After thinking about it for some time, I feel obligated to write some sort of retrospective concerning the Sydlexia website, and especially the community that arose in the forums and IRC channel. Similar to another project--linked at the bottom of the page--the reason I want to do this is out of a desire to preserve knowledge about the place in some form: as each year passes, the chances of the website being shut down gradually increase, and it would be an absolute shame for the culture and history there to be forgotten entirely. In writing this document, maybe it will be safeguarded from total obscurity. While the website is still up, I hope that presenting all of this information in a more condensed form will also make it more palatable for people who might be curious to learn more but are otherwise daunted by Sydlexia’s design and layout.
Sydlexia was registered through the webhosting service DreamHost in October of 2004 by the eponymous Syd Lexia, or simply Syd as we came to know him. The second sentence of his in-house wiki page simply says: "He is an asshole," which those who know him could equally deny or confirm. While the rest of his wiki description is mostly a nonstop fever dream of pop culture references (as it well should be), there is one factoid that stands out as being unambiguously true: he was a very nostalgic guy.
Sydlexia.com went up on October 12th, although for the first month there was nothing of interest on the site (his first year review lists this as the only page available for that timespan). He mentions that he had dreamed of making a pop culture website for many years before actually doing it; while he openly recognizes that the idea wasn’t original ("Hell, I'm not even the first guy to create a pop culture site that focuses on the Reagan-Bush era."), he cited similar pop aficionado Seanbaby’s lack of consistent activity as a reason for making his own website.
To this end, he wanted to regularly write new articles—often enough just musing on whatever happened to capture his interest at the time—at least once a week. He was pretty successful in his endeavor, managing to write nearly 40 articles in twelve months. In that first year alone he established recognizable habits, such as writing about vintage food products like Pepsi Free and literal garbage lying around his house. He also developed a penchant for writing articles on video games especially; one of these, the Top 100 NES Games article, is arguably what put his site on the map in August of 2006.
Around the main section of the website where he hosted his articles, he also created a set of forums for people to discuss his articles or whatever else they so chose (with an emphasis on pop culture from 1980-1995, of course). The forums and especially the community that arose in it will be the main focus of this retrospective, as it’s the part of the Sydlexia website that I’m most familiar with. Unfortunately, I only joined in June of 2009 and the wiki provides only a few details about the history of the forums. I’ll attempt to explain what happened before I joined but will likely be missing important details.
To help provide an understanding of the physical structure of the place, a laborious description will follow. This may be a bit dry, so skip if you’re so inclined.
The actual forum was structured simply enough, and across the first year or so there were an assortment of subforums dedicated to all manner of topics. These all went up on the same day, August 16th of 2005: under "General" there was, of course, General and Feedback; under the weighty "Pop Culture" section there were Movies, Music, Television, and Video Games.
All other sections of the website were created after these: about a month later in September, the "Outside The Box" section was created, which included Internets and Other People’s Projects.
Reading Iz Funn, Sports, and Toys & Stuff were all added between late 2005 and the end of 2006. Sports was specifically added in 2007 after public demand grew so much that Syd was no longer able to ignore it.
There is actually another section of the website entitled "Groups", which are mostly shrouded in mystery; all of the subforums in that section required special permissions to join. "Secret Drug Smuggling Group" was a complete joke forum that only Syd could post in; it was amusing to see newcomers be confused by the name, with the "most recent post" indicator reading April 11th, 2012. There was a hidden mod subforum that only moderators could see of course, and then an exclusive "World 9" subforum that only trusted members had access to, those who were unambiguously from the "old guard".
The only notable, widely used subforum in the Groups section is the nWo, standing for "New World Order". Added in 2007, it served as the forum’s unmodded board, open to NSFW topics since it was away from the prying eyes of the unwashed masses. This was the only place that saw any NSFW content, including such festivities as the highly vaunted Porn-Off of 2010. Another subforum entitled The Abandoned Fairgrounds opened up in 2010 or so and served largely the exact same purpose as the nWo (it never approached the same level of use, however).
Of the more regular boards, General saw the most discussion and was followed closely by Video Games. None of the other boards ever came even close to this level of activity, which is more or less in keeping with the overall line of subjects that Syd wrote about in his articles. There were of course a great number of threads opened up in the other forums, but for some reason Video Games were a main focus for most of us.
Otherwise, recent articles that Syd posted were discussed in Feedback. Two threads were usually opened up, one for discussing the content of the article and one for providing typo corrections or pointing out inaccuracies. The corrective thread would remain active for at most a few days, until everyone had thoroughly combed through each article for such imperfections. It was an indisputably stable system that persisted for as long as the forums were active.
Forum beginnings and early history
The forums were first made accessible to the public on August 22nd, 2005 (linked here is ostensibly the very first thread on the forums). Syd was of course the first member, and on the first day three long standing members joined: Spanky McCracken (whom is claimed to have known Syd since the 2nd grade), Valdronius, and Tebor. Soon after Tuckster and Kubo joined. Together with Syd all of these individuals became forum moderators, and they served as a nucleus for the forum, being referred to as "The Core Six".
