You have just entered room "Gaming Chat."~ A detailed look at 1998-2001 Internet and why an Internet chat room was a major part of our lives. ~
Why in the actual fuck have I devoted so much webspace (139 KB of text..that's a lot of text) and time to writing about something that died to me, and so many other people a decade and a half ago (as of writing this article, 2016)?
I've been trying to answer this myself, and I honestly couldn't tell you. But I've created this page for me to collect my thoughts as to why I decided to suddenly become the Fire Keeper of a fire that should have been, by all rights, dead and gone. And probably will be here soon, except for all of our memories.
One of my online friends has told me that:
"...your site is just so... I honestly don't know if anyone else from that era has even tried documenting."
From that conversation, this page spawned. And, it's the truth. While we did document some things--I see you over there, character logs!--we didn't document the experience of the time. Yet, here I am, not only presenting you with really fucking old logs and files; but a documentation of the experience. Sure, I could sit here and type another 1,000 characters about Trunks, or Dice, or whatever. But I'm not. I'd rather sit here and type another 1,000 characters about the experience behind being Trunks, being in that moment, being a part of something that should have no impact in life, yet it still did. In typing these characters, I hope to eventually find out why, at least for me, the stupid collection of HTML code that flew up my screen nightly at the turn of the millennium was such an impact.
In joking, this was presented to me:
"Well, you were young and full of hormones and hope. :p"
And you know what. That is really true. Partially. At the time, I was about 19 years old. In fact, I was 19 years old. However, this is pretty much the only memory I have from being 19 years old. Besides being out of high school. Maybe it makes me a gigantic loser at the turn of the millennium--I won't deny it. I mean, fuck, I'm typing up these pages on a Friday night (as of right now) instead of going out and doing whatever it is society thinks I should do on a Friday night. Going on. The "Gaming Chat" is one of the few things I remember from that point and time. And it obviously meant something to me. And other people, as there was two LJ communities about the room, and a community for the 'elite' RPers of the room. PROTIP: I was not an elite RPer at the the time, nor at 22 when the community was a thing. Sure I was okay, but in looking back at my logs, I could have been better. Now, when I roleplay (which I still do) I feel as though I'm in a completely different league than when the millennium turned. A better league. I hope my writing skills improved after a decade. (They have.) Hell, even looking at the community archive, I didn't belong in that group. While I was good at playing Trunks, Trunks should not be in that group of characters. LOOK AT IT, it's literally an OC club+Trunks. I think I was invited, because the creator and I were AOLDating. Fuck, remember when THAT was a thing? Backtracking. It wasn't because I was good, or had pioneered Dice with some buds. No. Though, if you look at my logs, I was really fucking good at Trunks and got told so. I think, had I been on an OC I wouldn't have left the initial roleplay in the community. I lost interest when exactly 1.5 people were playing with Trunks (the .5 was when I had Trunks leave and nearly run into a dude).
Fuck, Drew, stop talking about that, backtrack exactly one year.
Right, as I was mentioning before being sidetracked by LJ, a lot of still have memories of that chat room, and the time spent there, and some of the people.
Memories are good and cool, but why such an impact?
Right now, the only reasoning that I can come up with is that, at that time of my life is that I just needed something different. The collection of HTML on my screen all those years ago should be as meaningless as this collection of HTML on your screen today. But, it's not. I mentioned something different. The thing was, AIM was still kind of "new" when I first got it. It came unto the Internets at about the same time that I did, so the service was still very young when I discovered it, and was still young when it became popular. Now, not to stereotype, but back when I got the Internets, and for a few years after, it wasn't a staple at home. In fact, it wasn't needed at home. So this meant that most the users were of the, how can I put this gently, nerdier variety. So, when we went into these chat rooms, we almost knew that the other people were much like us in some way or another. That brought a little comfort to me. I was still in high school when I first entered the "Gaming Chat", and--SECRET'S OUT--I was a huge fucking nerd. I was the kid that got made fun of and bullied back when the education system gave zero fucks about that and wanted to, you know, educate us instead of coddle us. There were maybe five other nerds in my grade, and you can bet your (hopefully) sweet ass that we were all friends. The stoners liked us, or left us alone, some people made fun of us, and some of the "popular" kids were cool. In fact, a girl I had a HUGE crush on mentioned me in her speech. Okay, back to things that matter (for this page). There were like five other nerds in my class, and we rarely hung out because, derp, we..WHY THE FUCK DO YOU NOT SEE DERP AS A MISSPELLED WORD, OS X?!!!!!? Okay, back on track. There were like five nerds in my class and we really