The Chips Are Down: Chippin’ In

What better place to chart out his flow control than with Johnny SIlverhand’s battle anthem, “Chippin’ In”? This is the Samurai mega-hit, if for no other reason than that it literally called in a hit on Arasaka itself. And when Johnny calls, his diehard fans always answer.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s briefly skim the liner notes here. When Johnny discovered his girlfriend, the nimble netrunner Alt Cunningham, had been kidnapped by Japanese arms and mercenary behemoth Arasaka, he set to scheming a way to get her back. He teamed up with the heaviest hitters with grudges against Arasaka--no shortage of people who fit that description--and planned their daring raid. The final touch that would touch off the assault? Raring up his fans to ransack Arasaka’s offices, drawing away security personnel so his crack team could crash the gate undetected.

Picket signs not being Johnny’s style, he put on an “impromptu” concert at the foot of Arasaka Tower instead. For the occasion, he reserved prime real estate on his setlist for “Chippin’ In”. It’s hard to think of any single in his catalog that could rile up the crowd like this one. You’ll see what I mean.

And let’s start with the title itself. “Chippin’ In” has a double-meaning, thanks to the street slang that cropped up when cyberware became common. Along with the more familiar sense of “contributing,” or “paying one’s share,” “chippin’ in” also means to install cyberware into one’s body for the first time. In the world of Cyberpunk, cyberware installees need a controller chip inserted into their nervous system before they can connect any other hardware or wetware. Once you take the plunge and merge metal with meat, you have “chipped in.” You’re officially cyborg.

Crossing this threshold is a big deal for people: It’s their welcome party to the future, an acceptance that this is the way of things now. You keep up or get left behind. For the crowd Johnny is attracting for the occasion, there is another allure to chippin’ in. Cyberware enables one to hide weapons with a much smaller profile than concealing them under clothing. For those who want to stay safe on the streets and make the Man think twice before roughing you up, cyberware is your best bet. Is that guy unarmed or is he packing heat? You don’t want to find out.

For a raid on Arasaka, Johnny probably prefers it if they don’t know his fighting strength until it unfurls from his fans’ arms.

Alright, I think we're ready to drop the downbeat for this beatdown.

Can you feel it?
Can you touch it? Get ready 'cause here we go!
Can you feel it?
Can you touch it? Get ready 'cause here we go!

Right off the bat, Johnny poses a question to all the cyberware wearers in the audience that hits at the two extremes that it can take. One interpretation of “can you feel it?” is that, when cyberware is installed properly, the wearer may not “feel” or be conscious that it is there. The whole point of cybernetic appendages is that they are an extension of you, and the capabilities you want your body to have. It shouldn’t feel like anything because it is you: you enhanced.

Johnny’s question could also be his way of checking his cyberware warriors to make sure they can still feel, period. In the world of Cyberpunk, every piece of cyberware reduces the empathy of the person whose body it’s bolted onto. In other words, the less biological tissue one has remaining, the less one feels in the emotional sense of the word.

In either case, Johnny is belting out a rallying cry for fans to rise up and lay siege to corporations. His audience knows to prime their cyberware for battle.

My soul invaded vital force
Won't spare what I'm hunting for!
It's the animal within my blood
Wouldn't stop it, if I could
Seed is sown, I'm chippin' in

The “seed” which has been “sown” could be referring to installed cyberware again. Like actual seeds, cyberware has to be buried in a fertile environment for its true potential to be released. However, the line could just as easily be a more general metaphor, like sowing “seeds of destruction” or “seeds of rebellion.”

Roll the bones, I'm chippin' in

“Roll the bones” is definitely a meta-textual reference to the fact that these characters, Johnny Silverhand and the gang, and the world they inhabit come from a tabletop RPG. The one commonality between nearly all such games is that players roll dice (i.e. roll bones).

Embed the code, I'm chippin' in
Mayhem flows!

The “code” which is embedded could again definitely be that of cyberware. Fittingly enough, the digital components of cyberware would be what’s called an “embedded system.” In computer science, an embedded system is one where the operating system is built into the firmware, so that there is no real distinction between them. For a point of reference, a real-world smartphone would be an embedded system, whereas a desktop computer would not.

Embedded systems are usually “headless”, meaning that users don’t explicitly log in to begin using it. It’s running and ready to roll without you having to interact directly with any programs. For cybernetic limbs and other bodily attachments, a system like this would be ideal--imagine having to boot up your arm in the morning, and then forgetting your password. Not the best start to your dark future day.

Most interestingly (and then I’ll move on, I swear), embedded systems don’t let users access a root account, the one with OS administrator privileges. In the world of Cyberpunk, cyberware would probably deny its owners root access, too, in the interest of enforcing regulation. Manufacturers would probably nix your root access to cyberware for the same reason embedded device makers in the real world do: neglecting to do so would give you the power to circumvent regulation. If the government is willing to threaten you with prison time for jailbreaking into your smartphone’s root account, you don’t want to think about what megacorporations and twitchy cops would do if you popped a root shell on your cyberware.

We can skip past the rest of the chorus and the repeated opening, since this is classic revv up the crowd stuff.

Suits run when I come undone
Can't kill me, I'm zero and one!

“Suits” here obviously means any kind of soulless corporate. Johnny is also implying that his fans can hope to get the same reaction from other salaryman sellouts if they rise up en masse.

“Come undone” could have another shade of significance, too. Some cyberware unfolds to deploy tools, weapons, or extra appendages stowed within the chassis. In a way, then, someone with cyberware could literally “come undone” to train their weapon on an Arasaka grunt--Militech’s Mantis Blade would make a nice choice.

Add justice to the people's math
Blaze your way down the rebel path!

This checks out. Johnny is, after all, trying to foment rebellion against Night City’s corporate overlords. Coincidentally, a “path” is also the term for a location of a file on a system. There are definitely a few files on Arasaka’s hard drives that Johnny and his buddies are interested in.

Hear my call, I'm chippin' in
Total war, I'm chippin' in
Casings fall, I'm chippin' in
Kill them all!

When Johnny hits the line “Total war”, he is making quite a profound statement. Megacorporations in the 2020s typically conduct their most aggressive business with covert action. Think shell corporations, agents provocateurs, false flags, the works. They can field anything from dedicated black ops teams to gangs hired with laundered cash in service of their objectives.

Declaring “total war,” Johnny is tired of the cloak-and-dagger affair. He’s ready to take the fight right to Arasaka’s front door, hitting them on their home turf with frenzied rioters, trained commandos, and everything else Johnny and his crew can bring to bear. “All’s fair in love and war”, they say, and Arasaka left Johnny no choice but to go to war for love. Big mistake.


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