The Core itself actually served as a part of a larger entity known as The Original Twelve, obviously being the first twelve people to join the website. All of these but one (a user named "whos gilby?" who never posted even once) regularly spoke on the forums for at least a few years, becoming instrumental in the development of its early culture.
As mentioned previously, information about the forums’ earlier years is rather incomplete. A list of entries provides snapshots of important events and long-dead memes that would occasionally resurface years down the road, and while most of it is somewhat indiscernible for people who weren’t personally around it is possible to point to ideas that would be recognizable even years later.
The Food Forum Debate is one thing that comes to mind. Even after I joined and for many years thereafter, the subject of establishing a forum specifically for food was hotly debated at least as early as 2008. This is because, after the Sports forum was established in 2007, people were emboldened to start requesting other boards to discuss their ever more specific topics.
Of note, there was a small but persistent group of people known as the Food Forum Militia who would constantly bemoan the lack of a dedicated space for talking about food. Syd continuously refused this for a while, until the conflict peaked sometime in 2008. Moderator Douche McCallister created a poll to assess whether or not enough people actually wanted this, but the Food Forum Militia was promptly smacked down by the overwhelming number of users who thought it was a stupid idea. Thus, while the idea would often be mocked for years to come, the possibility of actually opening up a board for food specifically was shot down forever.
Of people worth mentioning from this early period, one that comes to mind is a fellow named RegalSin. His wiki page honestly speaks for itself, with an extensive list of the utterly insane things that he was infamous for doing or saying. Perhaps the most valuable addition to that page is the collection of quotes. Among the things that he physically said at some point are choice pieces such as: "I want to have sexual intercourse with your vagina," and "What in tarnation is a Dan Cook ?" He was given the boot before my time so I never had the opportunity to interact with him personally, but it is widely agreed that this was for the best since he was a generally outrageous individual.
A rather curious individual named Haddox joined the forums in May of 2006, although he rarely engaged even back then and never since I had joined. Thus the exact nature of his personality is unknown to me, but there was apparently a mystery surrounding Haddox’s identity. The user himself has a somewhat primitive webpage ceremoniously called The Best Page in the Universe, although it has been completely inactive since 2013. A quick perusal reveals that every section of the website is disorienting, offensive, and debatably hypermasculine. It’s easy to see how this personality would have been a subject of fascination and conspiracy back in 2006.
At some time when the forums were still active but still relatively late in its history, there was a thread asking why each member currently participating had joined the forums or had been alerted to its existence. The most common response by far was that they had chanced upon the Top 100 NES games list; I was no exception to this, and I’m sure to this day that the list in question is one of the main reasons people ever find out about Sydlexia.
Beginning of my involvement
With all of this in mind, it was June 12th, 2009 when I happened upon the top 100 NES games article. I was 14 years old at the time, and I found it absolutely hilarious; captivated with the writing style and eager to learn more, I wandered around on the website until I found the forums. I immediately created an account and tried participating by creating an "article" of my own (deleted in shame years later, but someone posted a copy later in the thread to help preserve my idiocy). It was an embarrassingly bad facsimile of Syd’s writing style, something I regretted heavily when looking back later.
I was also presenting myself as older than I really was in order to fit in better with people who largely seemed to be knowledgeable adults. Thankfully instead of just chastising me for trying too hard, people around at the time offered some constructive criticism and were supportive of my efforts. I was immediately taken with the place, and even in just that first thread I encountered people that I would consider some of my closest friends for years afterward. Throughout this article I will describe a number of these individuals as seems fitting.
SoldierHawk was a moderator of the forums in general, and as hinted in her name she was going through training in the Air Force (which, if I recall, she told us some years later when she had finally graduated). She took (and no doubt still takes) immense pride in her country, with all manner of ways of expressing her appreciation for America. In addition, every interaction I witnessed or had with her indicated an earnest appreciation for geek culture, including a laborious description of her "geek cred" and the related items in her possession.
SoldierHawk was also remarkably patient with most people, perhaps owed to her time as a schoolteacher. She was supportive of most people’s efforts in whatever it was they were pursuing, and in turn she had some projects of her own that she worked on regularly. Among the most known for us in Sydlexia was her Youtube channel, with a section dedicated to a Let’s Play of Half-Life and later Half-Life 2. It was a cause for celebration when she completed her run, which in a way is a good example of the kind of thing we all appreciated experiencing together.
Andrew Man, more commonly referred to as simply Andrew, was a really prominent IRC member who was predominantly interested in music. He was a member of a band and was fond of recounting his experiences playing music or providing updates to his career when he could. He was among one of the most relaxed members of our milieu, which along with a magnificent mane of hair led to us referring to him frequently as a hippie. This never fazed him though; it was all chill to him.
