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Video Game / Hypnospace Outlaw

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Greetings, Enforcer!

Witness the dawning of a new world, where sleeptime is no longer downtime. It's where the future is built. A future built by you. Hypnospace.

Hypnospace Outlaw is an internet simulation Adventure Game developed by Jay Tholen & Mike Lasch and published by No More Robots. It was fully funded via Kickstarter in October 2016, and was released in March 2019 on Steam and August 2020 on Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, and XBox One. August 2020 additionally saw the release of Hypnospace Plus, a free update to the game that adds new pages, music, chances for customization, interactive content and more, which came automatically with console releases.

Welcome to the internet of your dreams — literally! Hypnospace is an online service created by Merchantsoft, from the most advanced technology The '90s have to offer, that allows you to surf the net in your sleep. With the cutting edge Hypnospace Explorer web browser and your trusty HypnOS headband, you can explore a vast variety of websites and user pages for everything from classic cartoons to your favorite flavors of ice cream. Just strap on the headband, lay back, and drift off into a brave new world of the digital era.


Of course, every new form of technology is bound to have growing pains... and Hypnospace is no different. Sites filled with copyright infringing content, harassment and trolling, and sketchy virus-laden programs abound. That is where you come in: as a Merchantsoft-employed Hypnospace Enforcer, it is your duty to police the service for content that violates the rules, remove offending content, and if need be, flag sites for multiple/serious infractions and shut them down entirely. Your diligent efforts will be rewarded with Hypnocoins, the premier (and only!) currency of this brand new online community which can be spent on everything from music and wallpapers to virtual pets. So plug in, doze off, log on, and get to work!

On April 2022, the creators announced a sequel to Hypnospace Outlaw titled Dreamsettler, which puts you in the shoes of a Sleepnet private detective during an alternate history period of 2003-2005. At the same time, they announced a spin-off game called Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer, a Doom-like FPS game created by Zane (one of the characters from Hypnospace Outlaw, now 37 years old) based on ideas from when he was a teenager.



  • 20 Minutes into the Past: The game was released in 2019 and is initially set in 1999. Meanwhile, Dreamsetter was released in 2022 and is set from 2003 to 2005.
  • 100% Completion: Completing the Hypnospace Archival Project, which requires viewing every version of every page on Hypnospace, including Easter eggs hidden behind obscure search words like "socialism". The reward for finding all of them is some special pages made by the developers, and a Super Search that checks against page text and developer notes, instead of just Hypnospace Tags like the basic search.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Quite a few in quick succession. Notably, the game is so non-linear that you can stumble on a few of these as early as the first act just by being perceptive and clever.
    • allseeing3y3, which reveals otherwise-unclickable links made by Tim or m1nx members.
    • Access to FLIST, essentially letting you view the private file collections of Hypnospace users who also have access. Aside from a bunch of new music, you can get the Professor Helper uninstaller for free, and get allseeing3y3 without figuring out the secret to opening encrypted files, as well as...
    • HypnOS Dreamtoolz, re3koning_inc's personal debug/site-hacking toolkit reverse-engineered and improved from Merchantsoft's own. Using it isn't strictly necessary, but it allows you to download songs directly from the pages that they play over (the only way to collect quite a few tracks), get as much Hypnocoin as you want, and make your virtual pet significantly less irritating by letting you set their health and happiness values to “infinite” and reducing how often they poop.
    • In the present-day final act, the Hypnospace Archival Project upgrades your browser with a tool that lets you switch between the three eras of Hypnospace you had access to (plus the HAP's intranet) on the fly, as part of your new job to back-up all of Hypnospace. Not long after, Samantha contacts you with a request to find evidence of Merchantsoft's involvement with the Mindcrash, and sends you another browser extension: a sixth rule on your CHIME bar that submits potential evidence directly to her.
  • 419 Scam: Subverted. At first, you get Hypnomail from one Dimitry S Jackson, about him looking for donations to help him and a wealthy individual fund an expedition to find a hidden treasure. You can choose to fund this or ignore it. After the final timeskip, you find that he was not actually trying to scam you, but that he's gone missing. One quest involves helping catalog his last known location, which he posted the coordinates to on Hypnospace before leaving on his expedition. Thanks to your donation, he could have become Lost at Sea or could have been involved in a Sinking Ship Scenario. Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!
  • Affectionate Parody: Of late '90s Internet culture, specifically sites like GeoCities and Angelfire. Emphasis on the "affectionate" part, since it's clear from the intense care and detail put into the structure of Hypnospace that the creators really admired this time of the internet.
  • All for Nothing:
    • Abby eventually succeeds in keeping Gumshoe Gooper on Hypnospace after Merchantsoft tried to follow the Briggs estate's copyright demands. Unfortunately, she doesn't follow the new policies, which requires asking for permission to use Gumshoe Gooper imagery, letting you take down her images again. This is also before the Mindcrash event that renders Hypnospace abandoned.
    • By New Year's, Merchantsoft takes great lengths to improve after several PR disasters. There are more advertising partners on Hypnospace, several of the zones are getting overhauled to better fit the users, and there's a new update to the operating system. Things seem to be looking up, but then Dylan's uploading of his game eventually leads to the Mindcrash, which takes the lives of some of the userbase and injures several more. The industry of sleeptime computing collapses, all headbands are recalled, and Merchantsoft shuts down.
  • Alternate History:
    • Aside from the conceit of a web service that can be accessed while asleep through a Brain/Computer Interface, technology in general seems a little further along in this universe compared to the equivalent tech of our 1990s. The actual Hypnospace browser is much more fluid than real-life Internet browsers of the time, and download times are practically instant. Additionally, screenshots seen of the Game Boy-alike "GameChamp Portable" appear to be around the same level of quality as the Game Boy Advance or even the Playstation Portable rather than the contemporaneous Game Boy Color.
    • The President of the United States since 1992 has been a "President Hughes", rather than Bill Clinton.
    • Of all things, the sport of tennis was unfairly exploited in its infancy and eventually turned into "trennis," which involves a circular court with three players and a "ball-catcher" in the center. The game of tennis that we know is relegated to a page in the conspiracy-theory zone by someone who claims to be the descendant of the man who really invented the two-player, rectangular-court tennis. Additionally, reading the Sports section of the online newspaper shows that a very different set of teams and cities represent the Hypnospace universe's version of the NFL.
  • The Alternet: Hypnospace itself, a parallel internet accessed in one's sleep. The game itself alludes to other Hypnospace competitors, as well as other software used while awake.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Virtual currency, elaborate website animation and audio, and strict moderation of content weren't common in the late nineties. It's further implied that there is an automatic moderator feature in place for certain CHIME violations, something that wouldn't be implemented until the rise of social media.
    • The indirect Shout-Out to JoJo's Bizarre Adventure is a mild anachronism, as while the series had been around since 1987, it was largely unknown outside of Japan besides a few early '90s OVAs and a 1998 fighting game. An American teenager in 1999 knowing about it would be implausible, but not impossible. Hypnospace taking place in an alternate universe also throws a wrench into things.
  • Ancient Conspiracy: HORUS seems like it could be this, but is really a bunch of bored executives playing practical jokes.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: While there's enough hints to solving cases scattered throughout Hypnospace, there is also a secret page designed by Jay Tholen himself which, for a small fee, gives out both partial and complete solutions to most puzzles in the game. This is accessed by searching for the keyword "Hint"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Dylan's note to Rodney comments on how disgusting he found his family.
    Dylan: (Rodney's family) disgusted me. They smelled like body odor. Their clothes were stained, stretched out, and dirty. They wore flip-flops.
  • Artistic License: Even with the glitchy, low-resolution aesthetic, Hypnospace is a lot more fluid and dynamic than the real-world internet of the time.
