At companies like Haas-Bioroid and MirrorMorph, Inc., programmers modify and build upon recorded braintapes to forge the neural channeling that serves as an android’s artificial intelligence. Similarly, the imprints of various designers have been spliced and synthesized into something that has taken on a life of its own: the Android universe.
The noir, near-dystopian future that was birthed out of a conversation between designers Kevin Wilson and Dan Clark has since expanded to encompass a ground-breaking board game, several novels, a fast-paced game of corporate larceny ( Infiltration ), and the cyberpunk Living Card Game® Android: Netrunner .
Along the way, we’ve seen the introduction and development of a wide range of characters, each of whom has arrived with a distinct personality built from his or her collection of interests, motives, and style. Their arrivals have expanded the Android universe, and its growth has led to the introduction of even more clones, bioroids, corporate executives, detectives, and runners.
Archived Memories is a periodic series of articles in which the developers of the Android universe look at the challenges, processes, and rewards unique to the development of a constantly evolving world set in the far future and deeply rooted in human motives and ambitions.
Today, we present an interview with Matt Zeilinger, one of the artists responsible for giving shape to the Android universe and drawing our attention to the human elements of Android: Netrunner .
Artist Matt Zeilinger on Working with the World of Android: Netrunner
Artist Matt Zeilinger is one of the key figures responsible for working with FFG’s art directors to develop the visual stylings of Android: Netrunner and the Android universe, especially those of the world’s “meat space.”
In Android: Netrunner , a handful of exceptionally talented hackers, known as runners, compete with ultra-rich megacorporations for the control of valuable data. Their struggles span two different realms. They call the physical realm “meat space,” and the virtual realm is “cyberspace.” The art styles for these different realms vary greatly, but they intersect where human imagination shapes cyberspace and the technology necessary to interact with the virtual world bleeds over into the physical realm.
While Matt Zeilinger has worked with both realms, as indicated by his work on the art for the cards Ice Wall ( Core Set , 103) and Easy Mark ( Core Set , 19), his most important contributions have typically focused on the game’s meat space. He has worked to conceptualize how different stores and structures might appear, he has developed in-universe branding, and he has given life to many of the game’s most important characters, its runners.
FFG: What excites you most about creating pieces for Android: Netrunner ?
MZ: All of it! The characters, the technology, the locations!
In all seriousness, though, the thing that I love about the Android setting is that it’s a place that could be our future. There’s a sense that the world is grounded in reality and that what you find there is absolutely feasible, given many, many years of progress and evolution of design.
Personally, the thing that excites me most about creating art for the game is the process of discovery that comes along with that, and the challenge of creating designs that could feasibly exist in a potential future of our own world.
FFG: What qualifies an art piece as something that fits into the world of Android: Netrunner ?
MZ: Awesome tech, interesting characters, and visual storytelling that goes beyond the card itself.
The world of Android: Netrunner is such a vibrant one, and I love to see the correlations and connections that so many of its art pieces make with other parts of the world, such as events, people, places, and things. Every card image tells a story, but I believe it’s the meta-narrative happening in the images that really breathes life into the world and makes it special. The projected ads on a building, the person on a runner's chat screen, the graffiti on a back alley wall; the opportunity for storytelling in these little details set an art piece apart and make it something that fits into the world of Android: Netrunner .
FFG: You’ve created artwork for a number of the game’s Runners. How do you go about creating an individual within this fictional universe?
MZ: While I do love hulking space marines, superheroes, and elven rangers, I’m even more fascinated with characters who represent ordinary people with extraordinary abilities. The individuals I get to create as runners are often very human, and that’s what I love about them. They’re short, lanky, pretty, freckled, near-sighted, curly-haired, genuine, nervous, intelligent, sometimes crazy, wonderfully human individuals. They also happen to have unique skills that set them apart and make them extraordinary.
These are some of the things that help inform the designs I create for the runners. They are people you could know. Hell, you could be one of them.
FFG: Do you have a favorite among the Runner IDs that you’ve created? What makes that Runner your favorite?
MZ: I have to admit: I’ve got a soft spot for Chaos Theory ( Cyber Exodus , 46) and Dinosaurus ( Cyber Exodus , 48).
Anytime I get to illustrate anything involving C.T. and Dino, I get a little giddy inside. There’s something so fun and intriguing about her connection to her rig, and I feel like there’s a story there that I want to know more about.
While you wouldn’t have seen her yet, there is also another Runner on the horizon who I am quite fond of already, due to our shared appreciation of Astronomy.
FFG: Is there anything else we should know about how you see the world of Android: Netrunner ?
MZ: I see the world of Android: Netrunner as one with endless potential for innovation. It’s a unique and exciting world that will continue to grow and progress, as long as the artists, designers, and writers keep breathing new ideas into it… Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ideas or creative minds behind them!
It’s an honor to be a part of the process, and I look forward to continuing to help build the world.
At FFG, we’re pleased at how fully our fans have engaged with with the world of Android and Android: Netrunner , and we’re thankful to Matt and all the other artists, designers, developers, and contributors who continue to breathe life into the setting.
Stay tuned for more Android: Archived Memories ! This ongoing, periodic series of articles will continue to explore other elements of the Android universe with the artists, developers, and other individuals responsible for splicing and synthesizing the various elements that have brought it to life.
Android is a board game of murder and conspiracy set in a dystopian future. 3-5 detectives travel between the city of New Angeles and moon colony Heinlein chasing down leads, calling in favors, and uncovering the sinister conspiracy beneath it all. The detectives must balance their pursuit of the murderer against their personal lives and their inner demons. Android’s innovative mechanics ensure that no two detectives play alike.