Gaia Online creators launch NSFW spinoff Tentacl (Wired UK)


Tentacl
Tentacl

Social
network? Web forum? Dress-up game? We’re not sure.

© Gaia
Interactive, Inc


The creators of the popular online community Gaia Online have decided to
grow up along with their audience. The result is Tentacl, “an uncensored,
avatar-based community site for adults”.

Where Gaia was a largely anime-focussed portal with an emphasis
on teen-appropriate material and character driven role-playing,
Tentacl has taken the filters off and describes itself as “a site
for anonymously socialising with others who share your interests”.
Users must be 18+ to register (though a birthdate and checkbox
are the only confirmations), and the site makes no illusions that
people won’t be using it for sexual or adult content, right down to
its name being an allusion to the tentacle
porn
stereotypically associated with anime.

Gaia Online launched in 2003, building from a community of anime
fans sharing links to become a bulletin board, then forum, and
eventually incorporating social gaming. At its peak in 2007, it had
over a million posts made daily, more than seven million regular
users, and over 27 million registered accounts. Yet as younger web
users have migrated to Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram for their
social media, forum use across the internet as a whole has
declined, making the creation of Tentacl seem more of an avenue to
hold onto the people who used Gaia as kids, but now have more adult
interests.

The starter guide even tells you to “keep your nibbly bits in your
pants, unless you take it over to NSFW… you can take it out
there”. Unsurprisingly, Tentacl’s NSFW forum is already the most
populated, where people have taken to posting numerous pictures of
their junk.

Tentacl functions similarly to Gaia, with users creating a
customisable avatar to navigate the site with. The art direction is
a bit more mature but retains the anime and gaming visual
influence. Once you’ve crafted your character — with minimal
options to begin with — you choose hashtags of interest to you,
from #DoctorWho to #Film or anything you #EnterYourself. Relevant
posts then show up on your homescreen, based on the category tags
and from people you follow, a la Tumblr. Alternatively, you can
directly post to Communities, which cover everything from music and
food to storytelling and science discussions. Then there are the
weird board, such as the unfortunately named “Bitch, plz”.

Virtual currency is earned when posting or when others react to
your posts, which can then be used to buy accessories for your
avatar. The more posts you make, the more you level up and earn
flair, another form of virtual peacockery. The system is set up to
incentivise engagement, with daily rewards of the currency and
bigger drops for recruiting other users. Unsurprisingly, additional
coins and the rarer gems can be bought for real money.

Additionally, a social game called Unravel lets people
guess who you are by answering quiz questions you set up. Site
operators Gaia Interactive are pushing this as a core part of
Tentacl, and one of the main attractions it highlights in the
sign-up emails it has sent to (presumably) over-18 members of Gaia
Online. Unravel is entirely opt-in, and users choose what photos or
information to upload, but is perhaps contrary to the “anonymous
socialising” concept, and seems open to abuse without
oversight.

Overall, it’s hard to get a feel for Tentacl’s purpose. It seems
more of a hybrid of other social networks, wrapped in a monetised
core for the avatar customisation, with a slightly creepy air of
trying to appeal to Gaia Online kids who’ve grown up enough to have
sex drives. There’s no shame in consenting adults talking openly
about sex alongside science or art but is this particular format
going to be something the internet is crying out for? We’re
undecided; let us know what you think in the comments below.

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1 August 2014 | 3:13 pm – Source: wired.co.uk

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