Arcadium: The First (and Forgotten) Human Social Network
Before Facebook, before Friendster, before MySpace, there was Arcadium.
Way back when, when Web 2.0 was just becoming a thing, and uploading any sort of information to a website, as a user, was a goddamned miracle, Arcadium showed up.
Arcadium was, for all intents and purposes, Humanity's first social network.
Nobody knows when it started, and nobody knows quite how long it lasted. I remember it as lasting at least three years, but the Human record doesn't reflect such a thing. All that can be said is that it provably existed between October 23rd, 1996, and December 11th, 1997. Any other details or evidence are foggy, at best, and nonexistent, at worst.
Access was login and password only, though anyone could sign up. At its death, the site had over 400,000 users. It featured a minimum of three Java-based chatrooms, which connected to either an IRC server, and/or telnetted somewhere special. It had a MUD (Multi-User dungeon), too. The site featured some of, if not the first livestreams ever, and they were all gaming-related. It even had a forum, which was worse than even SomethingAwful, and that's saying something.
The site featured a profile system, one of the very first I'd ever seen. At the top of the profile was a little Gingerbread Man, an avatar that you chose to adorn the top of your profile page. Initially, there were only three choices: the plain Gingerbread Man; one modified to look like an Angel; and another modified to look like a Devil, red skin and tail and all. The one created afterwards was an Alien. And then, rumor was they ran out of money for art. Honestly, I couldn't tell you if that were true or not, but this link still makes me laugh.
In any case, the Gingerbread Men began to be sourced from the community. There were dozens of them. One of the most-popular ones was one fashioned to look like Boba Fett, which kind of scared management, if I recall correctly. They didn't want to get in trouble re: copyright infringement.
As far as I can remember, the site closed because the people with power over it decided that it wasn't pulling in enough money. We offered to design and then buy t-shirts to support it, but we were just kids. We had no real power to save it. And even if I did, I never thought they'd... actually...
By 1998, the site was gone. Anything I could've saved was pulled down before I could've done anything. Dozens of user-made graphics were lost, forever. Information compiled in the over 400,000 user profiles was just... erased. And then, they had the nerve to turn the domain name into something that brought happiness to no one.
The rise and fall of Arcadium.com was my first taste of Capitalism™ ripping something out of my hands, destroying it, and then replacing it with something that was useless. I never felt that I had enough time on the place: besides my Dad not knowing how to fix my modem's software for 2 weeks in the summer before everything went wrong, I probably got less than 300 days on the site. I made lifelong friends, there, but we deserved more time together.
It's a hurt that will never go away.
Actually, that's just plain a straight fucking lie. By writing this, I'm dealing with it. And, someday soon, the pain will be gone.
That's why I'm writing this. It's the only thing that works.
300 Days of Fun
It wasn't all a rose garden. In those 300 days, I got in trouble. A lot. Sometimes, every other week. Sometimes, every week. Sometimes, every day. Thankfully, Arcadium had moderators who actually gave a shit about children, so I was always protected by a pretty lady. (◕ᴗ◕✿)
I was the one who found out how to 'hack' the site. We were all stupid kids, for the most part: people got up-in-arms and high-'n'-mighty about me 'hacking' my profile page. In actuality, I wasn't hacking: the profile pages were tables. While trying to make a webpage within the profile page, I accidentally 'broke' out of the design. I soon realized that, by putting a TR tag before anything I wanted, I could put a big ol' profile picture up on the site, right where my Gingerbread Man avatar was supposed to be. I nearly got banned for that; but, once again, the people who actually dealt with us, they were nice.
After getting yelled at for that by whom I thought was a higher-up, I just did whatever I pleased. Because adults had been shitheads to me beforehand, twice, when I'd done nothing wrong; and I didn't feel like kowtowing or deferring to them, if they were just going to yell at me, anyways. When both good and bad behavior are rewarded with someone yelling at you, you learn that doing whatever you want also gets the same response.
It worked out for me.
On the one hand, out of the over 400,000 people on the site, most of them loved me. And this isn't some narcisisstic brag: for a kid looking for a place to both heal and grow, being in a loving environment was just the thing I needed.
