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by gatz

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Original Thread: Hackers, Vampires, Philosophy, Radical Politics - Let's deck into BloodNet

If you liked this LP, you might also like Final Fantasy IV by Mega64, Final Fantasy III by Mega64 and Final Fantasy Legend by ddegenha


Pictured: Vampiric Telemarketers

Most players probably gave up on BloodNet because of its terrible UI, bad combat system, and story progression so non-linear that, if you don't know where to go at what time, before or after you've triggered something else, you'll most likely wander around aimlessly as time runs out. It's an understatement to say that there's a high barrier of entry.

Even if you get past that, BloodNet is very unforgiving. The protagonist is a vampire, and has to drink blood every now and then or else he shits the bed. Time passes as you travel between areas, and that means the Bloodlust meter goes up. Fill that meter up 100% and it can be game over if there aren't any humans around to suck on. If you bite anyone outside of combat, your humanity meter decreases. If that goes too low -- it also decreases with time -- and then it's game over. You can also bite plot-necessary NPCs and then you're fucked because they die. Bite a party member and they'll leave you for good along with the rest of your party. If a party member dies, they're dead for good, and if they were plot-critical, you're fucked and fucked again. There's also something called cyberspace, and if you're decked in for too long, game over.

So why am I LPing this game? Despite its flaws, I loved playing it. The dialogue is great, the characters are incredibly memorable and unique, and the horror mixed with cyberpunk setting is fantastic. I know where to go at what times, what needs to be done in what order, and how to navigate the bad UI and combat, so this SSLP will shine a light on the good parts.

Amiga Soundtrack

Rides Naked compares BloodNet and popular philosophical concepts of the 90's regarding virtual reality:

Rides Naked posted:

I thought I'd talk a bit about how the game represents virtual reality, especially in relationship to selfhood, and how it intersects with conceptions of the virtual at the time:

Judging by the fate of the lost boys who chose to sacrifice their corporeal presence in order to play keepaway with TransTech, the game designers have bought into the cybernetic view of the self traced by N. Katherine Hayles in her book How We Became Posthuman. Hayles investigates the trope of the digitized self, dreams of attaining immortality through destructive (in that the original physical substrate, ie your body, is vaporized in the process) uploading of a human being's 'self' into a computer. In effect, as Hayles points out, this implies a view of the self-as-information in the cybernetic sense. Briefly, cybernetics (promulgated by Norbert Wiener and others in the 1940s-50s) was a way of formalizing the study of information transfer and control systems. When receiving a message you have the message itself (the "signal") and other background information deemed unnecessary ("noise"). For someone like Wiener, as long as the original information retains its integrity in the transfer, the medium that ends up embodying it doesn't really matter. A note on paper and a note in a .docx document is essentially the same in the cybernetic view, as long as it encodes the same information.

Hayles points out how cybernetics's place as a very flexible science, mainly through its influence in the biological sciences in the form the research of Maturana and Varela, and even in the anthropological research of Gregory Bateson, helped lead to the 90s notion of the mind as a similar pattern of information available to be re-encoding without loss. This view has been put forward by many futurists, most notably Ray "Singularity" Kurzweil and robotics expert Hans Moravec.

Think of the pieces of Charley in Bloodnet. The idea is to collect them in cyberspace, re-assemble them and, presumably, grant him a fancy new robot body. The assumption is that this Charley will be the same Charley originally uploaded to the cyberspace realm. But this is not necessarily so.

For example, what if you were to upload only a copy of your self, without destroying your body in the process. Would it also be you in some sense? And if you were to scan yourself destructively, would you still exist in a phenomenological sense? No one actually knows whether a mind uploading process would be copying or moving. Someone like Heideggerian philosopher Hubert Dreyfus might point out that much of what makes humans human resides in pre-concious activity, making a change in medium completely destructive. Or someone like philosopher of mind David Chalmers might point out that the hard problem of human consciousness (how a brain produces a mind) might be insoluble.

Ultimately, the answer to all these remains unsure, and there are advocates on both sides, but Bloodnet is really a very good example of the sort of (perhaps blind) enthusiasm for such a concept that bloomed in the 90s. It really showed up all over the place (Films like 13th Floor, the fiction of Charles Stross, it goes on and on).

Virtual reality also had plenty of spiritual overtones in that period, some even attributed it zen-like properties. Conversely it also became the backbone of Nick Land's incredibly weird and cultish cybernihilism. But I can post more on that later if people desire.
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