Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
There’s a moment in Digital: A Love Story [official site] when your (in-game) computer starts to crackle. Lines of pixels run across your screen and obscure your view. You’re under attack! Your attacker has manipulated a vulnerability in your system. But… didn’t you upgrade? Didn’t you patch this very vulnerability? Why hasn’t the upgrade been applied? That’s when you realise there’s a simple solution to your hacker problem: turning it off and on again.
I like to think of Digital as a compact, personal Uplink. Shorter and sweeter and much less frantic. You spend less time cracking passwords and more time simply catching up with BBS boards. One personal message about a new TV series called ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’, complains that “this bald guy is just terrible”. There’s a warmth to all this petty electronic crime. Behind the usernames, you begin to feel the presence of the people who inhabit these early forums.
Peppered with cyberpunk references, some great chiptune, and that deliciously crunchy 56k modem noise, it astutely replicates both the community and ass-hattery of any anonymous internet space. Observations about stupidity, rabid opinion-forming and the murmurings of mob mentality appear alongside messages of kindness, friendship and understanding. Between the PMs of “FUCK YOU” and “whatever man your stupid” there are plenty of users willing to teach, talk and get to know each other. It is rare that niche cyberpunk games veer into such gentle territory. Thankfully, Digital: A Love Story has the bravery to match conspiracy and mystery with a genuine and innocent romance story. I’m glad it’s out there.
Digital: A Love Story is available for free from the author's site.