  • Asshole Victim: ThatBrassyKid's longer suspension and labeling as a "loner" to be moderated harder, compared to Zane's slap on the wrist, seems unfair. Then you check his and his (now ex-)girlfriend's page, and it's clear he's harassing and being an overall "Nice Guy"note  and creep towards another teenager, to the point of dumping his existing and supportive girlfriend to chase her.
  • AstroTurf:
    • Dylan mentions on m1nx that despite having a whole board dedicated to it, the Coolpunk movement boiled down to "a few kids being weird online." Though not directly stated, it's implied that Gray's Peak and Merchantsoft were attempting to make it a much bigger deal than it really was.
    • In an inversion of this trope, Counselor Ronnie is an official Merchantsoft page that's being controlled by m1nx, a group of unofficial pranksters. Because of Merchantsoft's incredibly hands-off moderation, they've essentially taken the job for real.
  • Bad Boss: Adrian and Dylan Merchant are the two opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to Bad Bosses Of An Emerging Tech Company. Adrian Merchant is far too hands-off, only thinking about how he can make the most profit from the invention, and being removed at best and downright callous at worst towards how it is used by the everyday users who made it a success. Dylan Merchant is far too hands-on, having a dangerously-high emotional investment in the success of his invention, while neglecting the social and ethical responsibilities that come with his power and status because he still thinks of himself as "one of the boys".
  • Bathos: BurnRubber50's tribute page to his late wife, Lisa. It's pretty sad, but that doesn't change the fact that Carl Parker speaks in all-caps and portrays the relationship between him and his wife with a gif of a skeleton biker. And this is all while loud electric guitar-laden music plays in the background.
  • Becoming the Mask: "Counselor Ronnie" started as a m1nx prank to see just how crappy they could make his content before Merchantsoft noticed. However, since Merchantsoft showed little interest in moderating Teentopia themselves (despite it being a zone for vulnerable children), the person playing Ronnie ends up doing the job themselves for real.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: If you aren't dealing with T1MAGEDDON's destructive malice, you're dealing with Dylan Merchant's even more destructive incompetence. Most of the major problems you encounter in Hypnospace are the doing of one or the other. After Tim's Heel–Face Turn, Dylan takes center stage as a singular Big Bad — he may only be a buffoon trying to cover his own hide, but he's still the true antagonist for the final chapter.
  • Big Good: Samantha and Re3koning_inc, in different ways. Samantha motivates the player to find and expose the Merchant brothers' crimes. Re3koning_inc already did most of the heavy lifting for the player in regards to actually finding evidence to convict the Merchants, spying their chatlogs and done enough digging to compile a list of solid evidence. Most of the endgame revolves around finding a way into Re3koning_inc's hacker group m1nx, using the allseeing3y3 program to uncover their hidden messages, and using those to find the two sets of files they uploaded showing that Hypnospace is unsafe, and that the brothers knew about this.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • Adrian and Dylan Merchant's culpability in the Mindcrash is exposed, exonerating Tim who was framed for the incident... though after Tim spent six years in prison and lived with nearly two decades of guilt.
    • Though Hypnospace (and by extension, the user-driven Internet of old) is long-gone, its legacy will live on in the hands of dedicated archivists and people who carry on its ideals.
  • Blatant Lies: The jingle for "Granny Cream's Hot Butter Ice Cream" claims that the product is "very tasty and healthy too."
  • Bold Inflation: A variant; the case list puts key phrases in ALL CAPS, making it seem like an automated form. It's later revealed that Samantha writes them manually, and she complains about it: "I wish we didn't have to do this IMPORTANT THINGS IN CAPS thing because it's a pain to keep it consistent." She ditches it in the final act when she uses the case system to collect evidence of Merchantsoft's crimes.
  • Bowdlerise: Hypnospace Plus changes Corey's animation of Zane being decapitated into an animation of him getting his teeth punched out instead. According to Jay Tholen, this was originally a one-off change he made for his young cousin, but he liked the new animation enough to make it a permanent change, as he felt it was more in-character for Corey.
  • Brain/Computer Interface: The Hypnospace headband allows a computer to interface with the user's brain while asleep. The mechanism turns out to be lasers stimulating parts of the brain, which has a side effect of keeping the user in REM sleep for longer, hurting their health.
  • Brown Note: The Mindcrash has this effect, sometimes with lethal results.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Most of Merchansoft's staff is like this, but Artie Dispenza, Merchantsoft's resident visual design guy, takes the cake. Let's just say he isn't a New-Age Retro Hippie just on paper.
  • Calvinball: Trennis appears to be basically a bastardization of tennis, to the point there's a page describing how badly the latter got mangled.
  • Call a Smeerp a "Rabbit": As explained in Hypnospace Central, even though HypnOS runs through a Brain/Computer Interface, it's set up like a standard desktop computer for ease of use, so terminology like "type" and "click" is used even though that's not technically how it works in-universe. There are some rare cases where more accurate terms are used, such as the default profile text reading "Focus here to add a description".
  • The Cameo:
    • The initial ad for HypnOS you get before the tutorial has a shot containing a plush of Dropsy the Clown. One of the food items you can buy for your virtual pet is the medicinal cake pill...thing that plays an important role in his game.
    • Dave Pino plays the massive guitar solo buried in "Ready to Shave".
    • SteveGuy, who has a bizarre page full of mouth sound effects and pictures of his face photoshopped onto rocks, is played in both likeness and voice by Neil Cicierega.
    • The "HoloAngel" sparklehaze track on Slushmouth's guide was written by Niklas Åkerblad of Hotline Miami fame.
    • Half-handed Cloud, who composed "Nativity Costume" (the original song "Millennium Anthem" is based upon), also wrote the songs for Future Recycler in Hypnospace Plus.
  • Caustic Critic:
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Tamara Frost, the relatively unimportant spoken word poet/musician who you could go the entire game without glancing at the Hypnospace page of. After the Y2K Mindcrash incident, she becomes a famous author and the main financial backer of the Hypnospace Archival Project.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: In-universe. After Counselor Ronnie's T-Nubs page gets taken down for misinformation, his "Snub the Nub" rap is altered to remove any references to the Fantastic Drug, becoming a generic anti-drug rap. The dubbed-in takes are (purposefully) done very poorly and inconsistently.
  • Coincidental Dodge: Later on in the game, you have the optional choice to permanently ban Zane and Carl for repeat violations. Doing so will cause them to survive the Mindcrash, which kills them if they're still logged in. Empty Nest Sandy starts the game as the favorite for the new community leader of Goodtime Valley; after becoming disillusioned with Hypnospace due to their reactions to the Gumshoe Gooper takedowns and Beefbrain, she opts to not renew her subscription, likely sparing her from the Mindcrash.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Zane proudly displays the Medal of Dishonor the Dumpster gives him.
  • Computer Virus: Much like in the real world's internet, Hypnospace has programs that can interfere with the normal function of your in-game computer. Browse carefully!
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Hypnospace does not lack for them, and they come in varying levels of coherence. A few are Properly Paranoid, while others are m1nx hackers playing pranks.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Adrian and Dylan cross over from Pointy-Haired Boss to this in the leaked ChitChat logs. They commission a report on the health effects of Hypnospace, but keep the results a secret when they find out it's actually potentially dangerous.
  • The Cracker:
    • T1MAGEDDON (a.k.a. Tim), a misanthropic teenager desperately trying to impress a girl with his hacking skills. He's got limits, with viruses intended to annoy rather than destroy, but he's still a constant thorn in your side; a number of your missions are cleaning up his handiwork. In the Distant Finale, he's much nicer.
    • The members of the local hacker group m1nx are much smarter, more capable, and more subtle than T1MAGEDDON, though their leader briefly considers letting him join. Among other pranks, they have convinced users to put an annoying song on their pages to prevent their headbands from exploding, singlehandedly made and spread the Beefbrain hoax, and created Teentopia's community leader. They also have their limits, as shown when re3koning_inc uses what little time remains between the Year 2000 update and the Outlaw release to desperately spread the word that the headbands actually are dangerous, going so far as to post in what is probably an administrators-only zone and link to evidence. Unfortunately, the evidence is very quickly removed by other Hypnospace enforcers (or Dylan Merchant himself) and the page is a mess of CHIME-violation messages by the time you can access it. Tim's “Mindcrash” takeover provides a perfect scapegoat for when something does go horribly wrong.
