The following paper will be presented on the Literature & Religion After 1900 panel at the 46th Annual Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA), spring 2015.
“Game Your Way To Enlightenment: Timothy Leary’s Mind Mirror and the New Mysticism of Self-Discovery”
In 1984, counter cultural icon Timothy Leary began developing narrative-based video games (RPG’s, Personality Tests, etc.) that were intended to lead the player to new plateaus of self-discovery, spiritual awareness, and enlightenment. Now housed in the archives of the New York Public Library, Leary’s videogames serve as an access point into two intertwined politico-cultural movements: the technologization of society, on the one hand, and the secularization of mystical experience, on the other.
This paper examines both movements through the game play of Leary’s most fully formed game, Mind Mirror. In what is now an odd precursor to online personality tests (i.e. HumanMetrics, the Myers Briggs Test, etc.), Leary’s game presents the player with a series of questions that compel her to reflect on her innermost desires and personal goals. In so many words, the game functions as a spiritual intervention in the player’s everyday life as new technologies allow the player to gaze into unknown parts of her own mind. The novelty of Leary’s game is manifest: new technologies conflate the personal with the spiritual as the player authors his own self-discovery. Mind Mirror therefore offers a contemporary look into the digital production of the post-secular condition.