When it comes to immersive experience LARPs, Jackalope LARP of Austin, TX is at the top of its class. After the success of The Night in Question, a Vampire: the Masquerade LARP held by Jackalope last November, they announced their newest event for May 2019—Cyberpunk: Night City, a Cyberpunk 2020 LARP. We were able to catch up with Jackalope organizer Matthew Webb about what this newest event has in store!
What drew you to the Cyberpunk 2020 setting?
Jackalope has been interested in doing Cyberpunk 2020 for a while now. I grew up reading William Gibson’s Neuromancer and other classics like When Gravity Fails; and Cyberpunk 2020 has been a favorite tabletop RPG of mine and Steve [Metze]’s forever. It’s just an awesome setting with that classic streets-of-neon Blade Runner vibe, with an awesome, rich background that helps create that neon noir feel that Cyberpunk excels at. This idea of where technology leads us and how it affects the lowest and highest ranks of society, where money, power, and the street meet, is always evocative. But right now, it seems really pertinent.
We had approached R. Talsorian Games early last year about doing Cyberpunk 2020 for a LARP, and they were very interested when they saw what we had in store for The Night in Question, our Vampire: The Masquerade horror game. When we told them we wanted to take over a warehouse space and transform it into the streets of Night City, fill it with gang members, drug dealers, style livestreamers, and vendors, and make this living section of Night City to drop the players into—they loved it and gave us the green light.
Cyberpunk has these great themes of urban survival; of defiance; of corporate power and government power merging; of living your life as you choose to live it; of this emphasis on style and attitude that makes it a lot of fun but also as relevant today as it was when it was first written in 1989. It’s not surprising that the genre and the game are having a renaissance now, as people are grappling with a changing world and in many ways, the return of the feelings that ignited the first wave of cyberpunk in the 1980s.
We want to explore those themes, while also creating this “Attitude is Everything” fun experience that Cyberpunk allows for.
How would you describe the overall Cyberpunk 2020 genre for someone who isn’t familiar with the setting?
The Cyberpunk setting has the classic cyberpunk chrome and neon feel. It is a world of giant cities filled with street gangs and corruption, ruled by greedy megacorporations and brutal police forces. The setting of our game, Night City, was billed as the City on the Edge of Tomorrow when it was founded three decades ago. It’s become one of the most dangerous, toughest cities in the Free State of Northern California. It is the same city that is being used by CD Projekt Red in their upcoming Cyberpunk 2077 video game.
Cyberpunk 2020 history diverges from our timeline in 1990, but by the time of the game—we’re up to the year 2036 now—the United States has fractured due to economic and environmental collapse. A weak federal government is little more than an arbiter between megacorporations. The Great Plains are reduced to a dust bowl, the coasts are flooding, and the country’s population is packed into huge cities controlled by gangs and organized crime as much as the official police and deputized corporate security. Between the cities is dust and wastelands, abandoned towns, and nomad camps. Corporations have fought open wars against countries, and won, and have had wars solely between themselves: the Corporate Wars. The last one, the Fourth Corporate War, was the most devastating, and the economic and political repercussions are still being felt 14 years later.
What can you tell us about the plot and characters of Cyberpunk: Night City?
The main setting for the game is Carter Street Market, on the night of a block party called Night’s Wake. The gangs and underworld have a truce going for the night of the party. The tourists, locals, and talent will stream in to listen to the music and see what’s at the bleeding edge of style, street fashion, and music, while the streamers and pretenders look to catch the perfect shot or gain the most views. Everyone from journalists to wannabes will be there. But for many, it’s business as usual. Dealers and hustlers are moving the market, trying to make the money they need to survive. Mercenaries, hackers, and street samurai are talking with fixers about the next big job that needs done. The street never stops, especially in cyberpunk.
When you buy your ticket, you will go through an online program that will help create and select a character that suits what you want out of the night. You might play a style-streamer who’s covering the block party. You might play a journalist or ex-cop tracking down a killer that is roaming the party. You might play an operative for hire that goes on side missions to steal and kill their way for money. But the real intent is that you go to this game, and you feel like you are really part of a life in Night City, that you truly walked those streets.
