The old web-hosting service is now the inspiration for an upcoming adventure game called Hypnospace Outlaw. It takes place in an alternate reality where the internet — known as the Hypnospace — has evolved around archaic but deeply personal web pages. You play as a lowly internet janitor moderator person who has volunteered to patrol the platform in exchange for a virtual currency known as Hypno Coin. It can only be spent, however, on upgrades for your clunky Hypno OS computer.
Throughout the game, you’ll receive automated messages about Hypnospace “violations.” You’re then tasked with finding the pages and corresponding users that are breaking the company’s rules. Each investigation is a unique text-based puzzle. The process and solutions, of course, are a mystery for now. In an interview, developer Jay Tholen hinted that page tags and a search engine will play a crucial role, however. “There are other weird ways to solve the puzzles,” he said, “but I don’t want to spoil the conceits of those.”
The allure of the game, though, is undoubtedly its nostalgia-fueled aesthetic. Each page is littered with low-resolution GIFs and fonts that make Comic Sans look sophisticated. Many websites also have music that auto-play in the background, reflecting the tastes and personality of the page owner. You can customize the operating system with different themes and icon layouts. There’s also a desktop helper similar to the iconic Clippy and Merlin Office Assistants. “I just felt like we needed it!” Tholen said. “This [game] wouldn’t be the same without a weird desktop assistant hanging around.”
“It’s always fun to feel like you’re on someone else’s weird computer.”
If you want to take a break from internet sleuthing, you can care for a Tamagotchi-style pet on your desktop. You’ll have to pet, feed and dispose of its poop that clogs up your screen as dedicated icons, however. “If too much poop is hanging around, they’ll get sick and die,” Tholen said. “And then you’ll have a gravestone that you can’t remove from your desktop.” It’s a clear throwback to the Windows 95 and 98 era of personal computing. There’s a ghostly trail, for instance, that follows your cursor around the screen, and a bunch of weird software you can download from legally dubious sources.
“It’s always fun to feel like you’re on someone else’s weird computer,” Tholen said. “The games I’ve played that let you do that… even if it’s a little clunky, there’s something strange, nice and interesting about just poking around someone else’s system. Hopefully, that transfers [with Hypnospace Outlaw].”