Remember the early days of the net? I do. My household was a very early adopter of internet access, first signing up to America On-Line in 1993 or 1994. Even though the world wide web was much smaller in those days, its novelty and newness felt limitless.
Aged 9 and painfully weeby, one of the first things I did when left alone with the computer was to search for pictures from anime and manga to print and put on my wall. It started with characters I knew and loved; Lum, A-Ko, Ranma, etc., but I also clicked on series and characters I hadn't heard of. The selection of manga and anime was limited and expensive in those days so I was eager to see pictures of what I couldn't get my hands on, whether it be the as-of-yet unlocalized Dragonball Z, or the obscure shoujo anime Hime-chan no Ribbon.
And then I came across the works of Toshiki Yui. His pinup style images of busty women in latex was far removed from what I was used to, and clearly not a still from a film, or panel from a manga. They were meant to be taken as is for titillation's sake, and I knew I wasn't meant to be looking at them. I secretly printed them out and hid them under my bed.
Still curious, I kept clicking around and eventually found images from Toshio Maeda's La Blue Girl. And then Hajime Soriyama. And then I didn't know what to think! But eventually I realized I could just do a Webcrawler search for "sex".
I got caught waiting for an image to load. It was humiliating, not to mention terrifying.
You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter recreates this experience to the letter. Your parents have left you home alone, so it's time to fire up the 56k and log on to AOL to have an impromptu lesson in sex education.
Rendered entirely in ASCII characters, You Must Be 18 sees you clicking through as many images as you please, or choosing to nervously look behind you to ensure you're alone. The excellent sound design does wonders for the experience; you hear to the constant buzz of the hard drive while listening for bumps and scuffles that may be happening behind you. Pop-up ads, literal pop scares, may open without warning in your face, playing sexual sounds that send you scrabbling to close them before somebody else hears what you're doing.
You can quit at any time, or you can delve further, seeking the ultimate depths of carnal knowledge, not unlike a Lovecraft protagonist. But how deep is too deep? Can you handle this, or will your mind be forever scarred?
You Must Be 18 or Older to Enter is stressful, comical, and very true to life for anyone who was once a curious adolescent in the 1990s.