Subject: You should play Hypnospace Outlaw
Posted on: 2021-03-15 01:06:05 UTC

Hypnospace Outlaw is a game by Tendershoot (consisting of one Jay Tholan and whoever he's roped in this time), previously known for a point-and-click adventure game called Dropsy where you play a clown who wants to bring happiness and joy to a world that finds him freakish and terrifying. I think.

By contrast, Hypnospace Outlaw places you in the shoes of an Enforcer (read: community moderator) in an alternate-universe 1999 on the eponymous Hypnospace. As for what Hypnospace is... Imagine if there was a computer system where the only websites you could access were all on Geocities and you could only use it while you slept. And now imagine you've been asked to moderate Geocities and remove objectionable content.


If you're a 90s or early-2000s internet user, a lot of this will be familiar, or dare I say nostalgic. You will find sites and people who remind you of people you knew, or maybe even people you were. And all of them are brought to life by some astonishingly good writing. Every one of the dozens of Hypnospace users feels real and memorable, with their pages updating over time in response to events in their lives. This game has a truly monstrous amount of optional side-content that you never, ever, ever need look at, just to make it all feel real. The Hypnospace users have their own in-universe favorite bands, all with real songs to their name that you can listen to. There's competing underground EDM scenes, and burgeoning writers, underground hacker scenes, music piracy, users protesting site policy changes, fanpages for Not!Twin Peaks, surrealist hoaxes, psychics, radical christians espousing that not!Pokemon is the work of the devil... Yeah. And as an administrator, it's your job to police all of this. But doing the right thing can be difficult, or entirely above your paygrade: On your very first day, you're asked to take down copyright infringement on an old cartoon character... only to find that a bunch of the "copyright infringement" is a bunch of drawings done by first graders and put up by an elementary school teacher. Meanwhile there's an astonishing amount of harassment, spam, and other things that genuinely are causing problems but that the limited tools at your disposal make it impossible to report or handle. Instead, you'll be busy taking down an elderly lady's (relatively sketchy) primary source of income because she's using a payment system that doesn't run through your employer (and lets people transfer real money rather than the fake money with no real value outside of the network that you're being paid in...).

The above may indicate to you that Hypnospace Outlaw has a bit more going for it than just nostalgia. And it does. If that was the only thing worthwhile about the game, I wouldn't be discussing it (Broken Reality, another "internet simulator" game that's a bit more three dimensional (literally speaking) isn't getting the same nod because it's just a lazy rehash of meme culture and is fairly one-dimensional (figuratively speaking)). Gameplay-wise it's an excellent adventure-puzzle game, acting as a sort of "detective game" in the vein of Her Story: armed with naught but a site directory and an abysmal search function, you'll need to track down increasingly specific objectives in your quest to clean up Hypnospace (or at least appease your boss). But the excellent writing isn't just in the side and filler content, it extends to the central plotline as well. Hypnospace Outlaw, despite its retro feel, is a game from 2019, and it shows in its writing: this game is as much an sharp-tongued satire of modern tech startup culture as it is a tribute to an internet of yore. And it's also a lot more universal than that. For all of its silly memey antics, Hypnospace Outlaw is a classic tragedy: it's a story of greed, and pride, and hubris. It's a story about people who thought they were above the world, only to be brought crashing down by a fate they should have seen, had they only the foresight. And it's also a story about community. About a place that brought people together, if only for a few short years, in an ugly, messy, terrible and beautiful way that could never be replicated, and about the fact that no matter how it all ended up, that community and the works it created and the memories it birthed are ultimately worth preserving and remembering.

Hypnospace Outlaw is available on Steam, itch, and GOG for Mac, PC, and Linux computers, as well as on the Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and XBox One, for a humble asking price of $20 on each platform. All console versions are playable with a mouse and keyboard simply by plugging them into the console, and if you do purchase the game on a console I recommend playing this way: Hypnospace Outlaw simulates a 90s PC desktop, which isn't the most controller friendly of interfaces.

You can, of course, use this thread as a general plugs thread. Talk about neat games you've played, stuff you've read. I'm always eager to hear about neat stuff.

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