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.
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.