  • Crapsaccharine World: Welcome to Hypnospace, the bold new frontier of the internet with pastel-colored websites, virtual pets, music for every genre imaginable, trolls and other jerkasses, meddling from big companies, malware, internal corruption, and gross mismanagement which ends up killing people.
  • Creepypasta: Parodied with a small group that make “scaries,” CYOA-style sites which often include creepypasta-esque plots. They're mostly teen-rated, of course, but Tim's are a bit more disturbing, and serve to foreshadow both the True Tranquility and Mindcrash viruses he makes.
  • Cruel Mercy: Zane and Carl can be prevented from dying in the Mindcrash, but only if they haven't been banned from Hypnospace. Knowing this in advance and still not banning them ends up being this trope on part of the player.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Conversely, Zane and Carl can be saved from the Mindcrash if the player does get them banned from Hypnospace.
  • Cyberspace: Hypnospace is a version of the internet that is accessed while dreaming.
  • Death of a Child: Zane and Tiffany, who are teenagers, are victims of the Mindcrash. Zane's death can potentially be averted, but Tiffany inevitably dies.
  • Decon-Recon Switch: At first, Hypnospace appears to be a mocking parody of the late '90s internet, both in design and user behavior. Over the course of the game, it becomes a passionate tribute to the creative power and freedom of the late '90s internet, celebrating its creativity and the individuality of every user.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Subtle, but Hypnospace has the same general values of real-world 1999. When T1MAGEDDON breaks into Zane's page, his idea of comedy is to make the page of a macho Jerkass into a crude Camp Gay stereotype, while actual LGBT users generally avoid explicitly stating their sexuality in favor of the "hs_lifestyles" tag, whose meaning is obvious to the modern reader with its rainbow coloring but avoids directly stating anything. The use of the word "lifestyles" in the tag's name additionally invokes the common misconception at the time that being LGBT+ is a choice.
    • You can choose to take a demographic survey for Hypnospace, which comically only has one correct answer for each question. This includes gender and income; saying you're female or poor will immediately disqualify you from the survey.
  • Demonization: "The SquisherZ Deception" is a webpage run by a fundamentalist Christian who uses very strained logic to try and prove that SquisherZ is part of a demonic conspiracy, parodying the fundamentalist backlash towards Pokémon in its early years.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • If certain citizens get flagged enough times, they'll be temporarily banned from Hypnospace. In some instances, this requires going out of your way to mark violations that wouldn't be obvious at first glance. Doing so can potentially save two victims of the Mindcrash, Zane and/or Carl, by forcibly disconnecting them before the accident; this will cause the live-action news segment to announce a different number of deaths, and omit them from the ending obituaries.
    • In the initial launch version of the game, you can strike the pirated music on Dylan's FLST as soon as the game begins, skipping directly to Act 3. Attempt the same in Hypnospace Plus, and you'll find the skip has been removed; Dylan's FLST only contains some "amusing viruses". If you strike them, you'll receive a bemused email in response. If you have not gotten a link to the pre-beta Outlaw game in a previous email, he will send you an email for that game after his viruses are struck down.
  • Different World, Different Movies: Linda's Horror Page describes some horror movies that exist in the world of Hypnospace, but not ours: Wax Children 2: The Rebirth (an apparent Surprisingly Improved Sequel invoked to Wax Children), Harold for Dinner (a Bloody Hilarious comedy/horror), The Spooky Crayons (a lost '70s Halloween cartoon), Blender (a gory cooking film featuring a haunted blender), and Niteclub (a film that's described as both horrifying and strangely beautiful).
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: One of your duties as a Hypnospace Enforcer is to enforce intellectual property laws, which can range from taking down illegally uploaded files to removing cartoons drawn by first-graders posted on their teacher's web page. However, if nobody's actively requesting a takedown, Merchantsoft quietly condones piracy on their file-sharing FLST. Dylan Merchant even participates... which gets awkward when that takedown notice does come. Out-of-universe, the game subtly encourages you to partake in piracy, since it's the only way to collect a lot of music and other content that it has to offer.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Two examples:
    • allseeing3y3 can be accessed as early as the first act by downloading it from the Halloween pack in Terry's General Store, though this requires knowing how to decrypt it and HypnoCure to get rid of the virus that comes with it. In turn, this means you can find re3koning_inc's island in the second act as soon as the Freelands become available, unlocking easy downloads of HypnoCure Pro and HypnOS Dreamtoolz, normally a discovery meant to be made in the endgame.
    • There is a page probably by T1MAGEDDON that will sell you his FLST password for 99 HypnoCoins on the first day. This is the only way to get into FLST on the first night of the game since the clue to cracking some weak passwords is not present until the second night. However, it is SamWich encrypted, forcing you to find a way to decrypt it. The price rises to 199 HypnoCoins on the second night of the game, probably to try to encourage you to find another way to crack someone's weak FLST password.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: When solving a case about music piracy you find the culprit is Dylan Merchant himself. Reporting him causes him to send you a furious email and use his admin status to ban your account for no valid reason.
  • Distant Finale: The last portion of the game is an archival project in the Present Day, with the in-universe clock and calendar displaying the actual date and time on your computer.
  • Downloadable Content: August 2020 saw the release of Hypnospace Plus, a free update that also came automatically with console releases. It adds extra pages, games, cosmetics, tracks and more.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: During the tutorial segment, the instructor's audio has been abruptly re-recorded at several points, likely to accommodate for changes to the system that were made after the original recording. The voice you hear is in fact Roddy Wall, one of the developers at Merchantsoft, but you won't know this until you hear that same voice in relation to his "Trial of the Axxelerator" hints. The video rants added in Plus are also by him, poorly disguising his identity.
  • Easter Egg:
    • The operating system will gradually get slower and slower if you use it for long periods of time, and will eventually crash due to running out of memory. The speed will be restored by performing a reboot by either quitting the game or clicking the reboot button.
    • Hypii gives a special message if your Hypnocoin balance is exactly 420 or 69.
    • After Dylan sends you the Outlaw version 0.85 download link that ends act 1, you can go back to that link during acts 2 and 3 to download version 0.94 and version 0.99, respectively. Doing this is completely optional, but a good way to earn Hypnocoin.
    • There's plenty of secret pages made by the backers and Discord users. All of them are way sillier than the vanilla Hypnospace pages, but none of them are important to the plot.
    • The Eye of Horus is hidden all throughout Hypnospace, and even shows up for a single frame in the SquisherZ rap video. One of the endgame goals is to find out its purpose, and it turns out that it's just a game to sneak occult symbols into unsuspecting locations.
  • Everyone Is Satan in Hell: invoked SquisherZ are accused of being "satanic" by the website Lookout Ministries, referencing similar real-life accusations against Pokémon. Their arguments amount to "some SquisherZ look like wolves and snakes, which are used to represent evil in the Bible" and "some SquisherZ have eyes and stars on their designs, which are occult symbols."
  • Expy:
    • Merchantsoft, the company behind Hypnospace, is a reference to Microsoft. They even are both abbreviated as "MS". The present day sequence implies that Merchantsoft, or its successor, becomes a mix between Twitter and Apple. Dylan signs his emails with "@Dylan" (in the manner of Twitter's "@jack") followed by "sent from my D-Phone".
    • NetSettler, the non-sleeptime web browser Merchantsoft developed and based Hypnospace upon, references Netscape Navigator, which popularized the concept of web browsers in the real world.
  • Fantastic Drug: T-Nubs, a suppository said to be taken primarily by teenagers that can cause rashes when used for weeks at a time. It's a fake one, of course, since the one who divulges this information is Counselor Ronnie, mostly to cause a stir among Hypnospace's adults.
