Cassettepunk Shadowrun: Intensifying the 80s in 1e

Shadowrun 1e was published in 1989.

And it shows.

…but I mean this in the most positive sense possible.

Modern, slick cyberpunk does nothing for me. I like the 80s look. To me, someone born in 1970, it not only means nostalgia, though this is a part of it. The 80s were revolutionary in their design, their boldness. And 1989 was a special year for Europe. The Eastern Bloc crumbled. The Berlin Wall fell. I remember that moment vividly because I served in the German Armed Forces at that time, and we were ordered to stay in the barracks and combat-ready, just in case something ‘unforeseen’ happened. It didn’t. 

In the same year, Shadowrun first edition came in the mail. And changed everything in my roleplaying world.

This is also why I’m not interested in later editions, at all. The moment the new developers tried to catch up with reality, the setting turned into something else. Its rough charm got lost, and a new, slick and polished product took its place.

So, my Shadowrun is, and always was, cassettepunk. Some call it  cassette futurism, and that’s also fine with me.

What is cassettepunk?

  • Clearly 80’s aesthetics
  • The eponymous cassettes are storage mediums per excellence: music… computer data… even trideo is stored on cassettes.
  • There are no super powerful computers fitting on a dime. Everything is 80s big. Tech does look like tech. My biggest role model here is the legendary Braun designer Dieter Rams.
  • There are cell phones, but they are rare and as big as bricks (just like the first cell phones really were)
  • Walkie Talkies? Phone booths? Sure!
  • CRT monitors instead of flat screens
  • monochrome LCD screens in heaps
  • VHS players
  • No miniaturized technology; “mini” still means at least as big as your palm 
  • C64-looking computers, also for deckers
Let’s take a look at how tech looked in the first edition:
CRT monitor

Look at that deck

Troll reporter with an honest-to-goodness old school cam

A simsense player

CRT again

That deck… 

And that one, as well

Corp security guard at work. Look at the size of the screen and the keyboard

He probably is wondering why his back is hurting after
lugging around that big-ass deck for hours on end

So many good things in that picture. The 80s shades. That boxy car.
And yes, donuts.


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