Johnny Mnemonic Nethunt (creative direction)

Johnny Mnemonic Nethunt (creative direction)

Sony New Technologies wanted to generate advance excitement about the May, 1995 release of the Sony Pictures Entertainment movie “Johnny Mnemonic” (written by William Gibson, author of the acclaimed short story and the “father” of cyberpunk) and related products (the movie soundtrack, licensed merchandise, and the Johnny Mnemonic CD-ROM game).

1995

Participants:

AnnD Canavan: Project Management
Nathan Shedroff: Creative Direction, Information and Interaction Design, Production
Zachary Smith: Game Design, Programming
Henri Poole: Executive Producer
Drue Miller: Writing
Eric Forste: Programming
Doron Gartner: Programming
Steve de Brun: Visual Design, Production

To attract the Internet audience (which has traditionally been a stronghold of science fiction and cyberpunk fans), vivid developed an online game that launched several weeks prior to the movie’s release. The two-week long scavenger hunt sent players on a trek across the Net as they sought out the answers to daily clues. The final heat pitted the top 100 players against each other in a timed race through the LA Grid, a high-end rendering of cyberspace filled with puzzles and obstacles.

vivid also developed a threaded discussion area for players to meet each other and exchange information and commentary about the contest and the movie. This area (named “The Drome” after the bar in the story) proved to be one of the most popular features of the net.hunt because it allowed players a voice and a way to intereact with each other. Much of the temporary community that evolved during the game revolved around this discussion area. It was here that players ranted and raved about the game itself, encouraged each other, traded clues and help, scammed an cheated each other, “outed” the scammers and cheaters, and kept up an ongoing dialogue.

One of the novel interactions was a simulation of the Artificial Intelligence character in the movie that contacts the main character (Johnny) in mysterious ways and seems to know things about him that nobody should. We recreated this experience for some players by researching their profiles and finding out information about them that they may not have shared via the profile forms. This allowed us to create personalized email messages, sent from a source claiming to be an Artificial Intelligence an possessing a phony, but apparently accurate, swiss domain. These messages were highly cryptic and personal and often included references to their physical surroundings and personal lives (as inthe movie).

One of the measures of this site’s success was the amount of content that players created themselves. Several players built an communicated via IRC (Internet Relay Chat) channels, built their own web pages about the game, and played pranks on other players. This activity showed that they were engaged at such a high level that they extended the experience for themselves and others using their own time and resources.

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