Hypnospace Outlaw Is A Nostalgic Journey To A Time When The Internet Totally Failed

There was a time long ago when the internet wasn’t always available. It was something you “kept on” rather than the current constant background radiation. It was an event. An event. If you were born in the 1980s, you’ve almost certainly started to romanticize the superior internet of the 2000s, when it felt more like a cool underground club full of creative weirdos than an all-consuming hell. it underpins everything we think, say and do. I think of warez, Napster, forums, Winamp skins and MSN Messenger warnings about how previous generations would win with Glenn Miller, singalongs around the piano and Lindy Hop nostalgia, and it’s only going to get worse. as you get older.


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Hypnospace Outlaw is a trip back in time, albeit through the funhouse mirror of an alternate future. It’s 1999 though else 1999. A world where people go to bed, put on a high-tech headband, and are transported to a fictional immersive internet called Hypnospace during their sleep. But this isn’t a 3D virtual world: it’s the internet as you remember it at the turn of the millennium, viewed through a browser, with websites, hyperlinks, animated gifs and auto-playing midi files. In other words, for someone my age pleasure. GeoCities is a joyous simulation of the pre-algorithmic web inspired by digital imagination, expression, idiosyncrasy and lavish design.

For many, GeoCities, a free web hosting service run by Yahoo, was the first time anyone could create their own locations on the web. Whether it’s a Buffy fan community, a virtual shrine to Freddie Prinze Jr., or a site dedicated to close-ups of Mulder’s ears from The X-Files (surprisingly, I didn’t make that up), GeoCities has allowed you to take the contents of your brain, however niche, and you post them on the internet for all to see. You didn’t even need any web design skills, resulting in a chaotic aesthetic that Hypnospace Outlaw both perfectly observes and lovingly respects. Companies like GeoCities, Tripod, and Angelfire have democratized the internet, and this game is a celebration of that.

There is an entire internet out there with hundreds of pages to explore. Like GeoCities, pages exist in zones that reflect the personalities of the people who actually live there. Teentopia is the home of obnoxious posts about tough edgy teens, nu metal, attention seekers, and other people in society. (Which was my actual internet experience in the early to mid-2000s, by the way.) The Open Eye zone is where hippies, spiritualists, new age healers, and conspiracy theorists hang out. Goodtime Valley, meanwhile, is more conservative, with its motto: “We remember the way things were is used to be.” It’s a perfect, but multilingual, facsimile of the Internet in 1999.

Today, websites all look basically the same because there should be standard spaces for placing ads. The page you’re reading this article on probably looks the same as dozens of other websites you’ve visited today. This is what happens when you dictate what a website should look like, not a human with an idea of ​​algorithm-driven capitalism. It’s not our fault or any other website’s fault – it’s just the way the internet works now. But when the internet was young and innocent, there were no such worries. Hypnospace Outlaw brilliantly captures this aspect of the Old Internet as well, its pages bursting with wild color palettes, intrusive animated gifs, deliciously obnoxious fonts and repetitive background music.

I must point out that this is more than just a retro internet simulator: it’s also a great game. You play as an enforcer hired by Merchantsoft, the operator of Hypnospace, to find and destroy “passionate” content. Whether it’s copyright infringement, violence, harassment, or malware sharing, it’s your job to save the internet from it by giving it a satisfying whack with a little pixelated judge’s gavel. But then he realizes that you’re actually a docile tool of an invasive, censored, and controlling corporation, which makes you question the nature of your career and takes the story in some interesting directions. Having an entire fake internet to browse through is really just a bonus.

Hypnospace Outlaw is a journey back to the days before the internet was a wasteland of targeted ads, privacy invasions and rage-inducing algorithms. Well, the internet wasn’t perfect in 1999 either, but I chose not to focus on all the bad things about it. That’s nostalgia. Rose-colored glasses? I’m wearing rose-tinted ski goggles, baby. The word “nostalgia” itself comes from the Greek word nostosmeans to return home and algosmeaning pain. That’s what it feels like to slap on that headband and be whisked away to the sleepy digital wonderland of Hypnospace. A wistful, dreamy trip down memory lane, but also a painful reminder that the internet will never be the same again.

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