Hypnospace Outlaw is an alternate-reality Internet simulator set in 1999. It captures that half-remembered, vaguely sinister strangeness and freedom of the early Internet uncannily well. Fittingly, it is extremely bizarre.
If you spent your youth as an explorer of the early Internet, clicking around weird Geocities fansites and painstakingly creating your own wallpapers in MS Paint, then this game will awaken a lot of dormant memories. This is an alternate-reality version of the Internet that people browse whilst they’re asleep.
You are a Hypnospace enforcer, whose job it is to keep the Internet free of criminals. Naturally, you can’t do that without spending hours drifting though bizarre websites and downloading sketchy EXE files.
Hypnospace Outlaw was originally funded through Kickstarter in 2016 and has only now re-emerged, newly signed by Descenders publisher No More Robots. It’s being developed by Jay Tholen of Tendershoot, who released the subtly grotesque adventure game Dropsy the Clown in 2015.
This isn’t the early Internet as Jay recalls it, but more as he dreamed it. “I was ‘into’ computers and the Internet long before my family owned one,” he explains. “The bizarre cyber-utopianism that pervaded the era fascinated me: all those 3D information superhighways and ads with people literally surfing around on circuit boards.
While there was definitely a bit of disappointment that the Internet didn’t live up to all of those fantastic depictions, it still enthralled me. There was something about not really understanding the boundaries of these systems that made them still feel exciting to explore.
“I had a page through Homestead, a Geocities competitor, called ‘The Dragon’s Lair’ featuring 100% original MS Paint UI graphics. It banged.”
Hypnospace Outlaw will be out this year. You can sign up for the beta by visiting the official Discord server – which, bafflingly, is itself a recreation of the 90s internet that you can add to yourself with your own web page. This rabbit hole goes DEEP.