By Leigh Alexander on September 3rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm.
[I've been doing a series of Let's Play videos exploring old adventures, text games and lost design forms from the 1980s Apple IIe and Commodore 64 era. In a time when young men shout over new action games, I will talk softly over strange old ones. Come along on a visitation of a different era that's one part meditations on my childhood, one part adventure game criticism, and one part preservation effort. Bonus: Everyone says the quiet talk, lo-fi handmade feel and keyboard tapping triggers ASMR responses. Please enjoy!]
Interplay’s 1988 Neuromancer game is only very loosely based on the William Gibson novel of the same name. As it turns out, legendary acid psychologist Timothy Leary was the one who originally wanted to make a game about the book — he thought escaping into computer games might be the next psychedelic frontier.
The soundtrack is based on a Devo song, so at least go have a look at the title screen if you can. It’s tough for me to manage narration and in-game sound through the same mic (some of you may remember the infamous Bugle Incident from the very early Dallas Quest video), so I usually don’t bother with sound. These videos are supposed to feel like hanging out at your friend’s in the summer, taking turns at the keys, playing over someone else’s shoulder, and as such I’m against audio polish and things.
This video also breaks my rule, a little bit, of avoiding games that were popular. Certainly there are better and more thorough Neuromancer Let’s Plays out there. But this week I didn’t really know what else to do. It’s been a hard time for many of us at work, and I’ve been coping by getting a few days off, getting a nice whisky (M&S’ very own single malt is very good, peaty) and slipping gently into a sort of liminal space populated by modern sci-fi and 1990s memoirs. You know, the kind of zone where I can almost remember why I got into this field in the first place — where I can remember the magic of imaginary spaces and the actual desire to connect with strangers online. A cyberpunk world seems to fit the bill this week.
When you’re done, you really should also check out the video Chris Person made over at Kotaku about Timothy Leary’s aims for the video game world. Games and computers as a magical, spiritual space — can you even imagine that right now? Can you remember?
The entire Lo-Fi Let’s Play series is available and regularly updated at my YouTube channel if you’d like to subscribe, but my friends at RPS are graciously syndicating them here from now on, with some additional written analysis and commentary.