One thing that was so special about The Night in Question was the location it was held at. What will the site be like for Cyberpunk: Night City?
The site for Cyberpunk: Night City is called Airsoft Revolution 15. It’s used normally for airsoft and nerf battle games, but it is this big 10,000-foot warehouse space full of little side rooms and walls and with these big high ceilings. It has all this graffiti all over the place along with lighting and sound fixture. You can see just a fraction of what we’re going to do with that space in our trailer. We’re going to be repainting, adding windows and furniture, setting up stalls, creating this feeling of the city streets of Night City. We’re going to… bathe the place in neon and blacklight, set up an arcade, a cybernetic implants clinic, a club, a bar, all these places that makes it feel like you are in this tight dark city block of a built-up and worn-down megapolis.
The owners absolutely love what we’re going to be doing with the place, and what you see in the trailer was what we managed to do in just a couple hours, not four days. It’s going to look awesome, and we hope people walk through the doors and feel like they entered another world.
In what neat ways should the players expect to be immersed in the cyberpunk setting?
Imagine walking through the doors, and you feel like you walked out onto a street at night. Neon and lit signs are everywhere. Spotlights sweep from high up over the streets. Wiring is everywhere. You see a holographic screen showing strange advertisements hanging over a market. A street surgeon is putting implants on someone in full public view. Joygirls and joyboys—licensed prostitutes—call out from their places of business while a dealer shows up with inhaled drugs. You overhear someone talking about a hijacking of high-grade cybernetics and genetically modified foods. A street samurai haggles the price of a weapon with a vendor while a group of mask-clad gang members brush past you acting like they own the place.
That’s what your first moments in Night City will be like. That’s what we want to give people to put them right over the edge and into this world we’ve made.
We’ll also be giving our players electronic credit sticks and Identicards with their character’s name on them, and there will be hacking mini-games, net terminals on the streets you can read, chances to go on missions and have shoot-outs. Or just party like the future is already here in the block party. But first and foremost, we want you to feel like you stepped into another world.
I know Jackalope LARP really emphasizes player safety and putting on events where everyone can feel safe and comfortable. How will we see that reflected in this game?
Jackalope’s credo is and will always be: “People are more important than LARPs.” People love their games, for good reason. They provide an escape, they are a source of pride, and they forge friendships. But we always have to keep in mind that everyone’s fun matters and the person is always more important than the game. We put a massive emphasis in all our games on a player’s physical and emotional safety, and it is every player’s [responsibility] to help everyone else have an amazing experience and to be responsible.
Like our previous production, The Night in Question, we have clear content warnings on our game and our characters. We don’t want to ambush anyone with content they are not comfortable dealing with. We also have banned content that we will not introduce and players are not allowed to introduce—sexual assault and sexual violence and real-world bigotry (for example, racism and racist paraphernalia, homophobia, transphobia, use of sexual or racial slurs, etc.). That’s not what this game is about and we do not want to put players in the position of dealing with that content.
We also have mechanics for signaling to players you are not comfortable that we require all players to take a workshop on. These hand signals we’ve adopted let you tell players you are bowing out of a scene or signal that you need to adjust how the scene is going. The emphasis is on giving you control over your experience so we can all have fun.
Overall, what’s your goal for Cyberpunk: Night City? What do you hope the event will look like and feel like?
I want everyone to walk into that warehouse and feel like they are in the dark future of neon and chrome; and then I want them to inhabit all the aspects of that world. I want street hustlers arguing with gang leaders; I want corporate shills making bad choices in a bad part of town; I want this great neo-noir experience with awesome costumes lit up. I want music, dancing, mayhem, and dirty deals gone bad. I want all these great scenes and tropes from cyberpunk to come alive for two nights and give people memories and experiences they’ll never forget, while really feeling like they were there and the decisions they made mattered.
Cyberpunk: Night City is scheduled for May 24-25, 2019 in San Antonio, TX and tickets are on sale now for anyone who’s interested in getting a piece of these rough streets!