After comments from these two and plenty more in that first thread, there was a period where I didn’t participate at all (if I did, the posts have been scrubbed for some reason). From the middle of June to mid-December I checked in infrequently but didn’t comment; I distinctly remember lurking and attempting to learn more, and I even began to recognize a few more people as time went by.
UsaSatsui (a moniker loosely translated as "killer bunny" in Japanese) was one of those who was universally recognized as an older member of the forum, occasionally mentioning the fact that he was married. He always sported an avatar involving a rabbit in some form, which led to many simply calling him "The Rabbit". He became something of a community leader as time went by, taking it upon himself to direct something called the Forum Battle (to be described later) and then also becoming a mod on the IRC channel.
Satsui was really fond of poking harmless fun at people, including kicking them from the IRC channel over simple or dumb things. Despite this, he was fairly no-nonsense when it came time to explain things or be the responsible adult. There are plenty of verbal smackdowns we witnessed from him over the years when someone got too mouthy or was just being a moron in general. He managed to strike the balance between responsible and silly pretty well.
After almost exactly half a year of meandering on the forums, I finally took the plunge and actually began participating in earnest. What followed was a period of discovery unrivaled by almost any other time in my life. I was exposed to so many concepts I had never even heard of, and by the end of December in 2009 I was already asking about how to join the IRC. A user named Mr. Bomberman was exceedingly helpful, and after finagling with the (somehow) still functioning Mibbit IRC website, I joined the Sydlexia chatroom for the first time on December 28th, 2009.
The #Sydlexia IRC room
Prior to this I had never before chatted with people in real-time, missing out on AOL and other services that had been around in the 2000’s. I was immediately struck by how fun it was, and from my frenzy of posts in late December people recognized me pretty quickly. The chatroom was full of about 15-20 regulars, and even one or two people who were on good terms with the group but only popped in occasionally.
Nekkoru was a characteristically witty user from Poland among those who were just making a rare visit to the channel. It didn’t take long to become familiar with their remarkably offensive sense of humor, which was so bizarre at times that it was hard not to laugh (among their most commonly employed phrases was, "I will rape you with a shovel.") Despite this they were also a fairly kind individual: on the very first night I was around I asked them for advice on participating with others in the room, and despite not knowing me at all they took the time to listen and answer without giving me any trouble. I remember that I was always disappointed to join the room and discover they were not there.
Fig Newton, with the handle Captain_Pollution on the actual forum, was an eccentric guy from Canada. Though he didn’t participate much on the forums, he was incredibly active on the IRC. He could often be seen talking about music with Andrew Man, sometimes for hours, to the point that it took up the channel completely. He also liked to make running gags: a quote from me ("Well, I've eaten vegetables all of once in my life.") along with a vaguely pixelated pig labeled "PIG NEWTON" remains his forum signature to this day.
Fig was also incredibly fond of changing his nickname, with such illustrious titles as "PepsiCola, Scotch_Whisky, Dude_Love, Tofurkey, Lapin_Plein, and Presortsy," among others. His participation waned as time went by, but he was somehow one of the longest-lasting members—his tenure on the site lasted from before the forums went up in 2005, to making an account in 2007, and his last post was in February of 2013.
On that first night I believe I stayed up literally until morning. It was winter break so there was no school to worry about, and I was eager to soak up as much as I could from this group. I barely knew anyone yet, but I was utterly taken by all of them almost from the start. On that night we ended up playing a rough version of "Never have I ever", which didn’t really make much sense but was still incredibly fun due to a general willingness to share details of our lives with each other.
It helps that the IRC was a more private thing than something like the forums or more modern chat platforms like Discord; now it seems as if people are far more reluctant to share details of their lives with each other. While this indicates people are generally much smarter about how they conduct themselves online, I can’t help but feel that this precludes the social opportunities that a place like Sydlexia provided. Without the initial readiness to be friendly with each other I think the Sydlexia community would have looked radically different, if it would have existed at all.
Over the course of the next six years, I spent literally almost every single night talking to these strangers, who all became gradually less strange to me. Everyone was happy to share information with each other, whether it be a project they were working on or the simple goings-on in their lives or basically anything. On an average day there were between 15-25 people online, with a few key figures of note.
Syd created the IRC channel himself, but its long-standing caretaker was a capable fellow named Fernin. Modded early in the IRC’s history, he was somewhat stodgy when it came to rules but was otherwise happy to engage in silliness or organize fun events. He had a proclivity for programming, at least to the point that he also created the channel’s infamous Lexiabot9000. Fernin himself was quiet most of the time but seemed to keep a pretty vigilant eye on the place, and he would comment within seconds of being mentioned or asked for. He ran a frequent video game stream in a group with several other people: named ZetaPlays, the group is active to this day and serves as a pleasant hub both for its own community members and some old Sydlexians. Those of us who enjoyed watching Fernin were referred to as Pargonians, an homage to the time when he played through Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem.
