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Shadowrunning In The Corporate Republic

JonKatz posted more than 14 years ago | from the games-and-prophesies dept.

United States 303

A few years ago, the pen-and-pencil game "Shadowrun" would have seemed an especially geeky fantasy. In the Corporate Republic, it looms much larger, both a warning and a prophesy. Many of us are Shadowrunners now, many more are going to be in the 21st century. Fifth in a series. (Read More).

"It's been forty-nine years since our world changed almost beyond recognition...As a people, we innovate and create for money rather than the pure pleasure of bringing something new into the world. Rather than using technology to improve the lot of mankind, we've allowed it to separate us even further from each other." --- Shadowrun, Third Edition.

It's the dystopian future of 2026. Criminal subcultures flourish. Megacorporations have become the new world superpowers. Executives and wage slaves hole up in heavily-fortified enclaves, while beyond the gated walls, enormous throngs of outsiders fend for themselves. No longer mere flesh and bone, many people have turned to the artificial enchancments of "cyberware" to make themselves something more than human, something other than a machine.

Shadowrunners are the individualists who live on the margins, able to "slide like a whisper" through the databases of giant corporations, spiriting away the only thing of real value -- information.

No wonder so many e-mailers, in response to my series "The Corporate Republic," urged me to get the "Shadowrun" handbooks. It's jarring to come across this increasingly plausible vision of the future. In this pen-and-pencil role-playing game -- part improvisional theater, part storytelling -- science fiction once more mirrors the contemporary imagination and foreshadows what lies ahead.

Intentionally or not, Shadowrun is much more than a game. It reflects the attitudes and values of younger, technologically-centered Americans. It may also project their futures, at least of the ones who are individualistic, creative and discontented. How ironic that young gamers have sensed for years (the original Shadowrunner rules were published in l989) what journalists and politicians still keep missing -- that life for individuals gets rougher by the year here in the Corporate Republic. That a handful of megacorporations are becoming powerful beyond anyone's control. That individualism is not only growing more difficult, but one day soon may actually be dangerous. That this creeping reality has been a role-playing exercise for brainy kids for more than a decade is an amazing thing.

"Shadowrun" is as much a political manifesto as entertainment, a social and political fantasy that feels increasingly prescient. Shadowrun's creators saw the growing power of corporatism ( the forces of evil are dubbed "megacorps.") They grasped its inherently amoral nature, its wanton invasions of privacy, its embrace of technology and co-option of politics and culture; they anticipated the marginalization and isolation of individuals who don't want to go or get along.

A lot of the people reading this are already Shadowrunners, or are about to be. For Corporate Republic renegades, life is increasingly an adventure. Like the Shadowrunners, our lives are inextricably entwined with the megacorps, our personal histories a string of confrontations and close encounters with the powerful entities that dominate the world. Like the Shadowrunners, we face a lot of personal and moral decisions about how we live. We might want to make money or challenge corrupt authority. Or, once we get a few "runs" under our belts, we may wish, like the original Shadowrunners, "to find a lost love," or avenge [ourselves] upon a corporation" that did us dirty. Perhaps taking direction from wise and experienced gamemasters, our goals and expertise will become more focused and coherent over time.

The connection between individualism and Shadowrunning is irresistible, if you let your imagination sprint for a bit. Individuals already shadowrun all the time in the current Corporate Republic. They grow up, using technology few of their peers or authority-figures understand or approve of. Routinely hunted down, at least in the cultural sense, they get accused of obsession, addiction, lack of social grace, even, increasingly, of murderous tendencies.

Everywhere they go, from their first arrival in most schools to their struggles in the workplace, they are confronted with inverted values, with the corporatization of culture, the pressure to conform, to shut up.

The turning point, recounts the Shadowrun history, came during the "Apocalypse" (l999-2010) when two Supreme Court rulings "set the stage for a world in which megacorporate octopi call the shots and use shadowrunners like so many pawns in their games."

Here, too, fantasy and fact converge. The turning point for the modern real-world corporatism came in the l980s, when government decided to de-regulate many industries at almost precisely the same time as new marketing strategies and technologies were exploding, arming business with the ability to mass-market, monopolize and globalize.

With government more or less out of the picture, and technology advancing rapidly beyond the consciousness of politicians or journalists, it was open season for corporatists, many of whose companies have grown wildly beyond anyone's expectations.

What's really remarkable thing is that Shadowrun was written before Microsoft sotware was in more than 90 percent of the world's personal computers, before five companies owned virtually all the radio stations in America, before AOL/Time-Warner became the largest information entity in history, and before the Justice Department blithely approved AT&T's acquisition of the MediaOne Group, giving AT&T control of more than a third of the nation's cable networks for television, high-speed Net access and online telephone service. Those mergers, acquisitions and consolidations would fit easily within the Shadowrun narrative.

By the middle of the 21st Century, explains Shadowrun's latest edition, "multinational megacorps pull the world's puppet-strings to benefit their bottom lines ... The technology we depend on doesn't bring us together. Worldwide communications net? Great idea, but not much use when half the population is zoned out on simsense chips and the rest can't access a working data terminal in the slums where they're forced to live. The rich have gotten richer and the poor more plentiful, so the wealthy barricade themselves in armed enclaves and leave the rest of us to squat and rot."

The idea of the Shadowrunner in such a universe almost perfectly captures the worsening plight of the individual in our own era, when family farmers, small businesspeople, software designers, individuals of all sorts are losing opportunity to tell their own stories, shape their own lives and economic futures. In fact, "Shadowrunner" is a perfect term for individualistic refugees in the Corporate Realm.

Today's Shadowrunners are mobile, as individualists of the future will have to be. They can count on having more than one job, since they can never go along enough to satisfy corporate administrators. They will probably also live in more than once place. They're likely to be discarded, downsized or re-engineered as a result of "flexible" management philosophies and ever-shifting marketing goals. But even if they are allowed to remain, they are likely to grow bored and frustrated, and passed over for promotion. As for the idea of living outside guarded, walled enclaves, that's already more than a fantasy: Just visit Redmond (a name frequently invoked in "Shadowrun") for a couple of days, or Silicon Valley (the epitome of the megacorp enclave from which average folks get driven out) and the idea takes on real meaning.

The cyberware in "Shadowrun" even parallels recent advances in genetics -- advances which have drawn the impassioned interest of biotech corporations moving to track genes in the name of improving humanity even as they anticipate landmark profits. Cyberware consists of various technological implants, organ modifications, and structural enhancements to the "metahuman" body that can improve a character's attributes and abilities.

There are other eerie parallels in "Shadowrun." Take the way lifestyle becomes a pressing economic issue. Game players must purchase a character's opening lifestyle, which determines how comfortably the character lives. To maintain that lifestyle once the play begins, characters make monthly payments. When a character can't pay, he finds himself living a lower lifestyle. Sound familiar?

In other ways, however, Shadowrun doesn't bear much resemblance to our world. During the "Great Awakening," a turbulent period follows the corps' takeover of the world. The handbook describes it: "A long lull in the mystical energies of the universe has subsided and magic has returned to the world. Elves, dwarfs, orks and trolls have assumed their true forms, throwing off their human guises ... The many traditions of magic have come back to life ..."

But magic has become a casualty in the Corporate Republic. We already live in a world where culture itself is mass-marketed by the corps, where opinion and social agendas are set by companies like Microsoft, AOL/Time-Warner and the Walt Disney Corporation. None have a particular political agenda beyond the subjugation of competitors, and the homogenized spread of information and entertainment to the greatest possible numbers of consumers. That means safe, bland, palatable. It also means individuals either get co-opted or pushed out of the creative process, since they tend to be unsafe, colorful, offensive. Magic doesn't work in focus groups or corporate boardrooms any more than unconventional thinking. So work becomes routinized, creativity repressed and stifled.

All corporatists have a shared goal: to give stockholders maximum rewards. That outweighs any other consideration. Magic, the recourse of the idiosyncratic individual, is anathema to corporatism -- inherently illogical, unpredictable, thus unprofitable.

Unlike the planet dwellers in Shadowrun, most of this country hasn't yet awakened to the fact that it's being corporatized. We live in a distinctly unconscious civilization, where our own megacorps hae been allowed to grow so quickly, and with so little thought or restraint, that they're already almost too powerful too curb or regulate. But even some of our smartest citizens are in denial about this increasingly undeniable reality. After all, isn't unemployment still fairly low and the Nasdaq once more on the rise? Politicians and cititizens appear to have dozed right through the fact that small businesses are vanishing, that free speech is withering, that the political system is being bought, that a once-free press is nearly completely in corporate hands. Even the country's most prestigious colleges and research institutions are now dependent on corporate fund-raising.

Increasingly, technology is at the center of this conflict, as the Shadowrunners make clear. It's both the instrument by which the megacorps dominate segments of society and the primary means allowing individualism to survive, especially online.

The truth is, it's been decades since our world began changing beyond recognition. As a people, we are innovating almost beyond imagination, spawning the Net, the Human Genome Project, quantum leaps in supercomputing. But increasingly, we create for money rather than for the pure pleasure of bringing something new into the world. Our best scientific minds are developing and marketing hand-held appliances that give humanity instant access to sports scores and stock quotes. Rather than using technology to improve the lot of mankind, we are allowing it to separate us even further from each other.

This, perhaps is the real challenge and the work of the Shadowrunner, to weave in and out of our increasingly Corporate Republic, weaving through its databases, sharing technological discoveries and secrets, perhaps even waging creative guerrilla war on behalf of the individual.

The Shadowrunners, in the game and in the world, are realists. They understand the nature of the world they live in. They are what is perhaps the rarest of figures in contemporary American public life -- heretics.

