The Neuromancer Game Tim Leary Wanted to Make, with Art by Keith Haring, Music by DEVO, starring David Byrne #cyberpunk

It might be hard for younger readers to realize how hard Dr. Timothy Leary–Harvard psychologist turned 60s acid guru and cultural provocateur–fell for computers, cyberspace, and cyberpunk. in the early 90s, he amended his famous “tune in, turn on, drop out,” to “turn on, boot up, jack in.”

Leary became a patron saint of “cyberdelic” culture (think: acid hippies meet cyberpunk), a fixture in Mondo 2000 magazine, and a darling of the raging rave scene. Like many of us, Leary drank the networked silicon Kool Aid, believing that computers and the Internet would greatly accelerate human intelligence and learning, democratize media, and create a new type of benevolent global brain.

Leary developed a number of games and computer-based psychology tools in the last decade of his life (he died in 1996). One of them, Mind Mirror, a psychological self-improvement “game” based on his early work in interpersonal inventories, was even something of a hit for Electronic Arts (I still have my copy!). Mind Mirror allowed you to role-play and game out various aspects of personality to see yourself and the psychological games you play from different viewpoints — holding up a mirror to your mind.

But the most interesting computer project Leary initiated but that never finished was his take on Gibson’s Neuromancer. The game was to have artwork by Keith Haring, music by DEVO, and characters and voicings by David Byrne and Grace Jones.

While Leary’s version of Neuromancer never came to fruition, Interplay released their take on it for the Amiga in 1989. Most of Leary’s original plans were scuttled, but Interplay’s version did include the DEVO theme song, “Some Things Never Change.”

Read more about Leary and his computer game projects in this piece on Open Culture.

You can read my entire history of cyberpunk series to date here.


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