Amiga analogue, and Bulletin Board System (BBS) communications represented in the game, Digital: A Love Story. Since I wasn't, few of the game's techie in-jokes and references stick. However, since Digital places you in a sort of 1988 simulation mode, the unfamiliarity lent itself to a more personally authentic experience.
You begin Digital as a someone who's using, for all intents and purposes, the Internet for the first time, but through the very limited lens of the Amie Workbench. Visually, the game is the computer screen: everything fits the blue/white/orange color scheme, the monitor has heavy scanlines, and the cursor is a big, fat, red arrow. You receive a message from a friend of your dad that tells you what to do to get on BBSes and chatting with folks. Where instructions in a game can often remove you from the experience, here everything is presented in proper context and actually reads like messages real people would send. Because the connection between using a computer to play and the game virtualizing a specific operating system is so direct, very little suspension of disbelief is needed to jump into the narrative.
NPC fare. You never actually type any messages, instead simply hitting reply and reading contacts' responses. This string of communication works best when you're in "conversation" with one or two other people and the back and forth is readily apparent. At other times you'll just callously reply or send PMs to everyone on your list, making sure you're doing everything necessary to trigger the text that will allow you to progress further in the story. The introduction to *Emilia follows the better of those two paths, and though it's clear that I was just messaging a fictional character as part of an interactive short story, I did develop an attachment to that character; enough of an attachment to drive the mystery plot forward with a degree of urgency.
The writing in Digital is very consistent, believable, and emotionally affecting. Digital's designer and author, Christine Love, bills herself as a writer first, and it shows. That's meant as a compliment to her writing skills, not a knock on her game design abilities. Truly well written games are few and far between, but even fewer are as dependent on quality writing as Digital. Characters' messages vary in articulation and sophistication, as you'd expect from a bunch of random people on the Internet. I'm reminded of Gus Van Sant's teenager-starring Paranoid Park for how real its characters felt despite, or perhaps because of, the amateur statuses of its actors. Love is likewise able to find a tone that is reflective of the production process, and somehow more authentic in doing so.
The feeling of openness makes for an ideal learning space, which goes as much for the in-game world as the one outside of it. Digital teaches you about BBSes and early Internet history through message texts, but in allowing you to actually dial the numbers and direct message other users, you learn by doing. The mystery/love story paces you through the learning process, heightening the meaning behind your actions. Later on, the Internet "history lesson" takes some sensationalist turns, but it makes for a great moment of culmination when you finally gain access to the fabled University BBS where they don't just have direct messages, they have email! A story that's willing to go a little over the top is helpful to make up for the potential dryness of a game centered around an archaic computer interface. The online communications depicted in Digital remain the foundation that our modern Internet is built upon, reminding us of the vast expanses available to users at increasing speeds and densities. It's up to us to make the stories real.
Digital: A Love Story is available to download for free here.