  • Fan-Work Ban: In-universe. The very first mission you are given is to take down any unauthorized images of the character Gumshoe Gooper, as enforced by the estate of its creator. This can potentially include pencil drawings by first-grade children that their teacher uploaded to her page... which snowballs into a counter-movement claiming that the ban is a Communist scheme.
  • Fictional Video Game: Multiple, though the one given the most prominence is SquisherZ, a Pokémon parody centered around collecting and initiating conversations between alien slime-creatures to make them feel safe enough to come with you.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Merchantsoft's chief visual designer discusses the various inspirations and themes behind the HypnOS logo. One of these is rapid eye movement, the first (and least-restful) stage of the sleep cycle. It turns out the HypnOS headbands, in order to interface with the users' brains, keep the users in REM sleep for almost the entire night which means they aren't getting enough proper rest.
    • Many, many Hypnospace users complain of or otherwise discuss feeling sleepy or restless after a night of Hypnospace browsing, with a few going so far as to say that they occasionally wake up with migraines.
    • One of m1nx's more recent pranks on Hypnospace is "Beefbrain," a hoax medical report claiming that the service's headband technology essentially microwaves your brain. Sandy in Goodtime Valley also offhandedly mentions an earlier prank in which the group convinced several people that their headbands would explode if they didn't set some annoying song to auto-play on their pages. On their private message board, there is a general feeling of genuine distrust and unease towards the Hypnospace technology, and at one point re3koning_inc half-sarcastically tells Dylan to stop pushing out untested builds of Outlaw before one of them makes their headband explode. Naturally, their skepticism regarding both the tech (the headbands in particular) and Dylan's reckless obsession with finishing Outlaw is completely justified on New Year's Eve.
    • On her personal page, DarkTwilightTiff briefly mentions that she has epilepsy. While she hasn't had a seizure in years, her disorder probably didn't react well to the Mindcrash...
    • On the bottom of the Drug Runners page, a piece of text scrolls by. It's too fast to read normally, but if you take a screenshot or time your button presses just right, you can read what it says: m1nx, hinting at Counselor Ronnie being linked to m1nx.
    • The only request Chelsea submits to the HAP is that you research the H.O.R.U.S group responsible for hiding the Eye of Horus all over Hypnospace. It turns out to be a Red Herring, but it serves as an early indicator that she's digging into the secrets of Hypnospace with a definite purpose in mind. She specifically mentions Adrian Merchant as a reason for making the request, to boot.
  • Forgiveness: A major theme of the game is forgiveness, for the mistakes that other people make and for the mistakes you have made yourself. This is most emphasized by the Hypnospace Patrol Department itself: it's needlessly cruel and oppressive without any room for compassion. Several pages on Hypnospace, such as the Peacelands in Coolpunk Paradise, espouse the ideals of forgiving others and being forgiven. At the end of the game, Tim has forgiven himself for believing he caused the Mindcrash, and when Dylan is cornered as the actual perpetrator, he personally apologizes to all of the victims, laying his guilt to rest. Jay Tholen's personal page on Hypnospace quotes Matthew 5:44.
  • For Want of a Nail: It's possible to prevent two of the Mindcrash deaths, completely unintentionally if you haven't been spoiled, by getting the users banned. This of course means that the other victims were quite literally too pure for this world....
  • Frame-Up: T1MAGGEDON might be a trolling cracker, but he's no killer. In truth, the cause of the Mindcrash incident is actually an update pushed without proper QA, combined with the shoddy hardware of the Brain/Computer Interface.
  • Fun with Acronyms: CHIME is the officially-recognized shorthand for flaggable violations of Hypnospace's rules: Copyright infringement, Harassment, Illegal activity, Malicious Software, and Extralegal commerce. In the final act of the game, the acronym is expanded to CHIME(S) when you are given the ability to Submit evidence of Dylan Merchant's wrongdoings directly to Samantha.
  • Future Slang: Downplayed; since Hypnospace is an Alternate History, some Internet acronyms are slightly different on Hypnospace compared to our world. The most prominent examples are BWL ("bursting with laughter", equivalent to LOL), WITW ("what in the world?", equivalent to WTF), and ICBI ("I can't believe it", equivalent to OMG).
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • Invoked in the game's story: Outlaw, the pet project game of Dylan Merchant, is so insanely glitchy and buggy that it bricks your HypnOS system the first time you test it, then kills people when a second test version is pushed out.
    • Out-of-universe, the Nintendo Switch version has a problem with occasional crashes with the visual glitching effect that occurs when trying to load the in-universe-outdated NetSettler pages or randomly throughout all of Hypnospace on New Year's Eve. While infrequent enough to not be that much of a problem, coupled with autosave mitigating the potential damage, it's a good idea to manually save as a precaution anyway.
  • Game Mod: Hypnospace Outlaw has native support for mods on PC, and comes with one that adds a Windows 95-based desktop theme. The game's main directory includes the same tools the development team used to make web pages and music for the game, which can also be downloaded for free as the Hypnospace Productivity Suite.
  • Genre Mashup:
    • Haze, a fictional, synth-y descendant of psychedelic rock, its ancestor genres, and its descendant sub-genres. There's a whole map and fictional history with samples. It's all very plausible.
    • The genre d'jour when you first arrive in Hypnospace is Coolpunk, which is not punk but a sort of a synth movement with samples from dad rock, Christmas music, and advertising jingles similar to Vaporwave. Mostly Stylistic Suck, with some silly but surprisingly enjoyable pieces mixed in, and a couple of unironically emotional and expressive pieces. The genre collapses during your tenure as Enforcer, overtaken by the cave-themed Fungus Scene and a few other former coolpunks coming up with potential new genres. invoked
  • The Ghost: Bobson Dugnutt, the new PR guy Merchantsoft hires late into the game, is the only employee of theirs without anything attached to his name. His image on Merchantsoft's page is broken, and the link that's supposed to go to his own page leads to Chowder Man's instead. The Plus update replaces him with Barbara Dugnutt, who at least has an image, but still no page. The update also elaborates on her role in the company: she works on zone redesigns (such as turning Coolpunk Paradise into The Venue) and cracks down on misinformation, forcing takedowns of the Beefbrain hoax and Counselor Ronnie's T-Nubs page.
  • Girlfriend in Canada:
    • Both Zane and Corey's girlfriends, named Jessica and Jennifer respectively, have pages dedicated mostly to their loved ones. Aside from the obvious overromanticized plot those pages provide, it turns out each girlfriend has the exact same headband ID as Zane and Corey respectively.
    • While not a girlfriend, there is a similar case happening in the Coolpunk Zone, with a young girl gushing about how cute Fre3zer is, just like she imagined, and positive reviews of his new album. And when you check the headband, sure enough, it's the same ID as Fre3zer. The page is even completely deleted following his announcement of a "hiatus".
  • Global Currency Exception: An in-universe example; Hypnocoins are used for Hypnospace transactions but have no real-world value, and one of your jobs as an enforcer is to crack down on CapaCoin, which is part of a scheme to get around this restriction.
  • Gotta Catch Them All:
    • While you're unable to play the widely-advertised SquisherZ game, you can participate in collecting all 10 SquisherZ stickers around Teentopia.
    • Hypnospace Outlaw itself has elements of this as well. Collect more HypnoCoin, collect software, collect new music for your Tunebox and sample packs for your SGS, collect new wallpapers and themes.... Collecting all of Hypnospace in your access device's absurdly large storage-memory serves as your final job.
  • Graceful Loser: When Dylan is finally cornered, he provides a full confession and personalized, sincere apologies to everyone who died because of him. He mostly just seems relieved to finally confess the burden of guilt that has been haunting him for years.
