Hack Infection

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Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

The trope of a person being trapped in a video game is common place in anime and manga these days. Sword Art Online, Log Horizon, and Overlord are all examples of this story. Back in the 2000’s though, this was still a novel concept and one series sought to define it. Today’s game is the first in an ambitious four game series that defined this trope. Today’s game is .hack//infection, developed by CyberConnect2 and released on the Playstation 2 in 2002.

.hack//Infection was just one part of Project .hack which had a broad cross-medium plan. The series began with the anime .hack//SIGN which leads into the start of .hack//Infection. I’ll try to boil down the premise for just the games. The series takes place in the futuristic year of 2010 and the king of MMOs is a game called The World. It has become the most popular game in the world with over 20 million unique players logging in daily. However, The World has a problem.

People around the world are starting to fall into comas while playing the game. Rumors say that the players are seen fighting strange, unknown monsters in the game shortly before this occurs. Meanwhile, a boy who chooses the screen name Kite has just started playing the game with his friend, Orca, a long-time veteran who’s well known in The World. After Orca falls comatose as well, Kite decides to investigate and find out what’s happened to his friend.

.hack//Infection plays as an RPG imitating an MMORPG. The game has players use a fictional computer to check email, message boards, and the like before entering the game itself. The World is a dungeon crawler with towns leading to randomly generated dungeons which are generated based on keywords the player learns. Entering three keywords generates a dungeon which the player can then explore. Kite quickly gathers comrades which he can then invite to his party to go dungeon delving with him. As part of the MMO simulation, players are not always online whenever Kite calls for them so finding multiple party members able to fill each role is key. 

.hack//Infection received mixed reviews from critics. The dungeons themselves would often feel repetitive and the game would require grinding levels at times. However, the story and setting was highly praised, especially for the time. The game fully commits to simulating an MMO in a single-player game and it succeeds in many ways. .hack//Infection would receive three sequels, completing the story, as well as three additional games in a sequel series known as .hack//GU. The anime and manga series would continue as well, with new copies of the .hack games even including bonus DVDs with their own series, .hack//Liminality. While the concept may be old hat to gamers these days and the games themselves often go for high prices online but for those looking to see the origins of the subgenre, .hack//Infection was a fascinating and ambitious beginning.

Thank you so much for listening! Don’t forget to leave us a review on Amazon if you liked today’s episode. I’ll be posting additional trivia about .hack on my twitter account today @vg_oftheday so give me a follow if you want to learn more. Archives and transcripts are available for every episode on videogameoftheday.com. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day!

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Devin "Katosepe" Sloane is a long time gamer and host of the show Video Game of the Day. He firmly believes Darklands is the pinnacle of gaming achievement and this is a hill he will die upon. Where his nickname came from is a secret to everybody.