didn't hang out, because we were nerds, and we had other shit to do. Like video games, or computer games or reading. Not hanging out, or girl friends, or getting laid. It was all about dat education back in the late 90's. Imagine my shock when I was able to con my parents into getting me UNLIMITED 56K Internets at home. Before that point, I had to get my fix at school, usually working in the computer lab in the Library. Do you know how hard it was to build a sweet GeoCities page on Mac OS 8 when there was always a chance the librarian would come in to monitor what you're doing? Pretty fucking hard. What does this have to do with the story of AIM and the GC? In building my sweet GeoCities page, one of the mandtory banner ads showed a banner for something called "AOL Instant Messenger". I knew what AOL was, the people that gave you a free floppy disk every month or two. Well, when I got the Internets at home, for educational purposes of course, the banner popped up on my sweet GeoCities page again. I clicked it this time, and found myslf downloading a program. Since this was 1998, as I mentioned, FF7 was the hotness and I made a SN based on Cloud, and incorporated my graduating year. Except, I accidentally used l33t, and made CloudOO (upper case o's) and would visit two chat rooms based on my interests. "Computing Chat" and, of course, "Gaming Chat". It was here where I flourished. I was with fellow nerds that liked vidya games. And we'd talk in the room. This was new and exciting. As fast as we could type to the chat room, we'd be able to "talk" with other people about shit we liked. I don't know about you, but I like talking to other people about shit I like. And then more people would "talk" and we'd have near-instant communication about shit we liked.
I was fucking hooked. Every night after school, or after work (since my part time job was helping pay for teh Internets (the misspelled on purpose)) I'd fire up AIM and hit up both rooms. For some reason, "Gaming Chat" always had more activity than "Computing Chat", so that was the window I watched the most. It was here I spent the last two years of high school. Rather than interacting and dealing with people at school, I could go home and deal with strangers in a chat room. I could read the room, and gauge my response accordingly. See, at the time, I was super introverted, and I wasn't good at talking to people--including my nerd friends. So, this kind of thing was super awesome for me. Vary rarely would I actually Instant Message any of these people, and very rarely would they Instant Message me. We'd just deal in the chat room, and allow others to hop in on our conversations. It was good and cool. For me, this was part of the impact. I was able to "meet" new people, and talk to them. For me, I'd only add someone to my "Buddy List", if I felt like they were actually a friend. I used the "Buddy List" quite literally. Besides, I think at the time you could only have like 149 or some other arbitrary number of people. It's now like 1,000. But that was silly back in 1998. What's weird, though, is that three of my other nerd friends got the program, made screen names and came into the "Gaming Chat". They, apparently, didn't like it that much. I was totally on a secret screen name at the time, and totally got away with it. So, I might have just invalidated the last bit of the HUGE TEXT WALL. But, for me, at the time it was nice being able to chat with new people about video games.
It would be nice if that's where our story ends. But, you know as well as I do, it doesn't end there.
No, our story continues shortly after I graduated. Two G's rep-rep-rep-represent! It was at this time, as I have mentioned several times before, that the Role Players started finding their way unto AIM, and more specifically the "Gaming Chat". Why this room in particular? Well, I have a couple theories. Mind you, that's exactly what they are: theories.
Theory 1 ~ Process of elimination
The Role Players simply opened the Community Chat window and went to several different rooms. The listing included such favorites like "Alone @ Home", "Gay Chat", "Pokemon Chat", "Twenty's Love", "Computing Chat" and various others. They would visit these rooms, and lurk, gauging the other users. This was made easy as AIM would let you read other member's profiles just by getting info on them. You could read a profile and find out whatever they presented. Often times, Role Players would put character information, sample role play or a link to their bio page in their profile. This was universal code that this other person liked to have pretendy fun times on the Internet, and may engage in pretendy fun times with you. This seems like it was well and good, and may have actually been the reason the Role Players "invaded" AIM. I really don't know how in the fuck online role playing caught on; I need the help of an extremely elder Internet god for that, as is, I'm just an elder Internet god. This fact both elates and scares me. Continuing, even Wikipedia, which has an answer for almost everything couldn't tell me how online role playing became a thing. I can kind of see a history, you know, email to newsgroups to IRC/IM/Chats to Forums and MMORPGS. There might have been other rooms that AIM Role Players used. In fact, I could imagine "Pokemon Chat" getting some use by Pokemon fans. The other chats I listed, no-so-much. Those that did not like Pokemon would eventually find a room called "Gaming Chat" which usually always had activity, and a higher chance of finding someone for pretendy fun times.