Lexiabot9000 itself was a fabulous piece of work, complete with a variety of functions that served as games for us to play or were just extremely handy. Among Lexi’s extensive array was: Trivia, Hangman, Hot Potato, Timebomb (an extremely popular addition), all manner of casino-related games complete with a fake-money system, and--probably the addition that brought us the most entertainment—a dictionary function. All manner of memes, references, and links to related material were maintained in Lexiabot’s dictionary. There was also a setting for Lexi to respond to certain key phrases, but it was prone to abuse and got kind of spammy, so it was usually turned off.
Sometime in March of 2010 an older user named Klimbatize joined the forums, finding his way to the IRC shortly after. He was like Satsui, but less given to seriousness and could often become vaguely mean-spirited in his jokes. He took delight in making fun of people for anything he deemed foolish, but this only became a real problem in a few limited circumstances. Besides such incidents, his personality mostly lent itself to being able to dismantle other people’s opinions effectively; it seemed easy for him to point out flaws that most people didn’t notice or simply ignored.
JoshWoodzy, or Woodzell on occasion, was around on the IRC before I joined and increasingly often thereafter. Much like Klim and Satsui he was fond of japing people, striking somewhere between Satsui’s harmlessness and Klim’s aggressiveness. Like the other two he was at least vaguely older than most of us, and I subconsciously began to associate the three of them as a trio of sorts with similar mannerisms and ways of thinking. I still remember them as "the adults of the place", so to speak.
Woodzy himself took his stance as an older guy a little seriously, chiding other people for making mistakes and dispensing life advice as he saw fit. I remember multiple occasions where he would open up a private message with me to ask how things were going, and to make sure that I avoided some of the mistakes that he made. I was never particularly at risk of making the same brand of mistakes he did, and while I found it kind of weird that he chose to do this it was also touching that he cared enough to bother. He clearly meant well and it showed in how he spoke with others.
With all of these figures and more, the first few months passed very quickly. Anything and everything was on the table to be discussed, with no real barriers that I can remember (there were the occasional taboo topics, but none that readily come to mind anymore). Then, around the end of February 2010, it was time for the first forum-wide event I would personally witness: the highly-anticipated Forum Battle.
History of the Forum Battles
The earliest incarnation of the Forum Battle was actually started in late 2006 and finished in early 2007. At this point it was called the Sydlexia Character Battle, and it was first won by Tebor. The premise is simple enough: it was a bracketed tournament between participants on the forum, who would be pitted against each other in a popularity contest. The grand winner at the end of the tournament received something special, which ranged from a simple flair memorializing their victory to more complicated or elaborate prizes.
No one was willing to run a sequel competition until Satsui stepped up to run it in 2009. I didn’t participate that year, but there was no shortage of entrants with a total of 36 people throwing their hat in the ring. The rules were basically the same as the original contest back in 2007, with users vying for attention and seeking to be determined the most popular in a given matchup.
Notable participants included Syd himself, and a number of individuals who I remember being around for years afterwards. One such individual was Mr. Scott, also known variously as Hacker and zelda_god. Mr. Scott was a younger fellow with an intense passion for Zelda games, which I shared and was happy to discuss with him. He would frequently invoke his Mormon heritage for laughs, which also doubled as a quick explanation for some of his weirder tendencies.
First joining in 2008, he quickly developed a reputation for being extremely annoying: Mr. Scott’s original account was banned shortly after he joined due to the sheer level of aggravation people suffered from talking with him. After making a second account he was allowed to try again, and he improved considerably. The improvements in his behavior were admirable, as it was very clear that he cared about participating in a meaningful way. He started using the IRC shortly afterwards and quickly became a significant fixture of the community.
Dr. Jeebus, Syd’s biological brother, was a participant in the contest as well. Jeebus was commonly regarded as something of a forum hazard, with a short temper and a tendency to ban first and ask questions later. Whenever new rules came up it was predominantly Jeebus who conceived of them, usually as a knee-jerk reaction to something that may or may not have actually needed to be addressed. He was originally going to write articles on Sydlexia as well (he participated in commenting on games for the various Top 100 lists Syd wrote), but eventually settled for his own website entitled The Amazing World of Dr. Jeebus, where he employed a much shorter writing style while ranting about anything that suited his fancy.
There was some frustration with the Battle, with vague "drama" that apparently dragged through the affair. There were a few complaints about the organization, especially as the contest ended up running for two long months. With people becoming fatigued and the General board being spammed with matches, Mr. Bomberman eventually emerged the winner of the Forum Battle in late April. He was awarded a flair on his posts that says: "2009 Forum Champion", which remains to this day.
Satsui commented that the process was overall fatiguing and said he understood "why there were two years between them," even with help at certain stages of the process (Fernin used Lexi to randomly generate the matchups, a process he actually helped with in subsequent years as well). Amusingly despite this exhaustion, Satsui felt compelled to make the Forum Battle return the very next year.
2010’s Battle was probably the most successful iteration, with record levels of participation from members of the site and incredible effort on the part of everybody involved. There was a small departure from the old style in that everyone was expected to find or be assigned a partner. This idea was well-received by all, and is at least partially responsible for the fantastic results of 2010’s Battle.
