On Friday 5punk.co.uk was ten years old, and this weekend I’ve been writing about peoples’ memories of them. While I’ve been doing that I’ve found that much of what I’ve been writing tends to segue off towards our in-jokes and collective sense of humour. It should have come as no surprise really, since games are merely the catalyst which brings us together. The heart of 5punk is in its members, its community, be that in thee games, on the forums, on Teamspeak, or in person.
I should finish writing about gaming, and the last subject is also the most recent genre taken up. For quite a few years MMOs were shunned by 5punkers for being too serious, for hardcore players only. I think it might have been Guild Wars that paved the way for more, being more quest based and enclosed. Having no subscription fee probably helped too. First though came Eve Online. It’s difficult to tribute Eve with the rise of 5punky MMOs as such, because it was almost a distinct community for a long time, and the game itself is so unique. There’s no denying that it was there from the very start though, and remains one of very few games which are still played today.
The Eve group may have been very inward focused in gaming terms, but you can’t take the 5punk out of 5punkorp. The origin of our 5punky greeting of ‘bummers!’ can be found in Eve emotes, taken from the ubiquitous ‘/me bums’ hail. Most of our activity was industrial, and in the early days we would steadfastly mine in order for one of us to build or buy a nice ship. Later on, after we were joined by Friznit, we proved that we could be more coordinated (if not necessarily organised) and remain 5punky by setting up our own station. Group ops were always banter-filled affairs and good fun. True to 5punky form we forgot to pay the rent on that station and someone stole it. More followed, bigger and better things, but that sense of humour remained at the core of the group.
Combat ops in Eve were similarly ridiculous. I remember several occasions where we attempted complexes – Eve‘s PvE missions – and blundered around hilariously like a herd of cats. PVP was little more successful. Early players formed the Suicide Lesbians of Doom corp for player-on-player action, which I wasn’t present for but I believe the emphasis was much more on the suicide and (own) doom than the lesbians. I do remember an early combat op being taken up in the second revival though. Four of us going for a saunter in low-sec space looking for pirates to chew on. I think we fairly overestimated our abilities and equipment, because we were beaten up and chased all round the system by the first ones we found. We eventually escaped intact, but not before bumming the gate camp as we fled.
Almost as popular and certainly more influential on the collective psyche was City of Heroes. As a game CoH was lacking in content variety, but it more than made up for that in character. The long parade of ugly 5punky superheroes was a gruesome spectacle to behold – cross-dressing monstrosities in garish lycra. In addition to that there seemed to be some kind of unofficial competition between some of us as to who could get away with the most obscene name, usually something found in Urban Dictionary. The emotes and abilities also lent themselves to 5punky shenanigans. My personal favourite was the Dog Bomb – using my teleport ability to drop myself into the middle of a group of bad guys, then trying to tank them until the others could rescue me again. Elsewhere, a popular emote among 5punkers was to hold up the number 7, which was considered to be a score so lukewarm and inoffensive as to be offensive. There were so many. The teabags, the dancing, the bongos, shitting in bins. Berk convincing someone that the command for the bongos was ‘iwanttoplayatinylittledrum.’
All of these factors came together in a perfect storm of 5punkiness on a couple of occasions. One night, after Tandino randomly generated a spectacularly garish pink monstrosity called Dance Commander, we had an impromptu competition to design the campest character. While comparing the results and being silly in the game’s hub we started to draw some unpleasantness from homophobic randoms, so we made an event of it and staged a gay pride march. The effects were fabulous, with a wailing and gnashing of teeth from the worst of the players, and quite a few coming out in support. So to speak. We played up by staging man trains and simulating sexual acts.
In the death throes of the sadly now shut down game we tried to recreate the spectacle of the gay pride march by creating around a dozen virtually identical Spartacus characters and arguing about who was the real Spartacus. This drew some good crowds and amused the locals for a while. Then we got bored and attempted some sewer missions, which were far too tough for our group. The many deaths weren’t a huge problem as the respawn wasn’t far away, so bemused bystanders waiting outside were treated to an endless stream of Spartacii entering the pipes.
