quite some time. This type of transition creates the gritty, bland, and descriptive cyberpunk cultures that draw in your audience to create a great sense of immersion and realism.
The sudden, drastic change
The sudden, drastic change is more interesting, and it leads to more heated rebellion and resistance. Starting your story right before or during the drastic event that’s about to unfold in your world is a great foundation for crafting a believable, action-packed cyberpunk world that people will love. Sudden, drastic shifts in power result in more oppression and stronger resistances that band together to fight the power and take down the system from the inside. Sudden, drastic change transisitions into cyberpunk include natural disaster, corporations bailing out governments, full-scale invasion, artificial intelligence takeover, and more. Sudden, drastic changes are more impactful than the slow transisition, but they’re most effective in young cyberpunk societies rather than ones that have existed for some time. Having a sudden, drastic change that transitioned the society into cyberpunk won’t really matter if the society has been cyberpunk for a long period of time. Eventually, like everything else, the events of the past lose their weight and meaning to citizens. If you’re going to use this type of transition, drop your audience right into the action as it’s unfolding.
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