The people in the Forums fucking hated me. But only about a hundred people used them. One day, one of them decided to dox me, and a bunch threatened to kill me, and the forum was summarily closed. Good!
Throughout the years, even though I've had the ability to access these memories any time I wanted, I've been loathe to. Because, everything I remember completely, it later feels... not so warm and fuzzy, to think about, any longer. So I'd been holding off. Plus, wif all the trouble that seemed to surround me, I didn't want to remember if I was a shitty little kid.
Reality, thankfully, is kind to me. I wasn't a shitty little kid. I ran into a lot of trouble because I never let injustices 'slide'. I always stood up for innocent people, and this got me pushed out of two communities: those being, the Sailor Moon community (early on, for when I told the admin of a group to go fuck himself because he was being mean / creepy to a girl), and the Marathon community, because they were shitheads and a bunch of them sexually harassed a little boy(!).
The Trail of Destruction that followed me, when I was a kid, wasn't a matter of me causing trouble for nothing. It was the result of me encountering people who needed help, needed someone to defend them, and I did. No matter what, I never compromised.
That being said, it's been 23+ years, and I think people have a right to be forgotten. So I won't list my friends, here. Just know that you're all loved, and there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of you. Especially you, Jujubeans. (◕ᴗ◕✿)
Whether or not the record reflects this reality, I remember existing inside Arcadium for at least 3 years. And the community was fairly stable: the majority of the people were in-and-out the chatrooms, with about 30-100 regulars who roleplayed. I was one of the regulars.
I got both my usernames, icze4r and TheBattleAngel, from there. ( I no longer go by TheBattleAngel, because, ho boy is that hazardous, copyright-wise, these days. ) But, at the time, those were my two usernames. Besides, of course, DevilHunterRyoko, SaieyroStorm, and a bunch of other ones. I don't really remember them all, past there. My friends used to tease me about how I couldn't seem to maintain the same identity for long: it was because I was trans, and I was trying to figure out who I wanted to be.
I posted under the username icze4r, for a bit. But, when I learned that I could make different accounts, and not be penalized, I started to accumulate usernames. The second one was TheBattleAngel, because it was my favorite anime after Iczer One. Yes, icze4r is from Iczer One. I tried to type "iczer", but I typoed, because I was like 9 years old, and I got icsze4r. I deleted the s, looked at the name, and went... hey!! :3c
I remember looking up into my closet, while I was at my computer, set in my little wooden rolltop desk. And the second VHS tape I saw, high up in my closet, on the shelf above all my clothes, was Battle Angel. So I typed TheBattleAngel, and that was that.
Funny story: as a result of me picking that name, and being so bold and flamboyant, soon, everybody was naming themselves some sort of Angel. Some meanies considered it almost a plague. But I had fun. Even though, at first, I thought people were mocking me... they wanted to be like me. The ultimate form of flattery. :3c
The roleplaying community was pretty funny. There was a gash(?) of vampires; two were in love, and, to my eye, it seemed like a lifelong one. It felt like it went on for 8-10 years. The lady of that couple sought to 'cyberfight' me, for control of the 'rafters'. (The roleplayers liked to pretend that one of the chatrooms was a bar.) I didn't know what rafters were. I thought they were magical floating rafts, like in Zelda. (´•ω•｀)
My friends and I had a running roleplaying session, where we roleplayed as everything from the characters of Final Fantasy 6, Chrono Trigger (which I hadn't played at the time, and wouldn't play for YEARS afterwards!), and Final Fantasy 7. One person took to playing the villain— something they eventually came to hate. But, their villain, 'Calypso', based on both Ryoko and Kagato from Tenchi Muyo!, was really good!
The first time I went on my own roleplaying adventure, we went off to go kill Satan.
I told my Mom and Dad about this, who were yey-confused.
Arcadium Art Assets
As you probably know, I'm a genius. In fact, that was one of my nicknames as a kid— 天才。 I have an Eidetic (Photographic) Memory. So, quite clearly, everything is saved in my head: given enough time, I could simply recreate all that I saw, there. Including the user-made avatars. The little Gingerbread Men.
So why don't I do it?
Why didn't I save the Gingerbread Men, and other art assets, when I had the chance?