  • Grey-and-Gray Morality: About the only completely unsympathetic character is Zane, and literally everyone hates him. Even then, it's indicated that he comes from a broken home, and if he dies in the Mindcrash, Dylan's dedication mentions that his online behavior was only a glimpse into a teenager struggling through a tumultuous phase. Even Dylan himself turns out to just be trying to cover up an accident he feels absolutely horrible about, and that he feels would sabotage a potentially revolutionary virtual-reality technology in its infancy.
  • Hanlon's Razor: The single most destructive force in Hypnospace Outlaw is incompetence, particularly that of Merchantsoft and especially Dylan Merchant. The trolls, pirates, and even virus-writing hackers you have to chase down as an Enforcer are much less destructive than the numerous poor decisions of the company that runs Hypnospace.
  • Hate Sink:
    • It seems like almost everyone can't stand Zane, and most pages that reference him aren't doing so nicely. The only exception is his girlfriend... who's completely made up.
    • Adware-claiming-to-be-assistant Professor Helper is never looked at with a shred of respect from any of the users across Hypnospace. The sole exception is Adrian Merchant, who is only concerned with how it affects the company's partner brands.
  • Incompetence, Inc.: Merchantsoft QA seems to be virtually non-existent, it relies on over-worked interns and unpaid volunteers, and its enforcement department sometimes ends up outright at odds with the rest of the company. Dylan himself is a Pointy-Haired Boss, and any competent underlings are hamstrung by his poor decisions, lack of communication, and buggy software.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Tiffany helped Tim create the "True Tranquility" creepypasta stories, and basing them on existing Hypnospace Citizens was her idea; still, it seems unlikely that she realized just how far Tim would go with the idea. All of the 'digital parasites' are extremely mean-spirited caricatures of the citizens they're based on. Tim's writing makes it clear that he genuinely views most of them, especially the crippled Arlan, as being "leeches on society." She also never meant for him to go to the lengths of creating an actual True Tranquility virus.
  • Interface Screw: Downloading a virus can cause your HypnOS to act strangely. That is to say nothing of what happens when you play the alpha version of Outlaw, or get caught in the Mindcrash...
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Defied. Hypnospace's file-sharing directory, FLST, specifically tells its users not to put porn on it.
  • Invented Individual:
    • Counselor Ronnie is revealed later in the game to be completely made up by the m1nx hacker group. Dylan is aware of this, and allows it anyway because it earns Merchantsoft a federal grant.
    • Both Zane and Corey made accounts and homepages for fake girlfriends. Corey's is even listed as living in Alberta.
    • There is a page gushing about Fre3zer's music and how cute he is. After all the backlash about Coolfest '99, she's still defending him. Her ID is, of course, the same as Fre3zer. The page is deleted after he leaves Hypnospace.
  • Irony: Dylan Merchant made Outlaw to win back customers that were bored of Hypnospace's lack of features. Ironically, Outlaw turned out so buggy that it killed some of the users and the rest completely abandoned Hypnospace and its competitor.
  • It's A Small Net After All: Though the game centers around a very realistic alternet with hundreds of unique pages, that still pales in comparison to the real-world Internet even in the game's setting of 1999. It's justified by your occupation as an Enforcer, as you only have assigned access to a small portion of Hypnospace's true size.
  • Jerkass:
    • One user, zane_rocks_14, is a bit of a blowhard, such that other users are very vocal about their disdain for him. Not that it stops one of the people he's going after from setting up a shame page in return.
    • In the M1NX board posts you can read, re3koning_inc comes across as this. They are very snarky and disapproving of Dylan being on the team, seeing him as a corporate sellout and a two-faced dick. And they're totally right.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • T1MAGEDDON is a troublemaker and causes you the biggest headaches early on, but he very much cares for Tiff and his other friends. After the time skip he is a happily married man with a young daughter.
    • re3koning_inc might be vocally disdainful of anyone they consider beneath them (up to and including Merchantsoft itself), but their leaks indicate a strong concern for the well-being of others, especially when Hypnospace's health concerns come to light.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: invoked The fourth act is set in the present, and you are given the mission of finding pieces of lost media that are archived somewhere on your Hypnospace headband.
  • Kent Brockman News: The Hypnospace Global Newsroom publishes stories that are blatantly slanted to portray Merchantsoft in a positive light.
  • Kick the Dog: The True Tranquility stories by Tim. All of the "digital parasites" are cruel caricatures of actual Hypnospace citizens, and the short stories are clearly designed to dig at their deepest emotional wounds. It's also heavily implied that, like with his later attack on Zane, Tim hacked into each victim's personal account specifically to learn more about their personal lives and expose their insecurities. To add a cherry on top, all of them are later targeted by Tim's True Tranquility virus.
    • Arlan's story makes fun of his handicap, implies he's only good at being a salesman because people pity him, and outright refers to him as a "leech" on society.
    • Carl Parker III's story digs at the recent death of his wife, Lisa, and makes a point of suggesting that he's rapidly forgetting the time he spent with her due to his old age. It also makes it a point to state that his fictional counterpart also lost his motorcycle-riding license.
    • Eric 'Chowder Man' Helman's page erases any semblence of subtlety, describing his counterpart as a washed-up has-been who nobody remembers with anything other than annoyance. T1M goes one further and heavily implies that he's become an alcoholic to deal with the depression.
    • Gus's page opens with discussing how alone his equivalent feels after his divorce, and proceeds to state that his kids hate spending time with him. It also implies that his relationship with Sherri amounts to little more than her bilking him for cash.
  • The Last DJ: Roddy Wall takes issue with a lot of Merchantsoft's decisions, particularly their mistreatment of the geek-focused zones, and ends up creating programs to subvert his employers. His hasty replacement on the MS site's employee page suggests that he may have been fired in the month that passed between chapters 2 and 3, after you revealed that he made Axxelerator.
  • Logging onto the Fourth Wall: Websites for both Professor Helper and CapaCa$h exist.
  • Leet Speak: Pretty common among hackers; see T1MAGEDDON, the hacker group m1nx, and the program allseeing3y3, for example.
  • Leitmotif: The "Millennium Anthem" is composed by Dylan Merchant in-universe, and its melodies slip into various jingles and system sounds from Merchantsoft. It was based on an earlier song, "Nativity Costume" by Half-handed Cloud.
  • Meaningful Name: Hypnospace and the operating system it runs on, HypnOS, are used while sleeping. Their names include "Hypnos", the personification of sleep in Greek mythology.
  • Millennium Bug: While the Y2K bug had the same, extremely minor effects that it did in real life, the Mindcrash also occurs shortly after midnight at the turn of the millennium, with much more severe consequences.
  • Minor Crime Reveals Major Plot: At first, Merchantsoft seems harmless, if incompetent. The first big red flag is when you catch Dylan Merchant violating his own rules by hosting illegal music downloads, and he bans you when you report him. This is a good indication that something deeper is going on at Merchantsoft. Sure enough, you later find that Dylan knew that Hypnospace was harmful to its users' health and covered it up anyway, and framed an innocent kid when people died from his own negligence.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Tiff tries to bring harassment she gets from ChitChat to the attention of Merchantsoft and the Enforcers. Since her page hosts the screenshots and since ChitChat is a separate service, it's her posts that get taken down while Dylan refuses to do anything about the situation at the moment.
  • Misplaced Retribution:
    • Violation points are applied to users if the page that they host ends up guilty of any of the C.H.I.M.E. rules, even if they never committed the act in the first place. Namely, the True Tranquility virus that affects different users' pages is taken down, but violation points go to the users for having the shock images on their page instead of whoever caused it.
    • More glaringly, Tiff trying to report her case of harassment on ChitChat from other people by using a page she built gets taken down and earns her violations when you send it to Samantha. This could be fixed with more programming, but Dylan isn't currently interested.
