I’ve been playing Habbo Hotel since 2006. I’d sign on, visit a popular space and make new friends. When it comes to thinking about virtual safe spaces the phrase itself can seem contradictory. For example, I entirely avoid the YouTube comment section when Cheescaleigh uploads a video on MTV’s Decoded. Francesca even mentioned that she had to use a filter on YouTube to prevent the N-Word from getting into her mailbox. People can be nasty online, but safe spaces do exist virtually and work differently for everyone. That said, it is essential to remember that no space, digital or real, is entirely safe and free of oppression. We all play a vital role in upholding our safe spaces and making sure that we keep them as safe as possible.
What is a safe space?
“A Safe Space is a place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.” – The Safe Space Network Tumblr
So here are few reasons why Habbo Hotel qualifies as a virtual safe space for me:
ONE: I can ignore racists, trolls and raiders.
When I ignore someone their chat messages will disappear until I choose to Listen to them again. So if a friend of mine says “Trigger Warning: Rape” to our friend group, I can ignore them until another friend tells me that they’ve finished.
TWO: Bobba you, you ugly bobba bobba!
The Habbo way won’t allow you to use profanity… at all. The Habbo filter actually turns all swear words into “bobba.”
THREE: ALL ROOMS will kick you out if you don’t show respect to those of varying genders, races, orientations, religions and beliefs.
My Habbo Interview
Because safe spaces qualify as such only to certain people, I wanted to find out how and why Habbo was a safe space to other players. So, I went around the Hotel looking for those who would answer some interview questions.
How long have you been playing Habbo?
TearsD0ntFall: A long time– I don’t know the exact date.
Have you every felt threatened here on Habbo?
TearsD0NTFall: Nope, never.
I asked the same question to *Beth and got a completely different response:
Have you every felt threatened here on Habbo?
How and why, *Beth?
*Beth: Cyber bullying is popular. But I just ignore and move on.
So do you find the ignore option helpful?
*Beth: Not really, people always find a way.
Before I could ask *Beth to elaborate they chose to end the questioning. Naturally, all safe spaces aren’t 100% safe to everyone, that’s why reporting and calling out incidences when we see them is so important.
*Beth is their preferred name for this post.
Why do you play Habbo Hotel?
TearsD0ntFall: To kill time and talk to people.
Do you like that Habbo has rooms catered to the LGBTQ community and if it didn’t how would that affect you?
TearD0ntFall: No it doesn’t really matter, it would just make it harder to meet people I’m attracted to.
What makes Habbo a safe space to you?
While I sort of disagree with her last statement– “It’s all online, ain’t gonna hurt anyone”– Her first remark is spot on. The only thing that makes a space unsafe is the people within it. So if you want to maintain your safe space remember your role is vital too. I’ll admit in 2006 Habbo wasn’t a safe space for me and after months of being offline I asked myself why? My answers were: Racism, cyber bullying, and judgement.
Since it wasn’t the games’ fault, but rather the people playing I tried to find ways to avoid such incidences. And I did what I do in my regular life: I was very selective of the people I spoke to and the friends I kept, I asked those friends to use Trigger Warnings and to avoid certain words, I made sure to visit rooms that were moderated by owner’s who had similar values and then I refused to compromise. Over the years Habbo has created new tools to ignore and avoid trolls, but they work differently for everyone. Personally, I think I make the best of Habbo’s tools by adding my own to the mix:
Personal Safe Space Ground Rules
- We want this space to be as safe as possible. If anything shitty needs to be called out to make it the safest possible space, then let it be known that this space is open to other’s ideas, thoughts, beliefs and realities. These issues will be tackled as they arise.
- Ask Questions if you need clarification to anything.
- This is a confidential space. Anything personal shared, stays within these spaces.
- Offensive, Oppressive and Shitty Behaviour will not be tolerated. We have a three-strike system, to encourage self re-educating on topics, however, we maintain the right to deal with each infringement case as we see fit, and give no warnings.
- Trigger Warnings can be requested at any time, from anyone. If you have seen something that may have been missed while tagging, or mis-tagged, let us know. –The Safe Space Network Tumblr
Set some ground rules for your space and yourself, then refuse to compromise. When it comes to finding new virtual safe spaces I focus on crafting my own, so I look for communities that have a ton of settings: Privacy, Security, Blocking, etc. A personal safe space on Facebook can be created by turning off the notifications from poster friends that fail to add Trigger Warnings, or by hiding certain tags, words, etc. Habbo Hotel is my safe space because it gives me rights to my rooms and to moderate those I allow in them. It may not work for you, but then again a space that is safe for me may not be safe for you. Remember that. Ask yourself what a safe space looks like to you, then go out and find/create one.