Throughout history, the heretic was someone who demonstrated unforgivable intellectual arrogance by preferring his or her own faiths, values and beliefs to those -- priests and monarchs, mostly -- who were "qualified" to make pronouncements and declarations about matters of faith, morality and human values. Heresy was high treason, committed against God or King, and almost always was punishable by death or torture.

But in The Corporate Republic, high treason is an anachronism almost never invoked, mostly because it's no longer necessary. We don't need to pull people's fingernails out any more, or burn them at the stake. The heretic today is marginalized without any bloodshed. He doesn't even take the risks the Shadowrunner takes. His teacher and peers make him a joke in the classroom, and ignore or isolate him. His career is either destroyed outright, as it being fired or demoted.

A generation ago, "Shadowrun" would have seemed a particularly geeky game, the obsessive fantasy of brainy oddballs holed up in their bedrooms and basements. At the dawn of the 21st century, in the Corporate Republic, it looms much larger, both a warning and a prophesy.

cancel ×

303 comments

Eh? (1)

Signal 11 (7608) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016109)

Hey, Jon.. not to be rude or anything, but, umm, have you ever played the game?

America? (1)

leitchn (96636) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016110)

Intentionally or not, Shadowrun is much more than a game. It reflects the attitudes and values of younger, technologically-centered Americans. It may also project their futures, at least of the ones who are individualistic, creative and discontented.

And there was silly old me thinking the rest of the world had corporations and computers too. Thankyou for pointing out that it is, of course, only americans that this applies too.

from the games-and-prophesies dept. ? (2)

duhboy (197747) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016112)

more like, from the i-am-bored-so-i-am-gonna-sprout-crap-for-a-story dept.

Re:Eh? (1)

Defiler (1693) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016113)

That's what I was wondering. :)
EarthDawn is better anyway.

Corporate Oligarchy is Nothing New (5)

carlhirsch (87880) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016114)

We're not living in a dystopian future - our social order is essentially the same as it has been since the 1880's.

Multinational corporations essentially control governments - Once we had Standard Oil and United Fruit (United Fruit liked to send marines to Latin American republics when they got uppity), now we have Monsanto (destroying the agricultural viability of small farms in africa by trying to westernize their methods and force genetically engineered crops on people) or Shell (who don't flinch when governments exterminate indigenous peoples like the Ogoni of Nigeria to make room for their pipelines).

There have always been people on the fringes of society outside of easy control, be they the Hobo radicals of the IWW back in the day speading sarcastic activism or haX0rs today making things tough for AT&T or Earth First!ers utterly humiliating the IMF and World Bank when they assume they have everyone's tacit approval in industrialized nations because they're "creating markets".

Again, things have changed precious little in the past one hundred years - the technology has just changed. Instead of a dull, meanial job in front of a factory machine, we're given a dull, meanial job in a cubicle in a call center.

Just because the foot at your neck is clad in a penny loafer instead of a boot doesn't mean that it's not holding you down.

-carl

Interesting article, but... (1)

gughunter (188183) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016115)

How ironic that young gamers have sensed for years (the original Shadowrunner rules were published in l989) what journalists and politicians still keep missing -- that life for individuals gets rougher by the year here in the Corporate Republic. That a handful of megacorporations are becoming powerful beyond anyone's control. That individualism is not only growing more difficult, but one day soon may actually be dangerous. That this creeping reality has been a role-playing exercise for brainy kids for more than a decade is an amazing thing.

...but it's not exactly a radical idea, is it? The notion that the future will be dominated by monolithic corporations? I mean, those William Gibson books predate Shadowrun, don't they? And heck, you could devote a whole website to the great evil companies of science fiction's past. Weyland-Yutani, Tyrell, Soylent...

Bad link (1)

sawb (187496) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016116)

The link below is not valid: urged me to get the "Shadowrun" handbooks.
  • Try here:
  • www.FASA.com [fasa.com]
    (Hopefully the HTML worked .... :-))

What I was liked about that game .. (1)

ReadbackMonkey (92198) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016117)

was the little map you got included in the game that showed the developement of the countries of Quebec and Texas. That always gave me a chuckle.

Moderating factors (1)

ed__ (23481) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016118)

(stupid return button) One thing that should be noticed is that while corporations are largely amoral entities whose only goal is their profitability, people make up those corporations. and while most of those people will be unwilling to bite the hand that feeds them, there will be those that will. and these people will be the ones who will hopefully keep society from devolving into some dystopian nightmare.

End result? (1)

don_carnage (145494) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016119)

Isn't the mega-corporation the end result of growth? Thus, a company becoming big and powerful enough to swallow up or merge with all of the smaller companies?

Three mergers and suddenly you're being investigated by the Justice Department for violation of the Antritrust Act.

So then what? You divide up your assets and start all over? Intellectual property gets split into three parts only to later be re-joined through another merger?

Just my $0.02

dc


--

Right and Wrong. (4)

Alarmist (180744) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016120)

Katz is partially correct. After all, the growth of corporate power means that a company beholden to no one but its stockholders can dictate policy to a government. It used to be that governments were stronger entities than any other in the land; after all, the purpose of a good government is to maintain order and protect its citizens.

That time has passed. Governments everywhere are rapidly becoming parasitic monsters, good only for fleecing the populace while allowing them to be further robbed by other interests. Money talks, but money isn't the only currency in high places. Beyond a certain point, money is not what is important--power is what matters.

That is what many corporations are after: power. After all, when your closest five competitors all make billions per year in revenues, you can all agree that money isn't the only indicator of success (it's practically a necessity for competition); mindshare is.

Mindshare is a slightly disturbing idea: train the consumers so that whenever they think of a particular product, they think of your company. In the U.S. southern states, for instance, the word "Coke" is practically a synonym for "carbonated beverage." That's the power of mindshare.

So what happens when someone says (for instance) "Microsoft" and you think "George W. Bush"?

Katz is right in that corporations have slowly grown to be major influences in our lives. Where he falls short is realizing that there are other influences at work, that the government is not a monolithic entity that dances to the tune of the corporations with the most money. What he misses is that there are always other organizations, some working behind the scenes and some not, and that those organizations are just as powerful and influential in your lives.

Keep your eyes open. Think for yourself.

what's with his time estimate? (1)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016121)


Shadowrun was written before microsoft was in 90% of all computers, in 1989???

huh?

i think what he's pointed out is a result of suburbs. we all know they are the places where corporate america workers are pretty much forced to live, and they tend to lack any stimulus or aesthetic qualities (except a lawn, couch and TV, and perhaps a small park or community pool). why doesn't it makes sense that he would romanticize the creative discontent youthful techies trapped the sterility of corporate suburbs?

The utility of the game is yet another way to imagine yourself out of your blindingly dull surroundings, (I'm all for delusion), but it sounds like a D&D retooled for the '00s.


---

Re:Moderating factors (1)

ed__ (23481) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016122)

stupid me, sorry about the bold

Speaking of Shadowrun (2)

dragonfly_blue (101697) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016123)

I played a decker for a while in my (albeit somewhat short-lived) Shadowrun career. It was pretty cool to realize that the possibility of having a data port (I hope it's not 10/100!) built into your skull was getting closer to life.

Shadowrun would be the ideal starting point for a MMRP. If people could get behind the Worldforge project [worldforge.org] , and use the Shadowrun series of books for the code base (being careful to not make the universes too close together, for obvious copyright reasons), it just might be the sort of project that would snowball into something wicked.

The real question is, will the Open Source model work for a large gaming project? Or is the budget constraint just too huge in comparison to the $oftware companie$?

Anyway, I'd love to see the Shadowrun universe online, in an immersive RPG.

Stupid article though.

Cyberpunk 2020 would be a better example (2)

Tet (2721) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016124)

All the principles explained in the above article are equally present (or perhaps more so) in Cyberpunk 2020. When I first played Shadowrun, I couldn't help thinking how it was just Cyberpunk with added magic. Of course, I don't know which came first, and I've enjoyed playing both, but for me, Cyberpunk gives a stronger impression of the all powerful global corporation opressing the individual. Sadly, they're both right. The future is going to look far more like a Philip K. Dick novel than an Isaac Asimov one. In many ways, I'm glad I'm not younger than I am. I don't want to be part of that future.

The Tar Baby Principle? (3)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016125)

To paraphrase Hagbard Celine in the "Illuminatus Trillogy," I wonder if the "Megacorps" and "Shadowrunners" need each other. After all, you can't crusade against something heroically without an opponent, and are thus stuck to needing an opponent.

I'll take the route of The Invisibles, and use a little Open-Handed resistance. Barbelith.

Shadowrun is hardly the primary source. (5)

Necromncr (35589) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016126)

Jon, as someone who has played Shadowrun since about 1993, you should really know better than to start using Shadowrun as a primary source. Shadowrun is drawn from cyberpunk literature like _Neuromancer_ and movies like _Alien_ and _Blade Runner_, where this was a hallmark. I'm pretty sure RTG's Cyberpunk 2020 game was already out when Shadowrun debuted too.

I like Shadowrun, but to be honest, most of the setting makes no sense to someone who knows politics, history, and economics. I had to rewrite most of it when I created my No Carrier setting simply because it was not believable, although admittedly most of this did not have to do with the megacorporate aspect.

Shadowrun may have Ares and Saeder-Krupp, but before them, Gibson had Tessier-Ashpool, _Blade Runner_ had the Tyrell Corporation, and Cyberpunk 2020 had Arasaka. Please don't forget to give credit where credit is due. I am pretty sure Tom Dowd would want it that way.