All bets were off: at one point, in order to garner my vote Syd himself gave me a custom flair that simply says "Wizard", which is still visible on all of my posts. I was knocked out in the first round alongside my partner Greg the White (with the admittedly lackluster team name "Old Gregg and Nancy Drew do the Tango"), but the rest of the contest was such a whirlwind that it didn’t even matter. Klimbatize assisted in the creative process substantially, Satsui openly describing him as his "second" during the contest.
Aika was a figure of great interest to a lot of people on the forum and in the IRC. She mentioned she was studying Japanese in college which attracted a lot of attention from weeaboos. More recognizable though, is that she wasn’t afraid to admit she was a woman during a time when the gender was even more massively abused by the larger internet’s behavior than it is today. Her confidence in her identity made a lot of people fond of her, and though there were no doubt some creepy interactions with less savory visitors, she was simply well-regarded by most of us. It helps that she wasn’t afraid to verbally throw down with people if they started to hassle her, which was a source of great entertainment on occasion.
Crazy_Bastard was another IRC fellow hailing from Colorado. Even before the state legalized marijuana he was a firm proponent for using it, which should offer a little insight into the sorts of things he’d discuss with people. He would become particularly excited when partaking in his substance of choice or when drinking, although over time he began cutting down on his use of either in order to focus more. He was originally going to enter the 2010 Forum Battle with Aika as his partner, but an unfortunate confluence of events led to them being dropped before it even started.
Cameron, more popularly known as CamWin, had been an active participant for around two years by the time of the 2010 Forum Battle, where he was in a team with LowEndLem. He quickly became recognizable for a weird taste in music (for which he and Andrew Man got along quite well) and an extremely weird taste in the literal sense, describing bizarre foods that he thoroughly enjoyed to the disgust of everyone else.
The most famous example of this was the Camwich: the exact recipe would change depending on who was describing it (one user named HardcoreGamer4Ever mentions ham, mayo, cottage cheese, macaroni salad, and Goldfish crackers). Atomjacked provided possibly the best overall description of the food; this was at a time when it was popular to make a copypasta thread saying it was "the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten!" and providing ever grosser descriptions of what a Camwich is.
Eventually 2010’s Battle too came to a close, after a particularly heated last matchup where Syd and Knyte’s team, "Cecil’s Slime Knights", won. Knyte is forever adorned with the "2010 SLF Tag Champ*" flair to commemorate his victory, and Syd was congratulated for finally winning a contest on his own website. Satsui deemed it such a success that people openly started planning for the next year’s contest immediately after the last one concluded.
As a point of interest between 2010 and 2011’s Forum Battles, a much different contest was organized: I briefly mentioned the Porn-Off earlier, which was organized between Crazy_Bastard and Klimbatize. It was exactly what it sounds like, where pornography was submitted by various users to be judged upon as a group. This all happened in the nWo of course, and for a while it was practically taboo to bring up the contest in other places for fear of being deemed creepy or inappropriate. A cursory glance in the thread reveals that every single image has been deleted; whether this was by design or just naturally happened over time, I can no longer remember.
Sidewaydriver was a user with an incredible reputation for bizarre and often blatantly offensive humor, although like Nekkoru it was often too blunt or plain weird for people to get mad over. Among his more famous projects is a series of comic edits that employ about the most crass humor you can imagine from early 2011, but of course everyone loved it back then. To the very last of his involvement on the site Sideway never once broke character, to the point that one has to wonder if it was indeed a character. We sometimes wondered privately whether that’s simply who he actually was, and if such was the case then we appreciated him all the more for it.
Yet another year passed and, in May of 2011, it was time once more for the Forum Battle to rear its head. This time around it was the most complicated set up of them all, where entrants had the option of going it alone or assembling into groups of up to four people. This led to a lot of initial confusion about how things would work, but eventually people settled down and Satsui was able to conduct things properly.
My team (Jaks, Shut Up Dorn, and The Flaming Schnitzel) didn’t make it past the first round hindered greatly by the fact that Schnitzel and I were the only members to actually participate. Through this I was actually responsible for crafting something memorable for once: my contribution to the team involved taking clips from Der Untergang—the German film that many now remember for the Hitler rants—and replacing the subtitles to be about forum members. In retrospect this was clearly not the brightest idea, but it got great reactions from a lot of users; Sidewaydriver explicitly mentioned laughing out loud at a part where I made him say "Heil, mein Fuhrer," which is about as positive a reaction as one could have expected from him.
One of our opponents was a member named Sehkmaenzo, who had started inhabiting the IRC sometime after the 2010 Battle ended (Lexy’s Army was their group name, also consisting of Fernin, Brellowman, and TARDISman). Assisting Satsui in running the 2011 Battle, Sehk was quite excitable and posted with dramatic amounts of emoticons, pointing to her "spicy Latino heritage" as an explanation for her behavior. She liked to draw and was always making jokes, no matter the occasion, gladly giving out as many humorous jabs as she took. For our match with her team I also made her a Nazi, so she drew my face on a donkey’s ass. In all, it was excellent turnabout and her team squeaked by with two votes more than we got.
