by Alphaville Herald on 29/04/05 at 2:33 am
By Neal Stewart
24 hours ago, the W-Hats celebrated their 1-Year Birthday in Second Life at their “W-Hat Super Happy Fun Time Land”. “Cake and ice cream for every girl and boy!”, read the event listing. In classic W-Hat fashion, a host of neon pigs, robots, smoking chimpanzees and wheelchair-bound Mad-Hatters laughed and danced away to Super Nintendo tracks and hilarious Japanese Pop songs (“shitsukoku matte masu… anata to nara Happiness”). 100 metres from the party is a recent build by one of the W-Hat members. It is a small room with vast quantities of blood splattered across the ceiling, wooden floor-boards and brick-walls. At the centre of the gore is a wooden 4 poster bed containing bloodied sheets and the disembowled corpse of a furry, post-coital, hermaphrodite hooker. The bed has 5 animation-balls; One where you strangle the dead hooker, two where you have sex with it and another two where you sit in the corners of the mattress and masturbate.
“It’s my birthday and I’ll cry if I want, cry if I want to…”
Call me an asshat but I have a soft-spot for the W-Hats. As their website describes them, “W-Hat is the non-griefing Something Awful goon group on Second Life.” I’ve been a sporadic SomethingAwful reader for several years but not a forum goon. Believe it or not, the forum goons number in at 57,000 members – more than twice the number of Second Life residents. There is a lot at SA that I don’t like or doesn’t interest me. One story in particular that I recall is too messed-up to even link to. It would make angels vomit and then weep in their vomit. Having said that, I’m a big fan of Photoshop Phriday, JeffK, and feature articles like ‘An Introduction to Moféism’, ‘Breakup With Girlfriend’ and ‘Getting Awesome With My Dad’.
So, I attended the W-Hat birthday party as myself – a normal but dangerously sexy SL resident. Admittedly however a small part of me wondered if Neal Stewart the Herald writer would also chance upon the next controversy to follow the furry-mimes, the WTC-build and the recent Pope build.
And he did… uh I did.
For the party, W-Hat member Feem Lomax built a special replica of the original W-Hat building: 3 tiled floors, green, red and blue, linked by elevator shafts. “For a group that is rumored on the forums to get banned a lot, there sure are a lot of folks here =)”, Wintermute Mechanique commented. There’s smoke and chaos, floating eyeballs, fart-noises, people doing hand-stand dances in a Satanic pentagram with a wooden toilet in the centre.
“I tekki wiki’d your Mom last night”, one reveller insists. “She told me it was a tiny tekki wikki though”, the other replies. Hovering over the dance-floor is a giant pink birthday cake with a single candle. Beneath this is an ‘IRC link’ object coded by the ‘W-Hat Mother’, Masakuzu Kojima. It’s impressive. People outside of SL can enter a special IRC chatroom and the object will publicly relay messages back and forth to Second Life. This creates a delightful kind of anarchic tear in the SL ‘Matrix’ – almost a key-hole sized TAZ. As the party-goers dance, they’re chatting with IRC goons like Taliban Bijoux. Taliban is currently banned from SL for a TOS violation (‘intolerance’) but ‘Talibanta’s’ avatar-less IRC presence is here in SL. So she’s here but she’s not. Her messages scroll down the screen in green text: “I heard taliban bijoux is the only awesome member they had [the W-Hats] and she should be an officer or something I heard”.
The atmosphere at the party is something awful. While the land-stream plays hilarious, syrupy, manic-cutesy teenage-girl Japanese pop songs, the party-goers joke and bait each other. A female dancer is naked except for a toilet plunger on each breast and a third sticking out her butt. The guests talk about a banned
W-Hat, ‘Jew Filth’, whose avatars – including ‘Jewish Filth’ and ‘Negro Filth’ – apparently led to Linden Labs dropping the ‘Filth’ surname altogether [Note: This avatar was pre-W-Hat]. Apparently another player named ‘Bukkake‘ had his name forcibly changed to ‘Butterfly’.
“They may take our names, but they’ll never take our freeeedom” one of the guests yells.
Despite the TOS-violation tomfoolery there’s also some genuine sense of community at the party. Welcomes and friendships. Some of the party-goers have had a falling out and a few of the others are trying to calm them down. Or maybe they’re just trying to avoid the potential drahma. About half-way through the party, Feem Lomax delivers an impromptu speech on the subject of W-Hat history:
“In the year 2004, W-Hat grew upon the face of Second Life like a musical chair festering on the side of a republican calendar girl. Immediately after the spaceship landed, THIS VERY HQ was created! It went through several incarnations! What you see here is a conflagration of some of the most important! Anyway so back then there was a lot of cool stuff happening and SL was kind of cool and we liked it! So we stayed here, and decided to make the place a lot more colorful! This sim didn’t exist then! We lived somewhere else.”
