Skip to main content

Timothy Leary's 'Neuromancer' video game could have been incredible

Timothy Leary's 'Neuromancer' video game could have been incredible

Share this story

If you buy something from a Verge link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Author, researcher, and psychedelic pioneer Timothy Leary could have added another title to his name: creator of an amazing, incredibly weird take on William Gibson's Neuromancer showcased by Wired. Since acquiring Leary's archives in mid-2011, the New York Public Library has been uncovering and publishing details about Leary's work, including fragments of Leary's plans for scrapped computer games. In 1985, he helped develop and publish Mind Mirror, a psychoanalytic game that let players build and role-play personalities — Electronic Arts, which put out the title, reportedly sold 65,000 copies in the two years after release. But according to material that the library released to researchers last week, he also had far more ambitious plans.

Among the archives, NYPL discovered a handful of shots of Neuromancer: An Electronic Mind Movie, meant to be a tie-in video game for a film adaptation of the novel. If it had ever been developed, the game would have had an extraordinary pedigree: artist Keith Haring had signed on to contribute visuals and have his image used for protagonist Henry Case; Helmut Newton was supposed to provide photography, Devo would score the game, and William S. Burroughs — one of Gibson's influences — would contribute writing. Here's how Haring's work was described:

PSYBERSPACE imagery will use the work of KEITH HARING. Diki and Kevin will produce special-effects never seen on a computer screen. Since CYBERSPACE is INFO-SPACE, the spinning clusters of forms will swirl into data-symbols.

According to the NYPL, Neuromancer was one of three "mind movie" titles under consideration; Leary's studio Futique also listed adaptations of Herman Hesse's The Glass Bead Game and Blade Runner — though it's not totally clear whether it would have been based on Ridley Scott's movie or William S. Burroughs' entirely unrelated screenplay.

Unfortunately for Leary, the Neuromancer film never got off the ground, and neither did the game. What remains are a few screenshots and pieces of art, reproduced by Wired earlier today. The shot above shows then-Talking Heads front man David Byrne in an inexplicable circuit-based coat. Another captures singer Grace Jones as Case's partner Molly, and screenshots of the game itself show dialog trees with fragments of Gibson's original text.

The whole project was described as a kind of choose your own adventure novel, with four separate "tracks" in which completely separate actors would "play" the characters — Haring's Case and Jones' Molly would only have been two of several options, and they could have shown up as other people in different tracks. Each track would also have given the characters different personalities: a memo describes Case's girlfriend Linda Lee as a "lower-class-fun-girl" in one track and a "wise-cracking trollop with a PhD in cyber-psychology" in another. Unfortunately, not much more seems known about the project. But Leary was ultimately instrumental in getting another Neuromancer adaptation made, this one an adventure game developed by Interplay, scored by Devo, and published in 1988.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 15 minutes ago The tablet didn’t call that play by itself

E
Twitter
Emma Roth15 minutes ago
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.

Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.

During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.


E
Twitter
Emma RothTwo hours ago
Missing classic Mario?

One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.

Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.


Asian America learns how to hit back

The desperate, confused, righteous campaign to stop Asian hate

Esther Wang12:00 PM UTC
R
External Link
Russell BrandomTwo hours ago
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.

The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?


R
Youtube
Richard LawlerTwo hours ago
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.

Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.

Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.


E
External Link
Emma Roth4:13 PM UTC
Netflix’s gaming bet gets even bigger.

Even though fewer than one percent of Netflix subscribers have tried its mobile games, Netflix just opened up another studio in Finland after acquiring the Helsinki-based Next Games earlier this year.

The former vice president of Zynga Games, Marko Lastikka, will serve as the studio director. His track record includes working on SimCity BuildIt for EA and FarmVille 3.


A
External Link
Andrew J. Hawkins3:37 PM UTC
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes

Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.


J
James Vincent3:17 PM UTC
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.

And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.


Soviet Colonel who prevented 1983 nuclear response
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
J
The Verge
James Vincent3:03 PM UTC
Deepfakes were made for Disney.

You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.

Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans' nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.


E
External Link
Elizabeth Lopatto2:41 PM UTC
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.

“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.


R
The Verge
Richard Lawler2:09 PM UTC
Teen hacking suspect linked to GTA 6 leak and Uber security breach charged in London.

City of London police tweeted Saturday that the teenager arrested on suspicion of hacking has been charged with “two counts of breach of bail conditions and two counts of computer misuse.”

They haven’t confirmed any connection with the GTA 6 leak or Uber hack, but the details line up with those incidents, as well as a suspect arrested this spring for the Lapsus$ breaches.


R
The Verge
Richard Lawler1:00 PM UTC
Green light.

Good morning to everyone, except for the intern or whoever prevented us from seeing how Microsoft’s Surface held up to yet another violent NFL incident.

Today’s big event is the crash of a NASA spaceship this evening — on purpose. Mary Beth Griggs can explain.


D
David Pierce12:54 PM UTC
Thousands and thousands of reasons people love Android.

“Android fans, what are the primary reasons why you will never ever switch to an iPhone?” That question led to almost 30,000 comments so far, and was for a while the most popular thing on Reddit. It’s a totally fascinating peek into the platform wars, and I’ve spent way too much time reading through it. I also laughed hard at “I can turn my text bubbles to any color I like.”