There once was a site I was quite involved in, called GaiaOnline (originally called GoGaia). It was a forum-based role-play/dress-up site basically, with cute anime-styled avatars and, as the years went on, an absolutely OVERWHELMING selection of clothing items, skins, accessories, backgrounds, wigs, eyes, companions…SO many things you could slap on your avatar to customize it. There were discussions in the forums about every topic imaginable, word games to play with other users, mini-games elsewhere on the site, shops for the aforementioned items, and as mentioned before, the role-playing.
I fell out of the active userbase around when I started reading the webcomic Homestuck (and boy, the degree to which Homestuck affected my life is a story for another time), but there is one particular forum thread I miss, and I think about it now and again with some real nostalgia: a little thread called simply, The Battledome.
The Battledome was a thread tucked away in the Chatterbox forum I believe. Chatterbox was reserved for simple word games and casual role-play, or for people to just heck around with forum formatting. I feel like back in those days, in Chatterbox, were my first experiences with what now gets called “shitposting” on tumblr. I digress…
In the Battledome thread, your avatar was your character. There was a dice-rolling widget, and you posted after someone else, rolled the dice, and the result guided you in writing a combat scenario between your character and the one above you. Although this was indeed more “casual” role-playing than other threads found elsewhere on the site, I had so much fun with this. It was nothing but creativity on the fly, and the fights ranged from funny, to brutal, to creepy or heart-wrenching. Most of the characters were pretty well-developed, too. Plus you could have fun changing your avatar around to come up with different characters and thus get to write different scenarios whenever you liked. In fact, the protagonist of my novel Gutter Wine, Vincio Scavola, was born in the Battledome, purely from the item shops on the site having these mafia hitman-esque items that struck my fancy.
I’ve always found ridiculous fight scenes to be a lot of fun, and I had such a good time on this thread, playing Vincio as well as the handful of other characters I came up with (a naga swordsman, a murderous animate marble statue, a character inspired by the Danger Days album named Johnny Killjoy, god the list goes on…). I would love having that experience again, but my life is too full of other things to allow for the kind of immersion I had in GaiaOnline. Plus, apparently inflation has been an ongoing issue with regards to the site’s in-world currency, so the effort to get my avatar all fixed up nice would be MASSIVE.
I spent actual, real-world money on some of my items, and as I no longer have access to the account, it’s just not worth as much to me. But I will be forever thankful to that little thread for providing me with so much inspiration, so much writing practice, and so much fun. But I hope that The Battledome is still a thing, and that maybe some of the characters Vincio got to know are still beating the shit out of each other in there.