In this short blog post, I would like to briefly share my past experiences with the internet and highlight a little gem that has had a significant impact on me and which I recently rediscovered.
How I discovered the internet…
Although I’ve always been a gamer, whether it was with GameBoy, N64, PlayStation, or many other consoles, my PC gaming journey started relatively late. I got my first personal computer in the early 2000s. Before that, I only occasionally played games on my father’s old computer, such as Worms Armageddon or Silver. On my own PC later, I added games like Blade Runner or Gothic, but I still remained a console gamer with all my RPGs on PlayStation 1 and 2.
My late interest in PCs was simply due to the internet. Until around 2006, I only had a 56k modem, and even after that, it was only DSL 2k for years. Well, as is well known, the internet is still uncharted territory in Germany, and that is also evident in the mobile network, where sometimes you only get E-network even in places like Bauhausstraße here in Weimar (near the university!) or even in the middle of Berlin. So, while I developed an interest in graphic design, as it can also be pursued offline, my true online gaming on PC with friends didn’t really start until around 2007 with free online games like Flyff or Cabal, and it became more intense around 2010 with games like Left4Dead or League of Legends. However, especially during the early days with a 56k modem, I also played browser games like OGame or Narutomania because they didn’t require a constant internet connection.
In addition to all the games, I also kept up with general developments in websites and messengers. Nowadays, almost everyone uses WhatsApp or Signal because they are tied to the smartphone with a phone number, but back then, you had to create an account for every little thing just to communicate. My first chat experience was actually on the chat of the website www.squareenix.de (because I was and still am a Final Fantasy fan). I thought it was the official Square Enix website because of the domain, but it was actually “just” a fan site where I spent a lot of time in the forum and occasionally in the chat. Today, the site no longer exists, and due to a provider change, it was eventually called FFOnline. During that time, I also joined other chats like IRC, ICQ, MSN, Skype, or XFire (who still remembers those? :D). And eventually, I also discovered 4Chan and many flash contents…
In the depths of the internet: Error 403
If you’re into anime and all the stuff that has made its way from Japan to the West through the internet, you will inevitably come across 4chan and many other websites that I’d rather not delve into here. It should be noted that in the mid-2000s, the internet was far from being as well regulated as it is today, and it was much easier to stumble upon sites that you would rather not have seen. Of course, the dark web still exists today, but it feels, at least, much more difficult to access than it was back then when practically every link in forums or chats led to questionable sites. However, this post is not about those sites; it’s about something completely different…
One of my favorite websites back then was Newgrounds because I simply enjoyed all the Flash animations in the form of games or videos. That’s how I came across the video flash series Nightmare City and Nightmare City -Catastrophe- by Clairvoyance. These two animation videos were widely shared on 4chan and became a hit, partly because the English sung here is so peculiar and cat videos were just popular (another example is that Moscow video). I was so captivated by these two songs that I just had to have them… but they weren’t easy to find at the time. I initially thought they were One Piece openings or endings, but that wasn’t the case. They were songs by a relatively unknown band, and whenever I searched for the songs, I always ended up on “403” pages. Even back then, with some background in computer science, I knew that these were likely HTTP error codes… but that wasn’t what it meant: The band was called “403” (Forbiddena)! That made things quite complicated, as some pages were actually dead, and I often struggled to understand the English and Japanese texts. Eventually, I managed to find the songs as files and immediately loaded them onto my MP3 player. Back then, they were even legally available for free download on the band’s website.
Unfortunately, over the years, the videos have been forgotten. This is likely because Flash became increasingly unpopular (especially due to security risks and eventually being discontinued), and Flash-based websites like Newgrounds or z0r had to restructure their systems (although you can still view old content on them). The Nightmare City videos were only available in poor quality on video platforms like YouTube since no one had rendered them in HD. I was pleasantly surprised when I found both videos on archive.org, where they can actually be emulated and viewed in Flash. So, I recorded them in the highest possible quality (sorry, my laptop couldn’t handle 4K), and I also added subtitles for the lyrics. Here you can watch the animation videos and listen to the music that influenced my youth the most.