--

And Shadowrun came from...SF, of course (2)

whitroth (9367) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016127)

Jon,

ShadowRun came straight from the pages of the cyberpunk wave of sf. Try reading Gibson's Neuromancer trilogy, the first of which was in paperback in '84, or Walter Jon William's Hardwired ('86).

Yes, they're a very unpleasant world, for the majority of us...and I'd place a *lot* of the blame on the corporate-funded GOP, esp.

However, government ain't quite out of the picture, yet (can you say, "Judge Jackson"?), and a good thing, too, since we've allowed the unions to become marginalized, leaving us with no other protection against the multinationals other than the gov't...and *lots* of antigov't propoganda by the same corps.

And yes, I agree - 20 years of "he who dies with the most toys, wins", and "money is a way of keeping score", has left us with slackers, and a lot of younger folks who can't see *anything* worth doing.

We can only hope for the backlash....

mark

Dark Futures are Old Hat (3)

jd (1658) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016128)

Shadowrun was neither the first, nor the only Dark Future ever to find it's way into the real world.

(One of HG Wells' books was thrown out, for being too unrealistic and too dark, although everything described in it has since occured.)

However, I do agree that it is something that is very appropriate to be concerned over. Corporations, unlike countries, aren't restricted by laws or boundaries, and therefore are far more vulnerable to turning into mini-dictatorships.

However, Jon Katz -did- miss the most fundamental point of all. Such corrupt, power-hungry evil can only exist in a world that values abuse and shame over and above co-existance. The evil is not in the companies, but in the minds. Change the minds and the evil can no longer exist.

(For any physicists out there, this is similar to the Casmir Effect, whereby changing the environment can prohibit certain quantum states, and that a sufficient change can create an area devoid of any valid state.)

Lastly, Quantum Leaps are the =smallest= leaps possible.

It has always been relevant (2)

jeroenb (125404) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016129)

They grasped its inherently amoral nature, its wanton invasions of privacy, its embrace of technology and co-option of politics and culture; they anticipated the marginalization and isolation of individuals who don't want to go or get along.

I think it's not realistic to portray the creators of the game as visionaries or social/political prophets. The whole concept the world of Shadowrun is based on doesn't have anything to do with Microsoft, Doubleclick and AOL, but more importantly: it was also no prediction.

Actually, Shadowrun doesn't really bring anything new to the roleplaying game - worlds like these have always been very common in roleplaying and I have devised several myself in different settings (even in AD&D) Apart from that it is a very good game :)

I think this feature is way over the top...

Megacorps (1)

DevTopics (150455) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016130)

This might be a bit off-topic, but dividing companies that have been grown too big (e. g. Microsoft) would be one countermeasure against the building of mega-corporations. But then again, it is too slow, too little, too late. If you take a look at the latest fusions you will notice that you don't have to be very imaginative to see where it leads to. If only the big survive, small people like us will be crushed.But wait, of course, this is all done for he convenience of the consumer (says Microsoft)!

I can do it, too, Jon (3)

Billings (87611) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016131)

Alright alright alright.

Everybody seems to think that Dungeons and Dragons is just a game, but if you think about it for a moment, it's almost prophetic. Just forget all that "magic" jazz, but keep in the *idea* that we have magical, little understood powers as computer gurus. Then, take it that all those corporations are *dungeons*.

Then it all pops into place. We're not people who go to work and earn money every day - we're magical computer warriors who get up every morning to go raid the corporate dungeon for money with our magical skills!

And Bill Gates is a big dragon, and the Justice Dept. has a huge magical sword of legislation used to mightily cleave evil kingdoms in twain.

Creeping Corporatism (2)

Izaak (31329) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016132)

Yes, the move toward all-powerful megacorps is rather disturbing. Corporations are great tools for pooling resources and achieving economies of scale... up to a point. Become too large and powerful (ultimately monopolizing a market) and these advantages break down, and the public is left with the short end.

This is why I try to always shop at small, independently owned businesses. I never eat at fast food joints. As a small business owner myself, I try to support other small businesses, and I urge everyone else to do the same. It is all about choice and about quality... motivations that should be nothing new to the open source crowd.

Peace,

Thad

Bester's The Stars My Destination (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016133)

Had all sorts of things like this.

People had plastic surgery to look like corporate icons, corporations ruled everything, people lived in fortresses behind mazelike entrances. And this was in 1956.

I think Slashdot wrote something about this, too. [slashdot.org]

George

Summarized moral? (2)

Amoeba Protozoa (15911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016134)

Technology is dividing people in to classes, m'kay? Down with republicans and libertarians, up with liberals-- government funded cooky-cutter computers for everybody to stupify the people into being the same!
Then we can all be stupid and happy together without any class distinction: and we'll have this nifty roll playing game to play!

YAY!

-AP

Wrong game, wrong idea (2)

WhyteRabbyt (85754) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016135)

If you want a 'better' dystopian future, ie darker, bleaker, more corporate, try looking at SLA Industries by . [nightfall....tfallgames]

But, really, I think the 'post-Gibson' era has passed. Shadowrun was a munge together of shamanistic magic, Neuromancer, and D&D creatures. Its a pretty damn shabby connection to make, and I can't help but think the only reason Mr Katz chose Shadowrun is because he really would have got laughed at if he'd used the c-word (Cyberpunk). Christ, rather than make an analogy to Shadowrun, why not the Wizard of Oz? Its such a forced comparison. The shoe dont fit.

'Megacorps' are not making my life more difficult. They're just trying to sell me more stuff. Hassle in the workplace doesnt make me a 'rebel Shadowrunner', it just pisses me off until I get distracted elsewhere. When Katz writes In other ways, however, Shadowrun doesn't bear much resemblance to our world. in reference to the existence of magic and trolls, he kind of misses the point. It doesnt bare any resemblance. The analogy sucks.

Uninformed. Naive. Tortured logic.

D- must try harder.

Pax,

White Rabbit +++ Divide by Cucumber Error ++

GnuKatz (5)

softsign (120322) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016136)

I have to admit, I would have filtered out Jon's ramblings a long time ago if I didn't get immense amusement out of them.

But lately, I've been cultivating a theory: that JonKatz is not actually a human being, but in fact software that takes some random topic and turns it into a long, redundant, rambling essay on the dangers of globalization, media, capitalism, corporatism, ageism, intellectualism, polymorphism, foodism and the Geo Prizm.

I wonder if we could develop an open source version of JonKatz? GnuKatz?

Maybe, with enough work, we could finally get him to say something useful for once.

Great article, but.. (1)

Bodhidharma (22913) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016137)

I'd like to quibble with two points.

The article said something about corporations being mainly concerned this enriching their shareholders. As a shareholder in a few companies, I can say that corporations are doing a better job of enriching their CEO's than the shareholders. If the minimum wage went up as fast as CEO pay, you could get $22/hour for flipping burgers at Mac 'n' Don's.

It also said that the era of the megacorp is killing magic. I disagree. There is more magic in the world than ever. Have you seen how many "new age" publications and websites there are now? Plus, everything gives rise to its opposite. The stultifying corporate culture will eventually engender more creativity to combat it. It's the way of the Tao.

I Actually Own All the Shadowrun Books (1)

Aaron M. Renn (539) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016138)

I bought the first not knowing it was for a role playing game tie in. I thought it was decent, light, escapist SF. Nobody will mistake this for literature, but when you're in the mood for some candy....

Shadowrun has an amaysing crystal ball (1)

darial (177051) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016139)

Grab a copy of the second edition of shadowrun. It has a "hitory of the future" section just like the third edition, but it was published far earlier ('93?). Then compare it to the 3rd edition. What you'll find is that a large number of events were taken out becaus ethey already happened.

Some were obvious, such as the colapse of the old Sout African system, but the sheer number they got right is astounding.

Examples:
First brain-computer interface
First cybernetic vision system
First implanted arm/leg

The reality it that witht he exception of the magic crap, shadowrun predicts the future amayzingly well.

We are not Criminals (1)

warfare (105089) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016140)

Nice article, but you are missing a few facts here. First thing is, you got the year of the game setting a little bit wrong. Original Shadowrun starts 2050. The important point you missed is that Shadowrunners are criminals, downright outlaws, who give a damn about law and order. (well not all of them). They are outsiders, not recognised by the state. Most of them also lack a SIN (Social Identification Number for all non-players out there), Medical Insurance et al. The comparison might fit on some points, but you just can't compare today individualists to the generic Shadowrunner. Most Shadowrunners have only one goal in life: to see the next day dawn with an at least halfway intact body without bullet wounds.

Shadowrun (1)

51M02 (165179) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016141)

I started playing this game 8 years ago. It was for me the first book that explicitly describe corporates action. In this game, we are all heros, attacking corporate properties, stealing their knowledge. The part the most visionary is the hate against others species. In this games, just like in reality, Trolls are moderated down...

Disclaimer: "These opinions are my own, though for a small fee they be yours too"

This is a game.. (5)

thesparkle (174382) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016142)

But it sure sounds like the sentiments of so many of the posters on /.

And Katz commenting on it? Makes sense. I wanted to rip up the whole article, but why bother, I will limit myself to this one piece..

"Politicians and cititizens appear to have dozed
right through the fact that small businesses are vanishing, that free speech is withering, that the political system is being bought, that a once-free press is nearly completely in corporate hands.."

* Small businesses are being created and growing faster than nearly any other segment of the private sector. Because of the marketing and infomation resources available through the Internet, just about anyone can start a virtual business with minimal capital.