    • Zig-zagged with Zane and Corey's situation. On the first chapter, Zane makes an entire page dedicated to mocking other users while Corey makes a page and badge insulting Zane back. Zane gets let off with a warning while Corey is given a three-day ban. While seemingly a situation where the bully gets away as their victim is punished for fighting back, Corey did portray Zane's character as getting bloodily decapitated in a webzone housing a young audience (though it's an animation of him getting punched in later versions)
    • Citizens across Goodtime Valley declare war on Merchantsoft for their censoring of Gumshoe Gooper, when really Merchantsoft is enforcing the creator's estate's copyright.
  • Missing Secret:
    • In the base game, the third (actually fourth), SquisherZ-themed virtual pet talked about on a few pages is never available to the player at any point. It was added for the Hypnospace Plus update.
    • The Dumpster's article on weird FLST directories in chapter 2 lists one with some kind of “poetry” on it under a non-functional number. (The ID number is the same as Sarah Sanders - it's not impossible to imagine that she took it down after seeing it getting laughed at.) Also corrected in Hypnospace Plus, where you can see Sanders' college poetry about her depression and battles with mental illness there. Taken down by New Years' Eve, with an angry note that her husband saw it.
  • The Moral Substitute: C.H.O.S.E.N.: Anointed, a Christian-themed counterpart to the FPS Kataklysm, is mentioned on a few pages. Previews show that it's about a pastor who uses a sword with a bible stuck to it and musical instrument guns to destroy things like a children's museum featuring an exhibition on evolution. Game reviewer The Observer claims it's surprisingly good despite less-impressive graphics.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • The basic concept of the game. You're a moderator for a '90s-era Alternate History internet, patrolling for the usual stuff: harassment, copyright violations, and so forth. Then things escalate.
    • An entire, almost seven minute long prog rock song complete with epic guitar solo about shaving: Chowder Man's Ready to Shave. GillSCreates has a page analyzing the lyrics in-depth.invoked
  • Never Was This Universe: It initially seems like the 1990s were the main point of diversion from our own timeline, but then you discover what happened to the concept of tennis.
  • The '90s: The game starts in late 1999.
  • Noob Cave: The Café is available from the start and doesn't have any cases officially assigned to it, but it's a good place to go if you need hints on how to progress, as many of its users will inadvertently provide clues for your cases.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: Much of the actual horror elements of the game rely on a creeping sense of dread rather than anything actively trying to harm you.
  • Only Sane Employee: Naïve Newcomer Samantha Clausson, who ends up being your Mission Control, is the only Merchantsoft employee the player interacts with who seems both sane and competent. The others are Bunny Ears Lawyers at best.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish":
    • One of the pages on WITW has a guide for setting up an easy-to-remember password, entirely using personal information. A lot of people follow it to the letter, which makes accessing some hidden pages easy since you have access to every user's info. This includes the person who wrote the page, giving you a solution to a particularly important puzzle.
    • The users of m1nx, meanwhile, have much more secure passwords with random capitalization and symbols, long strings of numbers, and more obscure words/phrases. The majority of them also change their passwords regularly, meaning you have to hunt them down multiple times in the finale.
  • Payment Plan Pitch: One of Professor Helper's ads is for "Katie's Kuddly Kat Korner", a cat bed designed for corners, which is available for "only 4 easy payments of 29.95 USD". $120 - in 1999 money no less! - for what basically amounts to a triangular cat bed. Cat not included.
  • Phonýmon: SquisherZ, which looks like it's crossed with Ghostbusters.
  • Player Tic: Invoked. The player is told early on that shaking the mouse cursor makes things load faster. Surprisingly, this actually works. The tip site that tells you about this explains that no one has any idea how or why this works, and that they can only guess. Presumably, this is because Hypnospace uses REM sleep to interface with the user's brain, so shaking the cursor causes increased brain activity. It is actually a Shout-Out to a bug in Windows 95 where rapid wiggling of the mouse would speed event processing as seen in this article.
  • Playful Hacker:
    • A recurring character through the game is a teenage hacker named T1MAGEDDON, who has the chops to manipulate Hypnospace's code directly, but only uses them to impress the hacker group he wants in on and a girl he's infatuated with. This is deconstructed after the Mindcrash, which kills at least four people and leaves hundreds injured; Tim believes it to be his fault and emerges from prison a much more stable man, working in computer security with a wife and daughter.
    • The aforementioned hacker group, m1nx, seem to prefer using their skills for harmless pranks rather than anything truly damaging. Among them, the only one who takes themselves seriously is re3koning_inc.
  • Poe's Law: Exploited by m1nx, who run fake accounts in the Open-Eyed zone to spread silly hoaxes and pranks. The actual people in that zone are so out there that the parody accounts blend in without issue.
  • Point of No Return: Tim's fake Mindcrash puzzle provides a Cruel example. Solving it will trigger Dylan to push out Outlaw before it's ready, causing the real Mindcrash. From the moment you press the button, you can't save anyone, and progressing any open Investigations becomes impossible; the game gives you no hints that this is the case, and Tim's puzzle is so pathetically simple that anyone who's been following the character will probably guess it effortlessly as soon as they see it.
  • Pointy-Haired Boss:
    • You don't see much of Adrian Merchant, the CEO of Merchantsoft, but his brother Dylan is a frequent sight. He isn't malicious and seems to care, on the whole, about creating an exciting product with nascent technology that makes his userbase happy. A pity he's utterly incompetent, overly interested in his (destructively buggy) video game side-project, has communication issues with his employees, and can't follow his own C.H.I.M.E. laws.
    • Adrian himself isn't great. He seems to be prone to angry rants, such as if you flag Professor Helper's page after you were instructed not to, and is clearly lacking in basic tech knowledge needed for running a major software company. The fantasy zones being condensed onto a crappy server and needing to have speed caps put on them was his idea, because all the "geek zones" were going against his vision of Hypnospace being for "regular people", and he cared more about that then the backlash from pissing off one of the service's largest audiences.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack:
    • Professor Helper's website plays Johann Sebastian Bach's "Concerto in F 'In the Italian Manner'".
    • Goodtime Valley uses "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "The Star-Spangled Banner" on various pages.
    • A few Coolpunk songs sample "Jingle Bells".
  • Punk Punk:
    • The game has a mild '90s Cyberpunk vibe to it, and features an all-controlling corporation who has a monopoly on a peripheral that lets you directly jack-in to the internet while you sleep.
    • There's an in-universe Clock Punk fandom in place of Steampunk, as well as an ice-themed music genre called "Coolpunk" that has since been co-opted by a soda company.
  • Punny Name: HypnOS, an operating system accessed while asleep, is named after the Greek personification of sleep. It's mentioned that HypnOS was based upon an earlier operating system called FlamingOS.
  • Rainbow Speak: In the most literal sense, anyone on Hypnospace can do this since your interactions are through webpages. Mechanically some hints as to what to look out for are explicitly highlighted by making the text pulse different colors.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: Only Sane Employee Samatha Clausson, a programmer by trade (and a competent one, as her anti-virus software demonstrates) gets stuck on HSPD dispatch because Dylan wanted to keep her from "nagging" him — that is to say, trying to make him do his job instead of working on his game. This ends up putting her in the perfect position to discover what really happened in the Mindcrash.
  • Red Herring: Near the end of the game, the player is asked to investigate the Eye of Horus symbol that appears in various places around Hypnospace, including several official Merchantsoft sites. This leads you to a password-protected site featuring... the records of a benign Brotherhood of Funny Hats who have been hiding the Eye in random places as a sort of Easter Egg hunt.
  • Red Scare: A bunch of people in Goodtime Valley become convinced that your takedown of Gumshoe Gooper art is a communist plot.
  • Retraux: The aesthetic of the game draws inspiration from the earliest days of the internet, especially Angelfire and Geocities. Low-quality videos and gifs abound, and much like in the user pages of old, almost every site has an autoplaying MIDI-like song.
  • Retcon: The news report seen following the Mindcrash pretty unambiguously states that it caused the end of the Sleeptime computing industry. However, Dreamsettler apparently takes place in the mid 2000s, well after the Mindcrash.
