This is a continuation of “Why I Miss the Early Internet: Part 1”.
What can we do to revive the experimental attitude that prevailed in the nineties internet? We can do is form our own community of web experimenters who draw upon the nineties internet for inspiration. There are artists today who leverage our nostalgia for the nineties internet and create experimental games and other media which bring back that sense of wonder and mystery that used to be all over the internet. Artists who capture magical moments where you stumble upon something that resonates with you completely unexpectedly, like an explorer in the wilderness. My personal favorite artist who makes work like this is Nathalie Lawhead.
You can find most of her work, which has been described both as art and as experimental games, at her itch.io page. Much of Nathalie’s work draws on the psychedelic, strange, and surprising aspects of the early internet. Her color palette is bright and minimalist, her characters cartoonish and bizarre. In some of her work, like “Everything is going to be OK,” Nathalie evokes the feeling of an nineties desktop computer display, with the low resolution application icons and abstract background.
As you click on each application you are presented with little vignettes that are very personal to Nathalie’s life. The nineties internet aesthetic fits the subject matter perfectly, because it is fragmented, sometimes difficult to understand, and demands the full attention of the user. It is both mysterious and fascinating, and rewards users who take the time to explore the interface for hidden secrets, taking on the explorer mentality I mentioned earlier.
I don’t want to describe Nathalie’s work in too much detail because she does it better herself than I ever could, and she has plenty of content describing her work, both on her blog and on youtube. If you have any interest at all in making experimental games or interactive experiences, I highly recommend checking out her stuff.
Hopefully by now it makes sense why learning about the early internet is not just for historians and nerds. Artists like Nathalie and others draw upon the nostalgia and use it to create fantastic experiences that are both unique and compelling. I hope this article motivates people to explore more digital content that draws upon old internet tropes.
If you’re interested in creating your own net art or experimental games and looking for some additional resources, check out my follow up article.