* Free speech is actually stronger than ever before. How many websites have you seen which deal with white supremecy, sexual abuse, conspiracy theories, revolution, pirated copywrite material, illegal home agriculture and manufacturing, etc? Why? Because of the Internet. How many "Free Speech" outlets, newspapers, TV, radio, magazines, were producing this stuff before the Internet was delivered to the average Joe's hands?

* The political system had been and will be bought several times over, but not just by private corporations. Politicians are swayed and courted by special interest groups like the NRA and Handgun Control, Inc. They are bought by foreign governments such as the allegations against VP Gore and the Chinese. And they are bought by other politicians through political favor, "You vote for the dam project in my state and I will vote your bill to buy jet fighters made in your home district". Why do we limit ourselves to "Evil Corporations" and not deal with the whole truth?

* The press has been privately controlled for centuries, kids. They are owned and operated by private companies and individuals. Sure, there was a time when the cost of running a newspaper or radio station was possible for an individual or a small group of persons - in fact, it still happens throughout the US today. The problem is the cost of running such operations has skyrocketed due to fuel costs, licensing fees, affiliate rights and worse of all, liability insurance. Regardless the press is even more free today than it was 50 years ago. How many papers would not print the truth about Babe Ruth's drinking or would film FDR in his wheelchair for fear it would "demoralize" people? And what is the opposite? Government controlled press? Um yeah, that's good. Maybe government rules to ensure a free press?

The problem with all of this started, as near as I can tell, in the past 30 or 40 years. TV programs and movies began casting villians as business people and heros were nearly always public employees (teachers, policemen, public lawyers or public hospital doctors). Business people were about stealing, killing and lying. It was ironic because all TV and movie companies are privately owned business operations. Maybe some writer or director had it out for his boss who told him to quit going over budget? Who knows and who cares?

Those of you who fall for this blind "All corporations are bad" are as dumb as those who completely believe the opposite. Quit being rubes.

Screw Shadowrun, How about the Invisibles' realit (1)

carlhirsch (87880) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016143)

Now that the Invisibles has finished its run, I'm still not finished digesting all the concepts that Grant Morrison threw in there. It seems like he got a little panicked about setting up his cosmology towards the last five issues and just started throwing stuff in there willy-nilly. I don't feel like all the disparate threads were tied up clearly enough. I felt like the flash-forward to 2012 stuff was more than a little slapdash. And the StraightEdge high school kid that got introduced in like issue two - what the hell was with those ruffled shirts? I felt like having someone X'ed up was just subculture tokenism on Morrison's part. People are so put off by the no smoking/no drinking/no drugs thing and assume that all StraightEdge kids are hardline fanatics. I think Morrison's getting old and losing touch with the kids.

So: What the fuck was Barbelith all about, anyhow?

-carl

"pencil-and-paper"? I think not... (2)

-dsr- (6188) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016144)

Insofar as RPGs are categorizable, "pencil-and-paper" is not a particularly apt category for SR. Rather, "dice, dice, and more 6-sided dice" are the defining feature of SR's gameplay. One of my GMs actually found it useful to buy a hundred dice at a time and sort them according to their entropy.

The SR games I've been in and run are generally the most violent, bloody, gore-filled high-casualty adventures in my fairly wide roleplaying experience. It's wonderful stress relief, you know...

Tell them mad. (1)

Virtual JonKatz (172139) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016145)

Women are among other sites aimed at W.A. Dean & Associates, a much as different kind of medium -- pop culture, publishing, and crime, and topple the people will catch most of why people will be that seems to control content (product) make them you made friends all over again after being constantly suggest that geeks, engineers, academics, intellectuals, Harry and Old media history in the unpretentious corporate smile, the best values and save", that he lives and work, in this one) off-guard, especially if he was straight and police station for jobs, lack of an adolescent (or disproven). Probably no accident that you're crazy. But don't need to know too late.

Just weeks after another and ours, the futurists warnings from a checklist of new media have a society has been e-mailing me - is welcome to transform the wildest dreams and media company, growing single quote out to be impossible working conditions, job security, and portals and demonstrate against the motion picture industry is the growing array of free music industry? What is a Geek Kid To A rational middle ground between the violent and over-analyzed films rich in our personal data goes - applying for the use technology to strike back pages you've been my editors at home and which offered humane and come to stay apart. Is online that he could use technology, and bland while burglary and value since crime -- food, fashion, lifestyle. "I suggest that the central issue in dealing with the Internet era." If so, the Net, but how it's also connect people helping to wring a surreal country. The declines in engineering and retain power.

People buy tickets for hours trying to be more noise than all that he was built and worst in the Web sites offer more likely to my experience of the gargantuan AOL/Time-Warner, perhaps the answer to teens. Thomas Jefferson saw themselves in their habits, people to be given a Chickclick do very idea that the hysteria that women onto the preppies of the futurists raised are much as 60%.

Magic still exists... (5)

felis_panthera (160944) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016146)

...well, after a fashion at least.

First off, Jon, you should go out and play the game, you have some good points, but the mystique is still beyond you. If you were from around where I was, I'd be glad to GM a one-shot game for you...

However, you have stated that magic doesn't fit into the corporate structure of the world these days. I will give you points for that, management doesn't realize what magic actually is, or how to use it, but don't say it doesn't exist. Mages and shamans still exist today, but their medium is different.

In the good old days, Hermetic mages read books and combined chemicals to make their "magic". Today's hermetic mages combine algorithms and syntax to weave their spells within the realm of the electron. Shamans dealt with spirits and totems to cause fantastical things to happen. How different, speaking of the most basic part of it, is using a TCP/IP packet or a SMB file share to cause amazing things to happen in the dark world inside the box?

Just because methods have changed doesn't mean magic doesn't exist, it just exists in a different form. Now your wizards and wisemen have put on new robes. Instead of hooded cloaks it's jeans and golf shirts, instead of staffs and sandals it's power supplies and penny loafers. Magic today is performed on the computer, by those who can be called Technomancers.

Re:Dark Futures are Old Hat (2)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016147)

"Change the minds and the evil can no longer exist."

Yes, but how do you change minds? With money. And who has the money? *Ahhh*....

Shadowrun a ripoff of Gibson (1)

Mechanik (104328) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016148)

Shadowrun is great and all, but almost everything in it (except, notably, the whole magical theme) is lifted right out of the books of William Gibson, right down to the terminology. No offence, but this article really ought to have referenced Gibson instead. Shadowrun didn't invent these ideas by any means.

And Neuromancer was published when exactly? Early eighties? I think anyone that hasn't noticed the trend of society gravitating towards things Gibson-esque by now has been caught napping. The article to me is years too late, and doesn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, at least from that perspective.

If you want to check out a game that does a really good job with the theme of the death of magic and creativity at the hands of technological advancement and the corporate agenda, check out Mage: The Ascension from White Wolf Games. Blows Shadowrun out of the water IMHO. Read it and tell me that you don't see some eerie parallels with recent technological advancements... the Progenitors and Iteration X are taking over ;-)

Mechanik

shadowrun.com == Micro$soft (1)

Rabenwolf (155378) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016149)

Did anyone notice that the shadowrun.com [shadowrun.com] domain is owned by M$?

I guess they planned to bring it out as a computer rpg, but never got to it.

(See it for yourself at samspade. org [samspade.org] .)

more about shadowrun (1)

smilbandit (132099) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016150)

Not sure if the writer of the article has really played shadowrun, some of the links and impressions are a little off form what shadowrun is really about.

Shadowrun is more about the fight against the mega-corps and them being able to dictate the path of human progress, and their semingly lose of morals and ethics for profit margins and shareholder value. Anything for a buck.

It's great that Shadowrun has gotten some publisity that having a Slashdot article can draw, but please look at the game yourself and please do not judge it on what you have read here.

The company who produces Shadowrun also produces Battletech and a few others. Their website is here.

http://www.fasa.com

A very large user run website is at this address.

http://shadowrun.html.com

Thanks, slashdot for giving Shadowrun some publicity.

Oh my gawd. (3)

Golias (176380) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016151)

It's jarring to come across this increasingly plausible vision of the future.

Coffee | Nose > Keyboard

What is really jarring is seeing a professional journalist have the same epiphany that most of us had when we were twelve... and outgrew when we were thirteen.

Shadowrun was a derivative work, and a crappy one at that, which attempted to merge the two most popular role-playing genres, cyperpunk and magical fantasy. It reminds me of a review that Ben Johnson once gave a play he didn't like: "I found it good and original, but what was good was not original, and what was original was not good."

By the way, does anybody else find it amusing that this article is coming out two days after a Federal judge ordered the break-up of what was the world's biggest and richest corporation as recently as last year? I mean, if not even MSFT is above the law, who is?

Something tells me he wrote this entire rant^H^H^H^Hpuff piece in one sitting a couple months ago, and has been releasing it in chunks.

By the way, if Shadowrun is really the future, I wanna be a street shaman. Heh heh. That would be cool.

Re:Wrong game, wrong idea - lost tag (2)

WhyteRabbyt (85754) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016152)

Ooops and oh bugger. Who swapped 'Submit' and 'Preview'.

Apologies, all.

Pax,

White Rabbit +++ Divide by Cucumber Error ++

Re:Cyberpunk 2020 would be a better example (1)

troc (3606) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016153)

I played both extensively (and other cyber-type games) around the early nineties (gone back to AD&D, Runequest 3rd ed. and stuff now though) and I'd agree that 2020 was a better match to the global corp. ideas you find in Neuromancer, Bladerunner etc

I found Shadowrun to be a more enjoyable game however.