  • Rewatch Bonus: Due to the nature of the game, it's possible to find pages that help contextualize other pages and events in new ways. A big one is the reveal that Counselor Ronnie is an Invented Individual, which puts his Stylistic Suck pages into a completely new light.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Lookout Ministries cites the Eye of Horus being present on some of the SquisherZ's designs as proof they're part of an occult conspiracy. They actually are part of a conspiracy, if you can call a bunch of bored executives playing pranks a conspiracy.
  • Right Hand Versus Left Hand: The many parts of Merchantsoft are nowhere near being on the same page with each other.
    • While Enforcers have to deal with the antics of various Hypnospace hackers, Dylan is fully aware of who they are and even in their private chatroom.
    • Roddy Wall is a Merchantsoft programmer disgruntled over the condensing of the Fantasy Zones, and makes a program to bypass the speed cap imposed on the server the Freelands are hosted on.
    • Comes to a head when you're tasked with finding out who's distributing pirated music on Hypnospace. It's Dylan. Flagging his downloads has him scramble to remove your Enforcer privileges and prevent anyone else at Merchantsoft from seeing the CHIME reports. After a Time Skip, Samantha puts you back on the force, unsure why you were banned and wondering if she did it on accident.
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: In-Universe. By November 26, 1999, Jan "Fre3zer" Wolf had become a pariah after he was caught lip-syncing during his set at the disastrous Coolfest '99, thus exposing him as a fraud and causing the demise of Coolpunk as an emerging genre/movement.
  • Running Gag: Every single Chowder Man song has the words "The Chowder Man" somewhere in the lyrics.
  • Schedule Slip: In-universe. In Plus, the page for C.H.O.S.E.N.: Anointed sets its release date as "Easter 2000"... then "late 2000"... then finally, "2001". Note that much of the game takes place before the turn of the millennium.
  • Schmuck Bait:
    • Savvier players will know not to click on any of the out-of-the-ordinary links or download dodgy-looking software. Apart from the fact that an early case requires downloading Professor Helper to zero in on the payment system used by the ads it forces.
    • HypnOS Dreamtoolz has an option to donate Hypnocoin to "the hax godz". It specifically warns you not to enter a negative amount for a donation. In a humorous subversion, doing so will give you the amount of Hypnocoin you entered, effectively becoming a source of unlimited money.
  • Screw the Rules, I Make Them!:
    • It's often a good idea to keep a copy of any illegal or pirated goods you encounter in Hypnospace before bringing down the hammer.
    • Later on, Dylan doesn't take getting caught breaking his own C.H.I.M.E. laws well.
  • Self-Insert Fic:
    • Zane's webcomics, where he battles demons alongside the frontman of his favorite band, who has magical powers and is secretly his father.
    • Gary outright admits this is the case with his CyberCog Interactive Fiction, down to the protagonist sharing his name and breaking the narrative to directly address the reader.
  • Sensory Abuse:
    • The auditory variety shows up as part of the tutorial, with some of the tutorial lines not narrated by the usual narrator, and instead read out with a ton of audio clipping and half-assed delivery by the poor intern who makes up half of the Hypnospace Patrol Department staff.
    • T1MAGEDDON's page serves as the visual variety with flashing, cycling images. This is a bit strange, considering that Tiff, the girl he's trying to impress with all these shocking and flashing images, is epileptic.
  • Sequence Breaking: The open nature of Hypnospace allows a knowledgeable player to get ahead very quickly.
    • While it's much harder to do without having played the game already, you can find and report Dylan's FLST page, and skip straight to New Year's Eve, as soon as you start the game. This one was patched out in Plus, suggesting it wasn't intentional.
    • On the game's release, it was possible to accidentally skip to the end of the game by searching the word "Dylan" on the HAP intranet, which would reveal the download page for Outlaw 1.0 before he joins the HAP and actually uploads it. This method was removed after launch, so the page can only be accessed via direct link.
  • Shout-Out: While direct references to real-world media are largely avoided (since the game takes place in an Alternate History where the past century of pop culture is completely different), there are several indirect references appropriate for the game's setting.
    • HYPPI, the floating head that delivers notifications and reads out text on command is by name a reference to Clippy, Microsoft's most well-known Office Assistant.
    • Professor Helper, an obnoxiously-intrusive helper program that serves as a delivery mechanism for ads, can be seen as a reference to Bonzi Buddy. His phrase of "I see you're [x], want help with that?" also echoes Microsoft's Office Assistants.
    • SquisherZ can be seen as a reference to the initial popularity of Pokémon, right down to having a very popular Pikachu equivalent, a rap music video, and a religious site trying to cite it as proof of a satanic conspiracy theory.
    • Several of the SquisherZ themselves are pop culture references:
      • In terms of direct equivalents to Pokémon, Garblugh and Glopoly are takes on Garbodor and Porygon, respectively. Mushi fills Pikachu's role as the marketable mascot, while Ickygoo more closely resembles it in design and name.
      • Leaka is based on a Furby, playing on its unintentionally creepy nature. Similarly, Yuckey is based on a Tamagotchi, and also includes the four face buttons of the PlayStation on its display.
      • Goost is a fairly obvious take on Slimer.
      • Turthole, a turtle mixed with a manhole that evolves into the radioactive Shellslop, is likely referencing a particular set of mutant turtles.
    • The chorus to Seepage's "Nothing Left For Me" drops the names of Doom's first three episodes, before ending with "The Ultimate Doom".
    • Slushmouth's Guide to New Digital Music is based on an actual music map about electronic music from 2000. It's just as snarky too.
    • The Merchantsoft logo features a red spiral that looks very similar to the logo of the Sega Dreamcast. Yes, Dreamcast.
    • A few minor characters, such as Merchantsoft employee Bobson Dugnutt, have names taken directly from the infamous Fighting Baseball SNES game, where a Japanese developer came up with several bizarre American-sounding names for the American baseball team.
    • The tagline on the poster for the fake movie Blender seen on Linda's Horror Page is "Will it blend?"
    • The Observer, a game review website, shows a preview of a highly-anticipated first-person shooter game called Kataklysm: Microtrooper; the reviewer notes it to be very repetitive and buggy despite its impressive graphics and marketing hype. This is likely a take on the notorious FPS flop, Daikatana, released in 2000 to similar criticism.
    • The logo of CP_Shaman's page, two hands (one with a ring) with their fingers over a peace sign, invokes the imagery of an infamous real-life Shock Site. Developer Jay Tholen, when the image was posted on a Reddit thread of accidental imagery, replied with "Accidental though? :-)"
    • One NetSettler page consists of a collection of graphics and stickers made by a "Bryce Freedy", which references the "Bryce" 3D rendering software.
    • The results of the SquisherZ fan-art contest include one with a highly-detailed face and ゴゴゴゴ surrounding it, bringing to mind JoJo's Bizarre Adventure. Jay Tholen was unaware of the reference when he included it, as it was a submission from a user on the Hypnospace Discord.
    • The technical aspects of Hypnospace Tune Sequencer (HSM) files make them direct analogs to MOD music files, but their reputation for sounding cheesy and their widespread use as background music for pages also makes them analogous to MIDI files. Likewise, AUD files, being high-compressed digital audio recordings, are Hypnospace's version of MP3s.
    • One of the trennis players listed in the sports news section is Chuck Brock.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Hovering over a profile on the profile selection screen plays whatever song was last playing before you logged off. As a result of this, the song you hear when you get booted back to the profile selection screen directly after the Mindcrash will likely be "Hypnospace is Cool" since it plays on the main page of Teentopia after you return it to normal.
  • Springtime for Hitler: Councilor Ronnie was the result of M1nx making a very, very blatant troll account and seeing how long it would take Merchantsoft to notice. Not only do they make Ronnie the community leader of Teentopia, he earns Merchantsoft a federal grant.
  • Stylistic Suck: Tons of it.
