The internet is vast and houses millions of websites, caters to millions of people on a day to day basis, and is home to many fan communities than span the world over. At one point of another, roleplayers decided to make a home for themselves on the internet. These RPG sites were often styled after popular franchises and allowed players to live out their fantasies in that universe through a play-by-post format.
About 6 years ago I made some friends in the Durarara community and they invited me to join their Hellsing Ultimate RPG forum. I had only know them for around two months at the time, but we were already good friends and I decided to give their forum a shot. Little did I know that I would become one of the most prominent members on the site and spend the next three years participating in the stories that were told there. There were serious RP’s, comedic RP’s, everything you could think of, it happened. Of course, sometimes things got out of hand, like a Millennium player ramming a dirigible into the Hellsing manor in an attempt to kill all of the characters there. It happened overnight when no one was online. There was no warning, no discussion, the member simply posted it. The next day he was reprimanded by the site staff and while the crash was left intact, the characters it would have killed remained alive due to various circumstances. Far too many players characters would have been killed involuntarily had it been allowed.
Moments like that were rare, however, and the forum continued on with its 40-players for another year. Believe it or not, 40 players is considered large by RPG forum standards. A lot of sites don’t make it past 10 players, and a large amount sit at around 20. If a site has reached 40 players, then it shows that it’s a good site to retain so many members over an extended period of time. Alas, it was not meant to last forever. By the time I joined in 2011, the site had been around for at least 4 years and had recently gone through a change of ownership due to the previous owner completely trashing the story and deleting everything the players had worked so hard on. The site lasted until 2013 when a large number of the sites best players got fed up with the staffs elitist attitude and had a mass exodus. In a single day the player count dropped to around 15, leaving me and a handful of others to try and pick the forum back up. Sadly, with most of our best players gone, the forum soon faded out and further attempts to revitalize it were halted. But despite the fact that the forum is no longer active, I have so many great memories of that place that I will never forget and I still have friends from there that I talk to from time to time.
At the height of my time with RPG forums, I was just beginning to get back into the Mobile Suit Gundam franchise after having last seen it as a kid on Toonami. The world of online streaming was a wonderful thing. One day it crossed my mind that with Gundam’s popularity it might have a plethora of RPG forums, and indeed there were quite a few. The one I ultimately joined was called Gundam Gates. Unlike other sites that might choose a specific Gundam timeline to call home to their stories, Gates took the opposite approach and created its own Gundam timeline with its own lore, though with the caveat that the Black History, referred to as the Cataclysm here, merged all of the Gundam timelines into this one though with a very different result than Turn A Gundam. It made the forum more accessible to non-Gundam fans because they didn’t really need to be familiar with the shows. When choosing or creating a mobile suit for their character, they need only refer to the Gundam wiki or MAHQ(Mecha and Anime HQ) for the necessary information.
Unlike the Hellsing forum, Gates was far older, at this time the forum is probably around 15 years old. When I joined in 2012 the site had somewhere between 20 and 30 members and was very active from day to day. Despite the fact that I was far younger than anyone else on the forum, they welcomed me with open arms and helped me get set up with a character and mobile suit. They often told me stories of the golden era of Gates, which was between 2005 and 2011 when the site had a member count above 40. The RPG was so complex at the time that players would create spreadsheets just to keep track of everything. And for the first two years that I was with Gates everything moved along at a decent pace and the battles were sometimes intense. It may just be text, but depending on how skilled of a writer you are everything can become so vivid and these guys & girls are not to be underestimated. However, in 2014 and 2015 life started to get to many of the members who were in their 20's and 30's and slowly the member count began to fall off and the site went dormant. The chatroom remained active of course and was a good way to see who was still hanging around, but the active player count now sits at around 10 despite there being about 15 or so people still hanging about in the chat.
Now, I bet you think you know what I’m going to say next: The site died. And you’d be half right. For the last year no one has done anything whatsoever. Once the momentum died not many people had the drive to continue posting. But that is beginning to change as we’re now switching over from a large scale world spanning storyline to more intimate character-driven plots designed to take advantage of low player counts(Though it’s still proving a bit difficult as there aren’t equal members of each faction. Most characters are neutral and thus have a harder time participating in faction stories and even then player characters for each faction are very low. It’s proving difficult to get a 3v3 going despite there being 10 or so active members.), and this week will be our first attempt at resuscitating the forum. We’re not optimistic about getting too many new members in the coming years, but even five new members would prove to be a big boost and help things to move. If the site gets moving again, the Build Fighters section could also potentially see a revival as a few of us still have an interest in seeing it take off.
Regardless of what happens in the future, I have many, many fond memoreis with these two forums and many others that I’ve been a part of over the years. I’ve made a lot of friends this way and told stories that beat a one-man fanfiction any day of the week. I hope Gates can pick itself up again, but only time will tell if new members decide to join.