Pulling up the full text of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s famous poem “Ozymandias” seems appropriate here. As visions of ruined monuments and abandoned kingdoms fill your head, please consider what may be the most haunting Let’s Play ever streamed.
YouTuber vinesauce gets a special thrill from sharing his live reactions to strange, obscure and, quite often, hilariously buggy video games. At this date, all three of those terms describe Active Worlds. Launched a few years before EverQuest, and nearly a decade before World of Warcraft, it’s a proto-MMORPG that functioned more as an online masquerade. Users could boot in, pick an avatar, and chat with each other. If they weren’t satisfied with the medievel-esque levels created by the games’ developers, they could build ones of their own. And 20 years ago, it might’ve been bustling with digital denizens.
Today, though? It’s a virtual ghost town. As vinesauce found during his exploration, the game’s spacious levels are almost entirely vacant even though some mystical servers somewhere are still keeping them running. Wandering through empty spaces designed for dense crowds is spooky, certainly. Know what’s a whole lot spookier, though? Finding the one lost, lonely soul still lurking around.
As it turns out, vinesauce was indeed correct about the stranger’s artificiality… but he was also getting trolled. A little digging reveals that Active Worlds’ communities still keep in touch through other forums. One heard about this streaming session and “Hitomi,” a longtime user with a reputation for mischief, logged on to actively seek vinesauce out. (Or “stalk” him, if you prefer).
Does that fact truly ruin this ghost story, though? Hasn’t virtual reality been about ambiguity from the very beginning? Blurring the line between fantasy and reality? Or could we (gasp!) be thinking too much?
Any Active Worlds veterans in our readership? What’s the creepiest experience you’ve ever had with a MMO? Fill our talkback up and freak us out.
Featured Image Credit: Vinesauce