Reader, I clicked on him! I test-drive the online Jane Austen role-playing game | Books

I had been travelling for two days with my aunt Amelia in her private carriage when upon arrival at the Fleckcot Glebe Inn, an establishment of some ill repute, Aunt Amelia received a letter that so altered our plans it leaves me in a whirlwind of mortification. My name is Flopsy McCanada, a Regency era girl of large oval face and low social standing. My aim? To find my way through the confusing customs and daily rituals of Jane Austen’s age without committing a major social transgression over tea.

I’m playing Ever, Jane, a virtual roleplaying game by Judy L Tyrer, formerly of Linden Labs, which created the seminal online world Second Life. As avid fans of Jane Austen, Tyrer and her team at 3 Turn Productions have worked to unify the worlds of Austen’s writing, from Lady Susan to Sense and Sensibility, turning them into Tyrehampton, a place where women in bonnets lounge about in day rooms and dissect their rivals.

“Gossip is our weapon of choice,” reads Tyrer’s Kickstarter pitch. “Instead of raids, we will have grand balls. Instead of dungeons, we will have dinner parties.” Ever, Jane, currently a free playable prototype, has strict social rules. To navigate its mazes of etiquette, my character keeps a Lady’s Magazine to hand. Drinks with characters are scheduled via requests sent by letter, while the importance of social conduct is reflected in the fact you have three buttons, each offering a different kind of curtsy or bow. “It was about finding out what the characters in her novels did,” says Tyrer, “coupled with the etiquette of Regency period.”

Status, kindness, duty … our writer’s alter ego, Flopsy McCanada. Photograph: 3 Turn Productions

Austen opens Pride and Prejudice with what are essentially the rules of Ever, Jane: “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife,” she writes. “However little known the feelings or views of such a man may…

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