My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

You should watch Haphead

Recently one of the vloggers I follow, Nicole Coenen, tweeted about a video series she’s in. It’s called Haphead, and it’s an 8-part miniseries set in 2025 about young people, video games, and the pace of change.

I’m a science fiction fan (big surprise, that), so I was immediately intrigued. I started watching the first episode … and I was hooked. As in, it has been a while since a TV show has so effortlessly drawn me into its world and made me want to watch more. I watched the next two episodes immediately afterwards, and I would have watched the remaining four (there are six released as of this post), except I had to go to work. From the opening shot of Maxine, her father, and the security guard standing on the train platform, to the music and the dialogue, Haphead is a really nicely put-together series.

It’s filmed in Ontario! And it’s set in Ontario, with lots of neat little references throughout.

The trailer above gives you a taste of what the series is about. Maxine and her friends get a below-minimum-wage job helping to produce haptic feedback cables, which let people interface with video games and receive direct physical feedback. They steal a cable and use it to start training in fighting simulations, joining the growing community of “hapheads” who use these still-unreleased cables to build muscle memory. But not everyone thinks hapheads are just another harmless group of enthusiasts….

Meanwhile, Maxine and her father’s normally good relationship becomes more tense. He isn’t happy she took a job he thinks is beneath her skill set. She isn’t happy he is worrying about her so much, or that he’s considering compromising and taking a “suit” position in an effort to help her quit this job. You get a sense that, in this Ontario of 2025, the gap between rich and poor has continued to grow. People without much in the way of connections or influence find themselves taking less-than-savoury jobs because they need to pay the bills. And despite almost everyone having access to cheap and powerful technology, like phones, people have less and less opportunity for luxury or self-expression.

Haphead’s portrayal of technological change is particularly nuanced, because it’s layered upon the drama of Maxine’s life. This is science fiction at is greatest: when the technology isn’t the foreground but merely a vehicle for exploring how change affects human relationships. Maxine’s flirtation with the haphead subculture is a subtle aggravator of her relationship with her father, which eventually has direct and tragic consequences that devastate her (and, by extension, the sympathetic audience like myself). The series has some very pointed things to say about the potential for something like a direct interface with a video game, but it never allows itself to get carried away with technobabble, instead keeping the story and the characters front and centre.

Check out the trailer above, and if you like it, watch the first few episodes! I have already purchased the series as a full-length feature, partly because I want to see the ending as soon as possible … but also because I want another season!

Update: February 28. Finished watching the entire series as a feature last night. I liked the twist and how we get to see a little more of this world of 2025, but I’m also intrigued to see where they go with the haphead scene now that Maxine is on a divergent trajectory from her friends. So yeah … season two, plz? Just tell me where to put my money.