Here is a little something on a place that i grew up in. It is a savage place that is best kept secret. I don’t think anything written here threatens anything though so here.
Warning the following was written years ago.
There is a world in which there exist no trees, no water, and no air, but where humanity survives in abundance. In this world, death comes only as the result of punishment, and the prudent may well live forever. Vulgarity is the norm and immorality the status quo, but there are a startling number of parallels which can be drawn from this world to our own. More importantly, this world is palpable evidence that in a micro-universe of its own creation, mankind can thrive and develop into a complex society. I must stress the fact that if you have never heard of this world before, you will never, ever be able to experience it firsthand. My testimonial here may well be the first and last time you ever hear of this place or see it discussed, so listen closely. The name of this world is LUE, and it is a child of the digital age.
LUE is an acronym for “Life, the Universe, and Everything.” Whether it should be pronounced “loo” or “el you ee” is a point of great contention, and while I myself prefer the former, you’re free to say it however you like. LUE is the most famous (or infamous) message board on the popular gaming website, http://www.gamefaqs.com, a site which I invite you to explore at your leisure should this paper spark your interest. At this very moment, the website reports at the top of the board list that there are currently 5,498 users logged in, browsing and posting on various message boards throughout the site. Some of the more popular boards are DOS/Windows General – General with , Current Events, and Random Insanity. To give you an idea of LUE’s popularity, it had the most active topics. Purges of topics occur every night and, on the more popular boards, these purges delete every topic that has not been posted in for more than a few days.
What’s fantastic about all this is that, while boards like Current Events have a constant influx of newly-registered users, LUE will never have more members than it does now. This is because there are several rules which regulate who is and who is not allowed to post on LUE. In order to even access the board, your user level must be Veteran or higher, you must have registered your account before a certain date, and you have to have participated in a special sign-up which occurred between January 4th and 15th of 2004 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gamefaqs). But what is the reason for all of these regulations? Well, where should I start?
Users of the board identify themselves as LUEsers. To many GameFAQs users who do not post on LUE – and especially to those who are simply unable to – the board is seen as a hideous blight, a writhing cesspool of filth which commits all sorts of atrocities and has been known to bring the entire website under fire from time to time. To others it is simply an enigma, and a good portion of users are entirely unaware that the place exists at all. And while the assessment that LUE is nothing more than a pit of vulgarity is definitely an exaggeration, it isn’t entirely off base; some common topics of discussion include fecal analysis, pedophilia, masturbation habits, and incest. This alone is enough to warrant the user level restriction, and the other two restraints were instated soon after LUEsers invaded a number of websites – including a kids’ chat and the memorial LiveJournal of a girl who had committed suicide – flooding comments pages, chat rooms, and guest books with profanities, obscenities, and links to various shock sites, and bringing personal complaints from the respective websites against CJayC, the owner of GameFAQs. The invasions did not occur at the same time, but they were close enough together that they will forever stick in the memories of those who bore witness to them and the chaotic aftermath which followed.
CJayC’s first act of retaliation was to ban every user who’d had a hand in any of the invasions and establish the registration date restriction – that only users with a certain user ID or lower could access LUE. A few months later, he posted a topic on LUE in which he referred to LUE as a “cancer”, saying that it could not be destroyed without serious repercussions, and that instead it would have to be contained. Thus, the sign-ups occurred, and thereafter LUE became a private board. LUE fought these restrictions tooth and nail, and many LUEsers committed account suicide (a topic which will be touched on later) in protest. But for better or worse, that is the state of things now.
Many LUEsers predicted that the result of all this would be that the board would slowly die as users were inevitably banned for various offenses. However, to this day, and despite considerable losses, Life, the Universe, and Everything persists as the reigning king of all GameFAQs. LUE is a society in every sense of the word, and it has its own history, its own culture, and its own bizarre connections to real life.
LUE gets its name from a Douglas Adams book. The board’s index number is 402, and according to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the number 42 is the answer to the great question of life, the universe, and everything. I can never remember if the board’s name is a result of the number or if the number is a result of the name, but the connection is there nonetheless.
The board was initially created with the intent of harboring serious intellectual discussion of the sort which was previously not allowed on other social boards. I remember visiting LUE every now and then when it was still young and when I was only a casual user; at that time, it was overflowing with topics about quantum physics and heated religious debates. Soon after its inception, LUE developed rivalries with other social boards, especially Random Insanity. Ironically, RI began as the most radical board and LUE began as the most uptight (http://www.firefusion.org/lue/LUEhistory.htm). Slowly, LUE became less intelligent and more juvenile, and while intellectual conversation is a mainstay, invasions, fads, and sexual discussion eventually replaced it as the norm.
