Lost Memories Dot Net

Dig out the plastic wristbands, suede boots and baggy jeans, and prepare to be transported back to 2004 with Manchester International Festival’s first game commission, Lost Memories Dot Net.

The game invites you to step into the digital life of middle-schooler, Nina. It’s a world based on the experiences of the game’s creator, Nina Freeman, populated by pastel colours, anime art, school crushes and budding web design skills.

The action itself takes place between an easily accessible and undeniably cute drag and drop webpage builder and chatroom of Nina’s friends.

As a great deal of the narrative takes place within a chatroom, the dialogue is paramount. Inevitably it is full of LOLs, OMGs and emoticons. But unlike more stereotypical depictions of net-speak as inane, Freeman’s writing offers realism and a sense of deeper feelings frequently masked by shorthand.

Despite being based on formative experiences in 2004 and referencing pop culture like anime series, games and fan-listing sites, Lost Memories Dot Net is more than a mere millennial nostalgia trip.

Freeman doesn’t shy away from serious themes like parental relationship problems, loneliness and online harassment, which are peppered through Nina’s interactions, while the mechanic of only allowing limited pre-written responses puts the player in a position of limited control, mirroring that of a young person in uncertain situations.

This aesthetically cute game provides an accessible, entertaining and intimate view of young digital life in the early-2000s, and suggests a bright future for Manchester International Festival gaming commissions.

Beth Dawson

The game was written by Nina Freeman in collaboration with Aaron Freedman.