Because I hated the people who made them.And, specifically, when the Gingerbread Men Avatar contest was had, and everybody won but me, I didn't want anything to remind me of that. The only reason I didn't win was because, thanks to Apple's shitty hardware, my monitor only displayed shades of green. So I had to guess how I was coloring my avatar.
When I submitted it, the person reviewing submissions asked me if I was colorblind. When I said no, and tried to explain, they laughed, cut me off, and threw it away.
If I had lied, it would've been put on the page, and I would've saved the rest.
So that's why they're gone, now. Because somebody laughed at a drawing I made, as a kid. And I wasn't going to save the drawings of all the assholes who got theirs posted. They made fun of me; so fuck them.
The person who made the Boba Fett avatar was mean to me, and I never liked the Alien one. But I have these saved. So here you go. (The template Gingerbread Man is also included!) c(◕ᴗ◕✿)
I should note that I just remembered that my avatar was eventually included, thanks to a nice person who worked at the site.
Oh well! Too bad. Here they are!
The rest were useless bullshit. One was just the Gingerbread Person with a purple 'bodysuit'. I used that one a lot. Because it looked stupid and I liked it I'm not going to tell you why yet.
Yes, Boba Fett was also bizarrely small. This is because the person who edited them used the wrong size avatar when they were editing them; then, they blew them up. Everybody loved Boba Fett. Nobody used any of the other ones. They were all just kind of weird. But if you have them, feel free to share them.
Yes, the Alien is blurry. I never saved it. This was the best I could do. I could remake them, but, I don't care to. You can remake it by just running that through an upscaler.
Here are all the other art assets I can find, from the website.
FOR PROVIDING INFORMATION, HOSTING WEB-SITE, CHAT ROOM AND BULLETIN BOARD RELATING TO GAMES IN A GLOBAL COMPUTER INFORMATION NETWORK (U.S. CLS. 100, 101 AND 107).
Not that you give a shit. I mean, do you give a fuck about an Official Gazette that has 1202 fucking volumes, and 3 issues, at least?!
After the Apocalypse
It happened very quickly. The end, I mean.
One day, we were happily roleplaying, worried that something would happen. And then . . . they just turned the servers off, on us. And we had nowhere to go.
That heartache, that heartbreak, was the first time I realized, quite fully, that America didn't give a shit about me. That the Forces of Capitalism™ didn't care. Our hopes, our dreams, our Happiness, was not worth even a dime, to these people. We were given places to go— but, it didn't matter. It was never the same. And, eventually, my friends and I... we just... drifted apart.
For 20+ years, after all that happened, I've thought about making contact with them. Occasionally, I see them, and I want to reach out, and say something. But Human Society makes it too difficult. Too awkward. We were growing apart, even before the end of the website. Internet Friendships are usually fast and furious. I don't even know what we would have to say to each other, now.
I called it "The Apocalypse". And, like everything else, in my life, I wanted to fistfight it.
But there's no fistfighting Capitalism.
An End to All Things
For the longest, I've had this pain in my breast. I've wanted a place like Arcadium, for so very long. And, as I looked back on it, and I realized that I'd idealized some parts of it, forgotten all those who hate me... I realize, now, that I've almost had something like it, all these years on Twitter.
But it's never been the same. I've never felt the same love, and acceptance, as I did in those 300 days. And, ever since it was taken from me, I've waited for the Internet to go back to those halcyon days. I've longed for my Golden Age, when I was loved, liked, and super-famous. Everybody knew me, and everybody loved me. I miss that.
It's been a lifetime since all of that. And, part of me, part of me didn't want to mention any of this. Because I didn't want anyone to dig into my past; I didn't want them to find out anything bad about me.
... but, then, I realized, that I never did anything wrong. I was the voice of reason when someone in the Sailor Moon community was acting like a monster. I was the hero who fought against the adults, who were trying to victimize a child, in the Marathon community. And I was the flamboyant, flagrant, boisterous life of a community. Long before my spirit was pounded into stone.
So this, I say, as the point of this article. Arcadium doesn't matter. It never mattered. It was only how Arcadium made me feel, that mattered. And I'm taking that. I'm taking that back.
For the longest, I've forgotten who I was. Now is the perfect time to say it. Now is the perfect time to Remember.
I am icze4r, the Battle Angel.
