This cyberpunk RPG claims it teaches real hacking skills but I can't get past the clown makeup

Cyberpunk person with silly makeup
(Image credit: Haiku, Inc.)

Forget play-to-earn, how about some play-to-learn? World of Haiku is an educational cyberpunk RPG that says it'll teach you the real-world skills needed to become a cybersecurity professional. As you learn coding and hacking while playing, World of Haiku says you can add your new skills to sites like LinkedIn and— 

I'm sorry, hold on one second. Just what in the hell is going on in the official launch trailer? 

And why does it prominently feature a cyberclown?

If World of Haiku wants to teach me real cybersecurity skills then it unfortunately fumbled the ball three seconds into its own launch trailer. It opens with a cyberpunk cityscape and a flying car, which is a good futuristic start. Then a man dressed as a cyberclown steps into frame and I completely forget that I'm supposed to be learning about a game that's supposed to be about learning. All I can think is: clown.

The cyberclown has a cape and a vaguely theatrical collar, which could imply the future but could just as easily imply clown attire. The real distraction is his makeup, which I think is supposed to be a cool skull-shape painted on his face in neon blue? And while I can sorta see what they were going for, it looks like a first attempt you would quickly wipe off before trying again. But… they just kinda stuck with it. I honestly think if they'd leaned in a bit more and actually gave him a big round nose like a circus clown he'd look less silly than he does. It could blink, maybe. That would be futuristic.

Anyway, we're only four seconds into the trailer at this point, which is a bad sign because I've watched those four seconds about 10 times. The caped cyberclown pretends to poke buttons on his arm where there do not actually appear to be any buttons and says "Transmitting new intel." A bunch of floating computer screens pop up on both sides of him, and the actor glances toward where I guess they told him the screens would be even though they're not, with the ultimate effect being that he doesn't seem to be looking at the screens at all. Also, if he's the one transmitting new intel, why is he the one examining the new intel? Did he transmit it to himself? If so, why announce it? Also, and I can't stress this enough, why is he a clown?

Then he looks into the camera, at me, a man who has now rewound this entrance and watched it at least five or six more times already in the past two minutes. "A worldwide nuclear event is imminent," Commander Cyberclown tells me. "You must stop the launch."

It sounds serious and I would love to take it seriously. If a worldwide nuclear event is imminent, someone must stop the launch, and as the potential person who is going to play World of Haiku that someone is probably me. And look, I promise I'll do everything I can to stop the launch because I am definitely opposed to imminent worldwide nuclear events but first I need a few questions answered about the giant blue circle painted on your face.

(Image credit: Haiku, Inc.)

I force myself to stop rewinding the intro and watch the rest. The trailer continues in a café, where a woman logs into World of Haiku and takes on the avatar of a mid-tier cosplayer for "a gamified cyberpunk experience that provides aspiring cybersecurity professionals with fast affordable training for a rewarding cybersecurity career." Some villains appear and everyone starts typing on virtual screens. I am reluctantly starting to learn about the game again but Corporal Cyberclown abruptly teleports into the café and I literally say out loud, "Yay!" 

Corporal Cyberclown nods encouragingly to the avatar, and there's more air-typing on floating screens as Team Clown and Team Evil fight over… I've already forgotten. Something was imminent but I'm just too distracted to remember. He has blue lines on his arms, too, and tubes going into the back of his head. I only have more questions now.

(Image credit: Haiku, Inc.)

I want to be perfectly clear about this: I'm not making any judgments about World of Haiku the game. It says it teaches real life cybersecurity skills and as far as I know, or don't know, that is true, or it's not true, or maybe it's partially true. I have no idea. I have not looked into it for even a second. I have done no research and I definitely haven't played the game. 

All I've done is sit here watching the launch trailer 14 times in a row because seeing Corporal Cyberclown delights and puzzles me. And I don't have to stop, because there are actually a bunch of trailers. Let's watch all of them!

For instance, I just learned Corporal Cyberclown's in-game name is, disappointingly, Gungnir. He's a Cybermancer, and he has his very own character trailer where he does a little air-cybering on floaty screens and then flexes to music. Then the music sort of fades out leaving an awkward 10 seconds of silence while he holds his pose. I'm not bashing him: the dude is jacked and if I looked even remotely like that I would be flexing at every available opportunity. It's just weird to stand there in complete silence with straining muscles while nothing is happening. The music eventually remembers, oh yeah, we're in the middle of a character reveal trailer, and sheepishly kicks back in.

Thankfully I get some backstory from his trailer. His real name is Dr. Omen Parks, a name I absolutely accept. He and his daughter (Rafé Rose Pathfinder: excellent) created new cyber security technologies which are named Phoenix Scanner, Data Dragon, Tiger Key, Turtle Shield, and Serpent OS. That's some anime-sounding shit, and while I don't even watch anime I highly approve.

(Image credit: Haiku, Inc.)

I also learn that Dr. Omen "Gungnir" "Cyberclown" Parks operates at "Purity Level 5." I don't know what that means but I immediately believe it. If there's a clown from the future who invented the Turtle Shield and named his daughter Rafé Rose Pathfinder, I can't imagine him operating on a Purity Level lower of four or lower. No chance.

I think I'm going to do it. I think I'm going to play World of Haiku! I'm not really interested in developing real-life cybersecurity skills, but the idea of adding "Learned to hack from a Cyberclown" to my LinkedIn is too tempting to pass up. Once I watch the trailer a few more times, that is.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.