    • The Enforcer video guide has portions where the professional voiceover is replaced by an intern that makes mistakes and uses low-quality equipment.
    • Various user websites abuse low-quality gifs, sound effects, and format templates.
    • The HypnOS will run more and more slowly as time goes on, simulating memory leak, until it crashes or the player performs a reboot.
    • Outlaw looks like it would be a decent game, if not for the horrendous glitches and bugs that can brick your HypnOS computer or kill you in your sleep.
    • Special mention must be given to Counselor Ronnie's horrible "Birthstone Song", which is completely arrhythmic and horribly mispronounces the name of each stone, such as "ruby" sounding like "roob-why". Ironically, this was completely intentional in-universe. Counselor Ronnie was created by m1nx to see how crappy they could make his content before Merchantsoft noticed...and they pull it off so well that “Ronnie” earns Merchantsoft an award from a federal agency for promoting forward-thinking child-friendly content.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option:
    • You're pretty much required to download the obviously-shady Professor Helper in order to crack down on its ads, which break the rule against extralegal commerce.
    • In order to get to the penultimate chapter, you have to report your own boss for copyright infringement, to your boss, which goes about as well as you would expect.
  • Surprise Creepy: A wacky, pastel-shaded pastiche of late-'90s internet, full of Surreal Humor and quirky characters. And then it gets dark.
  • Take Your Time: For most of the game, you're free to solve the cases at your own pace. There are only two timed segments in the entire game: when you get banned after reporting Dylan's illegal FLST files at the end of act 2, and when you deactivate the Mindcrash virus and Dylan pushes out Outlaw v0.99 at the end of act 3. In both cases, you're booted out of the OS after a few minutes.
  • Target Audience: Some of Merchantsoft's woes are caused by Adrian Merchant's attempt to push out the "dorks" that made Hypnospace successful and attract a more mainstream audience of teens, elderly, and professionals.
  • Technology Marches On: Invoked. The final act of the game takes place in the present day, long after the Mindcrash incident convinced people that sleeptime browsing was dangerous and Merchantsoft went out of business during the ensuing investigations. The tech world has moved on, and Hypnospace now exists primarily as a time capsule of early internet history.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Downplayed, insofar as it's a loud and troublesome minority of repeat offenders, but expect to swing the "harassment" hammer a lot in Teentopia.
  • Themed Cursor: There are a handful you can download, including a magic wand and a SquisherZ creature.
  • Time Skip: Used at a few points in the plot. First, a few weeks after Dylan sends you a buggy game that bricks your HypnOS. The next, a few weeks further after being temporarily banned from Hypnospace. The next time skip occurs after the Mindcrash, which jumps the player at least nineteen years into real-life present day.
  • Title Drop: Hypnospace is the name of The Alternet that the game takes place in, and Outlaw is the title of the computer game side project that Hypnospace's creator works on. Outlaw is also instrumental to the game's plot, and by the end of the story, Outlaw's creator is a Hypnospace (and real-life) outlaw himself.
  • That Syncing Feeling: Fre3zer gets recorded lip syncing at Coolfest, which plays a significant role in sinking the Coolpunk movement.
  • There Are No Good Executives: A running theme of the game is how large corporations try to suppress, exploit, or monetise the works of Hypnospace users in the name of maximum profit. W.E. Briggs' estate demands that every single use of their copyrighted character is taken down regardless of context, and only relents after striking a sponsorship deal with Merchantsoft. Merchantsoft exploits the free labor of Counselor Ronnie to win grants from the federal government and sponsorships with videogame companies, despite not knowing his true identity. The entire Coolpunk movement was astroturfed by Merchantsoft to get them a sponsorship deal with Gray's Peak Cola... who then proceeds to steal the identity and (freely-distributed) work of the anonymous Fr3ezer to sell "him" as a pop idol. Overall, Merchantsoft tends to prioritize money and the bosses' personal projects over the feelings and payment of employees, and covers up their own culpability in numerous accidental deaths.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Inverted, in one case. Zane can be banned from Hypnospace by taking every opportunity to strike and flag his account, including “his” new stuff on New Years' Eve. If you pull this off, then Zane will be barred from accessing Hypnospace...just before the Mindcrash incident, which otherwise kills him.
  • Troll: There are users and websites in Hypnospace that exist only to annoy or disparage other users. As Hypnospace Outlaw presents a microcosm of the late-'90s Internet, expect to meet the full gamut of a-holes, from Something Awful-style mockery sites to teenagers who just don't know any better to Playful Hackers.
  • Turn of the Millennium: The game eventually transitions to the 2000s by the third chapter. This event plays a sizable role in the story, being the deadline for upcoming updates for Hypnospace.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Professor Helper: clearly intended for those without 'net savvy. Free to install, but costs 11hc to uninstall. Has a legal disclaimer that is hard-to-read and gives the company way too many rights and permissions. Mostly true for the player as well, as Professor Helper's ads are the primary way of finding the sites utilizing the unauthorized CapaCash service.
  • Virtual Pet: There are virtual pets you can buy in-game to raise on your desktop, such as an angelic hamster. They have a hidden feature relevant to a puzzle as well.
  • Visual Pun: While Chelsea's mail features her face on the profile picture, her Hypnospace Archival Project page only has a picture of a sea shell. And intentionally so, as it turns out.
  • Weirdly Underpowered Admins:
    • After the first Time Skip, Hypnospace is a mess. Rulebreaking has run rampant in the time that you've been gone, because your hardware wasn't the only enforcer unit that was damaged by Dylan Merchant's incompetence. For about three weeks, there were only two moderators left on the entire Alternet, and they could only do so much due to being overwhelmed.
    • invokedEven when things are calmer, Enforcers aren't as powerful as they should be courtesy of Merchantsoft's in-universe Idiot Programming. Namely, they can only take action when someone breaks a rule on a page they published. If someone else uses their page to report harassment that they received over instant messaging, or if their page was altered by a hacker, they're the one who gets the warning points while the perpetrator gets away with a clean record. And if someone makes a second account to cause trouble, they're completely untouchable because it isn't their main account breaking the rules.
  • Wham Episode: It's New Year's Eve. You stopped Tim's Mindcrash virus and you think you can finally relax. Then Outlaw v0.99 forcibly installs itself, and your hardware goes on the fritz. The system crashes, you wake up, and learn that the "Mindcrash" has killed people. This leads into the final portion of the game, which has a similarly grim tone.
  • Wham Line: A few in the final act/epilogue:
    • Reading the Hypnospace Archival Project's Intranet page describing the Mindcrash, and seeing Tiff and Roddy Wall listed as two of those killed.
    • Three in quick succession: First, the financial backer and co-leader of the HAP happily announcing that their latest member is none other than former Merchantsoft lead programmer Dylan Merchant. Second: Using your new Rule 6 to report to Samantha the screenshots of the chatlogs in which Dylan and Adrian admit to burying the report about Hypnospace's potential danger. To hammer in the seriousness of this, the email she sends you after closing the case is just titled “URGENT: Dear God”, and the short two-line body of the email implies that she's too shocked to do anything other than tell you to keep digging. Third: Soon after that, Dylan himself emails you regarding how strange it is that you can still utilize the violation system 20 years after it was disabled...
    • There's one as early as the end of the first act; with how unstable the alpha build of Outlaw is, it's only natural that the game ends up crashing, forcing a system reboot. What isn't natural is what the game tells you moments before you're returned to normal gameplay...and is the first explicit hint that Hypnospace's problems might be tied to Merchantsoft's incompetence as a whole:
      NOVEMBER 26, 1999

You let me down, now
You let me down, down
Down, down, down, down, down, down, down...

Video Example(s):


Fre3zer exposed

While performing at Coolfest '99, Fre3zer is exposed as a lipsyncer, being one of the reasons for the downfall of the Coolpunk genre

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / ThatSyncingFeeling

Media sources: