In 2020, Habbo Hotel remains a game I look back on with nothing but positive thoughts. Unfortunately, many look back on it with different, more 1939 – 1945 related memories.
Note: the writing with a strikethrough is cut content.
The year is 2008. Gamers have spent half the year waiting for the opening cutscene of Metal Gear Solid 4 to end, Eminem looks like this and we still haven’t found a way to start a story without saying “the year is_____.” However, young me has found the magical realm of online gaming. I’m not talking Halo or… EyeToy Chat, I’m talking the Internet variety. World of Warcraft. Runescape. Wizard101. I was on a mission to repel all women.
Although I enjoyed these, well I actually couldn’t find Runescape because I thought it was called “Roomscape,” great job Joshy, there was one online experience that captured my interest more than the others. That game… was RAID: SHADOW LEGENDS. USE CODE “GO FUCK YOURSELF” TO GET ONE CENT OFF YOUR NEXT
ELF THEMED APHRODISIAC. That game… was Habbo Hotel. It’s right there in the title, this was really obvious.
Habbo Hotel captured my interest due to its amazing feeling of exploration and discovery. In Habbo, you make your own rooms. Then, you can either invite people to the rooms OR journey to someone else’s. This leads to an exciting dynamic where, at the click of a button, you’re constantly adventuring into other people’s minds, like Psychonauts but if the worlds were designed by racist 10 year olds. One minute you’re on an odyssey through a jungle and, the next you’re in a strip club. One minute you’re in a football stadium and, the next you’re in a public bathroom with erotica scribbled on the walls. One minute a daycare and, the next walking in on someone lying on a bed typing “has sex” in asterisks, why the FUCK did people do this… why the fuck did I do this, oh God [“kiss” shot from Scary Cave] This is why I liked Habbo more than the likes of World of Warcraft and Wizard101 because, because of the community element, it’s an unlimited adventure and completely unpredictable.
Habbo combines games, chat rooms and that magic of stumbling on a great subreddit you’ve never seen before, and it’s an experience that I’ve never quite seen recaptured since. The closest thing is Minecraft
– yeah I’m really comparing Minecraft to Habbo, I have a huge penis, I know – because Minecraft is also a game with areas mostly designed by other players which you discover through adventure. Modding has also captured a similar dynamic, what with the addition of player created levels, stories and assets, although 90% of mods are turning character models into Thomas the Tank Engine and Shrek so, so much for that. Habbo was one of the earliest games to utilise this dynamic in a riveting way.
You may have noticed the common theme in all of this is that social aspect. I saw another YouTuber describe Habbo as one of the best RPGs they’ve ever played and, I have to agree. One of my fondest memories on Habbo was role-playing wrestling. One at a time, ladies, please! [sex appeal at max from San Andreas] You’d make a wrestling ring out of doormats, dress up like a redneck [AJ Styles] and then type at the speed of light to describe your actions – in asterisks, of course – before your opponent did. I credit Habbo as the reason why I can type fast, this shit was an extreme sport. I learned computer science at university yet Habbo wrestling is undoubtedly the most brutal thing I’ve ever done.
Because of all of this, I remember Habbo as a game that embodies player choice. The developers knew that kids love playing with their imagination and going on adventures, so Habbo plays up those aspects to create the perfect playground. Unfortunately, so much player freedom led to a lack of regulation and, with that, the floodgates opening for the darker side of the Internet.
Whenever Habbo is mentioned online, some people will gush about the positive memories they have with the game – but others will simply reply “the pool is closed.” This is a reference to the public pool you can go to in Habbo. In 2006, this pool was raided by a group of… interesting members of the messaging board, 4chan. They dressed like this, stood in this formation best described as “well there goes my monetisation” and told players that the pool was closed because it had AIDS in it. They conducted these “raids” on multiple occasions, which caused the movement to make a lot of noise.
“The pool is closed” became a meme and one of the earliest ones to spread on such a viral scale. It even appeared on multiple news stations, the Fourth Reich was back in full force, nein zekiel motherfucker. These raids continued for years – in fact they still happen – leading to the meme becoming synonymous with Habbo. When your public image is closely associated with 4chan and the AIDS virus, you are fucked. [show AIDS logo when I say “4chan” and 4chan logo when I say “AIDS virus”]
While this is the main dark legacy of Habbo, it’s also remembered negatively because it was one of the earliest games to popularise microtransactions. The game’s main currency is the creatively named Habbo Credits, which you could only obtain with real world money. Without these credits, there was no way to get any items that weren’t this dog shit. You could luck out and be given some nice furni, win them in player hosted games or fuck your way to the top [show *has sex* again] but, the system was very clearly a “pay to win” situation and, when you note the fact that this is a game aimed towards kids, the shittiness of it becomes apparent very fast.
This isn’t the only money related issue the game is remembered for, though. See, one of these player hosted games was rolling the dice. There’d be five dice and you’d hit them until you either got a specific number or went over it, hence losing. You would give Habbo Credits or furni to enter the game and you would only get them back, with a prize, if you won. This process is what the French call “gambling.” Remember, these coins and furni were obtained with real world money so this was, by all definitions, real gambling which, in a kids game, is a minor problem. That was a pun, I’ve been listening to Eminem’s new album a lot, it’s pretty good
This led to an organisation that I’m too lazy to Bing warning Habbo that, if they didn’t do something about this, they’d give the website an adult classification or even straight up shut it down. Naturally, Habbo responded to this by removing the ability to have more than a few number of dice in a room, hence killing the ability to create a casino. This was problematic because casinos were really popular and a huge part of Habbo’s culture, so by killing them they killed a portion of the user base. When you combine this with the fact that they were struggling to get new players because of their bad public image and the rise of more efficient communication websites like Facebook, it’s unsurprising the site started to flounder.
The real nail in the coffin, though, came from the glorious, depressing land of the UK. In 2012, the creatively named Channel 4 did a report on Habbo, panning it for being a “paedophile haven.” I always thought this was a really stupid report because the issue is an Internet wide problem, so why they picked on Habbo specifically is something I’ll never understand. Regardless, this coverage gave the Fourth Reich of 4chan a new wind. “The pool is closed due to AIDS” became “the pool is closed due to AIDS and pedos.”
Remember earlier how I explained that the social aspect of Habbo was what made the game so special? Well, in response to these widespread raids, the Habbo admins decided to REMOVE THE ABILITY TO TALK FOR ONE WEEK. This meant that Habbo lost what made it magical. You couldn’t roleplay as a bald wrestler anymore. You couldn’t develop friendships anymore. You couldn’t fuck your girlfriend anymore, please mum I care about this woman. It lost the core of the experience and, consequently, it lost the majority of its users.
The other problem I wanna talk about and, actually it’s not a Habbo issue specifically but it’s loosely related and, this was rough for me, ok? During my time on Habbo I befriended a girl – it’s a girl story, of course it is. We became close to the point that we decided to talk via webcam and show our faces to each other for the first time. However, she was shy so didn’t want to show hers. So I, being the strong, tough Habbo wrestler that I was, opted to show my face first. So I did, and her reaction was… “oh.” And not just “oh”, but “oh :L” which, for those of you who speak properly, means “laughing.” I mean yeah I looked like a dork then but Jesus. You may as well have just tracked me down and kicked me in the ballsack.
That experience soured Habbo for me a little bit. However, despite the negativity surrounding the site both in general and personally, I still look back on Habbo nowadays with nothing but happiness and nostalgia. I’m always reluctant to tell this story because it sounds like bullshit but, I swear it’s true and an experience that will forever be one of the most surreal moments of my life.
During my time Habbo wrestling, and apparently still getting girlfriends despite that fact, I became close friends with a guy also part of the wrestling roleplay. We talked via webcam – this time laughing together instead of at my face – until we started discussing meeting up in person. Sure enough, that’s what we did and, it was so surreal because I discovered that this guy 1) had the same name as me, 2) had the EXACT same birthday as me, I’m talking, day, month, year, everything, and 3) lived TWO MINUTES away from my house. When you combine all of that with the fact that we had near identical hobbies like playing Habbo and watching wrestling, the fact that we happened to be in the same room at the same time and all the other factors here, it’s undoubtedly one of the most insane things that I’ve experienced. He would go on to become one of my best friends.
I mention this because this incredible experience wouldn’t have happened if not for Habbo. We grew so close because we didn’t just casually chat about wrestling on a forum, we played together as kids. We embarked on adventures. We played games. We built crappy rooms.
Habbo is a game that promotes the magic of creativity and encourages the call of wanderlust. It introduced me to the creative process that’s now a huge part of my identity and brought me memories that will never be replicated. While many will remember Habbo for its AIDS and money crises, I will remember it as the catalyst of many friendships, the spark of my imagination and a reason why I am who I am today.
Also where I lost my virginity, ah shit.