Jeff Pack, Brown University '99 (English 112, 1996)

In 1987 (if my memory serves me), Interplay released a computer game based on William Gibson's cyberpunk novel Neuromancer, complete with advertising heralding the novel's upcoming appearance on the movie screen and a soundtrack including an original song from the proto-cyberpunk group Devo. (I never figured out if the beeps coming out of my Apple II were written by Devo or not.)

Unlike Telarium's adaptation of Fahrenheit 451, Neuromancer did not attempt to create a sequel to the novel, but instead rewrote Case's story. In the case (no pun intended) of the computer game, the hero (who can go by any name, but appears as a blocky black-haired guy in a blue jumpsuit) wakes up in Ratz's bar with a hangover and a tab. From there, he goes to the local pawn shop to pick up his deck, and then hits the matrix, only leaving occasionally to do a little "social engineering". Conversations in Neuromancer occurred by the player choosing from among various lines of dialogue (which were either lifted directly from the novel or just approximate Gibson's style), but had the drawback of restarting every time the player entered the room (in real life, it takes more than leaving and reentering a room to make someone forget about being angry at you). Neuromancer, like Wasteland, also included skills: in this game, they were implemented through "chips" (apparently, the hero is able to just pop as many microchips as he likes into his cerebrum with no side effects).

The matrix in Interplay's version also leaves a lot to be desired. It's a dead place, even more so than in Gibson's novel: there is no interaction between nodes in the net. Once the hero has penetrated the ICE of a given node, he or she is presented with a menu of choices similar to a very low-complexity BBS. It's hackerdom for people who want WarGames rather than UNIX.

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