Suck my fucking cock, Evil.
After a few months...
This article was originally published somewhere around Christmas of 2020. I've had some time to think about it, and heal, and, I have some thoughts. You'll have to have read the entire article, just to understand this, as it addresses the article, paragraph by paragraph, in order. And them, sometimes it doesn't! Too bad!
By my own memory, Arcadium lasted 3 years: 1997, 1996, and 1995. The Human record only contains about one or two of those years. It's very strange.
I remember the place having 600,000+ users— possibly up past a million. But that's a secret, and I can't tell you where I got that information from. And if you're the type of person who's like, 'bullshit, it didn't happen, then,' suck my cock. I give you free information and you're ungrateful? Pathetic.
I genuinely hated a lot of people on Arcadium. I hated them because they had sticks up their asses: they were the sort of pedantic dipshits who pretended that, just because they were older, that made them better than everybody else.
Most of them were fuckheads who were in colelge. Something about being in college, back then, just made you a dipfuck when it came to Internet use. They were all prim and proper; just like with Marathon, the people who couldn't leave kids alone, to pway, were genuinely either college-aged kids, or people in their late 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, etc. If you were in college or your entire identity was your job, you were a fuckball online. Don't know why.
It was the same way with the earliest two Sailor Moon communities in America. The Japanese one were fucking awesome; the Americans were dipfucks.
What you call a 'fandom' right now, we would call the 'community'. And, way back when, it was plagued by adults who bullied and gatekept a children's playground. Fuckin' losers, mate.
Those kinds of dipfucks were always the ones who were obsessed with the Gingerbread system. Never understood why; don't care to learn now, if ever. That's also a big reason of why I never saved much of it: cunts were the only ones who liked it. Most of the adults who used one Gingerbread man, in particular, were adamant about trying to bully me off the website. Those motherfuckers hated me.
I genuinely hate Capitalism™ for 2 shining, bloody reasons: the torture my loved ones have gone through because of it; and, the fact that it took this happy place away from me. In fact, you could quite easily say that Capitalism has taken away everything and everyone I've ever loved. I hate.
I purposefully never saved anything of the site that reminded me of the people who vehemently hated me. I was curious as to what would happen— what would survive, if I did not save anything. Nothing survived. Good! Fuck you assholes!
I wanted the people who tormented me, to lose everything of the site that they loved. And, they did. Good. And if I ever find it, I will not share it.
It has been 24 years, by the way. One friend, even at the time we last spoke, could barely tolerate me. Two drifted away. One was always cool. Two were, actually.
As time goes on, and I process this... it hurts less and less. It is a hurt that will eventually fade. I use my writing as a conduit to process things. This is a pain I've nearly chewed through completely. Soon, it will be nothing. It will no longer bind my heart.
It's a small wonder that I was not banned, or worse. Kind of funny, really.
Honestly, I do have one regret. I'm awful sorry that I got mad and yelled at the lady who protected me. Sorry about that, Rachel.
I should also say that I am also over trying to find Arcadium. The Internet officially jumped the shark a little while ago when they hurt Vinny. At this point, I no longer care. The Internet is bad in my eyes. I am not looking for compassion from it, any longer. They hurt the innocent pizzapasta man.
Oh, and it should be noted: in actuality, I did get modded once... for 7 seconds. She wouldn't let me type anything, though. That's how dangerous I was.
Once, I found the command to restart the entire server cluster.
In general, I understand why I don't keep friends for very long. It's because, as I live and breathe, I'm highly chaotic. Very few people can keep up with me. Some people get sick of me, and I'm not going to say that that's okay, because I honestly don't give a shit. I've tried to 'temper' my behavior, so that I could keep friends, and. . . it simply is not worth it. It is not worth it to not live, in order to keep a connection with someone who I will never really get that close to / with.
Over the years, I've lost friends who have drawn art for me, and fan art, and... it's weird. It's weird to have had so much love in my heart for some people, and to have them get sick of me. I didn't know how to deal with it, a long time ago. But now, I don't give a shit.
That fixes it.