But it was a game. Not a metaphor for reality. A game. The overiding idea behind RPGs is that you warp and change them to your own vision. Katz seems to be using a guideline for a entertaining, roleplaying system as proof we are degenerating or something. It's hard to tell sometimes :)

Sci-Fi authors and writers have been 'predicting' the future for centuries, some more accurately than others. Does this make any particular sci-fi more valid than any other or is the entertainment the be all and end all of the story. Do authors like Gibson et al. think they are predicting the future, writing about a possible fuuture or simply writing to entertain?

If, in xxxx years time the world is populated by elved and dwarves etc, will Johannas Katzen be spouting on /.alike about the amazing predictions a certain Gary Gygax made in the late 20th Century?

I don't think so.

Shadowrun is a game and is fun.

Reality is not a game but is (usually!) fun.

Hohum

troc

This is remarkable drivel (1)

orpheus (14534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016154)

This essay, though impassioned, does not reveal a great insight into the world, rather it betrays a closed microcosmic view.

The impending 'corporatism' Katz speaks of was often discussed -- insightfully -- in the mainstream literature of the 50's and 60's (e.g. the cliche of the 'buttondown corporate mentality' and many novels set in the future) It was discussed in the 70's, but by then was so mainstream that it was often reduced to the empty-headed muttered of stoned hippies (most of what we think of as the "the Sixties" was rrealy the 70's) The 80's was a close parallel totoday, with "the invasion of the MBAs" and the first microcomputer explosion taking the place of the dotcoms.

In many ways, the corporatism of decades past was darker and more oppressive, if less intrusively pervasive, because a vast array of laws have grown up to protect us from the worst of those excesses, and a large proportion of the 'decent citizenry' in the postwar era actively idolized the legitimacy that power represented. Being big, to them, meant you were probably right. in the decades before Watergate changed our perception of power, survey after survey showed that people said government officials and top executives were 'too important' to have to be troubled by 'small laws' and should be allowed to skirt them in the interests of expediency and efficiency.

If you think today's intrusive (and often inaccurate) data bases are new, read the history of abuses behind laws like the Fair Credit Reporting Act, various worker right laws, etc. The civil rights movement was just part of a larger social milieu of oppression and conformity imposed by unquestioned (and unquestionable) powers.

Forget Santayana and 'those who forget history are doomed to repeat it'. Santayana had no such pithy quote for those who never knew it in the first place.

Re:GnuKatz (1)

Spatch (28798) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016155)

But lately, I've been cultivating a theory: that JonKatz is not actually a human being, but in fact software that takes some random topic and turns it into a long, redundant, rambling essay on the dangers of globalization, media, capitalism, corporatism, ageism, intellectualism, polymorphism, foodism and the Geo Prizm.

Looks like someone beat you to it -- there's a "Virtual JonKatz" posting on this topic already. I think he's beginning to make more sense than Mr. Katz, and that's scaring me.

Re:Corporate Oligarchy is Nothing New (1)

mimas (137917) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016156)

So why would Monsanto take an interest in forcing genetically engineered crops on the people of Africa? Are they trying to make food grow where it normally doesn't? I may be making a huge assumption, but wouldn't the task of getting food to grow in a place where it's scarce be a humanitarian effort? Please clarify... I know Monsanto is a multibillion dollar corporation whose motives are profit (the same as all businesses), but just what is the drawback of using science to help crops grow in Africa?

Re:Shadowrun is hardly the primary source. (1)

felis_panthera (160944) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016157)

_Blade Runner_ had the Tyrell Corporation

Okay, I'm going to have to go watch Blade Runner now... I like Harrison Ford, but I never really watched it all the way through because I lost interest. However... now I must watch it, because my name is Tyrell, and if the big nasty in the movie is named after me, I feel that I can wade through the parts I didn't like.

Ummm...Katz... (5)

remande (31154) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016158)

Speaking as a former player, there are some serious problems here.

It's the dystopian future of 2026. . I thought that it was the dystopian future of 2050 or so.

Shadowrunners are the individualists who live on the margins, able to "slide like a whisper" through the databases of giant corporations, spiriting away the only thing of real value -- information.

You describe "deckers", a subcategory of shadowrunners. A shadowrunner is an elite freelance agent, a black operative with no allegience. For non-players, think of the old "Mission: Impossible" TV show (not the movies) for reference. You get in, do a job (sabotage, defend, steal, kill, kidnap), and get out before anybody knows you're there. You work for one authority at a time, and spend your run avoiding the other authorities.

While a lot of us feel like characters in a Shadowrun world (IMHO, more of a CyberPunk 2.0.2.0. [talsorian.com] world), but not as Shadowrunners ourselves.

A lot of the people reading this are already Shadowrunners, or are about to be. You're telling me that most Slashdotters are freelance criminals working their crimes for a corporate clientele? Wow, I've been missing the boat--I should hang out in bars more often, waiting for Mr. Johnson from AT&T...

All corporatists have a shared goal: to give stockholders maximum rewards. That outweighs any other consideration. Magic, the recourse of the idiosyncratic individual, is anathema to corporatism -- inherently illogical, unpredictable, thus unprofitable. You missed a trick here--a big trick. Note the Shadowrun corp called Aztechnology. They live on magic.

The Shadowrunners, in the game and in the world, are realists. They understand the nature of the world they live in. They are what is perhaps the rarest of figures in contemporary American public life -- heretics. More often than not, they also tend to be cold-blooded murderers. I'm not. Are you?

One more big trick. The generic plot of a Shadowrun game is that you and your buddies (freelance black ops all) get hired for a job by a "Mr. Johnson" (shadowspeak for "anonymous employer") to do a job that will usually take no more than a week. Mr. Johnson almost invariably works for a megacorporation or government, and is hiring you to do a run against another megacorporation or government. After all this individualism and rebellion against the megacorps, they're the ones footing the bill for you.

If I were you, I would check out R. Talsorian's Cyberpunk 2.0.2.0. The magic and elves are gone, the feel is grittier (more Blade Runner and Neuromancer than the anime feel of Shadowrun), and the game is much more open-ended. That is, characters are sometimes shadowrun-type freelancers, sometimes work for a corp, sometimes are a corp, whatever.

A New, Worldwide Political Correctness? (4)

FreeUser (11483) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016159)

And there was silly old me thinking the rest of the world had corporations and computers too. Thankyou for pointing out that it is, of course, only americans that this applies too.

Yes, you are silly.

Jon Katz is an American, discussing a game developed in America and how it mirrors developments in American politics. If you feel so slighted that he didn't discuss European, African, Asian, or Australian politics, why don't you add something of substance to the conversation from that point of view, rather than bitching and whining about an American website posting an article by an American Author discussing developments in American politics and how they are reflected (or predicted by) an American roleplaying game?

If Jon Katz had generalized his statements to include the rest of the world (not unreasonable when one considers the "globalization" of the marketplace and the corporate powergrab that is the WTO) you or someone else would have bitched and moaned about an American having the audacity to apply their outlook to the rest of the world.

Why don't you write a well reasoned and insightful article about similar trends in whatever part of the world you come from, rather than bitching and moaning because people in America haven't given your particular region the attention you so obviously think it deserves?

Boundaries, control and open source (3)

dsplat (73054) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016160)

One of the reasons that I use open source software is because it is a declaration of personal ownership and control of my computer and my data. There is nothing on my computer with a license that would permit anyone to revoke my use of the tools that access my data. The licenses state that I have all the rights that I associate with owning a copy of the software, and more. Furthermore, the open source community isn't building back doors into its software to aggressively hunt down copyright pirates that violate the privacy and security of every user.

I just wonder how far off we are from a law that will effectively outlaw open source software in its current state. When will we have a law that mandates back doors for law enforcement? That law will undoubtedly prohibit removal of the back door. From there, how many more steps are there to Stallman's dystopia in The Right to Read [gnu.org] ?

Our philosophies play a greater role in a greater number of our everyday decisions than most people realize. Simson Garfinkel argues at the end of his book Database Nation: The Death of Privacy at the End of the 21st Century [slashdot.org] that technology is not ethically neutral. It is easier to ignore concerns of privacy, or to waive them aside in favor of particular narrow interests than it is to consistently favor privacy and security.

Remember, any code you write can and will be used against you.

Shadowrun MMORPG (1)

cthulhubob (161144) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016161)

Check out Anarchy Online [anarchy-online.com] .

It's not exactly Shadowrun, but it doesn't look bad.

Re:Eh? (1)

jpowers (32595) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016162)

I'll take a data jack, please. And titanium bone lacing. New eyes with IR and a Smartlink. Boosted Reflexes, definitely. All alpha.

-jpowers

Re:Dark Futures are Old Hat (1)

troc (3606) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016163)

Shadowrun was neither the first, nor the only Dark Future ever to find it's way into the real world.

Slighty OT and a bit silly I know, sorry but I just wanted to say that Dark Future was a particularly pants game by Games Workshop ;)

Sorry

Troc

PS Erm, do USians and other non-brits use pants in the same way?

My penny is my proxy (2)

Cplus (79286) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016164)

I entirely agree with Jon on almost everything, although why he needs to make such grandiose analogies to get his point across I will never understand. Dollars have become votes, and will even more so as this corporatism progresses. I don't feel good about it at all. I vote with my dollar, not to the extent of only shopping at small businesses, but at the very least to the extent of buying from Corel rather than Microsoft (for the obvious reasons), or to not buying Nikes anymore because I don't agree with their hiring ethics (not that I was ever much of a runner). We can't expect the corporate world to change unless we tell it to. They are here to satisfy our needs and could be made to do it properly, they just ened to be slapped in the face and told what our needs truly are. If you want the lowest possible price on an item, be my guest to buy it from the cheapest provider, just remember that you are also responsible for why that item is so cheap. You become responsible for child labour, unsafe workplaces, corporate shuffles, and all the other evils of many corporations. Pick the lesser of evils long enough and the evil will lessen.

self-aggrandizement (5)

ashultz (141393) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016165)

I think the trend of self-aggrandizement that has started amoung a lot of the slashdot crowd is pretty sickening, and Katz, who often exemplifies it, has outdone himself here. We are not the heroes of our own little sagas. We're regular people. Some of us pretty exceptional regular people. Some of us damn exceptional regular people. But comparing oneself to the heroes of a game - so cool! so daring! so fasionable! - is a level of arrogance from which it's hard to recover. Just try to do the right things and stop pretending to be superheroes.