GPFontaine, an agreeable fellow with a considerable amount of experience in web development, actually created an elaborate scheme to garner votes: he made a large number of modifications to various users posts, some more obvious than others. Klimbatize was among the more noticeable, with a distinct orange gradient coloring on the details of all of his posts (since he was very fond of the color, and potentially also the fruit). Andrew Man acquired a faded background with sprites from Super Mario Brothers, and Sidewaydriver’s posts all have an appended "Meow!" at the end of them. These changes, barring those removed by request, remain to this day and serve as marks of honor for those who participated in the Battle.
The 2011 Battle culminated with a user named BeachBum who was in a team with exactly no one else, which he gloriously entitled "Bum Marceaux". His opponents in the final round were "The Four Skin Cancers," consisting of Klimbatize, Andrew Man, Sidewaydriver, and JoshWoodzy. While the rest of the year’s contest had been fairly lukewarm, the final round was an outrageous upset: everyone had assumed the 4Skin Cancers would take it easily, as every single member was considered a power user of sorts. However, BeachBum was so lovably chill about the entire affair that we were basically compelled to vote for him.
With 2011’s Battle concluded, however, Satsui seemed to be fed up. He made it very clear that he wasn’t interested in running the Battle again, as it had just been too much effort to maintain even with assistance from Sehk. There were some people eager after the conclusion of 2011 to organize it, but as time went by none of them really stepped up to take the reins. Then on July 21st of 2012, I decided I would try hosting it.
Without going into too much detail, the 2012 Forum Battle was just short of a complete disaster. People had fun, but participation was low and I was still extremely inexperienced at organizing things. Subsequently the entire contest was a big mess and there was a lot of confusion about how things were supposed to work—I tried to make things serious when they should have been silly, and I tried to make them silly when they should have been serious, among a host of other problems.
It was team-based and originally randomly assigned, but then people wanted to be on their own teams so I changed the rule to let people decide on their own. This change only served to confuse things further, and alongside other issues cropping up it just became something of a farce. Remarkably things were set up enough so that a contest could be held in the first place, and it concluded as well as could be expected under such dire circumstances. Sehkmaenzo, LowEndLem, and Lasher were the winners, and though I lacked any power on the forums to give them a fancy flair I sent each of them a scarf and hat I made myself as prizes, which they seemed pretty excited for.
Unfortunately, the 2012 Battle had been so problematic that Syd essentially created a new rule in response, simply saying: "No, you cannot hold your own contest." This felt like a direct accusation and I was distraught at the idea that I had ruined Forum Battles forever. Other people such as Satsui and Klim were supportive enough, saying that while it had indeed been subpar that it had been okay enough (at one point, Satsui explicitly remarked: "It seems the person being hardest on Drew is himself."). While I appreciated their kind words, none of it changed the fact that the Forum Battles would never return and I had effectively been the one to kill it.
Other history and decline
The Battles were the largest identifiable event on the website, but it would be remiss to avoid mentioning anything else that happened. With video games being the predominant item of interest for most users, there were a large variety of contests and projects associated with them. One I participated in was a lovely idea where each person was "assigned a level" from a given video game to complete: the person who completed the first level would hand off the save state to the person assigned to the next, and in this way the community completed a video game together. There were also yearly competitions to determine who was the best at NES or SNES games, the winner receiving a flair similar to the Forum Battle.
Not Sure was a member famous for his work on classic NES or SNES video games, especially for a series of videos where he would complete games with intense win conditions (beat Mega Man 2 without getting hit once, for instance). He was humble enough about his achievements, but at one point he became the first in the world to achieve the lowest possible winning score in the original Super Mario Brothers. For this he was written about in a few articles (most of which appear sadly inaccessible now) and the video of this effort sits near 5 million views at the time of writing. He was the unquestioned master of classic 2D video games in our circle.
Naturally the IRC was bustling along the entire time as well. We had people come and go occasionally, with figures like TARDISman taking a break in 2010 to handle real life problems. Klimbatize and Fig Newton actually grew somewhat concerned for him, but he returned later on and assuaged their worry. HardcoreGamer4Ever changed his name to Logan in the middle of 2011, and a new user named MajoraMae joined sometime that year or the next. They ended up getting into a relationship, and the last I can remember of them was announcing plans to actually move in together sometime in 2013. Things gradually shifted and changed, even without us noticing.
I had my own meetups with a couple people from the IRC as well. On a trip to Colorado in 2012, I met up with a user named Marissa for lunch. She was actually great friends with Crazy_Bastard, who was going to participate, but he was indisposed at the time of the visit. Camwin and I briefly attended the same college, and although I never got to experience the majesty of one of his signature Camwiches we did enjoy going to a regular sandwich place together. He returned to his home in St. Louis later the same semester, claiming that he needed a bit more time before he really decided to get into college.
