Lost Memories Dot Net, created by Nina Freeman in collaboration with Aaron Freedman, is the Manchester International Festival's first game commission. Lost Memories Dot Net is a role playing online or desktop game where the audience is asked to play as a young teenage Nina who loves anime, creating websites and chatting online with friends.
You enter the site and can log in to one of three dates: 6 April 2004, 15 April 2004 and 29 April 2004. Once you enter, you are hit with a basic and unfinished blog created by our young Nina.
There are a couple of posts on the first date describing what the blog is about and Nina being sick. At this early point, I already feel there is a lot of text with few instructions.
This particular page does allow us to slightly edit the blog by adding a background and images. However, we are given very few options from a selection of images on the left hand side of the website.
The website has a very basic style fitting in with the aesthetic limitations of the early 2000s. What is striking is the comparison to what we can achieve online nowadays with sites such as Tumblr on which anyone can easily create a blog with myriad custom options.
I quickly grew uninterested in editing the blog down to the limited interactivity. It felt very much as everything was set in stone as to what we as the audience can access and, in a game, which it fundamentally was, the audience should be able to play more.
It is only after a while a message pops up from our friend, Kayla, on a separate tab. Tabs were not widely used - certainly not in browsers used by teenagers - at this period. Regardless, this is when the exciting roleplaying aspect to the game fully begins and we talk as Nina. Throughout the game and the three days we talk to three main characters, friends Kayla and Amy, and Jared, the boy on who both Amy and Nina have a crush on.
The narrative changes quite quickly between the three characters on an IM chat room. We cover themes that any teenager can relate to such as relationships, confidence issues and trying to become independent.
It made me feel very nostalgic towards my teenage years and when I would get home from school and sit at a computer for hours talking to my friends on MSN rather than doing homework. But, again, I very quickly grew tired of just tab surfing between conversations that were set up for me. I could easily, and more avidly, have read this as a story. There really was not a game sentiment to this piece particularly.
It felt bland and confusing. It completed the task of exploring playing a role as I did understand what Nina was like as a teenager and could relate to her. However, I felt there was no simple gaming. The artistic possibilities were only really shown in separate tabs but were not really highlighted and could easily be missed.
It was hard to engage with the initial intention of learning about a young Nina Freeman. However, seen as this was described as a game and not a story for me and, as such, there was a need for more audience engagement. It was easy to get distracted from Freeman's intention, which could've been pulled off better in a first person fiction format.