The fads are a point of interest, by the way. They are something akin to LUE’s own unique dialect and are often recognized by the board’s users as its most defining characteristic. Primarily, there are all sorts of catchphrases which fall in and out of popularity at varying times, with new ones being invented at regular intervals. Many catchphrases are stolen from various pop culture and internet sources, but some originate from the board itself. For instance, a common answer to the question “Why?” is the ever-popular, “Because you touch yourself at night,” which is a reference to the television show Family Guy. The customary LUEser greeting is, “y helo thar buttsecks?” which is taken from a flash animation depicting how males react to women on the internet (for reference: http://www.albinoblacksheep.com/flash/attention.php). “73 genders? What the hell kinda school do you go to?” originated on LUE, and came about in the topic, “I saw you in the locker room…” with a one-line message body of, “…all 73 genders of you,” to which another user responded with the aforementioned phrase, which for whatever reason immediately became a fad. And perhaps the most famous fad of recent times is an ASCII art (or text-based picture) of Mario and Yoshi from the Super Mario Bros. videogame series. This picture was christened “LUEshi” and is thought of by many as the symbol for the current culture of the board (a picture of LUEshi can be found at http://www.lueshi.com). The board was at one time so overrun with LUEshi’s that posting this simple block of characters which resemble a plumber riding a dinosaur has become a zero-tolerance offense which will result in your account getting suspended, if not permanently banned.
Catchphrases come about when one user inadvertently says something humorous which can be applied to other situations, and a few other users start quoting him in other topics. The other type of LUE fad is the sort that breaks out like a rash all over the face of the message board. This begins when a user intentionally makes a topic title which is very similar to an already-existing topic title in order to either mock the similar topic or to crack a similar joke. For example, a serious topic such as “My friend’s mom took away my Playstation,” begets a joke topic such as “My friend’s mom took away my virginity,” which may or may not cascade into “My mom gave me my friend’s Playstation!”, “My friend’s Playstation took away my mom,” and on and on until the topics get so numerous that they become disruptive and the moderators step in. I made that one up entirely, but a real (and very recent) example of multiple joke topics was: “What did CJayC say when he took a dump? Log Out.” which pre-empted a massive sweep of “What did CJayC say…” topics which overran LUE for a good hour. The entire fad phenomenon is very characteristic of how any social group has a number of inside jokes which only members will get and which all members are expected to get. However, I am inclined to assert that with LUE, everything is in such grand proportion that this is less an example of exclusive humor and more an example of an entire pop culture on a small scale.
esides the plethora of catchphrases, there is an entire vocabulary which becomes second-nature to any veteran GameFAQs user. A “sig” is the two lines of text which follow the body of a message and is unique to each user. The “TOS” (Terms of Service) are the set of official rules for all GameFAQs users in general; getting “modded” is what occurs when one of your messages is deleted because it violated the TOS in some way; a “bannable” offense is something that will get you modded, and does not, as one might expect, necessarily mean that you will lose your account.
On LUE, it takes a while to get a true grasp for what sorts of things you can get away with and how harshly you can expect to be punished for certain discretions. It’s a rule that certain swear words must be entirely obscured with asterisks or else be abbreviated with only the first letter of the word. Breaking this rule unintentionally will net you a fairly hefty moderation, and breaking this rule multiple times in a single message in an obviously intentional manner will get you suspended or banned. That’s pretty clear-cut, but many other things are not; for instance, another thing that is against the TOS is “posting or requesting links to or material from pornographic, obscene, or hate-speech web sites” (http://boards.gamefaqs.com/gfaqs/tos.php). You can’t post direct links to porn sites. You can discuss porn, and you can discuss specific porn sites. You can name specific porn sites, but you’ll get in some serious trouble if you add the www. and the .com. There are certain sites which have porn links in them, but for which you will not get modded for linking to. There are other sites which have porn links in them, but for which you will get modded for linking to. There is no list of these sites, nor any sort of official statement on the matter; the only way we know which ones are acceptable and which are not is through trial and error. Much like in real life, it’s all about knowing every nuance of the law and trying to get away with as much as you can. There are plenty of users who stay well within the boundaries of the rules, and there are an equal number who constantly push the limits.
LUE has its celebrities. There are a number of users who are well-known to all of the thousands of board regulars, and others come and go who become known to a large portion but never the whole. People like Umaro, Coolhand, Ishabuu, and Polished Car are all quite famous, while users such as Arcon (no longer with us) and chuckyhacks are infamous. Of course, the good guys have their share of detractors and the bad guys have their share of supporters, but that’s how it is in any society. Typically, users “of the moment” do one or two extremely memorable things and then fall back into obscurity only to be remembered a month later by a handful of other users. The LUEsers with charisma (or an extreme lack thereof) and staying power are the ones at the top of the pyramid.
For LUEsers, death is absolute. Once you lose your account, you can never get back in. Even users who have LUE-accessible backup accounts may not survive a usermap axe. If you screw up badly enough, even just once, there is no forgiveness. Life on a message board can be just as brutal as life outside of one. But death is what makes life dramatic, and this holds true on LUE as well. Intentionally violating the TOS in such a way as to get oneself permanently banned is known as account suiciding. People suicide in protest, in outrage, in disillusionment, and sometimes just because they feel like it. A number of famous LUEsers have suicided, and usually they are remembered as martyrs who died for a cause – or else as fools who threw away their accounts for no reason; LUE is not a place where anybody can agree on anything.
