The AERIE is the main setting of Hacker, and counterpart to the Wilderness.
The real world was left inhospitable after a series of manmade factors culminated in an environmental disaster nearly 30 years ago. Governments fell and corporations took their place, taking advantage of 200 years of biotechnology to monetize the survival of the human race.
Los Angeles quickly became one of the forerunners of this future-tech world. A cybernetics breakthrough led to the successful programming of an entirely digital world for citizens to inhabit, mapped right on top of the city's ruins. Those who could afford it could be pulled out of their dreary reality and into a so-called paradise.
Through a small high-tech device surgically inserted into an individual's nervous system, all five senses can experience the digital world in a passable approximation of reality. This technology was purchased by AERCorp around 25 years ago and has since developed into a massive digital ecosystem with strict censorship and a strong commercial culture.
At first, cheap access prices and a promise for a luxurious new life led Los Angeles citizens to undergo the procedure in droves - especially given how the real world was falling apart around them. Things only worsened for everyone else after these initial Aerians first logged in. More and more real-world dwellers quickly became desperate for access, some traveling from far outside the city to escape the area's slow descent into radioactive wasteland. In response, AER Corporations only made their creation more exclusive, nepotistically offering the chip procedure for newborn citizens at birth, and amping up its prices for external access.
Like a personification of the internet, the AERIE hosts its own vivid culture, evident in gameplay from avatar creation to NPC personalities.
Society is heavily consumerist and encouraged to conform to AER-backed markets and trends. New forms of technology are all the rage. Customization of avatars is a favorite activity alongside various entertainment and social pastimes. [proxy incorporation no longer relevant] While there's no organic flora or fauna, the domain utilizes DNA information of animals and plants to create digital approximations - "proxies" - frequently with aesthetic, technological and behavioral enhancements designed to luxurify the lives of its residents.]
(More info to come on economy, AERIE jobs, and currency.)
Most citizens are oblivious to the unrest bubbling beneath the glittering metropolis of LA's AERIE.
As Hackers are quick to exploit, the AERIE is remarkably fragile. Bugs frequently appear in the code and have to be patched by Agents. Though the overwhelming population subscribes to AERIE way of life and values, a few oppose AERCorp and its control over its citizen's livelihoods.