Thursday, February 19, 2015

Thorough Thursdays: BLADE RUNNER

I know, I know. I said before that I wasn't going to add tags. The idea here is to go more in-depth about things I've already addressed at some point. Thing is, I've been thinking about this idea, on this one subject, for a while now. I also figure this is as good a place to talk about it as any other, since it is also related to this month's unofficial theme (Science Fiction).

To go a step further, I will be cross referencing this with a few other tags, so at least they will get some much needed love.

Thank you for indulging me.


Blade Runner
Original Theatrical Release Movie Poster, 1982
Art and Design by John Alvin

Prior to this post, I have never tagged, or mentioned in detail, the 1982, Ridley Scott directed, Hampton Fancher and David Peoples written, Warner Brothers Science Fiction-Noir film, Blade Runner, based on Philip K. Dick's novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, on this blog before today.
That's just wrong.

In one of my prior Thorough Thursday entries, I mentioned how few films had as massive a creative impact on me as did Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Meet the film that gives Close Encounters a run for its money.

So much of what I do in my Science Fiction games is inspired, and influenced, by this film, that I hardly know where to start in my adoration of it.

Blade Runner is, to me, much more than a great movie. It was my first glimpse into a different kind of Science Fiction than what I was used to, and what I previously enjoyed.

Prior to this film, my Science Fiction was always the relatively clean, and heroic, cooperative future of Star Trek, the campy, but lovable 50's-60's Sci-Fi of Lost in Space, or the epic Space Fantasy of Star Wars.

I had seen Planet of the Apes, and Logan's Run, but the concept of a dystopian, high-tech future, such as that portrayed in Blade Runner, was something completely new, and mind-blowing to me.

Science Fiction, it turned out, had a dark, seedy underbelly. It had people with big dreams, fleeting hope, and rain-soaked sorrows, all of whom were just trying to survive another day in a neon lit, smog covered canyon of glass, and steel.

This was Future-Noir, the predecessor to Cyberpunk. There was nothing else quite like it back then, and nothing exactly like it has come since, even to this day.


When the movie came out in 1982, I was 13 years old.

An advanced reader for my age, I had read a number of classic Science Fiction books by the time of Blade Runner's release, but the work of Philip K. Dick was not known to me. Following the movie, I snatched up a copy of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and marveled at the differences between the book, and the film.

While I find the book brilliant, it doesn't do to me what the film does. It shouldn't I suppose, what with them being  two such different forms of conveying a narrative. The book showcases the subject of what it means to be Human, and explores questions of morality, mortality, and empathy in greater depth than the motion picture. It does it well at that. However, the movie is positively drenched in atmosphere, and style.

One of the primary reasons for the films incredible visuals is the concept work of futurist Syd Mead. I believe I may have discovered Mead because of this movie. He, and his artwork, would forever forge a great deal of imagery I picture when imagining Sci-Fi worlds. His depictions of technology, and architecture are what I see in my mind's eye when I think about setting aesthetics for my Science Fiction RPG campaigns. From Traveller to Cyberpunk, and Shadowrun games, the look of the future (for me at least) looks a lot like the work of Syd Mead.


This is primarily a blog that discusses Role Playing Games, so it's about time I talked about the impact of Blade Runner on my gaming.

Where to start?

One of the games I ran very often in the late 80's was R. Talsorian Games' Cyberpunk (2013, and 2020). However, my impression of the genre was more heavily inspired by my love of Blade Runner.

Long before genetic engineering became a big deal in Science Fiction, and Science Fiction gaming, I was building Replicant NPCs. I 'built' them by using the rules for cybernetic parts, and just saying they were part of the design of the Replicant when is was grown/fabricated.

While PCs lost points of Humanity (and by association, Empathy) with the addition of cybernetic implants, Replicants started at zero, and their 'enhancements' added to their understanding of Humanity. Sounds crazy? I'll explain...

The idea was that as they gain experiences (not Experience Points, but life experience), Replicants develop a desire for more experiences. This often turns into a desire to live, to have more time. That's when they get a little desperate, and a little nuts (again, an inverse way of looking at Cyber-Psychosis from the Cyberpunk RPG).

What do you all think?

"I've...seen things you people wouldn't believe...
Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion.
I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate.
All those...moments...will be lost in time, the rain.
Time to die."

Barking Alien


  1. No comments on this?

    To me this is the defining entry for the whole Cyberpunk/Future Noir/"Shadowrun" genre. Much like Raiders of the Lost Ark is my go-to reference for Pulp, this is the one movie that paints the picture I want people to have in their mind's eye when they begin.

    Want to know about cyberpunk? Watch this, read Neuromancer and you have a solid base on what it is about. I know the transhuman ting has sort of blown past this but that doesn't mean it's no longer worth exploring. We play wild west games that cover 50 years or so of history, That speculative period of near-future society where things look just familiar enough but still not -now- is a pretty cool place to roam.

  2. I couldn't agree with you more, and it had me thinking...

    Is Cyberpunk so dated a subgenre of Science Fiction that it is simply not longer in vogue?

    When I posted this I was sure I was going to see comments about Blade Runner's place in the annals of Cyberpunk genre films, it's relationship, and relevance to transhumanism, or just people showing a nostalgic love for the movie.


    So, does that mean we gamers don't find Blade Runner relevant to our games? Does it no longer influence our view of Future Noir? Is it that Future Noir isn't really a genre we pay attention to any longer?

    Considering the love this film gets around my table(s), I was really anticipating a lot more feedback.