In the year 2086, technology has advanced sufficiently to allow for the augmentation of humans. In what seems to be a tradition for emerging technologies, the market for “cyborgization” is dominated by NeuroGlory, whose proprietary technologies are on track to dominate 70% of the global market before the end of the century. Some members of society will still pursue open source solutions or even opt out of augmentation entirely, but for the most part, augmentation is synonymous with NeuroGlory.

This vision of the future is the setting for a new alternate reality game that primarily plays out across the fully functioning social network CyberFACED. The site as a whole was created to serve as a hub for retro nostalgia for the turn of this century, creating one of the rare safe places for open discourse between corporate cyborgs, open source cyborgs, and even conscientious objector “baseline humans”. The site will feel all too familiar to internet denizens who spent time involved in online communities in the early 2000s. Even the website’s artificial intelligence embraces the kitsch, as he’s programmed as a highly insecure Shiba Inu dog who moderates the site and worries that he’s not being a good enough boy.

InuBot the AI moderator is a good boy. A very good boy.

The narrative centers around a network of friends who grew up together as wards of NeuroGlory’s Kid House program, which legally adopted the children and put them on the fast track for augmentation. And like any social platform, the primary method of gameplay is untangling the messy friendships of these corporate siblings as they navigate college exams, conflicting politics, and potential side effects from the augmentation that I’m sure are perfectly harmless and nothing to worry about.

Opening up the CyberFACED trailhead, containing a tshirt and USB drive

Earlier this month, I received a trailhead package in the mail from Joey “Legit” Markham, one of the NeuroGlory loyalists of his Kid House cohort. Inside was a tshirt with the text OPEN SOURCE CYBORG printed on it, as well as a CyberFACED branded flash drive. After plugging the USB into a computer, a drive amusingly named “Legit Cat” (a remix of Joey’s Legit CyberFACED username with InuBot’s canine-centric branding) contained screencaps of posts and messages from the platform, along with a PDF letter from Joey.

The full contents of the USB have been shared on Google Drive, but the relevant portion from the letter entitled YouAreBaseline says (with slight parenthetical liberties from me),

I’m sending this to you because you’re baseline (human), and have a rich history of figuring things out for other people. I think only a baseline human can be objective in the complicated story I’m about to tell you. Among cyborgs like me, passions run deep, and feuds? Even deeper.

My friend Janine (Hyacinth) has been acting strange recently. Normally, she’s sensible and loyal—among those of us raised in Kid House, she’s been the quickest to get her career off the ground and secure her place within NeuroGlory Enterprises.

Recently, though, something broke. She hasn’t been as on-the-ball, either in getting her work done or for advocating the advancement of NeuroGlory’s mission.

I think she might’ve been roped into some weird anti-corporate terrorist group. I noticed that she’s been talking to Frank Ng (founder of Open Sourced Cyborg) recently, and seems to have even become friends with him.

Joey goes on to explain that it seems like the open source cyborgs are expressly targeting him and his Kid House friends, and that they even sent him the Open Source Cyborg shirt he sent along with the USB drive, containing research and network data he compiled with his twin sister Kayla (Dreamer). He’s worried about his friend, and needs help.

CyberFACED trailhead unboxed – shredded packing omitted for ease of viewing, and no there were not secret messages printed on it

The relationship mapping Kayla compiled serves as a perfect encapsulation for what playing CyberFACED is like – navigating interpersonal relationships, friendships, and rivalries, under the whimsical branding “Here There Be Friendos”. In practice, navigating those loyalties becomes a bit like navigating a high school cafeteria. Joey set up a private group called “Chill People Only” because he found elements of the public discussions to be overly toxic, while Kyle keeps getting banned from the site for “calling people out on their bullshit.”

Here There Be Friendos – a CyberFACED analysis by Kayla “Dreamer” Markham. Everyone loves InuBot.

It’s easy to draw comparisons to the recent ARG-adjacent project Neurocracy, in terms of the CyberFACED gameplay experience. Neurocracy adopted the almost clinically detached tone of wiki editing to explore bias in the media, and relied entirely on digital archaeology to allow players to uncover their own version of truth for themselves. Meanwhile, CyberFACED also chooses to reimagine the future through the lens of early 2000s technology.

But instead of a platform where creators outwardly claim to avoid bias, CyberFACED embraces the messy, meme-centric world of social media where people place their core beliefs front and center. And based on initial signs of plot so far, it looks like CyberFACED plans on exploring the dynamic of what happens when friendship and personal beliefs come into conflict.

While CyberFACED has been online for a little over a month, it seems like the main narrative is only just starting to warm up, with signs of future conflict beginning to take shape. As such, now is the perfect time to dive in. To get started, you can sign up for your own profile at The Vehemence Discord has a dedicated channel dedicated to #cyberfaced on their server, along with pinned guides to help get started. You can also explore the full trailhead materials on Google Drive.

And if you do sign up, be sure to tell InuBot he’s a good boy.