Having had time to process all of this, I want to tell you: I no longer regret getting banned and/or ostracized from a lot of the early communities I was in. Because, I was almost always fighting against adults who were hurting kids. The fact that I had a Trail of Destruction in my wake, also makes me laugh, now. (◕ᴗ◕✿)
The second time I got ostracized by the Sailor Moon community— just before the server holding all of the fanfiction, crashed, and pretty much killed the community for nearly two decades— there was a person who refused to defend their partner. They were gay, and, people were harassing their partner. They refused to fight back and defend their partner, because they feared that they'd lose standing in the Sailor Moon community. Can you imagine something as stupid as that? People are calling your life partner slurs, and you just... don't say anything, because you like the community better than you like the person you love?
I yelled at them. And, for that— from that— they decided to use the sway they had in the community, to tell everybody not to talk to me. Which didn't really matter, because, after the server(s) crashed, there was no more community. Everything they made up about me didn't really matter, since there was no one left to talk to.
The multiple usernames weren't because I was trans.
The 'Angel' copy-cat phenomenon would later repeat itself, in 2014, when everybody took my icon, used it, made variations on it, etc., etc. It was Intredasting.
I will always remember the Rafters. I met the Vampires there, on my second day, on Arcadium. Same day I met Vince, who later introduced me to Junon.
The first day, the first person I talked to, they were named "Princess0Luv". They asked me if I was a girl or a boy.
Realizing that I could 'lie,' and tell her the gender I actually felt I was, I spent like 10 minutes before I answered: 'Girl'. Which freaked her out.
Princess was about 19. I was about 8 or 9.
I never saw her again after about 2 weeks.
Sometimes, I feel sorry that I didn't play Chrono Trigger sooner, so that I could roleplay with my friends. I didn't, because— even though it was always available at Blockbuster, I didn't like the box art. And I hated JRPGs. Back then.
I will never forget adventuring with IW.
The tale of why I didn't save the art assets stands as a testament to how I work. If this hadn't happened— if I hadn't been laughed at— I would've saved everything. If people hadn't been mean to me, I would've saved everything. But, all it took were a few assholes, and, I didn't. So there.
Compare this to how, recently, I revealed my plan to make an article about myself, on Wikipedia. I was just going to do it, and subvert Wikipedia for myself, so that I could get a Google Knowledge Panel, and get Verified on Google, fairly easily. But I did. And you know why?
Two people were nice to me on Wikipedia.
That's all it takes.
There's a reason why I used the purple one.
I gave the person who worked on Boba Fett the wrong dimensions on purpose, because I felt they had been rude / mean to me, an hour before they asked for my help. I knew it would result in an improperly-sized avatar. But, I didn't care. Because, fuck them.
My friends can still contact me, if they want. I don't think we really have that much to say to one another. It's been 2 fucking decades. I mean, if you want. It's gonna be weird, though.
I can deal with the pain, now. Live your life. Have fun.
I have also given up on another Arcadium. I am now going for the place that Arcadium reminded me of.
I no longer care what Humanity thinks.
Hey, why's the title image like that?
It's a good image.
When did Arcadium.com, Humanity's first digital social network, exist?
From about 1996 to 1998. I remember it as three years, and that seems to be about right.
How did you find Arcadium?
Funny story: I was on Download.com, before all the goofy shit with dat happened, and, I saw one of the first banner ads to ever exist, online. At first, I hated it, but then... the ad said that I could talk to people about Marathon 2, there, at Arcadium. So I clicked.
If Arcadium hadn't done a shitload of keyword stuffing, and advertised like that, using Marathon 2's holy name, I may have never discovered that holy place.
How many places did I actually miss out on, because of that, I wonder?
What was your name on Arcadium?
I had a shitfuck ton of names. In chronological order:
SaieyroStorm (to surprise my friends, in secret)
And many more.
What font does the Arcadium logo use?
Funny story. When I asked this in chat, over 20 years ago, someone replied, "it's Arial, dipshit."
And I replied to them: In 20 years, I'm going to prove you wrong. Shithead.
Well, it's high-time, so, what is the font?
It's called BB Anonym™ (Pro) Medium. And it can be simulated by using Arial, and just rounding off the lowercase 'a'.
What color theming did Arcadium use?
Black and lime. The color values are #000000's black and #00FF00's green, or 'lime' in common HTML color parlance. Very occasionally, I believe it also used red.