Before we get too deep into this, however, I would like to examine how such a complete society is capable of subsisting in a digital environment in the first place. The answer to this may be understood in the concept that LUE is popular because LUE is popular. LUE is so popular that a message is posted at least once every second, at any given time of the day. When you post a topic, you can expect multiple responses within less than a minute. What makes this different from a regular message board is that, while the entire allure of the message board format is that you can walk away and do something else, then come back a little while later hoping for a response, LUE is so fast that if you walk away you might actually miss the discussion entirely. And if you stick around for the discussion, by the time you’re through fifty more topics have cropped up and at least ten of them are sure to catch your eye. Out of those ten, you’re guaranteed to get involved in at least one more discussion. It’s an endless cycle and it’s very addicting, much like a chat room. The thing is, unlike a chat room, the discussions on LUE don’t disappear when you close the browser. You can get bored, leave, then come back and see the entirety of everything that happened while you were away.
This format creates an environment in which conversations occur at a blinding pace, and yet where the records of everything that has happened within the past few days are always right at your fingertips. Even if you totally missed something, all you have to do is ask and you are sure to receive several detailed and varying descriptions from which you can piece together an almost perfect picture of what actually transpired. This is so incredibly alike to the social environment of a close-knit real life community that it is almost unsettling.
The disturbing thing, and the true point of interest here, is that a society can exist based upon values which are totally in opposition of what many would call the fundamental moral foundations of any functioning civilization. By all rights, LUE should have dissolved into anarchy and collapsed in on itself over a year ago. But it didn’t.
I want you to be unsettled. LUE is living, breathing proof that, as long as there is a proper medium in which to exist and a set of simple laws to discourage utter chaos, an entire culture with characteristics totally foreign and yet perfectly reflecting our own can develop upon whatever values it sees fit. Wake up and start taking notes. Stop giving a damn about ruins and aboriginals and ancient translations and everywhere else we’ve already been. This is where we are going.
At the end of the Internet, there is LUElinks. Don’t try to find it. It doesn’t exist. But if you somehow reached the home page, you’d find an Internet community in crisis. For nearly a decade, this secret collective has been building a vast infrastructure
In May 2004, LlamaGuy posted a link to “Goatse” on Internet gaming site GameFAQs. “Goatse” was an early Internet meme, which entailed a single image of an adult male providing a view of his entire anal cavity. The GameFAQs forum, in turn, froze LlamaGuy’s account for two weeks. Three hours before its reactivation, he whipped up some code for his own Internet forum called LUElinks—“Life, the Universe, and Everything,” a reference to the third book of the five-volume The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. LlamaGuy intended the site to serve as provocative offshoot of GameFAQs where lewd content could thrive and link sharing was encouraged. LUElinks exploded through the cybersphere, jumping quickly to more than 4,000 users before LlamaGuy cut membership off from the public. Yet while LUElinks membership has remained static, its reputation has continued to grow; rumors circulate constantly about high-profile members in politics and culture, and LUEsers are famously protective over their accounts. This is the logic behind LUElinks’s non-existence—those who are in are eager to maintain secrecy; those who are not prefer to ignore it completely, refusing to indulge the LUElinks ego.
LUEsers face threats from the inside, as well. LUEsers are very careful to monitor the content of their posts and profiles, as the community might not only ban users from the site, but also pursue their enemies in far more dangerous cyber capacities: hacking social media, finding credit card information, or anything available on the web (which is, for the tech-savvy, everything). When I contacted a LUElinks user for an interview, he insisted on anonymity, concerned that speaking about a site that “doesn’t actually exist” could get him in trouble—we’ll call him Z. “You’re going to call LUElinks by name?” he asked. “They will find you. If this is on the Internet, they will find you.”
ALL YOU CAN EAT
For all the secrecy surrounding LUElinks, the site’s appearance is remarkably unimpressive. Where one might expect a community of programmers to create a site exploding with complex graphics and enchanting portals, there is only austerity: a simple grey header at the top of the page with links to forums written in blue Arial font on top of a plain black background.
The site is rife with vulgar content: “NSFW” tags litter the active threads; one quick glance at the opening page gives you the choice between viewing pictures of “underboobs,” “sideboobs,” or, if you’re a purist, just “boobs.” Other LUEsers opt for the “NLS” links—Not Life Safe—which, Z explains, “will fuck you up for life, like stuff I just can’t even or don’t even want to imagine.” Threads read like a chat room filled with fifth graders, brimming with vulgarity and ridicule.
THE CYBER FRONTIER
Cyber security experts frequently compare the Internet to the advent of the automobile. “When the automobile was first available, there were no rules of the road,” explained John Savage, An Wang Professor of Computer Science at Brown University. “Around 1900 it became clear that some order had to be introduced into driving and the stop sign was invented, making driving a lot safer… Eventually not only were rules of the road introduced, but auto safety requirements as well. On the information superhighway, the same types of problem arise.” According to Savage, the Internet remains a technology in its toddlerhood, and the government is just beginning to understand—and consequently regulate—its complex topography. In retrospect, the unregulated Internet of today will be nothing more than a nostalgic artifact.