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(Text by Maxime Weber)

‘[crumbs] Diggin’ It #17: Fleshgate’ | 2,583,302 views | Uploaded five days ago | Private

[00:00:00] Evening, Chat. Wait a second. Forgot my drink in the kitchen. Be right back. Welcome to the stream. Tonight, we got round 17 of ‘Diggin’ It’ coming up. ‘how are you doing crumbs?’ I’m doing fine! Thank you for asking, Darkflamemaster Death. Just ate some pizza with Joe. Self-made. Of course. Now he’s dozing on the couch. So you guys have to be quiet. Either way. For all those who are new to the stream:  Diggin’ It is a monthly series where we explore abandoned places on the internet. Mostly MMOs. But also some old message boards and forums here and there that have been deserted for years. It’s basically virtual archaeology. Today, we are going to explore a little online game from 1999 called Fleshgate. I’ve never actually played it, but I’ve had one of the ads for the game stuck in the back of my mind for the longest time. It had this warrior in chain armor fighting off an alien that looked like one of those deep-sea creatures with the thin, endless limbs that go all the way down to the bottom of the sea. Can’t remember the name. ‘bigfin squid’. That’s it! Thank you, Gabe. If I remember the game’s lore correctly, that warrior-guy’s planet was invaded by these squid things. So the people there started crafting spaceships on their own with the help of magic and paid the aliens a visit. The ad had this typical 90s look with 3D renders and hyper-realistic textures. Like the ones they made for Super Mario 64. Creeped the hell out of my 12- or 13-year-old-self back in the day. ‘little crumbs was shitting his pants cuz of a squid lmao’ Only partially. It was mostly the landscape around them that really put me off. They were in this valley, with a completely black night-sky above them. And in the background, you could see these elongated, white structures. They kind of reminded me of giant teeth. Or sabers. There was something off about the way the valley looked, too. It was like … the boulders and slopes seemed to have more solidity and weight to them than they should. More than they have in real life, even. I don’t really know how to explain it. Either way. For the longest time, I thought I hallucinated that ad and the game. I have never seen anyone else cover it online, either. Then someone in Chat brought it up during the last Diggin’ It stream, and I remembered it. So I looked up the game’s Wikipedia page. And … just listen to this. ‘The overall game design and world of Fleshgate were deeply influenced by the beliefs of its developer, William Everett Spencer (known professionally as W.E.S.). During the 80s, while he was still working as a computer scientist, Spencer began developing a philosophical system centered around the idea of the so-called Fleshspace. As Spencer argues in his eponymous book from 1987, Fleshspace designates the metaphysical foundation of empirical reality: “Flesh, or materiality, is the base of all there is. There is nothing more compelling, nothing more self-evident than things taking up space and having a body. This has led me to the conclusion that our own universe is only an abstraction of a primal reality that is even more material, more physical.” So that already explains the weird art style of the game’s promotional material. But it gets even better. ‘Spencer considered Fleshgate the conclusion of his philosophical work, even going so far as proclaiming that the game represents a way of experiencing the Fleshspace: “Unlike any other art form, computer games allow us to extend the reach of our body into spaces beyond our own reality, our own world. I can feel the rigidity of another planet’s grounds under my character’s feet when I move them. I can feel the resistance of strange stones under the hands of my avatar. I can feel the pull of alien tides when I swim in the virtual world.” Spencer also specifically envisioned Fleshgate as a MMO because he wanted players to experience the Fleshspace collectively, similar to liturgical services. Despite numerous in-game allusions and some unverified reports by players who claimed to have seen it, there has never been any definite proof for the existence of an in-game place or event that resembles the Fleshgate as described by Spencer.’ So. Now you know why I had to get a copy and play it on stream. Let’s see what mysteries this game has in store for us. Maybe we’ll even catch a glimpse of the infamous Fleshgate. ‘hey first time watcher here i DIG ur stream a lot hehe instant sub’ Thank you so much, Meridian_95! Great username, by the way. One of my favourite MMOs ever. ‘thx, whats the story behind ur name?’ I used to bake a lot with my grandma. She raised me, actually. Sweetest person ever. We’d do apple pies. Gingerbread. Blueberry muffins. Pizza, too. Afterwards I’d eat them so fast I’d get crumbs all over myself. So Nan just started calling me crumbs. And that nickname has stuck with me forever since. I still like baking, too. Even wanted to start my own bakery chain after graduating from business school. Would have been much easier to explain as a career choice to my grandma than this here, for sure. There’s the title screen. I like the melancholic music. Gives off strong Jeremy Soule vibes. Chat asks what Joe calls me. Crumbs, of course. I don’t think he even knows my real name anymore. Let’s see if we can join a server. There’s still one up! Zero players online. Seems like we got the whole server for ourselves. ‘Create character’. Let’s see the classes. Void Sailor. Flesh Pilgrim. Harlequin Dancer and … Scout. Very anti-climactic. Chat wants me to go with that one. Of course. I call him … crumbs 2: even more crumbs. ‘World loading’. Here we are. We’ve got some timbered houses. A fountain. Lush hills in the distance. All very medieval. Never mind. That guy is wearing a … looks like a mixture of a magic staff and a laser gun. Let’s go talk to him. ‘Greetings, crumbs 2: even more crumbs.’ Amazing. ‘Do you wish to start the tutorial?‘ No, thanks. Chat wants us to go over to that big tower in the distance. Alright. Might take a while. This area is vast. Very eerie if you think about how these hills must have been filled with players once. Now it’s all abandoned. Chat keeps saying that the graphics are creepy, too. Agreed. The environment and the characters all look so … swollen. That low framerate is not helping, either. There’s the tower. Someone left a signpost in front of it. ‘Built by Hitomi_Fujiko_2 01/10/2004‘. So it’s a player creation. That must have taken ages! There are more buildings next to it. A market hall. A castle. This one seems to be one of those spaceships we talked about before. These giant bulb-things seem to be its wings. There’s another signpost. ‘Look for the outpost at X1Y61Z80 on The Boar’s Moon if you want to find Lord Everett.’. Someone in Chat just wrote that this is the developer’s in-game alter ego. Seems like we’ve got a very exciting stream ahead of us. Chat wants me to follow the trail. Guess I’ll have to go, then. First I have to figure out how to use the spaceship, though. ‘Select world’. Where is it … there. ‘The Boar’s Moon’. ‘Confirm’. Here we are. Seems to be an off-world outpost of our medieval society back home. We got palisades. Watchtowers. An inn. A few more player creations. We can probably get a better view if we climb up this parapet. Wow. Look at these giant tusks jutting out of the earth, Chat. They are almost touching the sky. Let’s explore a bit and try to find those coordinates. The signpost talked of another outpost. So we have to look for structures similar to this one. Seems like we need to head east. I can see some mobs up ahead. There’s one of them. It’s the bigfin squid! Can’t believe it. Looks even more terrifying in-game. The way it’s just floating. And how that giant mantle is contracting and … Oh no. No, no, no. It’s attacking. We are way too weak for this. Hopefully we can outrun it. Chat tells me to head for that valley ahead. Alright. There’s the outpost! Now we just need to get rid of … It’s turning around. Almost looks like it’s afraid of what’s ahead. This outpost got more signs. This one is by some random player … this one too … ‘Follow the trail through the Dale to get to Lord Everett.’ We got our next clue! Don’t know what dale he is talking about, though. According to the map, there’s a Dale of Pilgrims to the north. We have to head out this exit. I can’t really see a trail ahead, though. ‘try going up that slope to your right’. Okay. There’s more of these giant tusk-things along the path. Dale of Pilgrims. Here we are. Lot of mist. Looks much more barren, too. And here we have … Wait a second. Someone in Chat wrote that they saw someone following me. Just now, when I turned the camera. You mean the squid-thing? ‘no it looked like a player character’ What? Server list says we’re still the only ones. Maybe they’ll come out if we stand still for a while here. Hm. Can’t see anyone. I think that low-poly emptiness is just starting to make our minds imagine things. Let’s continue. There’s the next signpost. Nothing written on it. But we do have another one straight ahead. And another one behind. Can’t see anything beyond because of the fog. I think we have to follow them. There’s something big up ahead. Looks like a lake. Wow. And there’s an island with a dark forest and some high cliffs. I can’t see any signposts. Is this the right place? Someone just wrote in Chat: ‘hey crumbs long-time player here. that original signpost is probably from a troll. when i logged in 3 months ago there were no sign or spaceship in that spot and the lord everett npc was patched out of the game years ago.’ Let me check this. Okay. That guy’s right. There is no Lord Everett NPC in the game anymore. What do you think, Chat? Should we still go on? ‘even if it’s a troll, there might still be something worthwhile waiting for us.’ You’re right, Vastarien. Let’s go to that island. I can see more of those squids in the water. They don’t seem to notice me, though. There’s some structures carved out of the cliff. They kind of look like tusks, too. Here we are. No clue where to go next, though. I don’t see any signpost among the trees. They are all huddling so closely together. Let’s walk a bit along the shore and … What the hell. Did you just see that, Chat? There’s something in the trees. No. I’m not shitting you. There. It’s moving towards me. Is that an NPC? I’m trying to make out their name. ‘Lo … Lord ELord Everett, Steward of the Fleshgate.’ We found him after all, Chat! That boar head and the robe look intimidating. Should we get closer? Wait. He wrote something in the game chat. ‘Greetings, Pilgrim.’ Let’s play along. ‘Greetings, Lord Everett.‘ – ‘Have you come to enter the Gate?’ Oh my god. Maybe this guy is some hacker who has found some exploit to access it. ‘Yes!’ – ‘Are you ready to see it?’ Chat says Yes. ‘Yes.’ – ‘And the ones with you?’ That’s weird. ‘Who are you talking about? I’m the only one on the server.’ – ‘And the ones with you?’. Chat urges me to go on. ‘Yes’. He’s not replying anymore. Come on. Come on. ‘Very well. Follow me.’ Here we go! Can’t believe we managed to … Oh. He just disappeared. Bummer. Would have been surprised if this was for real. Good job, though, Lord Everett. You made us come all this way just to pull off your little prank. That’s some dedication right there. Either way. I think we’re going to do some more exploration after this little detour. That gloomy area deeper into this forest looks promising. I can’t really see what’s beyond those trees. First I’m going to refill my bottle, though. Just a sec. I’m back. Joe is still sleeping like a – Hm. Chat says the stream is acting weird. What do you mean? How long has this been going … Wait. Now I can see it, too. No clue what’s happening. Let me check the settings real quick. Nothing. Did that Lord Everett impersonator do that? The effect keeps getting stronger, too. … What the hell. That should not … look like this. I … How can I turn this off. This is getting … this is getting out of hand. Chat asks me to describe it. I don’t know. I don’t know! I’m barely processing what I’m even seeing. It’s freaking me out, if I’m being completely honest with you. It’s hard to … it’s hard to look at. It’s … it’s like the game world inside the screen … everything in it … the cypresses, the cliffs, the water, my character, the carved tusks … they are all gaining in … in mass … but it’s not stopping, no, it’s just swelling up, forever swelling up, and all this flesh is spilling out, over the edges of my screen, and now it’s spreading to the things in my room as well – they are humming, Chat, the chair and the books and the lamp and the plate and the crumbs left on it and Joe – oh my god, Joe –, they are all humming with solidity, amplified solidity, so much of it that I feel like my head is about to burst, but I can’t turn away, because these colors and shapes don’t allow anything else, there is no more idle room, only this writhing landscape of things pushing themselves against the membrane of my mind harder and harder until it’s stretched taut and rips apart and there’s no more absence only presence pure undiluted presence forever ensnaring Chat you can feel this too right you can feel this too how do we stop this this is too much this is too much this is too much make it stop just make it stop just make it stop make it stop [1:29:00]


  • Maxime Weber was born in 1993 in Luxembourg-City and studied philosophy in Munich and Berlin. Apart from writing Weird Fiction and essays, he is also active in several music projects. In 2021, his debut novel ‚Das Gangrän‘ (‚The Gangrene‘) was published by Kremart Edition.

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