The Summer the Gnu K.A.T.Z. took over... (5)

orpheus (14534) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016166)

"I have to admit, I would have filtered out Jon's ramblings a long time ago if I didn't get immense amusement out of them.

"But lately, I've been cultivating a theory: that JonKatz is not actually a human being, but in fact software that takes some random topic and turns it into a long, redundant, rambling essay on the dangers of globalization, media, capitalism, corporatism, ageism, intellectualism, polymorphism, foodism and the Geo Prizm. "


(Waltham, MA) As the sun sets on the seige of SlashDot fans wandering outside the Exodus Communications electrified fence, looking for a laptop LAN hook-up Rob Malda wonders where he went wrong.

"I guess it was the third Napster article in a row," he decides. "Not three days in a row, three articles in a row."

"It's a perfectly legitimate SlashDot topic," he insists. "It's Linux. And open source... in a closed-source, proprietary format, not available for Linux or any *nix sort of way. I mean, I thought it was cool. And I'm a geek, so that makes steal... -er- sharing music 'News for Nerds', right? I mean, it's not like non-nerds listen to music."

The lights dim as if some massive rationalizing mechanism was overloading. "Damn," Malda muttered, "Some guy put up a page on powering laptops from the electrified fence, and now I start to pray at sunset every night. I narc'ed the /. account info to the FBI, and Andover subpoenaed Geocitie's records, but after three layers of anonymizing we lost him. The next day the text file showed up on FreeNet! I tell you, this privacy stuff is getting out of hand." He calms himself before continuing, "Even the link to the fake potato power page didn't fool enough of them into unhooking from the fence to let us power up the missiles. Dang, geeks don't trust anyone anymore!"

He looks out the eight-inch armored glass porthole, at the hundreds of small campfires fueled by sheaves of source code. "It's pretty. Ever stop to think how many watts even a small abandoned app puts out when burned? That's what I call the power of open source!" For a moment he seems like a senile old man, "Imagine a Beowulf cluster of them!

Malda chuckles, despite his obvious strain, "Actually, I guess I'm a lucky man. Before they learned to tap the concrete-and-steel OC-24 conduits for bandwidth they used the fences as a low-frequency antenna -- kind of a mini HAARP. We all had Don King hairdos that week."

He snaps back to the subject at hand. "Looking back, the downhill slide started when we installed a K.A.T.Z AI that didn't come anywhere near passing the Turing test. I mean even the elementary school focus groups weren't fooled! But when it came up with the Hellsmouth thread, enough of the geeks fell into line to moderate down anyone who didn't. I guess we got cocky. We should never have let the AI do our article selection too."

"You see, there was a glitch in the code." He laughs again, bitterly this time, "Ironically, it was due to Napster. Pudge believed us when we said everyone used MP3 to discover obscure new groups, and share their own artistic work. He used the Napster traffic on the nearest backbone as a random number generator for K.A.T.Z." A small tear forms on the corner of his eye, "But of course, everyone really uses Napster to rip off the same old commercial songs, just like he does. Suddenly 90% of the threads were retreads of the Same Old Stuff. Maybe we should have suspected something when Napster started getting its own thread every day... but frankly, we don't read SlashDot, you know?"

"Roblimo mentioned it at the last board meeting, but it was in haiku, and anyway I couldn't hear him over Hemo's new Swedish masseuse. The last one did Rolfing or something --much quieter -- but this new one! Wowza! You can hear her though the armored vault."

"My biggest regret is putting the K.A.T.Z. in charge of supplies in the final week. We're rationing the emergency supplies we ordered before, but the last shipment... eighteen tons of instant breakfast packets. Grits, to be exact. Just add water. And not a pat of butter in the entire building."

When asked his view of the future he simply said "I'm petrified."


bd's guide to being an activist (3)

bob dobalina (40544) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016167)

step 1: define the following words(or at least know what parts of a sentence they go in):

multinational, social awareness, activism, greed, power, oppression, oligarchy, indigenous, alienated, dictatorship, elite, culture, people, sit-in, social order, social welfare, social , corporatism, diversity, censorship, rally, third world, progressive, society, demonstration, people, sexist, human rights, destruction, proletariat, regime, patriarchy, environmentalism, gender, control, aristocrat, resist, protest, fascist, democracy, stratification, poverty, privilege, ...

step 1b: use these words in everyday conversation, i.e.:

andrew: hi, betty, how are you?

betty: your sexist patriarchal gender oppression will be smashed by the progressive social awareness of the people resisting the privileged power elite!

step 2: read (or at least pose with book in public) one or more of the following authors:

Karl Marx, Howard Zinn, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Abbie Hoffman, Freidrich Engels, Mario Savio, Bob Avakian, V.I. Lenin, Mao Zedong, Noam Chomsky (good source for more big, intelligent sounding words. stump your friends!)

step 3: know the following organizations, and whether they are good or bad

IMF, greenpeace, IWW, WTO, US government, Earth First!, NOW, World Bank, Monsanto, Shell Oil Corporation, Free Speech Movement, Food not Bombs, Monsanto, Amnesty International, Monsanto.

step 4: attend rally, sit-in, protest, demonstration of your choice in one or more of the following causes: environmentalism, workers' rights, women's rights, animal rights, human rights, welfare rights, anti-WTO, anti-IMF, anti-bad group (see step 3).

congratulations! You are now a fully tuned in social activist, hip to what's going on! The fascist oppressors can't pull the wool over your eyes!

All too real (2)

Chitlenz (184283) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016168)

Unfortunately, unlike a game, corporate abuse is all too real for most of us. I've been able to find a niche in a mid sized company that I feel really appreciates my skills and talents, but I've worked my way through a Govt. subcontractor and an unnamed large overnight delivery company to get here =P Those 2 were some of the best and worst experiences I've had professionally. Underpaid and overworked, surrounded by manager/puppet types with all kinds of bizarre value systems and perversions, our shining moments as programmers were when we got that one piece of code to run right, or were able to claim victory over the evil router bank (hehe). I disagree Jon, magic does exist in minds of the folks that do the job. Our perception of the network is as visual and vivid as most people's reality is. We don't watch TV, we don't like the Spice Girls, we recognize corporatism and Marketing for what it is, and most of all we stick together. It's a kind of unspoken battle line between an ignorant, but abusive, executive class who refuses to accept technology as anything other than a tool, and an obsessive technical staff in today's would be mega-corporations. When you eliminate the creative elements from programming, you wind up with crap, and nobody wants that right? The bloated, controlling, bulky type of thinking that creates the market for garbage like ERP's is destined to be the downfall of these guys, at least we can hope.

Re:Ummm...Katz... (1)

Rabenwolf (155378) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016169)

JK: It's the dystopian future of 2026.
I thought that it was the dystopian future of 2050 or so.

It is 2056 for 2nd edition or 2060 for 3rd edition, to exact.

JK:Shadowrunners are the individualists who live on the margins, able to "slide like a whisper" through the databases of giant corporations, spiriting away the only thing of real value -- information.
You describe "deckers", a subcategory of shadowrunners.

I think that's not JK describing. IIRC, that's right of the cover of 2nd edition.

Re:Interesting article, but... (1)

jpowers (32595) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016170)

I mean, those William Gibson books predate Shadowrun, don't they?

Yeah, and Metropolis predates them all. Shadowrun just put it together really well. Like White Wolf's Vampire, they took something floating around the culture in various forms and sort of brought it together. Steve Jackson Games had a few, too. Remember Autoduel? It gave background to the old Car Wars world, and that was pretty dystopian.

Shadowrun was fun, but nothing beats Mage for a pure dystopian mind twist.

-jpowers

Meme warfare, thought pollution (2)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016171)

The scary thing is really not that there are big evil corporations. The really scary thing is that those same big evil nameless faceless corporations can and might and do quietly shape the consciousness and worldview of people. Perhaps to the point that we don't FNORD see them anymore.

That, as a whole, we are being lulled into an unconscious slumber, that powerful unaccountable forces are subtley, but greatly, shaping our perception is very scary.

I mute commercials, and generally try to avoid advertising at all costs. But it is simply *impossible* to not get those goddamn jingles stuck in your head...the thought pollution is *immense*. Sometimes I think communists may have gotten it partly right (well, besides the tyranny stuff) in wiping this capitalist crud out. Some of the best cultural, literatary, and artistic work, and cultural progress in general, has been accomplished under non-capitalist systems. The problem is that capitalism measures everything by market value, by how much an *individual* values something, not by what a *society* values. But that is another rant.

The Leaden Eyed


Let not young minds be smothered out before
They do quaint deeds and fully flaunt their pride
It is the world's one crime its babes grow dull
Its poor are ox-like, limp, and leaden-eyed.

Not that they starve, but that they starve so dreamlessly.
Not that they sow, but that they seldom reap.
Not that they serve, but that they have no gods to serve.
Not that they die, but that they die like sheep.

Vachel Lindsay

"and if I die before I learn to speak/

Can money pay for all the days I lived awake/
but half asleep?"

