Exploring David Bowie's Bizarre Virtual World From The 90s

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Illustration for article titled Exploring David Bowie's Bizarre Virtual World From The 90s

I’m still processing the passing of David Bowie. It’s not often that a celebrity deaths land a punch, but Bowie’s one of my favorite artists, and I’d always held out hope he’d tour again. And while I’d rather have Bowie around than not, it’s been wonderful to read so many pieces about his work over the decades, and learn how ahead of the curve he was on...everything. That included the Internet. Bowie launched a bizarre service called BowieNet in the late 90s, which was not only an ISP—yes, a frickin’ ISP—that came with some access to Bowie material, but let people explore a 3D world populated by Bowie imagery and music.

Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

“BowieWorld appears to have remained perfectly preserved from its state in the late 1990s. Navigating the world, which is entirely in 3D, is done via the arrow keys, and your personal avatar.


I ran into at least a half dozen users with fully fleshed-out profiles, complete with lists of interests, favorite quotes, and hobbies. Most were equipped with premium avatars, indicating that they pay a monthly fee for the privilege of customizing their appearances.”

Illustration for article titled Exploring David Bowie's Bizarre Virtual World From The 90s

Building communities is tough and thankless and takes a long ass time, so it’s easy to take things like the modern fighting game community for granted. It took decades of careful organization to reach its current heights. Lilian Chen has been part of the Smash Bros. world for a while, and while she’s no longer competing, she’s still involved. The question she’s mulling right now is what needs to be done for more women to feel comfortable competing. She’s pushed back on the idea of all-women tournaments in the past, but a recent conversation has her considering other options. It’s a thoughtful analysis of a complex situation, one that doesn’t hold easy answers for going forward.


Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

In 2011, I moved to New York City for a full-time design job. I had reached a point in my life where I had ceased competing in Smash singles events. Nevertheless, I still clung tightly onto my strong beliefs regarding the opposition of women’s events. What spare time I had in the city was devoted to Adobe Creative Suite instead of my pearly, Nintendo Wii console. The nature of my design job required that I often work alongside engineers. Logically, I became friends with several of them. For those unaware, the gender ratio in tech is just as skewed as it is in esports. So when I was invited to hang out with said friends for dinner, I didn’t so much as flinch when I saw the table consisting entirely of men upon arrival. Idealistic or not, it was the norm and to be expected. It wasn’t until I wiggled my way towards the back that my eyes met those of my petite female friend, who was tucked away in the corner. As I struggled to plant my butt on a barstool, she smiled and grabbed my arm. She lowered her voice and whispered into my ear …

“I’m so glad you made it! I really didn’t want to be the only girl here.”


I should have been enjoying my Dark n’ Stormy that evening, but instead, it felt like someone had plowed a tennis racket through my face. My youth was spent being one of the few girls around a bunch of dudes thanks to gaming, my tomboyishness, and other factors. It never occurred to me that this was out of the ordinary.


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Oh, And This Other Stuff

  • Geoff Coates explained 10 of the scariest lines he’s heard while making video games. You don’t need to be a developer to laugh with him.
  • Jake Muncy looked at one of the newest trends in video game design: video games about video games.
  • Alisha Karabinus analyzed “walking simulator” games like Gone Home in the context of “fun.”
  • Marian Bull made a strong recommendation for more people to play the erotic photo hunt game that you may have stumbled upon at a bar before.
  • Roy Graham spoke with Tharsis designer Zach Gage about trying to making the randomness of rolling dice into enjoyable gameplay.
  • Daniel Lee reported on the Genesis 3 tournament for Smash Bros. at ESPN. Can I just say how cool it is that ESPN is covering Esports?
  • Carolyn Petit reflected on what makes speedrunning so special.

You can reach the author of this post at patrick.klepek@kotaku.com or on Twitter at @patrickklepek.


Re; Bowieworld.

I remember this service, it was one area of a larger service called Worlds Online or something similar. There was also an Aerosmith World and a Hanson World. The service is a perfect example of a company flush with cash from speculators who drove up the price of online companies that led to its crash.

Being new to the WWW I was impressed and bought their install CD ($20). When it took longer than expected to arrive, i wrote a nasty email to the company asking where my CD was. The CEO actually called me acting like a tough guy telling me he’d refund my cash because he didn’t have to deal with “assholes” like myself.....plus “how much do YOU make?” was thrown out there. At that point I laughed at him and hung up. the disc came about the time when the crash was in its first week. I’m amazed that its still functioning.