The influences of Hopepunk City

This is an essay where I discuss the ideas behind “Hopepunk City” and share some of the sources where I got these ideas. I know that sounds kind of boring, but most of these sources are You Tube videos that are actually entertaining.

First, lets start with the name. “Hopepunk” is an official genre of sci-fi. The basics of the genre are as follows:

  1. It is the counter to “Grimdark” (dark tragedy). Not exactly the opposite, that would be “Noblebright” (heroic happy), but more of a dark but a light at the end of the tunnel story.
  2. Stories to support people, not heroes or chosen ones. Ordinary people looking to make a difference.
  3. Emphasis on “Punk”, ie. fighting the system, but with hope in “we deserve a better world”.
  4. Hopepunk is contemporary fantasy or near future.
  5. Characters don’t give up. They stand up, resist and fight back.
  6. Protagonists are just ordinary people who care, not special or “powered” or “chosen”
  7. Character’s don’t have to win, but they do have to make a difference.

The genre was invented by Alexandra Rowland, who coined the term, but who expanded on it in an essay called “One Atom of Justice, One Molecule of Mercy, and the Empire of Unsheathed Knives” which I have read at least a dozen times while creating this game. It was sort of my “go to” whenever I needed inspiration. You will find a lot of what Ariane says in the hot tub early in the game is a paraphrased version of this essay.

Here is a You Tube video from 2019 (so pre-pandemic) that explains the genre as it relates to gaming.

Solarpunk, not Cyberpunk

While writing the game, I was also trying to emphasize that the world of Artema is also “solarpunk”, not “cyberpunk”. The main differences being that Cyberpunk is a vision of the future from a 1980’s perspective. Capitalism gone awry, and hackers trying to save it. Cyberpunk has been the primary genre of near future speculative sci-fi for the last 3 decades.

I was attempting to change that. “Solarpunk” is a vision of the future from a 2020’s perspective, one that is sustainable, environmentally friendly, and where people’s needs are met without interference from corporate profit margins. It is hard to imagine thanks to “Capitalist Realism” a philosophy that we will be forever trapped in a capitalist dystopia until the global climate change makes the earth uninhabitable in as soon as 100 years from now.

Solarpunk imagines a world that we escape capitalist realism and bring the earth’s climate back to where it should be.

Video Essays Explaining the philosophy of Artema

Here’s the point where I start dropping a lot of videos on philosophy that helped me get through the pandemic and influenced the writing of the game. First up is Philosophy Tube with Abigail Thorn (these videos were made before her transisition). The first one is about the philosophy of existentialism and meaning of life is “absurd”, which influenced the ending of the hot tub scene.

But that is not all, their discussion of the various things you could when facing the lack of meaning in life influenced the activities of the three roommates. Rachel buried herself in art and science, Maya basically went into politics, and I try to convey throughout the story that Ariane just accepts the absurd. Whether it is finding ways to slack off at work, or occasionally breaking the fourth wall, Ariane accepts that life has no meaning, but that lax attitude in life causes her to observe the flaws in the system easier than Rachel and Maya, who seek to always interact within the system.

In the third act, Rachel and Maya bring problems that need to be solved, Ariane quickly identifies the cause and reason behind the problems, but you the player are the one that has to solve them. This was all inspired by this video.

The second is about the philosophy of crime and punishment using cameras and automated law enforcement. This is, as Maya explains in her dialog, the dark side of Arteman system. The “Black Lives Matter” protests in June of 2020 led to talks of “defunding the police”, since human police bring their biases to their police work, and that is why many Black Americans get killed by racist police officers every year.

I wanted to come up with something better, so I came up with this system of constant observation that identified criminal behavior, that would take human police out of the equation. But as this second video explains, such a system has very serious drawbacks:

Finally from Philosophy Tube comes this enlightening essay on Sex Work and how society should handle it. Unfortunately the US does the exact opposite in the name of “saving the children”, but of this video’s advice were to actually be followed, child exploitation would actually see a reduction.

Next up is a very good explanation of “Anarchism” from another You Tube channel Renegade Cut, which is not the chaotic “free for all” often portrayed by the upper class controlled media, but it is a flavor of socialism that allows much more freedom than the near serfdom that the western world considers “free”. It uses “V for Vendetta”, the original comic, not the watered down movie, to illustrate the concepts.

Finishing up the philosophy portion is this recent essay about “Envy” by You Tube ContraPoints which explains the origins of the traditional western morality. We can have a better and more stable society by removing envy out of the equation. “Capitalist Realism” (see above) emphasizes envy as an economic driver, and world destroyer. There is a better way:

So how do we lower the influence of envy? We can start with Universal Basic Income, a way of insuring everybody has at least enough to survive.

An Automated Society?

Another major component of Hopepunk City is that most of the jobs are automated. Here’s an intro to that concept:

There is of course some scary thoughts with regards to the automation of society. CGP Grey does a good job of explaining how extensive and potentially scary this automation can get in a video I have featured before:

This video talks about the automation of careers that we often do not think of as automatable, like doctors and lawyers and even judges. I thought, while watching this video, why can’t we automate politicians? That’s when I came up with my idea of government by AI. Politicians make decisions by their ideology, their “gut feeling”, and which ever lobbyist can contribute to their campaign the most, surely if AI is smart enough to do medical diagnostics, or civil court judgements, then making the best decisions for the people should be easy.

Since Hopepunk City came out, I found a video by Mia Mulder laying out the case for Government by AI, which more or less follows my own logic and expands on it:

The Second Civil Wars

Finally is the topic of the premise that built the game. There is no mention of the pandemic in the game. Pandemics have a tendency to end after a couple of years, then they become quickly forgotten. Political violence is remembered for generations, and the United States seems to be in the verge of a lot of political violence. This video, did not influence me, but is a pretty good summary of the political climate that still persists today in the US:

Personally, I think that social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, are the primary causes of the political division, driven by interference from other countries who want to destroy the US’s influence. Primarily Russia, which is behind the majority of Christian Facebook Groups and Anti-Vax groups that egg on the violent factor.

If we can get past the current crises, the influence of Russian hackers, and white nationalism will die quickly. Especially if the justice system will do its job to identify and stop domestic terrorist groups.

I hope that there is no second civil war. It would be devastating to the country and would make things worse. There could be some pockets of goodness, but I see theocrats wanting political power to make biblical law the law of the land as dangerous and stupid.

So hopefully the better angels of our nature will see the folly of the extremist positions, and focus on keeping the peace.