The melancholy of Waterworld

Also: alternative algospeak, a fake John McClane, and "the Friend."

The melancholy of Waterworld

EX is a research report about where culture is headed. You can learn more here. This week we’re talking about lost 3DS characters, lost media, and the lost history of a Scottish water park.

1. The forgotten heroine of the Nintendo 3DS

via @MiiBirthdays on Twitter

On January 1st, @MiiBirthdays — a Twitter account that draws from a database of official Miis and posts every time one of them celebrates a birthday — introduced Twitter to “the Friend,” a placeholder Mii with the nickname “dummy girl.” Originally accessible solely through the 3DS debug tool, dummy girl went public as a part of the massive Nintendo data leak from September of 2020. It wasn’t long before people fell for her vacant, jet black stare. Within days, dummy girl became the subject of numerous pieces of fan art, following in the footsteps of other non-canonical Nintendo characters like Bowsette and, more recently, Wa-Peach.

2.’s fanbase is bigger than you think

via u/coysdummy on the CharacterAI subreddit.

It’s one thing to read that AI chatbot site has 100M monthly visits and claims wild engagement numbers (two hours on average for users who send a message). It’s another thing to look at the site’s 850K-member subreddit and see that it has a real, memey community that seems to be in high school and is obsessed with Scaramouche from Genshin Impact. The top posts are mostly messing with the AI (CAI’s model, built by ex-Google devs, seems to have decent yes-anding capacity), watching it build absurd metaphors and invent words like “smuckle,” and remarking on the horniness of the CAI scene.

The redditors don’t appear to be using the site for its marketed purpose of letting rubes talk to dead philosophers or the world’s most forgetful psychologist. They seem to be interacting with a lot of rude boyfriends and autistic girlfriends and getting alarmed when their parents find their chat logs. CAI is technically work-safe, but, as with other public-facing AIs, much of the appeal seems to be baiting it into unintended interactions. CAI presents as a chaste alternative to adult chatbot sites, but also entices users with a small chance to see moments when the bots break all the rules, just like the vampire bad boys they’re based on.

3. True crime meets creepypasta horror in “lost media” YouTube

Over the past few years, YouTube channels like Nexpo and blameitonjorge have found success juxtaposing creepypastas with true crime, curating content for an audience that loves a good ghost story regardless of whether or not it’s true — just as long as it came from the internet. The subject matter is an eclectic blend of fiction and non-fiction, a corner of YouTube where reviews of horror webshows can follow video essays about real-world events, where videos about the Havana syndrome rub elbows with videos about Jeff the Killer. “Lost media” (e.g. “missing” episodes from children’s cartoons, games that were canceled partway through development, etc.) is a major pillar of content for channels like this. blameitonjorge even covers lost media bounties posted by other netizens.

As a genre of content, lost media has a long lineage. Some YouTubers stick to the more substantiated lost-and-found stories of the Lost Media Wiki. But creepypastas like “Dead Bart” and “Squidward’s Suicide” established the “lost episode of children’s media” format as a template for internet horror, aided in part by the popularity of mascot horror games like Five Nights at Freddy’s and Bendy and the Ink Machine. Nexpo-style lost media videos attempt to draw creepypasta-worthy stories out of “real” unresolved mysteries, allowing even unsubstantiated Reddit posts to become platforms for true crime-style sensationalism.

4. What does it mean to “go Drake & Josh”?

Twitter post from @astrosynth reposted on Tumblr by @zapatism.

A tweet about unusual Brazilian euphemisms for death recirculated on Tumblr this week. The post seems to resurface periodically as users imagine a more creative process for working around automated content filters like those on TikTok and YouTube. “Algospeak” like “unalived” is already common in the US, but many find it a numbingly stupid way to talk; however widespread the Brazilian slang actually is, at least it’s funny.

5. Minecraft meets the tragedy of the commons

Eco is an environmentalist multiplayer crafting game where players must build a civilization and working economy before an impending meteor impact — all without destroying the world’s fragile ecosystems, exhausting its natural resources, or quitting the server over a dispute about storage chest organization. Most of the negative Steam reviews focus on how miserable it is to play Eco with selfish people online, but it seems to be an intentional “hell is other people” simulator. The old PUBG streamer chocotaco (now more of a variety streamer) recently started a community server, and players are posting things like “finally calorie positive” on Day 3, which must mean it’s going well.

6. Chronicling the history of Garry’s Mod maps

When Garry’s Mod shows up in the mainstream consciousness nowadays, it’s usually in the context of a Nextbot-based “Backrooms” game, but there are still a number of YouTube channels devoted to spelunking through old Gmod creations — maps that are increasingly becoming symbols of forgotten virtual worlds. figardo’s latest video chronicles the history of “ttt_waterworld,” a popular map based on a defunct Scottish water park named Leith Waterworld. (The TTT stands for Trouble in Terrorist Town, a social deduction game similar to Among Us.) figardo goes a step beyond desk research, procuring an interview with the dev and visiting the building that inspired the map’s design. Ironically, while Gmod continues to serve as the basis for countless “liminal spaces,” figardo’s videos demonstrate that many older Gmod maps lack proper preservation, especially when it comes to archiving outdated versions.

Chum Box

That’s it for this week. We’ll be remembering shuttered amusement parks until next week.