Both the IRC and the forums grew consistently for a number of years, though the IRC itself was actually attracting proportionately more people as time went by. It accumulated some interesting characters in the process: around late 2011 or early 2012 we had a user named Teralyx join in and ensconce themselves in our fold. He was relatively young and an outwardly depressed figure, so as time went by there was some chafing between him and the rest of the group.
This was heightened when another user named Palindox joined later in mid 2012. Palindox knew Teralyx prior to joining Sydlexia, who actually found the website accidentally after Teralyx had described Sydlexia to her. By this point Teralyx already posted rather infrequently (unhelped by a significant feud between him and another user named Shardea), but Palindox effectively moved in and quickly started to shine. She would later become a key figure in a serious paradigm shift for our group, which I will describe in some detail later.
This was one of the rare occasions where community drama escalated so much that anyone felt the need to actually leave, and was actually served as a marker for the rate of our growth. While the number of active members increased, so too did the frequency of conversations that would get out of hand or make people uncomfortable. After a spirited conversation of a decidedly explicit nature in mid 2013, Fernin and the other channel operators declared that we should find a different spot to discuss what they deemed more sordid topics. Inspired by their suggestion, I created an adjacent IRC channel on the same server, with the carefully crafted name #pillowtalk.
The creation of #pillowtalk seemed sensible at the time: there were a lot of things people wanted to discuss and we needed more room, as people usually got drowned out in the noise and only a few things were able to be properly discussed in the course of an evening. Further, there was only a portion of the overall IRC group that was comfortable discussing more risqué topics. Palindox organized it alongside myself, and although the channel was originally met with a lot of criticism it became an accepted staple of the community for some time.
The experience was quite enjoyable, with gradually more participation from people on #sydlexia as they grew comfortable with the idea (CamWin in particular was vociferously against the channel’s existence, but later started using it too). Because of #pillowtalk, Palindox became one of the best friends I’ve ever had—I talk to her nearly every day even so many years later. For a time, it seemed as if these things justified the creation of the splinter channel, but looking back it may have actually hastened the group’s eventual deterioration; this was due to the fact that it broke the unspoken rule of not creating new or alternative groups.
Around the same time as #pillowtalk being created, there were rumblings on the forums because Syd’s rate of releasing articles had taken a massive plunge. While we were perfectly happy to discuss random things or current news in between articles, they were still the lifeblood of the forums for most people. Weeks between articles became months, and people grew concerned about Syd being able to maintain his internet presence. Some offered to write articles to give people something to talk about, but Syd categorically refused such ideas.
After some months, this growing unrest and #pillowtalk’s creation led to the conception of the idea to create our own place for hosting articles: Retrodrome was imagined as a community-driven effort to write about interesting pop culture phenomena, achieving with many people what Syd had done entirely by himself for years. There was little doubt among us that it would work, although there was a lot of fear of Syd retaliating for what was clearly a mass betrayal.
When the announcement of the new website was made, Syd reacted with surprise at first but soon accepted that his lack of activity was responsible for the exodus. He was dismayed at how things had turned out, but in the end simply asked that people would come back if it didn’t work out. There was a lot of conflicted discussion at this point, but we moved ahead with the website anyway.
I remember Woodzy, at that point newly promoted to channel op for the IRC, being hugely responsible for organizing the website and essentially judging people’s submissions to determine what was accepted. He and a panel of others, possibly including Fernin and Satsui (at this point the details escape me), would offer critique on article quality and provide ideas to inspire people to write. They had crafted a system to gamify participation, with releasing so many articles being associated with bronze, silver, or gold medals.
The problem was that no one really had the experience or motivation to write. Syd had a unique capacity for writing that wasn’t easily matched, certainly not by any of us. Some of the articles were amusing, but most people were inexperienced writers and would quickly give up in the face of criticism, if indeed they bothered to write at all. We tried to be optimistic that it was just a slow beginning, and for about half a year we kept on with Retrodrome. By early 2014, though, it was clear that our attempts were failing, and people began to abandon ship.
Some like myself attempted to return to Sydlexia, but it was practically unrecognizable compared to even a year prior. The forums themselves had slowed down to a bare crawl with the majority of new posts actually being bot accounts, and the IRC channel was a shadow of its former self. Of the original group with around 30 people, less than ten remained and even less could be found on the channel simultaneously.
It was less obvious at the time, but a couple years later in 2016 Satsui commented: "most of us now have adult responsibilities that take up a lot of our time. Jobs, spouses, kids, stuff like that. We're still into this stuff, we just don't have time for it." I had started college, and though I was younger than most of the other members this only meant that everyone else was already even further into their lives and careers than I was. It simply became untenable after a point for anyone to maintain their presence in the community.
Between the fracture caused by Retrodrome’s failure and everyone getting older, the outcome was obvious to anyone who stuck around long enough to see it. Articles stopped coming out at all and posts were made almost exclusively by robots. Only a few people remained, such as jprime: he kept up the server’s "Dead Celebrities of the Year" thread practically by himself, something he does to this day. These exceptions aside, after early 2014 Sydlexia was almost completely abandoned.
