The internet was a very different place in 2004. Many young people now won't have experienced the days of AOL chatrooms and dial up internet, but this was game designer Nina Freeman's experience when she was 14. So, drawing on her personal story and memories, she was commissioned by Manchester International Festival to create a game around this experience.
Lost Memories Dot Net allows users to remember, or indeed experience, the world of a 14 year old girl on the internet in 2004, chatting to strangers who become friends and making websites about the things she loves. It sparks some really interesting ideas about how we interact with people in relationships, both online and real life, and how we use the internet itself.
Things have changed massively since 2004 and Nina is acutely aware of this, talking about how she likes to focus on specific moments as vignettes. But, in fact, much of this has affected a whole generation of internet users. It sparks a wider discussion about how we did and still do deal with identity online. Now, our profiles, particularly on Facebook, represent who we are in reality. They act as an extension of our real-life selves, even if through a 'filter'.
Laura Kate Dale describes this as a 'chronicle of identity'. However, in 2004, the nature of the internet and the way we used it made it a very different world and people had an entirely different online reality and the generation of girls like Nina who experienced the internet in this way compartmentalised these worlds.
However, these boundaries didn't stop people from connecting. Both Nina and Laura Kate Dale agree that, within the anonymity, is the potential to feel more comfortable expressing yourself and opening up to people. This is something Nina clearly enjoys exploring in her work as she has represented different types of relationships, with varying success rates, across a number of games with similar themes. It was refreshing to hear the experience talked about so frankly and positively amidst all of the horror stories about the dangers of the Internet - although maybe it would have been more well-rounded if the two panelists had directly confronted issues of safety online.
Interestingly, the experience that Nina is drawing on is a specifically female one. She talks about a phenomenon of girls, in particular, engaging in this way online. When most conversations about young people and technology revolve around male dominated spheres, it was welcome to hear a female game designer speaking to a female gaming critic about the experiences of girls online. Moreover, that these were positive experiences and not concerns over safety was even more welcoming.
- Nina's game Lost Memories Dot Net is available to play on the MIF Website, where you can view this and other previous talks.
- You can also see the final two events: We Need to Talk About Truth and We Need to Talk About Change at the Albert Hall on Saturday 15 July.
- Image courtesy of the MIF/We Need to Talk About Technology website.