This spring the world has faced a threat that seems like a final boss in a videogame: the coronavirus. One of the less serious effects of the pandemic has been the prohibition of all gatherings of over 10 people, in Finland that is. Consequently, all student parties and events have been canceled, which poses obvious problems for the party-hungry university students. Attempting to solve these problems, we held an exploration, in which we dove deep into the ruins of ancient internet culture: the infamous Habbo Hotel.
First a bit of background. Habbo is an originally Finnish online community that was immensely popular in the early 2000s. It’s well recognized for its signature pixel aesthetic. Players can visit the different official and unofficial rooms, decorate their own, and customize their avatar with different hairstyles and clothing.
In 2012, a crisis halted Habbo’s already dwindling growth, as a British news channel reported that the site was habited by pedophiles, who were sending sexual and vulgar messages to underage players. The number of players reclined rapidly as the hotel’s communication channels were muted for a week. The rise of social media, such as Facebook, struck the final blow, and in 2017 it was reported that the number of players globally was barely over a million.
The party was advertised as any other party would’ve been. An event was posted on our student associations Facebook-page a week prior. The plan was to hang out at the event organizer’s room and reminisce about the good old days whilst drinking a few alcoholic beverages. As I’m barely a few months older than Habbo itself, I never really used it, but was excited to experience it for the first time.
And what a letdown it was. I didn’t really have high expectations but organizing a party in Habbo is just a hopeless idea. The main problem was, of course, communication. Players who are in the same room can chat with each other, but I found it difficult that the messages disappeared after a few seconds. Most of the talking was done in Discord. Also, as the Hotel is quite empty these days, our group of about 20 players attracted quite many curious regular users, some of whom seemed to be underage.
It might be a bit nitpicky to comment about this, but the filter on swearwords and vulgarities was also quite annoying. Swearing is a bad habit but the filter would sometimes block out even seemingly regular conversation. Also creating your own character isn’t nearly as fun when all the cool clothing is bought using a specific in-game currency, which of course it purchased with real currency. It doesn’t really give occasional users a reason to stay.
So is Habbo the answer to our prayers for social interaction? I’ll have to say no. We had way more fun after the party playing Skribbl.io, an online game where one player draws something, and the rest try to guess. But hey, at least we made the news.
The image is a screenshot from Habbo.