Brief resurgence and the modern day
The rest of the year passed, and not a lot of people really kept up with each other. Palindox and Shardea—later going by Tesseract—were the only people I kept up with from the IRC group, which led to interesting personal events including a number of in person visits. Before things had fallen apart a number of people friended each other on Facebook, but people rarely interacted with each other if at all. I would check on the forum by habit sometimes, but each subforum could go for several weeks without a new genuine post. It was overall a completely barren time.
Then, at the very end of the year, there was a stirring. Through the Facebook accounts that people had used to friend each other, news swept through very quickly: Mr. Scott had posted a thread in General stating he would be committing suicide due to depression (caused by factors that I won’t elaborate on in respect to his family’s wishes). There was an incredible resurgence of people swarming the forums; accounts that had been inactive for nearly an entire year suddenly came to life, all of them pleading with Mr. Scott to reconsider.
Not long after, we learned that our efforts were too late. Mr. Scott took his life on December 8th, 2014, and everyone who had heard and come back for him mourned. Some couldn’t believe the loss at first, and a Facebook group chat was formed for the first time to try and gather everyone to talk about it in a more organized fashion. No one really knew what to think or say; Mr. Scott’s family had requested privacy and silence, so there was no one for us to reach out to and support.
Scott had prized the community greatly, often speaking about how it was one of the few places he could really enjoy. His interests and development over time reminded me a lot of myself and others who were fond of Sydlexia. To this day I consider that, had things gone differently, it could have been any one of us in his place. It’s highly likely that the forums and IRC group becoming inactive contributed to his despair, the idea of which haunted us for a long time.
Yet, in his death he managed to reunite us in a way that I don’t think anything else could have at that point. We took heart in the idea that he would have liked seeing the forums and the people on it active again, even if it was only temporary. Members of the site refamiliarized themselves with each other, reminiscing over old memories and events. Syd later even released an article, the first he had written in over a year and a half.
The article itself was, appropriately, a random collection of his musings on the original Legend of Zelda. It was one of Scott’s favorite games, something he had been fond of bringing up in every available opportunity. Syd dedicated it as a eulogy of sorts, and while it was certainly unconventional it was no less touching for every one of us who had talked to Scott over the years.
Some small tokens of respect for him were put in place. The very first thread on the forums, linked previously, is capstoned by a comment from Mr. Scott on his banned account zelda_god. There is little doubt that people have crawled through the forums on occasion (like I did in the process of writing this article); out of an unspoken taboo, that particular thread remains untouched to this day.
In the wake of everything, there was some scattered effort to try and stay on the forums over the next couple years. Ultimately, we were still too busy and had already made attempts to move on. That having been said, there have been a few smatterings of talk since: members like Cameron, Preng, Klimbatize, i’ll_bite_your_ear, Valdronius, and others will comment every few days, showing that some still remember the site even so much time later.
It’s been inactive for a couple of years now, but the Facebook group still exists. The activity naturally dwindled over time, not helped by the gradually increasing perception of Facebook as an outdated platform. Something similar arose with Discord—being something of a modern day IRC, it struck a few of us as being a good replacement for what we had before, with even less effort required to join and stay there. On some days a large conversation will be sparked, and for a little bit the spirit of the old days of the IRC channel can be seen.
While unlikely, perhaps the Discord group will be rejuvenated properly someday. Even if that doesn’t prove the case, it’s still relieving to know that these people exist and that we shared such interesting experiences with each other. There are a lot of members I mentioned in passing or with some detail in this document, but there are so many others who were a part of Sydlexia over the years:
Reinhart_x, LordHuffnPuff, Snesguy, Togdor, Bitwise, TheThunderThief, Thunderhorse, MellowMeek, Cattivo, Alowishus, Atma, Pandajuice, Mr. Satire, Shardea, Docinsano, jprime, M3GA_MAN, Ghandi, Black_Zarak, Beldantazar, The Opponent, LeshLush, Ross Rifle, Username, lordsathien, Etch, Lavalarva, Undeath, Char Aznable, GPFontaine, AtmanRyu, JRA, Ky-Guy, Methid Man
There were countless people like this—even more whose names are lost or forgotten—who made up the fabric of the community and turned it into something truly special. Even if we mostly don’t talk now, it’s reassuring to know that they’re out there still.
To Syd himself, I would say thank you: his website has been responsible for uniting so many people in such an unusual but wonderful way. It is through his principal efforts that everyone mentioned in this article and more were able to come together and share a little piece of their lives with each other. It would be an utter shame for everything that happened in our small, obscure pocket of the internet to be forgotten someday. Hopefully this all-too-brief document will help keep some of those memory alive, even once the site itself is long gone. Wherever you may be out there, no matter how long it may be since I last talked with my friends in the Sydlexian community, I hope that they are well and happy.
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