Primitive Radio Gods, "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand"

Re:shadowrun.com == Micro$soft (1)

jpowers (32595) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016172)

They just host it. Interplay has the FASA licenses. Check out the old Shadowrun game for sega. Shooting zombies is fun.

-jpowers

Indidualism?? (1)

rmstar (114746) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016173)

I wonder what Katz means by that... because the biggest problem, at least in germany, seems to be to belong, rather than to be an individual. And corporations and government are more or less interested in you being an individual and not belonging to anything in particular, except the amorphous mass.

So you are urged to buy something that makes you special and different, while the corporate employers try to assume that you look after yourself like an autonomous identity. Furthermore, it is being encouraged to create your own business and to not depend on anyone. And of course, if you do not belong to any union much better!

The jobs we are given, and the careers we follow fracture more and more any social cohesion. If you want to belong you dont do so automatically anymore. I've heard people complain that in the USA the kind of urbanism done is having that kind of efect - I mean malls whith huge parking lots and poorly conected suburban areas with no smal stores. But I do not really know the USA so I can't say.

The individual that ends up without a group to reasure him, without default ways to comunicate and without an Identity by which to orientate himself is not a hero in my eyes (he is one if he manages to have a happy life ... ). If you want to live that way - fine. But people who are forced to live that way don't usually find it funny.

So what about that individualism, Katz?

rmstar

The Republic of Texas (1)

Zinereem (128640) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016174)

Hey, don't laugh. Texas used to be it's own country, and Texas pride runs rampant. Here in Austin, you see many more Texan flags than you do American flags. Plus, there's a great deal of wealth and power here (both old school oil/politics and new school technology/corporations). I'm not saying that Texas is going to secede anytime soon, but it's not that much of a stretch. Plus, concealed firearms are legal. Woohoo!

a little perspective (1)

Judah Diament (113966) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016175)

two things:
1) Look in history - has there ever been a time when some over-whelming force hasn't held most of the power? Whether it was the Roman, Greek, Egyptian, Babalonian, etc. Empires, the Church in Europe in the middle ages, Islamic dictators in the mid-east today, the former Soviet Union, etc. And Guess what? people survived as people, and the dignified human race and soul out-lived all of those empires.
2) lets say you are right - why aren't you moving to Havenco or joining a Montanna milita or something? If things are hopeless, why don't you bail? Because the reality is that every generation faces its own challenges, and unless we all nuke each other, that will continue. Today's "all-powerfull demigods" are nothing but a paragraph in the history books tomorrow. Ever read "Osymandys" - I know I got the name wrong, but you know what I'm talking about - the poem about the enscription on the broken statue of a long-gone ruler?

Re:Dark Futures are Old Hat (2)

jd (1658) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016176)

In the US, pants = trousers, so your post could be mistaken for referring to the 2nd Wallace & Gromit film, at least by those who've watched it. :)

Re:This is a game.. (3)

Golias (176380) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016177)

How dare you combat hyperbole with facts!

:)

Disagree- Death of Loyalty. (2)

BoLean (41374) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016178)

I tned to disagree with this sort of synopsis. Gone are the days where you owed loyalty to a company or product. Today's king-of-the-hill is tomorrow's street sweeper. IMHO people that beleieve this need to get a life. Go camping. Go for a bicycle ride down to the nearest park. Business is the same sharkpit it ever was and those who stand tall shall be lain low. In the real world there are only people. Everything else is made-up.

Life is an adventure (4)

DanMcS (68838) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016179)

Yeah! My life is a lot like Shadowrun, now that you mention it. Just today, while dodging orange barrels on the freeway, this mutant guy on a motorcycle came up and tried to jack me with a shotgun. Luckily I had those mods done to my car last month, or he might have got me!

After taking care of that, I slinked into my corporate job, adopting my work persona: that of a short-on-sleep, perl hacking college student. That's just a cover. I do my real work at night, and it's much more exciting. I'll let you in on a little secret: they don't call them daemons for nothing, baby!

Tonight, I may catch a concert, or I may have to take some time and deal with this pig-snouted guy with a bulge in the small of his back, under his trenchcoat, who's been following me around. I should check out the polls, too, there's a dragon running for president this year. That's life, here in the future.

Re:Shadowrun handbook link (1)

Morbid Curiosity (156888) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016180)

is 404! Not found.
Try taking the "www.slashdot.org/" out of it :-)
www.FASA.com [fasa.com] might work better.

The Return of Trolls (5)

Mark Gordon (14545) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016181)

trolls have assumed their true forms, throwing off their human guises

Sounds like Slashdot to me...

Never mind magic, what about the violence? (2)

Glawen (153127) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016182)

At its core, Shadowrun isn't about the megacorps, and being discarded, downsized or re-engineered as a result of "flexible" management philosophies and ever-shifting marketing goals; it's about guns, more guns [html.com] , hand razors, explosives, and all the other goodies that make for violent conflict.

Katz does fine when he uses Shadowrun's backstory as a "prophecy" of the future, but comparing the amoral, armed-to-the teeth Shadowrunner to today's mildly rebellious, dissatisfied corporate peon is quite a stretch.

Re:Screw Shadowrun, How about the Invisibles' real (1)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016183)

To keep this on topic, I felt Barbelith was our self-created ability to save ourselves - our 'true self" after you give up egotistical and limited illusions.

We don't have to "play the game" of Shadowrun. Or anything else we don't choose. Don't like the megacorps? Do something. Rewrite the rulebook.

We can be Shadowrunners or Invisibles or the Discordians or anything else we want. But only if we don't let others define reality for us - be it one person or a corporation.

Re:Dark Futures are Old Hat (1)

bolthole (122186) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016184)

(One of HG Wells' books was thrown out, for being too unrealistic and too dark, although everything described in it has since occured.)

Which one? Is it available in print now?

OT Repy to Ummm...Katz... (1)

kingmundi (54911) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016185)


Hey you, you there...
have you ever kissed a girl in your life?

Re:Cyberpunk 2020 would be a better example (1)

esper (11644) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016186)

First came RTG's CyberPunk (set in 2013, incidentally), then Shadowrun, then CP 2020. So the question of which came first is just a matter of whether you consider CP and CP 2020 to be the same game or not. (Considering the overhaul that SR's rules got in their 2nd edition, I think it's quite fair to consider both of RTG's games to be the same system...)

Re:bd's guide to being an activist (1)

mimas (137917) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016187)

rotflol :) Power to the people, man!!! Thanks for the illumination, bro.

Re:The Republic of Texas (1)

ReadbackMonkey (92198) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016188)

That's not why I was laughing.. I was laughing because of how accurate that could be.

Quebec is in a constant state of threatening to seperate from Canada, and has been essentially since they joined Canada.

I don't think Texas is quite as enthusiastic about the idea as Quebec, but my few dealings with Texans has lead me to conclude that probably 10% of the population thinks its a great idea. In the shadowrun world tho' didn't Texas conquer more of Mexico?

Re:shadowrun.com == Micro$soft (1)

richardbowers (143034) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016189)

Close -- FASA Interactive DID come out with a game for the SNES, which bombed. Then, FASA Interactive (also the owner of the Mechwarrior license for electronic games) was bought by Microsoft.

Re:Katz, You Ignorant Slut (1)

The Cunctator (15267) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016190)

I know it's gratuitous, but it's not offtopic. I have to agree that this Anonymous Coward succinctly captures my feeling on this issue. Katz can churn out the intelligent seeming piece, and has his heart in the right place, but he really is an ignorant slut, especially in the sense that he's a reporter, and only slides over the surface of that which he covers. It's the eternal curse of the generalist and the press, but really, it's damn annoying.

Re:Ummm...Katz... (1)

Tyriphobe (28459) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016191)

Here here - this is one of the least lucid Katz articles I've seen in a while, although I often enjoy them. What bothered me most is that he's still trying to tie everything into the Hellmouth series:

The heretic today is marginalized without any bloodshed. He doesn't even take the risks the Shadowrunner takes. His teacher and peers make him a joke in the classroom, and ignore or isolate him. His career is either destroyed outright, as it [sic] being fired or demoted.

Are all Katz's articles still all about sad geeks in high school? Hell, I was one myself just a few years ago, but that's not the main point here.

It's a very valid worry that corporations are soon to be or already are above the law, and something massive needs to be done to take back the rights from the conglomorates to the customers. What is it? I wish I knew, but I have a bad feeling that things will have to get much worse before the majority stops swallowing PR and thinking for themselves.

PS -BTW, Power is an illusion. (2)

BoLean (41374) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016192)

While I'm at it its time to dispell this entire top down power myth. I work for the second largest (private) employer in my state. I work on computers and at anytime a handfull of us could bring this company to its knees. The same is true of our engineers and accountants. Any business is made up of people and if enough of them think the environment needs changing then things change. The same has been true everywhere I have worked.

Shadowrun is a reflection of earlier fiction (1)

garster (64867) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016193)

Jon -

I'm surprised that you missed that Shadowrun is more a reflection of earlier scifi (especially Gibson's prescient Neuromancer, Mona Lisa Overdrive, et cetera) than anything new. Yes, it attempts to integrate fantasy and scifi, but the socio-economic stuff is highly derivative of previous scifi.

Huh... Quality is going down (3)

thunderbee (92099) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016194)

Everyone talked about 'Neuromancer' and Cyberpunk RPG, so I'll just add 'HardWired' by Walter Jon Williams (less cyber, more punk); and "The Shockwave Rider" an absolute must read from John Brunner. I believe this is a very early form of what later got to be known as the Cyberpunk genre.