The last MMO we ventured into in a big was was World of Warcraft. There was resistance for a long time, still is among some members, to what was seen as a game lacking in casual fun. Of course being 5punkers we overcame that. While most of us were levelling our way through the game we made our entertainment with the occasional dungeon, such as Toilet – named for the acronym of Wailing Caverns (WC). These were always hilariously barely successful. Once we were all at max level and doing dungeons though we came into our own. We became pretty adept, for 5punkers, and blundered our way through many heroic dungeons with the warcry “is anybody ready?” The answer was usually no, but that didn’t really matter. On one dungeon there was a fight which saw the entire ten-man team catapulted into the air, and in order to avoid plummeting to your death you had to use an item called a Tear (as in crying, not rip). We were hilariously ineffective at this, and the cry of “USE THE TEARS” has been indelibly embedded on some of us both from its use over Teamspeak and the lamenting of the randoms who were making up the numbers.
Other events of note in World of Warcraft include a brief foray into PvP arena combat while wearing ballgowns, and starting huge trains of players running around the then-hub-city of Dalaran shouting ‘WOO-WOO!” My last resounding memory, before most of us moved on, was of raiding the Alliance pub in Dalaran. Someone (probably Berk) worked out that if you ninja-climbed around the city walls you could drop into a part of the courtyard where you wouldn’t be teleported back out. Cue half a dozen 5punkers doing that en-masse and dancing on the tables, much to the confusion of the enemy players inside.
Some years ago now we realised that quite a few of us used to play tabletop RPGs in our youth, and it made something of a revival. It’s difficult to do online, and we procrastinate to the extreme, but we’ve managed to bring our special form of 5punky humour to this medium too. Possibly the longest running campaign is our SLA Industries game, a dystopian setting where characters are corporate sponsored goons. It began its life played over Skype, and on one occasion this unfortunately coincided with the GM (me) consuming far too much alcohol. Complications arose when the players were grilling a rather obtuse NPC who was making less and less sense. It was only when I started talking about a little man hanging onto my monitor and told the players off with ‘we’d get a lot further if you’d all stop telling jokes about penguins’ that they realised the gibberish had ceased to be in-game. Moving the game onto the forums was a safer option, and there was still fun to be had with Deject digging in bins and shooting TVs, but it never generated the same amount of humour.
Conversely, Grimmie’s D&D game started on the forums and moved to live voice sessions. This gave Roman’s gnomish bard, Glibberig, ample opportunity to create a comedy song for every occasion. My personal favourite was the smacktalk laid onto the orc leader in the goblin tunnels, deftly accusing him of being a girl and that all the goblins laughed behind his back. When Grimmie took the game onto voice he used a bit of software called Roll20 to map out the dungeons and battles. It wasn’t long before the drawing tool was discovered and, to the credit of Grimmie’s heroic patience, each game session has been liberally covered in puerile graffiti.
Occasionally though, 5punkers have been able to get together to play in person while at bashes. This is the holy grail of 5punkybeards, as not only is it the way the games are meant to be played, but there are inevitably people playing who don’t normally get involved. The throwaway characters they create are always done for comedy effect. We’ve has quadriplegics in Shadowrun and drooling halfwits in D&D. During a standalone SLA game I ran on one such gathering Shada found himself playing a starship’s communications officer. Determined to make the role his own, he tormented Berk’s character by playing white noise over the speakers in his room in revenge for some inconsequential argument. It prompted Berk to lock him into a closet.
Beardygames are a diversion from our get-togethers though. Part of what makes the community so close is the regular bashes thrown by our members, letting us get together in person. The first bash was in High Wycombe, a town which sounds much classier than it is. I’m told it was Ty who organised the meeting place, and first to arrive was Roman. Being several hours early he had to kill some time. Fortunately the meeting place was a pub. Unfortunately it was a dive of a pub which had topless barmaids that day. So poor Roman was treated to several hours of uncomfortable drinking, attracting the gaze of the few locals and trying to avoid gazing at the inappropriately attired barmaid.
My own first bash experience was less uncomfortable but just as odd. It was a LAN party. but not very much gaming got done. I drank far too much lager and ended up spending the next morning unblocking a vomit filled sink. Jockgit drank a bottle of Tesco Value whisky and fell asleep, whereupon we covered him in hats and post-its and Prof made a musical webpage about it. We found a weird, letterbox-sized slot above one of the urinals and Prof photoshopped Ty into it, prompting confusion from some attendees as to how he got in there. Prof has thrown a few bashes of his own, and his talent for creativity became even more apparent in his garden pyrotechnic displays (don’t worry, he’s a professional. The picture below describes it better than words ever could.
