I recently obtained a new rank in the status system here at theOtaku dot com, and not to sound underappreciative or anything, but wow, it’s been a while. Not that I can really blame anyone (nor should I, this being the internet and all); it’s just that the rock that was Otaku Legend was getting a bit crowded.
But there’s an amusing connotation that comes from being dubbed an “Eternal”, which several of us have brought up in comment boxes: We’re stuck here. The mere qualifications of getting here state a bit of Stockholm syndrome in that Eternals have been members for at least five years. That means the words “grey site” and “Spikey-kun” probably mean something to them, and the launch of Version Vibrant was an event that came and went.
It means we’ve hung around this corner of the internet for at least five years, which, for a lot of folks, is a somewhat sizable chunk of their life. Those around 25 years of age means 1/5, those around 20, about 1/4. Or to put it in another view, it’s longer than your stay in high school. And for something like the internet, which changes considerably between each year, it’s an amazing feat.
Members of places like Gaia probably don’t think being at a website for five years or longer is all that impressive. The major difference between Gaia and theOtaku is that there isn’t really much to grasp onto at theOtaku. Now, that isn’t me dissing theO, it’s merely pointing out that there isn’t a major thing the site is based around. We don’t have avatars that can be dressed up in clothes that require fake currency to obtain and therefore suck in the user like a MMORPG.
I joined Gaia once. I quickly lost interest, probably at feeling like I was way behind on others and had no friends to play with. I later dusted off my account for a brief period of time and had some friends to fool around with, but the experience was largely uninteresting. I once again quit within about two weeks when our attentions dropped and we and moved on. It happens.
And really, that sort of thing happens everywhere, all across the internet. The major factor, I’ve realized not to all that much shock, is there is one crucial aspect to sticking around somewhere: the social. I’ve stayed on DeviantArt because I produce art that gets a response, I have friends on there (both from real-life and online), and have become a part of various groups. Meanwhile, I kind of poke at LiveJournal with little interest, mainly being there to read up on what other people have posted at communities but not really caring about my own journal.
One of my friends recently said to me that was thinking of leaving Gaia, becoming bored with its main function of playing to get coins and the like. I asked about her friends there, and she said that was the one draw-back of leaving – quitting Gaia meant letting go of a lot of friendships. This made me bring up my long stay on theOtaku, which hits eight years come the end of July, and the friendships I simply could not leave behind.
I’m probably different from a lot of members of the site. I found theO way back when I was in grade school, looking for things related to Pokemon (as I had recently obtained Red). I stumbled across the site through a search engine, and I just sort of latched on to it. I don’t know what it was – the simplicity, the friendliness, the humor – but I kept on visiting. I was a fan.
myOtaku was launched on July 31st of 2003, a feature I had been stalking the site for since its announcement. I snatched up an account and have been perched here ever since, contributing to every section around the site, building up my “status”, as it were, and sort of nesting myself as a person who became kinda-sorta known (at least in my imagination). And from my point of view, eight years of my life is nothing to sneeze at. I turn 20 in a month, so eight years for me takes up forty percent.
What the heck.
When I think about it, the reason for me being around so long is simple: the people I have met have made it worthwhile. Why did I abandon Gaia, not care much about LiveJournal, and completely forget the existence of my Neopets account? There was never anyone who bothered to talk to me, as it were, and there was no point in hanging around by myself.
I think the major thing theOtaku gets right is that getting noticed is really quite easy. Perhaps at this point in time it’s because it’s still a relatively small website, meaning that any and all submissions can be viewed by a single person in a fairly short amount of time. It’s not like the fan art page gets swamped with submissions like DeviantArt does, and I mean this in a positive: No matter the section, submissions are easier to monitor and to look at, which leads to people actually bothering to investigate the artists further and branch out from there.
This, of course, is a viewpoint from the modern-day Version Vibrant system. It wasn’t all too different back in the days of the grey site, just a bit darker and without as many graphics. (Oh, and comment boxes were relevant and led many to seek out details on people they had inadvertently struck up conversations with in said comment box. Also, there wasn’t a reply feature. ) The main difference was probably that members were only allowed one journal, and that was your myOtaku. If a person came to investigate you further, they would easily be led to a journal that was pretty much your life, or so most made theirs to be.
The Worlds system of the modern day enables members to make a journal for whatever they want. The majority choose to maintain at least one that’s a personal record of their lives. But we’re not just locked into that. Worlds let us show our other interests and loves, ranging from writing dumps to music tributes to show shrines.
Our Worlds represent who we are, sometimes in as simple of a meaning as to what they’re for. But they exist because the creator of them made them for that purpose. We can therefore see if a person is someone we’d like to be friends with, merely admire, or quickly run away from.
The key to me and many others sticking around is because we have found people to latch on to and call our friends. Somewhere along the line, one of us took the bold step to strike up a conversation with a member we’d only left a comment or two with or maybe started reading their journal. Any Eternal can vouch that striking up a friendship five years ago was a bit trickier than it is now, since we didn’t have the Community Chat function. All we had were the techniques and methods I mentioned two lines ago.
Maybe it was this “going out on a limb” approach that really made everything so worth it. I mean, on a small site, the chances of getting a response were pretty high, right? So what’s the shame in trying?
People are on theOtaku because they want to be. It’s a site dedicated to anime, manga, video games, and general nerdiness – there’s nothing hip about being here. Unlike Facebook or MySpace, members don’t get an account to fit in and be cool. We have found a place that is comfortable for what it is and seems like a nice place to nest.
This comfort transcribes to us, the members. We’re proud in our interests and hobbies, which starts as the base for many bonds. From there we grow, discovering that we can also get along as simple people, not just because we’re kindred spirits in being geeky. We learn of each other's lives, of trials and tribulations, of high points and successes, and emote the proper response. Usually.
Without hesitating, I will say that things have happened on theOtaku that I haven’t been happy with. I was and never will be gung-ho about every decision that’s made, and there will be some grudges I hold. In all honestly, I’m throwing these on to avoid this being one big love-letter to the website I call my second home. But I will defend this place until my dying breath, for one simple reason that is the reason I’m proud to say I’ve been here for more than eight years: The people are among the best you’ll find anywhere.