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It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. — Charles Darwin
An edgerunner is a person striving to live a meaningful and fulfilling life in the cyberpunk future. Just like a surfer proficiently rides a majestic ocean wave, the edgerunner tries to keep his life balanced on the precariously narrow and rapidly moving sweet zone of the society called the edge, hence the name, edgerunner.
The edge is a thin strip in the social landscape of the dark future, the steep ridge that defines the boundary between despair and madness. And it is moving at a frightening rate. Behind it is the ocean of despair, where masses of people feel that they are left behind by the society, seen as ignorant flocks of sheep that lack the courage to keep up with the future. In front of the edge is the mælström of madness, a deep chasm that swallows those few that overindulge in the future. They get addicted to the rapid change of society and like any kind of junkie, they will commit any atrocity to get increasing doses of their fix.
Between the two is the edge, and on the edge are the edgerunners. These are the people trying to leave a meaningful mark on the world. But they have to spend a continuous effort keep their balance on the edge, to avoid falling into despair or madness.
It was more like a ridge, maybe a plateau. Maybe even an open field, once upon a time.
Long ago, change was a rarity. Generations would live and die just as their great grandparents did. Any groundbreaking change in life would become legend. But innovation, be it social or technological, drives more innovation. And so the rate life changed began to increase, slowly at first then with increasingly accelerating acceleration. (Math: That’s hopefully the correct wording for a seventh order curve)
The industrial revolution caused the first major breakpoint. Life changed for so many people so fast that they revolted. Many skilled weavers were put out of work overnight by the steam powered loom, so they went out and destroyed the demonic machines. But this did not stop the future. Many industries followed, many people despaired, some adapted and a few became addicted. They asked for more and destroyed who stood in their way. So people had to adapt, willingly or begrudgingly. Thus began a vicious cycle.
The twentieth century saw the cycle accelerate from one major change per generation to one major change per year. The twenty first brought that up to multiple groundbreaking changes a year in its first three decades. Adapting to change without being overwhelmed by it became an omnipresent requirement of living, just like breathing. Stop for two minutes and you begin to choke.
As of 2030, the latest life-changing breakthrough is in the field of human augmentation. Many corporations and medical institutions had been looking into ways of improving the human condition (and make profits) using advanced biotech and robotics, but nobody expected the fashion boom that suddenly made advanced prosthetics into something that any self-respecting contemporary would be considered naked without. Fueled by eased legislation on human augmentation (which were limited to a very tightly controlled set of applications before) and advent of cheap and available compound rapid manufacturing technologies that allowed making of reasonably priced tailor made devices, human augmentation spread like wildfire across the world. And it took many by surprise. Suddenly, you had to get your lungs cut out and replaced if you wanted to keep your job as a fireman. Not everyone reacted nicely. Most people just refused to allow the invasion of their body’s integrity. Some others went for everything they could afford to put into their body. Compared to the former, they became supermen. Their capabilities were in high demand, so they quickly rose to the higher end of the socioeconomic scale. Such a high-g ascent proved to be too much for many of those and they lost touch with their former self. They began to see themselves as gods, and the rest as insects. Only a handful managed to keep their humanity intact after their transformation. They became the latest generation of edgerunners.
This game is about those edgerunners, and their struggle to stay on the edge.