On the Dark Side: Gothic Play and Performance in a Virtual World

Mikael Johnson, Tanja Sihvonen


This article investigates gothic play and performance in Habbo, a virtual world for preteen children and teenagers. In addition to analyzing the aesthetics of the environment and its player characters, the authors seek to ask how gothic players figure in its appropriation and redevelopment. Countercultural player activities, such as playing goth in Habbo, are often treated as disruption, but here it will be argued that gothic players are in fact rather resourceful and productive members of the community. Observations of player-generated content, events, rituals, appearance and group discussions indicate that goth is more than a style – it is also play and performance. Gothic players are not only consumers, but also content providers, who inspire the developers at Sulake, the company behind Habbo. The influence of Habbo goths is evident, as emergent gothic player-created content has repeatedly been incorporated in newer releases of the game platform.


goth; gothic; virtual world; subculture; counterculture; play; performance

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.4101/jvwr.v1i3.368

The full website for the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research can be found at http://jvwr.net