Timothy Leary Plans a Neuromancer Video Game, with Art by Keith Haring, Music by Devo & Cameos by David Byrne

Few sci­ence fic­tion nov­els have res­onat­ed as strong­ly with pop­u­lar cul­ture as William Gibson’s Neu­ro­mancer (1984). The book, where­in the first trick­les of Inter­net cul­ture coa­lesced into the grit­ty film noir world so dear to read­ers of Philip K. Dick, became one of the sem­i­nal reads of the 1980s. The cyber­punk genre was born.

Since its appear­ance, Gibson’s work has con­tin­u­ous­ly echoed in pop­u­lar cul­ture. While movies have tried to dis­till his impend­ing, tech-filled dystopi­anism, the most appro­pri­ate, if not the most strik­ing trib­utes, have come in the form of video games. From 1993’s Shad­owrun, to the somber mix of con­spir­a­cy and tech­nol­o­gy of the Deus Ex tril­o­gy, video games were inher­ent­ly suit­ed to the visu­al por­tray­al of cyber­punk. The most ambi­tious of these was spear­head­ed by one of counterculture’s most promi­nent pro­po­nents: Dr. Tim­o­thy Leary.

Leary is best known as the psy­chol­o­gist who cham­pi­oned LSD and psilo­cy­bin use, engag­ing in metic­u­lous research—both per­son­al and professional—of their effects. By the 1980s, the same Leary who had pop­u­lar­ized the phrase “turn on, tune in, drop out” was now pros­e­ly­tiz­ing com­put­er use with the phrase “turn on, boot up, jack in.” To those who doubt­ed his about-face, Leary declared, “the PC is the LSD of the 1990s.”

byrne video game

In addi­tion to hav­ing cre­at­ed sev­er­al tran­scen­den­tal com­put­er games of his own design (a ver­sion of Mind Mir­ror, where play­ers improve their per­son­al­i­ties, sold 65,000 copies under Elec­tron­ic Arts, and is avail­able on Face­book), Leary had plans to build a for­mi­da­ble ver­sion of Neu­ro­mancer. As you can see in this clip, he was an ardent Gib­son fan; not sur­pris­ing, con­sid­er­ing the self-bet­ter­ment that emerged from the fusion of tech­nol­o­gy and human­i­ty in Gibson’s work.

haring diskIn the clip above, the New York Pub­lic Library’s Don­ald Men­ner­ich dis­cuss­es his archival work on Leary’s unfin­ished game, which was recent­ly unearthed by Leary’s estate. Although he had made lit­tle head­way, Leary had a grandiose design for his “mind movie:” Devo would han­dle the music, Kei­th Har­ing would take care of the visu­als, and Hel­mut New­ton would include his pho­tog­ra­phy. Two char­ac­ters were based on Grace Jones and David Byrne. The sto­ry was to be writ­ten by Leary, along­side William S. Bur­roughs.

While Leary’s Neu­ro­mancer failed to mate­ri­al­ize, a ver­sion of the game was lat­er made by Inter­play. Although most of the big names had dropped off the ros­ter, Devo’s “Some Things Nev­er Change” was still used as the theme. And, while Leary’s oeu­vre lies in the archives, the game­play from Interplay’s ver­sion, seen here, is still good for a hit of ‘80s nos­tal­gia.

Via Kotaku

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Oper­ate Your Brain: A User Man­u­al by Tim­o­thy Leary (1993)

Free Philip K. Dick: Down­load 13 Great Sci­ence Fic­tion Sto­ries

Run Vin­tage Video Games (From Pac-Man to E.T.) and Soft­ware in Your Web Brows­er, Thanks to Archive.org

Beyond Tim­o­thy Leary: 2002 Film Revis­its His­to­ry of LSD

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