That’s the world Toronto writer Jim Munroe created in Haphead, an eight-part, 'neo-noir' web video series that’s rolling out online over the next couple of months.
So why is a Toronto writer creating a dystopian version of his city’s sometimes-maligned neighbour? “Hamilton has had this history as a factory town – it seemed vulnerable to those kinds of political backroom deals,” Munroe told CBC Hamilton.
Haphead’s story centres around Maxine, a young woman who is working in a Hamilton factory building a new breed of video game system that is so immersive that players actually feel what happens in the game and develop real martial arts skills based on how they play. Maxine steals one of the prototypes and predictably, things go south, fast.
Though it’s only airing online in eight to 12 minute shorts, the show is well produced and professional looking, thanks to $175,000 worth of grants and Kickstarter backing.
Munroe says he could have set the near-future story in a purely fictional location, but felt it was important have a sense of “specificity,” and play off the real cultural underpinnings within southern Ontario.
Hamilton has long had a chip on its shoulder about its relationship with Canada’s largest city, and Munroe says he was cognizant of that as he was writing the city’s leaders as more or less morally bankrupt.
“One of the reasons I felt OK about it was because Hamilton is on the way up at the moment,” he said, mentioning the city’s art scene and friends of his moving to the area.
“And it’s not like we painted a picture of Toronto as a boom town, either.”
The city’s place as a “special economic zone” is another take on an issue that’s grounded in reality – just less so in Canada. These zones can be found in the world today in different countries like China, India and Russia.
“There’s a tendency to look at that as something that would never happen here,” Munroe says. “But I don’t believe it’s as far fetched in the future as you would think.”
The first two episodes of Haphead have already been posted online, with the third coming Thursday.
You can watch them on Haphead.com.