Theory 2 ~ They knew exactly what they were doing
In the gigantic wall of text up there, I had mentioned that the "Gaming Chat" was a good and cool place for fellow nerds to talk about video games. Well, if you grew up anytime after the 70's, which I think about 99% of the readers of this page did; you might have heard of something called "Dungeons and Dragons". I don't think I need to explain what the hell that is. I will elucidate that it is probably VERY FUCKING HIGH on the list of nerd pastimes, probably tied with reading and video games. Every other nerd that I know likes to read, playing video games and pretendy fun times. Like, this is LITERALLY a 100% ratio. Every single one of those activities require some sort of brain usage; and since nerds are stereotypically intelligent, it comes to no surprise that we like things that use our brains. Knowing this, some of us would classify playing D&D as playing a game. Playing a game is also known as Gaming. Gaming..Chat. HOLY SHIT! So, these nerds knew exactly where to go to meet other people who would engage in pretendy fun times with them. It makes sense. I mean, up there I mentioned I picked two rooms based off of my interests at the time, vidya and computers. The "Computing Chat" would have not been a good place for Online Role Playing. Why? Well, if you rewind to the late 90's, you were divided into two camps. You either used a Mac or you used a PC. Linux was this mystical thing that only the alpha nerds would use. Most the other nerds would turn this chat into a flame war about the great civil war at the time, Mac vs PC. If you know me, you know which side of that war I was on. This environment was not a good place to have characters interact. However, "Gaming Chat"..well, hell, there's GOING to be other people who have played D&D, or have some brain cells to rub together to make a character an/or play a role. The D&D nerds saw the words "Gaming Chat" in the Community Chat listings and instantly clicked; much like I, a vidya nerd, saw the words "Gaming Chat" and clicked it instantly.
No matter how they got there, they got there. You would think that this is an optimal place to end our story. It's not.
Here we are, the main focus of this page. The thing I've been putting thought into. Why was this stupid chat room such an impact to me, and several other people? I can't answer for everyone else, but I can answer for me. I met several really good friends during the RP invasion, and still talk to at least one of them. It was also at this time that the foundation for what I would become as I continued to grow was set into place. I didn't know it at the time, of course. There was also a huge sense of belonging. In reading the pages I have written for this site, and exploring the old Gaming Chat communities on LiveJournal and reading the elite chat log with the "elite" Gaming Chat role players, if have found most of the answer that I was looking for. We'll narrow this down, into bite-size chunks.
This was a very 'stressful' time in my life. I had just graduated from high school. While this meant that I was free of the 'required' educational system, it also meant that I was separated from my very few high school buddies. This was before I decided to go to college, but after leaving school where I'd see these people five or more days a week. So, in the gap (and continuing well into college) I'd access the chat room and fill that void with these people and their words on the screen. It turns out that this was a very good idea. Eventually, as the Role Players came, I'd form real friendships with these people. And this was back before we knew a lot about the person behind the screen name. I'd literally pick people based on their writing abilities and characters. I'd also assume that these people were close to my age. In most cases, I was close to being right. Except in those cases where I wasn't, and the person was seven years younger than me. You know who you are. I'm sorry I was super terse with you back when I was 19; obvious reason should be obvious. Going on, eventually, these people and I would become actual friends, and we'd eventually learn about each other--including our locations and first names. This was scary shit back then. If we were SUPER FUCKING CLOSE friends, then there'd be a phone number exchange. Yeah, this was in a time before cell phones became a mainstream REQUIRED item. In reality, being able to communicate with this text on a screen with my own text on their screen was a very good substitute for the void of high school friends gone missing; and non-existent college friends.
2.) Foundation of Growth.
What exactly does this mean? Quite simply, at the age of 19, I was still rather impressionable. This was because of how I grew up. Not only was I a little sheltered, I was also looking for ways to change. Looking back, teenage me would not even recognize adult thirty-something me. Quite simply, just being in the "Gaming Chat" with these varying personalities imprinted things on me, unknowingly. Before the year 1998, I was a quiet shy booknerd. I literally RAN OUT of vidya to play--plus I had to buy my own vidya and vidya was expensive--so I turned to books. Other nerd friends at the time were into books. And it was high school. Literally go to the library, check out a book and read it within a week. Or read a book and do a report for English class. I'm literally laughing right now. I used to hate writing. Here we are, SEVENTEEN THOUSAND characters later and I'm starting to run out of words. Guess there's a difference between wanting to write and having to write. Continuing. I was a quiet booknerd at the time, and this online thing was pretty awesome. As I've mentioned, I found others who enjoyed my hobbies without having to leave my home. But the real impressions didn't hit until the Role Players. See, before them most of the chatters would say their peace, we'd talk and there'd maybe be a flame war rarely. We really didn't dive into each other, phrasing, and discover who was behind that screen name. That changed with the Role Players and making friends. As I mentioned in the above paragraph, no need to put any of it here. In making friends with these people, we'd talk in chat (usually out of character) and maybe IM. In talking with the people in chat, and seeing how they interacted with other people it would help mold me. In the two or so years of the Role Players I grew from a quiet timid nerd to a, and I directly quote from the time, "Sarcastic Anti-Social Smart Ass". Which is STILL FUCKING TRUE. It was so true and real, that at the time I made a screen name in celebration: The SASSA Andrew. Since I was the "only" Andrew who mattered in the "Gaming Chat" at the time, my friends knew it was me. This segues very nicely into our next section.
