A role-playing game on the internet about the Internet? It sounds very geeky, somewhat meta and a little confusing. But once you play Forumwarz, you’ll never look at a comment thread the same way again.
Launched in November 2007 by Toronto-based Crotch Zombie Productions, the RPG has amassed a cult following already – more than 30,000 users and kudos from members at social media sites Digg.com and Wired.com. What’s the big deal?
Forumwarz is an online game about online culture, where you interact on forums to gain points. You generate random inane comments, not unlike phrases found on real Web threads, and play as either a Troll, Camwhore or Emo Kid.
Each avatar has individual talents, such as Emo Kid’s ability to turn “otherwise agreeable forums into dumping grounds for her depressing rants, false-alarm suicide notes and side-splittingly morbid poetry.”
“The game parodies almost every aspect of the Internet where these people spend so much time,” says Robin Ward, Forumwarz’ developer and designer. “The basic thought behind it is ‘What if the Internet were a game?’”
Quick answer: it would be full of bad spelling and group bitching. Forumwarz builds on that stupidity in its various forums, such as one called Drinking Denture Water: Grossitating Or Repellent?
Players can “attack” the thread, resulting in phrases such as, “Bam bam, bam bam!” Gibberish, right? Take a quick tour of any popular site with multiple threads and you’ll find the same pointless keyboard-smashing.
Mike Drach, chief imagineering officer (no joke) and senior writer for Forumwarz, hopes players view the game as a way to mock the mental garbage polluting the Web while also adding a much-needed intelligent layer of interactivity.
“Forumwarz reflects a more sophisticated sensibility while taking into account all the stupid-ass memes and modes of expression that people use online, and then corrupts them.”
I tried out Forumwarz to see if it lived up to the hype. Playing as an Emo Kid, I boosted my “cred” and reached various levels by posting pre-generated comments on forums. It was fun, but I needed to be a dedicated player in order to enjoy the more difficult levels and the “Easter eggs” the Crotch Zombie team had hidden through the game.
What I liked most about it was something I rarely see in online RPGs: smart, funny writing, often veering into crude silliness. Forumwarz text does an excellent job of holding a funhouse mirror to common Internet chatter. Because the game was designed by Torontonians, some Hogtown references pepper the game.
For instance, a character named Doctor O. is based on Cory Doctorow, a famous Toronto-born blogger, tech writer and NOW cover boy, and one animated sequence for the Emo Kid avatar features a TTC bus stop sign. As Drach explains, a game like Forumwarz could only have come from Toronto.
“The combination of snarky, self-deprecating, sometimes absurdist wit with a relatively measured business outlook probably wouldn’t materialize elsewhere. It’s too irreverent for Silicon Valley and too edgy for Wall Street.”