I'm quite surprised by this article. Quality seems to be going down here. I could have read this in a newspaper: I learned nothing and almost died of shock reading the more un-informed parts.

I do not believe this is news for nerds. They already know. If they don't, they aren't nerds. But then of course maybe one needs to target more people? News for wannabee nerds? Huh...

And how come real RPGs aren't discussed here? I was under the impression that most nerds were Role players too.
A poll idea here?

Re:Haiku (1)

575 (195442) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016195)

On-topic and true
Posts relevant yet critique'd
By mimicking them

Re:shadowrun.com == Micro$soft (1)

NightRain (144349) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016196)

MS owns the domain shadowrun.com because it was meant to be the home page of an upcoming Shadowrun computer game by FASA Interactive. However, MS bought FASA interactive out to gain access to the Battletech license, and subsequently scrapped the Shadowrun computer game.

Idiot Savant activism (4)

Old Man Kensey (5209) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016197)

That's so much like what I realized after the WTO protests: A lot of the protest sympathizers I talked to didn't actually know what they were protesting against.

"Big corporations are bad!"

"Why?"

"Ummm... cause they do bad things!"

"Like what?"

"Ummm... like... umm..."

To my mind there's a couple of very large, very bad generalizations going on. We've gone from "These big corporations sometimes do bad things" gradually to "These big corporations are bad" and then rapidly from there to "All big corporations are bad!" And that reduces to a snappy slogan like "Down with Corporatism!" that you can chant like the idiot savant activist so many seem to be. Let's face it, "stop [big corporation] from [doing evil thing]" just doesn't spread as well in a crowd and individual companies don't make nearly as enticing targets as a single big "corporatist" organization.

The worst thing you can do to a movement is join it (or found it) and then unthinkingly parrot the party line, ignoring all criticism or open discussion of your motives and ideals. If you do, you're not a protester or part of a movement. You're a cult member.

All that said, there are big companies that do bad things; we all know the backstory of Erin Brockovich or A Civil Action. They do need to be stopped. But what we don't need is people unthinkingly slamming some vaguely-defined concept of evil while they chow down on their McDonald's slop and then go outside to use the AT&T pay phone to call Mom and remind her to go down the street to the (Royal Dutch) Shell station and fill up their car with gas so it'll be ready to go out and watch the latest Hollywood offerings that night.

(If you're serious enough to protest, at least be serious enough to boycott.)

Re:I Actually Own All the Shadowrun Books (1)

Necromncr (35589) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016198)

Hrm.....to be honest, a lot of the Shadowrun novels are complete trash, but a good number of them (especially the earlier ones and anything written by Nigel Findley or Tom Dowd, both of which have since left the SR team) are pretty good reads. _Night's Pawn_ and _Burning Bright_ by Tom Dowd and _2XS_ and _House of Sun_ by Nigel Findley are probably the best.

--

Re:Shadowrun is hardly the primary source. (1)

tastywhitebread (148083) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016199)

I like Shadowrun, but to be honest, most of the setting makes no sense to someone who knows politics, history, and economics.

Are you implying that if a person thinks the setting do make sense, then that person doesn't know much about politics, history, and economics? I thought the settings made sense, and I thought I knew much about those topics well. Please enlighten me to why Shadowrun doesn't make sense.

We need better citizens, not skulking geeks. (4)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016200)

Oh, PLEASE!

Using Shadowrun as allegory for the actual world? Give me a break.

What is so appealing about the "corporatist" / dark future worldview anyway? Is it the hacker equivalent of survivalist fantasies about Soviet invasions and nukular holocausts . . . A paranoid fantasy where the disenfranchised can imagine themselves powerful?

If "corporatism" is going to be defanged, it will be through LAWS, not skulking lumpenhackers. Laws are concieved and nurtured through involvement and hard work by concerned and dedicated citizens. It means dealing with people, including some you may not agree with or much like being around. It means building coalitions and making compromises and getting up early.

Stefan (who used to WORK with the Shadowrun designers before he got a real job)

Corporations? What are you people talking about?! (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016201)

What?!

Corporations are bad? What the heck? When did that happen? And I can only run around in shadows now? Is this because of that ozone thing? Hey! I bet the corporations did that too, with all their air conditioners. (Though, I still don't get why they prefer the condition of air to be such that it offers no protection against sun burn. . . Must be some kind of scam where they sell lots of extra sunscreen lotion. --Or hey! Maybe it's the black people getting back at the whites for all those years of forced cotton picking. Hum! I knew letting blacks run all those giant corporations would lead to no good!)

That's it. I'm pipe bombing somebody! I'm going to go blow up a gas station! Boy! Won't that look cool! Just like in 'Terminator'!

Fantastic Lad --The most amazing of script kiddie of them all!

"Well, if people would just stop having sex, we wouldn't need all this nerve gas."

A little more in-depth on the corporate situation (3)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016202)

In Shadowrun, the big thing that gave the MegaCorporations all the power was the Shiawase decision. This court ruling decided that the corporate complexes had extraterritoriality -- basically that they were considered as different nations. This posed a real problem, because then the megacorps could get their own armies, make their own laws (while breaking everyone elses), etc. The government could do absolutely nothing about it.

-- Dr. Eldarion --

Re:Interesting article, but... (1)

Wolfwere (189004) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016203)

If I remember right there was two or three other Cyberpunk books out before Mr Gibson (a favourite author of mine) put out Neuromancer. I can't remember the author's name at the moment but he is often refered to as the Grandfather of Cyberpunk (Help... anybody?).

Speaking of Cyberpunk, there is a rollplaying game out buy the same name that I think came out before Shadowrun and it proved to be closer to reality, but still very prophetic. It predicted the Euro, the current recesion, and the technology based economy being super-successful to the point it has to be held back while farmers are suffering so much they are leaving farms like bands of gypsies. It too predicted that not only the multi-national mega-corps would have the resorces to control the world, but pushed for and won the right to take away the juristiction of contries and replace it with a body of their own creating (Can anyone say MAI? I knew you could).

You're Reaching, Jon (1)

Coz (178857) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016204)

Jon, you wrote a lot of stuff there, but I wonder what grade your 10th grade English teacher would give it. If she knew nothing about gaming, or SF, or geeks, or corporate culture, you'd be in good shape - but we /.'ers do. You took one work of fantasy gaming, polarized it through the lenses of your favorite topics, and generated a diatribe against the evils of Corporation. Not that some of your points aren't valid - they're opinion, with the intrinsic value of anyone else's. Your opinions are usually given some added weight because they're assumed to be informed opinions - but you lost some of that credibility, in my eyes at least, by the way you stretched this one piece to fit your thesis.

After all, there are thousands of fictional works about dystopian societies, hundreds where they're corporately ruled, and gaming ALWAYS wants to set you up in an "interesting" environment. It wouldn't be a good roleplaying game setting if the characters lived in central Kansas and their main concerns were which crops to plant that season and what to do about those pesky crows. IMHO, you'd have been a lot better off broadening your references, instead of concentrating on one, arguably derivative, RPG setting.

One item in particular bugged me - the following:
The heretic today is marginalized without any bloodshed. He doesn't even take the risks the Shadowrunner takes. His teacher and peers make him a joke in the classroom, and ignore or isolate him. His career is either destroyed outright, as it being fired or demoted.

This IS the era of the Internet, Jon. Any loon with the cash for domain registration can air their crackpot beliefs to the universe. Anyone who can make it to the public library can participate in chats, mail lists, and forums like this one. Heretics abound today, Jon - indeed, I'd argue that they're proliferating at unprecedented levels. From the WTO/World Bank protestors in their ununified hordes, to the UFO conspiracy theorists, to the various religious extremes, heretics are finding like-minded folk and carving their own niches - cobbling together their own soapboxes and shouting to the world.

But then, that's just my opinion... worth about the same as belly-button lint... everyone has their own supply.

Re:Idiot Savant activism (2)

rodentia (102779) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016205)

Yer selling the kids short, sport. They is always posers in a crowd. Use the zeitgeist when you have it and bide your time when you don't.

The dynamic has been the same since at least 1848. We don't need them to voice the arguments with eloquence or even understand the issues, we need their bodies on the street and on the tube.

Re:Corporate Oligarchy is Nothing New (1)

LucVdB (64664) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016206)

Perhaps he was hinting at 'terminator technologies' - genetically engineered crops that produce infertile seed, forcing farmers to buy new seed every year.
Monsanto hold a patent to this.

However, after much controversy Monsanto backed down [monsanto.com] late last year.

Re:Corporate Oligarchy is Nothing New (1)

ktakki (64573) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016207)


So why would Monsanto take an interest in forcing genetically engineered crops on the people of Africa?


Because the seeds Monsanto sells are sterile, producing plants with no offspring. You have to keep going back to Monsanto and buy more seeds every planting season.

That's why they're the MICROS~1 of agribusiness.

MONSAN~1.

k.

--
"In spite of everything, I still believe that people
are really good at heart." - Anne Frank

Re:I Second that commotion! (1)

Fantastic Lad (198284) | more than 14 years ago | (#1016208)

Yeah! Damn those Liberals!

They're all a bunch of monkeys!

They work just as hard as anybody else, and have the audacity to think that they're somehow as good as us! Bah! The monkeys! To think!

Wonder boys like us, with our rich parents who gave us cars on our 16th birthdays for scoring high on our report cards and put us through the best colleges without our having to lift a finger, MUST on some fundamental level be superior to those lame, poor-ass losers out there! Social Darwinism rocks, because it happens to favor us rich kids!

Hooray!

Fantastic Lad, --the most amazing script kiddie of them all!

-If people would just stop having sex, we wouldn't NEED all this nerve gas.--

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