Why should you play Shadowrun 1e?
The root of my undying love for first edition Shadowrun is that it is too good to be left behind. Second edition isn’t simply a “1e but fixed”, it’s also fundamentally changed in a few places. Comparing 1e to later editions generally, nobody will ever convince me that a 300 page book is somehow a streamlined version of a 200 page book. Meanwhile, plenty of people make almost all of 1e work to great effect (frag you, vehicle combat rules). My nostalgia is happy sticking up for the underdog edition.
But besides that, some other reasons I’m on this weird hill:
There’s a “less is more” effect in play: 1e puts greater emphasis on the heist, or on being a detective, or whatever’s your flavor of underbelly RP, and it adds that emphasis by having fewer rules (and sometimes simpler rules).
Every player has a chance to shine in their unique way because at the same time the rules are diverse and thus bent toward emphasizing play style. There is no same-y-ness between magician, decker, muscle, and detective play styles, nor is there any of that pesky streamlining to narrow down the number of viable play styles per role. This is a game for going as far off the beaten path with a character concept as you could want and still be viable as a shadowrunner, all in barely 200 pages.
Variable staging numbers on weapon damage represent important parts of the simulation and were a key part of characterizing weapons. Higher staging numbers mean a character must be skillful in order to do extra damage, and that the target had better stay out of the field of attack. Lower staging numbers mean you could accidentally decapitate yourself with the weapon, but it’s reasonably easy to deflect with a little skill. That’s a lot to lose in the name of streamlining and so I still don’t know what they thought they were going to gain by removing variable staging from the game.
The classic priority system and other parts of character generation all dictate that the player must get creative. Harsh constraints just have that effect, and 1e’s character build rules are both generous and difficult to overcome.
1e is the most basic system. If something isn’t covered in the rules you do some kind of Test and move on with the game. It’s more personal, tactile, that way.
By keeping the simulation a little simpler, 1e’s rulebook is smaller and looks more approachable. The game requires patching and house ruling, and the GM must take extensive notes, but I like that. The structure of the book’s information needed a lot of work, and sometimes I’m thankful for a clarification from 2e or 3e, or for something introduced in the 2e equipment chapter; but I find that a physically thicker, larger book is intimidating to new players, and more expensive as a ticket price, and that’s before you count the extra cost of time getting familiar.