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Within the universe of the 1988 role-play game "Cyberpunk" and, its canonical extended material, what does it mean when one character describes another character as being "a cyberpunk".

Does it have a clear and definitive meaning, as opposed to describing an aesthetic?

This is specifically about the universe of the game, not the pop culture aesthetic, or cosplay.

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3 Answers 3

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Hi-tech lowlife

There is no "the" cyberpunk universe; "cyberpunk" is a tag used to a describe certain style of science fiction. However, the term is often used to describe "hi-tech lowlife" (cyber + punk), and I suspect that this is how it is used in Cyberpunk 2077.

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    It's a tabletop game. It most definitely has universe. It's famous for it. Sep 30, 2022 at 12:15
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    I though that this would be obvious. Sep 30, 2022 at 12:55
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    But apparently it isn’t. Heck, I was around in the 80s and don’t remember that game.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 30, 2022 at 13:32
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    @AaarghZombies: When I wrote the answer, the question had no mention of the role-play game Cyberpunk (with which I am quite familiar"; it just mentioned "the cyberpunk universe" (capitalization). I naturally can't be expected to consider information added AFTER my answer. Oct 1, 2022 at 14:19
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I've never played the pen & paper game, but "cyberpunk" is mentioned once or twice in the video game. The following conversation can be found on a shard in Pacifica:

PHEA MIZ: oh yeah? wanna bet? ;]

SERGIO CONSONNI: haha but why risk it?

PHEA MIZ: just cuz

PHEA MIZ: THIS CYBERPUNK AINT DEAD YET BABY

Similar to the term "punk", it seems to refer to a movement or possibly a state of mind.

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From the Second Edition (Cyberpunk 2020) rulebook:

Cyberpunk comes from two words. Cyber -- from the term cybernetic, or a fusion of flesh and machine technology, Punk -- from an early 1980's rock music style that epitomised violence, rebellion and social action in a nihilistic way.

[...]

There were three major responses to technoshock. The vast majority of people, their lives uprooted and changed by the advancements, sat passively waiting for their leaders to tell them what to do next. One smaller group tried to turn back the clock, founding the basis of what we call the Neo-Luddite movement. The remaining group -- they decided to hit the future head on. With the old 1980's visionary writings as their guide, they established the movement we now call Cyberpunk.

As a cyberpunk you grab technology by the throat and hang on. You're not afraid to check out the newest in "enhancements", cybertech and bioengineering. You've got interface plugs in your wrists, weapons in your arms, lasers in your eyes, biochip programs in your brain. You become the car you drive, the gyro you fly, the guns you shoot. You dive headfirst into the Net, using your mind to hurtle at lightspeed all over a vast network of Data Fortresses and Artificial Intelligences. With cyborged fingers you pick computer locks; with enhanced senses, you see into the Future.

Cyberpunk is also an attitude. You wear the most "in" clothes, know the right people, and follow the right crowds. You plan your crimes in the most select clubs and bars; your enemies are Corporate armies, cyborg bike gangs, power-armored assassins and computer-wired Netheads. Your weapons are nerve, streetsmarts, bravado and the Minami 10 smartgun on your hip.

So in-Universe it means literally mimicking the cyberpunk genre popularised in the '80s, which conveniently is exactly what it means in real life too.

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