Nearing the end of Hypnospace Outlaw which is a rare, hilarious, heartfelt treat. (Also the first game to get me out of my post-Outer Wilds “I don’t know what to do with myself after this” funk.) The elevator pitch is basically “Geocities moderator simulator” and the level of detail that’s gone into rendering its fake circa-1999 internet is genuinely impressive. There are obviously a ton of great gags drawing on the era’s trends of obnoxious autoplaying MIDIs, garish page layouts, and ill-advised “hip” marketing attempts, but there’s a deeper authenticity to it that really connected with me.
It’s pretty easy to imagine a version of this game that’s snarky and cynical and trades exclusively in one-off “hey remember this thing?” jokes, which is honestly what I was expecting from it. I think the real magic of Hypnospace is that it goes deeper than surface-level parody and really gets at the lived experience of being on the Internet in the late 90s. Above all, the game’s focus is on people just being people - weird and messy and desperately wanting some kind of connection.
There’s an acutely heartbreaking awareness of the optimism people had back in the early days of the Internet, that this was something that was going to bring people closer together, and the way that clashed with the messy reality of it all. The game faithfully renders flame wars and petty forum beefs, and most tellingly, the corporate greed and mismanagement that ultimately doomed the whole thing. Definitely one of my favorites this year. If you’ve had it on your radar I highly recommend checking it out.