I don't know about any of you, but I like it when I feel like I belong someplace. Growing up, going to school, you know what I really didn't feel? Like I belonged. Like, as I mentioned, I had my friends; but we were kind of the outcasts of the grade. At least, I knew I was. I was the kid who was picked on or made fun of up until the middle of ninth grade. For some reason, after tenth grade hit, people fucked off. Mostly. Tenth Grade was also about the time I got the Internet at home, and AIM. I wasn't a "regular" of the "Gaming Chat" at the time, because not too many people bothered to remember other people's Screen Names at the time. It was only after graduating, and the turn of the millennium, that the chat became what it was that people remember. We built a community of other people, and suddenly people mattered. If it was stated or not. There was some sort of written code that if you played pretendy fun times on the Internet, you automatically "belonged". You can kind of see it in my logs. I didn't know shit about Draco-mun, but Draco and Trunks became sparring partners and quasi-friends. In building that relationship between our characters, we actually became friends for the time. Another case, in a mass spar log, one of the muns put aside differences with another just to play in the mass spar. It was strange, but good and cool. In another log, we also took time to explain how dice worked on AIM and provided links and help. Of course, there were logs proving people didn't get along. Regardless of how we felt about each other, we were part of a community, part of something that mattered to us at the time. I latched on to the community because I wanted that in my life. I just left high school, so I lost those friends, and I didn't really belong at my work; so I needed something. Turns out that Role Playing on AIM was that something. And, really, it wasn't the Role Playing; it was becoming a part of that community and finally finding a place to belong.
So, I think I'm nearly done with this document. It has taken four days to type up these words. It has taken even longer to come up with an answer as to why the short lived Role Play craze in "Gaming Chat" was such an impact in my life. And it turns out that it wasn't pretending to be a swordsman, or Trunks, or an Elf. It turns out, it was just me satisfying some basic human needs. Funny, when you think about it. But, if you know me and know where I lived and what I was; then it makes perfect sense. There were very little people that I could relate to after graduating; but the people behind the screen? They were perfect to get to know and relate to. Because, in some way, deep own, they were much like me. Here it was, the Internet at home was still in its infancy and here were these people that had a connection. That meant that they might be looking for other people as well.
And in reality, as humans we're social creatures. We want people to talk to. We want people to accept us. We want friends. We want to belong. And we'll see it out in any form. Be it actual people, or people far away. For me, it was the far away option. These people, the people in the code, behind the screen were realer friends than anyone I worked with at the time. While it was sad that it came to an end because of the rise of social media and the apparent desire to reconnect with those people that left your life and had no prior desire to find you. It had to come to an end. I think if the Internet had gone a different course than it did--I see you over there, Web 2.0--then the chat would be very much alive, I'd still have pretendy funtimes as Trunks (as a 4d100, probably) and maybe an OC or two and this site would exist in a VERY DIFFERENT FORMAT than it does now. Oapboap.org wouldn't be a WordPress site, and would be more like this site. However, the Internet went the way that it did, thusly bringing about the decline of instant messaging strangers; and the rise of staying close with your circle that you knew.
In closing, here is an interesting article about the rise and decline of the AIM service itself. The Rise and Fall of AIM, the Breakthrough AOL Never Wanted.
Thank you for taking the time to read the words I have written. I found great pleasure in writing them for an audience to read them. I also found great pleasure diving into my own head to search for the answers I have presented in this document. They let me relive old, pleasant memories and search for a reason I was so addicted. If, for some reason, you wish to discuss this with me then hit me up on AIM.
This document last modified Tuesday, 01-Mar-2016 16:31:46 PST.
I typed this on a keyboard from 2001. This automatically makes the page more legit.
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