As the speech proceeds, Talibanta is second-guessing Feem via the IRC link, “Feem you’re not telling it right”. They conduct an amusing “STFU YOU WEREN’T EVEN HERE OMG LIES” debate. Feem continues, “Most people hate us. We can’t really do anything about that. I mean, it’s true. Half of us are complete assholes who offer nothing to the community. So anyway.”
At this point Feem is apparently distracted by the land audiostream (an mp3 of someone screaming a famous anti-SA rant) and fails to finish his speech.
But I like to think that what he was going to say was, “And as for the other half – well, they’re complete assholes too”.
As the party winds down, I hear snippets about an alleged ‘dead hooker crime scene’ that has been built in the past few days. “It’s gross”, Mother Masakuzu tells me.
The official W-Hat position on the build is that the W-Hats do not have official positions.
The build’s creator, Dave Eisenberg, is currently a red and black furry – apparently a modified version of the all-prim avatar that the corpse is based on. He leads me to the crime-scene in a huge brick apartment. The murder is next door to a mock W-Hat detective agency that has a Scooby Doo poster on its wall. The first thing you see is the yellow, plastic barrier tape, “POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS” strung up in a criss-cross pattern over the doorway. Inside, there is blood everywhere – on the floor and two opposite walls, and splattered on the ceiling. A bloody, severed, furry tale is pinned to the brick wall with a knife. Not far from this, the word ‘LOVE’ has been finger-painted in blood. There’s also what looks like a tin of red paint on the floor. Blood-stained hand-prints mark the bed’s head-board. The naked furry corpse looks like some sort of rabbit, white, with purple hair and green paws. Apparently it has not only female genitals but two penises, for good measure. There is a gaping wound in the side of the corpse, emitting an animated geyser of blood into the air. The knife is still embedded in the wound and the intestines are hanging out.
The kidneys are in a jar in the fridge.
Word spreads fast in Second Life. People are already IMing me claiming that the builder is deliberately trying to get into the Herald. But how can I ignore what some would describe as a ‘griefer build’ by a W-Hat member on the W-Hat’s 1-Year Birthday? Particularly a build as original as this one. We’ve seen Nazis, virtual child porn, upskirt photos, sim-nukes, 911 and pope-assassination mockery (the last two from the W-Hats). But gore is new. It presents an exciting opportunity to debate media-violence, gore-censorship and the relationship between sex and horror.
It also presents a great opportunity to call each other fucktards.
Neal Stewart the Herald reporter just wants to be neutral and get the facts about the story but Neal Stewart the Second Life resident finds the scene aesthetically-appealing in some fucked-up way. Like the horror-gore in a Quentin Tarantino film or a Cradle of Filth clip. So the voice in my head says, “Stay out of this, just write the story” but the voice in my keyboard says to Dave, “You should make copies and back them up with other people”.
While I’m trying to reddress this internal conflict during the interview, different W-Hats are IMing me conflicting reports. At the same time, I’m also asking them about how I’m supposed to get into the W-Hat group (apparently it’s an invisible group – to thwart Abuse Report griefers). They’re messing with me, telling me elaborate, fake, super-secret initiation rituals involving staircases and marmosets. It’s probably for the best. I’m not sure I want to belong to a club that would have people like me as a member
Hillary Clinton recently slammed Grand Theft Auto, claiming that “Children are playing a game that encourages them to have sex with prostitutes and then murder them”.
But at this Second Life W-Hat build, the murder is first. And you don’t collect $50.
At my SL home, talking with close friends, the sense of identification with my avatar is quite strong. But at the W-Hat sim, after hours of talking to strange strangers amidst bizarre visual hallucinations, auditory insanity and general mind-fuckery, the link is tenuous. So before I know it I’m testing the crime-scene gestures and throttling and humping away at the murdered, furry, hermaphrodite hooker.
Now I feel dirty and am going to have to go into the lounge and watch my Little House On the Prairie DVD’s.
But not the episode where Mary Ingalls goes blind.
So, without further ado, here is the interview with Dave Eisenberg. Is he a virtual satirist, griefer, graphical shock-jock, post-modern artist or just an attention-seeker?
Continued in Part 2…