Setting and playstyle
1999 is a somewhat optimistic time, still a couple of years before 9/11 and the bursting of the dot-com bubble. We’re at the turn of the millennium, and the rapid advance in technology that happened in the past decade is making us all feel that in a few more years we’ll be living like The Jetsons. The Internet has reached the homes of regular people, but being a “Netizen” still feels like an identity, and the ability to connect with strangers from all over the world at a click of a button is creating a unique subculture.
Instant messaging services like ICQ, AIM, Yahoo! Messenger and MSN Messenger are at their peak popularity. One of their main functionalities is connecting you with random strangers who are currently online and up for a chat. Some of these conversations might develop into lasting friendships or even long-distance romantic relationships. The anonymity might let you explore aspects of yourself you didn’t dare to in real life, and getting a stranger’s perspective on your issues might help you on your personal journey.
You will be playing regular people seeking connection on the Internet; the tone is realistic, emotional and somewhat nostalgic. The main themes are friendship, connection, personal growth, coming-of-age, anonymity, vulnerability and optionally romance.
The main mode of play is one-on-one text conversations. You will see a list of characters currently online, displaying just the basic demographic information (e.g. “Ken/M/17/Australia”, “Isabelle/F/26/Belgium”, “~~FallenAngel~~/-/-/-”). Your character can contact any number of them; some of these chats might turn into ongoing correspondence spanning weeks, months or even years – you will communicate out of character how much time has passed between your conversations. Some of these connections might escalate to sending each other 640x480 photos over email, exchanging postcards over snail-mail, making international landline phone calls, or even flying to another country to meet in person (we'll represent all of these using Discord).
There will be two separate runs of the larp: a longer, pervasive run (4-11 September), and a shorter, compressed run (16 October, 15:00-18:00 BST).
The long version of the larp will be played over a week, but you definitely don’t need to be available 24/7 – because of the freeform, one-on-one structure you will be able to play the larp completely at your own pace. There are no specific times when you must be online; players will be allowed to start messaging each other anytime after 14:00 BST on Saturday 4 September, but it is perfectly possible to start later than that, and there will be an optional afterparty at 20:00 BST on Saturday 11 September. If you want to jump into the larp for just one or two evenings, that’s perfectly fine – you should still be able to get enough play.
The short version of the larp will be 3 hours long (15:00-18:00 BST) and played in fluid time, representing an arbitrary duration (weeks or months). The passage of time will be calibrated OOC separately for each conversation, and there will be prompts reminding you to skip ahead.
The characters are created entirely by the players. The players will be anonymous by default and there will be no pre-existing connections. However, there will be an out-of-character channel where you can request some specific play during the larp (e.g. “I would like a gay romance”).
A completely optional element of the larp is creating Geocities-style in-character websites. By default they will be represented by Discord text channels, but you’re welcome to create a 90s-style HTML website like this one if you’re inspired ;) There will be some ideas and resources for website creation included in the upcoming design document.
The larp's safety approach is to provide a brave space where participants feel supported and confident in exploring their emotions. We emphasise player agency: there will be a single safeword, "offgame", which can be used for all purposes. The characters are created by the players and may be used to explore a variety of difficult themes, but it will always be possible to opt out of playing on some topics. There will be no play on predatory behaviour (characters who are sex predators are not allowed).
The sign-up to the short run of the larp is currently open and will close at 23:59 BST on Saturday, 11 September. To sign up, fill out this form.