Food and drink are clearly central to bashes. Mr Johnson provided cake called mattentaart, which has become the stuff of 5punky legend, while Cashy idly nibbling on complimentary nuts while ordering at an Indian restaurant found to everyone else’s amusement that they were actually dried chillies. 5punk has some veteran drinkers, but Berk was notorious for consuming large quantities of foul brews such as poteen, the effects of which left Pete with bite marks. That was at one of Grimmie’s bashes, the next one of which was disrupted by an animal that came to be known as the denim python. I’ll have to leave the details out of that one in sympathy for the former 5punker who was being eaten by it, but the thing stopped us getting into a pub we liked.
The forums are the real home of 5punk, and even though many memes start life elsewhere it is from our regular banter on the boards that they are cemented. These have been scattered liberally about the last few days’ posts, but the ones grown on the board deserve special mention. The 5punky awards we hold every year are always a good time to reminisce about the previous year’s gaming antics and to take the piss out of each other. The can be found at the top of the General forum and on the Wiki, but previous and now defunct categories such as the Monkey At A Keyboard award for most gibberish and the Deject award for being the most Deject deserve remembering.
Some of our memes would probably be called trolling in other communities, but we strive to keep things good natured. Things have turned nasty on rare occasions though. One such time was brought about by a spammer link, which our ornery word filter modified to ‘wet young Berk.’ One member who had been struggling with our sense of humour but persisted nontheless had foolishly clicked on this link, then taken to the forums in outrage that we allow him to download malware. Months of patient tolerance and dammed up piss-taking were released in a torrent of facepalm pictures. Some helpfully tried to explain his mistakes to him, but this only brought about further angry posting. He exploded at Mr Green, then Berk, in a torrent of barely legible abuse, directing it at anyone who tried to step in and calm things down. He became the only person ever to be banned after his anti-semetic tirade, but he left a legacy in memes based on the insults ‘your face is like hay’ and ‘go eat some cheese.’
Punishment isn’t something that happens seriously on 5punk though. Once upon a time a product of a badly misguided rank icon created a garishly coloured version of the ninja pirate rank, which was dubbed the Salmon Ninja Pirate Gayer. Things were less civilised back then. Board creator Stoat went further by creating a whole theme around it, to be used as a tongue in cheek punishment. The recipient’s posts would take on a pink, flowery background, which was pretty effective at diffusing tense situations. If that failed there was always kitten pictures.
One such cause of the application of the SNPG rank was when we broke the forum by seeing how many embedded comments we could make. The eye-watering patterns of lines prompted a telling off from original site owner Woo Elephant Yeah. The discussion board’s chevrons, where comments were arranged to make a chevron pattern, were similarly silly board manipulation, but these were fine because they didn’t cause the forum to crash. In a kind of pre-Youtube Rickrolling, horsing was a way of lightheartedly trolling other board members by linking to the I Love Horses website. The site is long gone now, but it would immediately blare its bouncy theme tune on opening. Not great if you’re in a public place. This most highbrow and hilarious of pranking has deeply embedded horses in our vocabulary.
I’ll finish on a few more memes dredged out, some mostly forgotten, others more recent. Some drunken discussion board (alas, also now defunct) posting by Joose elicited his clarification of ‘this is not a code,’ which made its way into our lexicon for a while. A misguided poll by Deject, innocently offering one option as ‘Werd to my mother’ put ‘Werd to Deject’s mother’ and later just ‘werd’ into popular use as a greeting. The WEY-infuriating Charlie meme came from a deliberately irritating video someone posted, and somewhere along the lines Nicholas Cage’s performance in the Wicker Man produced ‘Nicholas Cage punching a woman in a bear suit. That’s Nick in the suit, not the woman,’ and ‘Oh God, not the bees!‘ And finally, the Lunch Penguin. For those with Skype clients at work, the passing of the morning being like watching a penguin bearing a lunch basket, slowly making its way towards them across the icy wilderness.
And those, my friends, are our vague and witless memories of the last ten years. They probably mean far more to those of us who were there at the time, but hopefully go somewhere towards explaining why we find them so funny to those who weren’t. I hope those memories have been enjoyable either way, but s much more than that I hope we have another ten years. See you in 2024!