Android: NetRunner is set in the fictional Android entertainment world. The whole world is a cyberpunk sci-fi world. How it works?
The word “punk” comes from punk rock, which is a rock music genre developed between 1974 and 1976. The term ”punk” was first used in relation to rock music by some American critics to describe garage bands and their devotees. Punk bands typically use short or fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing style, stripped-sown instrumentation, so people use punk rock to express their emotions, and often with political, anti-establishment lyrics. They took root in local scenes that tended to reject association with the mainstream. So we can almost see what’s the feeling of “cyberpunk”. Cyberpunk is a subgenre of science fiction in a future setting, which often center on a conflict among artificial intelligences and megacorporations. That future is often called the antithesis of the generally utpian visions. Megacprporations, cyberspace and hackers are always the basic setting in such stories.
So we can see that the world of Android inherited nearly all the elements of cyberpunk. Four megacorporation - Haas-Bioroid, Jinteki, NBN, and Weyland Consortium - dominate nearly all essential aspect of human life, and three groups of runners - Anarchs, Criminals, and Shapers - as hackers trying to hack in to the megacorporations’ servers and reveal their crimes. Figure 2 shows three runners from the core game card set.
Such cyberpunk setting fits the main topic of Android: NetRunner very well. The games is played in a cyberspace, which the runner make runs to the corporations’ servers. Runners use programs, varius, hardware resources to improve his hacking ability, while corporations upgrad and build ice outside to protect servers. It is exactly like what the corporations and hackers do in the real world. To some extent the story is also a hard sic-fi story, which means its settings are very accurate or have a lot of technical details. We can find many terms of professional like install programs, trace and icebreaker which are really used in the real world.
The story of the world of Android is very long, which uses five books including the identity trilogy to describe the whole world. I haven’t read them. But there are also background stories for each megacorporation and runner in the rule book as those cards publised. We can see that the three groups of runners has their own skill sets and goals to pursue. Also each runner in the same group is different characterized, which can be found in the following extension packs. Their skills also are related to their settings. Such as Noise, his skill is to trash the top card of R&D of the Corp whenever he installs a virus program, just like his bold and uninhibited character in the story, he easily hacked into the Corp for a lot of times, but no one could find the evidence.
Some cards that are not the main runner character also has their own stories. Like showed in Figure 4(a), Bernice Mai is a professional in NBN, who is pro at trace. Runners invading the server under her manage all risk the danger of being traced and locked. So on the card, she has the trace strength of 5 - a very high strength - that the runner has to pay a lot to upgrad his varius or just get locked and receive the damage.
Some cards together can tell a whole story. Figure 4(b) is the identity card of a Shaper called Nasir Meidan. He is good at trading - to trade what he want with his hack skill. So his skill is to lose all credits in his credit pool but gain the credits equal to the rez cost of that ice that would be more valuable to him. The event card Social Engineering (Figure 4(c)) tells the story that he tried a very clever way and get the tickets through trading, to get into the Beanstalk, where he can travel to other places of the solar system through Challenger spaceships.
These are just some cards. I think that we can find many cards that make up the whole world of Android. The designers found out the point of each character, and give their cards the skills which just shows their personalization. This is a very great way to help illustrate the big scene of the main topic.
Besides, the art pictures on each card is also drawn in the style of cyberpunk. With clear bounded metal colors, and high-tech assets, we can nearly smell the taste of computers. They drawn every card differently, and made the picture related to the topic and background story. This is also very helpful to the players to get into the game very quickly.
After playing the game and enjoying the beautiful pictures, I’m now very interested in the whole Android world. I’ll try to read the whole story later.