William Gibson famously wrote: “The sky was the colour of television tuned to one of those relaxation channels where it just broadcasts footage of the real sky, which is grey.” Thus he paved the way for cyberpunk. And, in turn, the creation of Localhost [itch.io page], a game where you’re employed as a menial repairman in an automated world. You’ve been asked to scrub clean some hard drives housing artificial intelligences. But of course, the AIs think that’s a bit drastic when you plug them in.
It’s by Aether Interactive (aka Sophia Park and Penelope Evans), the creators of Arc Symphony, which is a great game-about-a-game-that-never-actually-existed.
Localhost actually came out whole weeks ago. But due to Gamescom these tortured intelligences have been languishing on my PC’s spinning disc-o-mem the whole time, waiting for their chance to awaken. I’ve dipped in for the first few minutes today and it’s a bit like those Alien scenes when the gang boot up mangled androids to talk to them, only this time there’s just one messed-up body and four minds. One of them is an AI whose last memory is experiencing 9556 error messages in a single moment, another says it’s human – a cancer patient who’s been uploaded and saved. Your boss wants you to delete them all.
This boss also chats to you, via messages on your vibrating phone. She describes the AI’s chat to you as nothing but an elaborate self-preservation technique. “Did you know,” she texts, “when babies smile, it’s just so you feel protective of them?” Bosses are evil.
I’ll spoil no more. I enjoyed their previous game, Arc Symphony, an interactive fiction about an obscure and unseen JRPG, and its posse of fans who congregate on unofficial message boards. It’s a tale about nostalgia, rather than an attempt to harvest it. Corrupted computer systems and neglected games seems to be their cuppa, Forgotten was also about a busted old DOS game called Forgotten Blade, in which all the NPCs are fermenting in their own decaying code.
Localhost is five dollar bills on Itch.io, and takes about 45 minutes to an hour.