Oracle Layza's Tales

from Fujitsu Habitat

As lived by Tomoko Tsuchiya

and re-told by F. Randall Farmer
Electric Communities

November 1990

Tomoko Tsuchiya AKA 'Oracle Layza' has collected these stories over the past year. An Oracle is a system operator, an employee of Fujitsu that acts as a liaison between the operators, programmers and the participants in Habitat. Unlike the original 'Oracle' in U.S. Habitat, she had no special 'powers' to create or destroy objects or events. Fujitsu Habitat Oracles are a special breed, existing partially in a fantasy world and the 'practical world'. As you'll see in her stories below, it is a difficult line to walk.

Program Bugs and People Who Care

Habitat money is the 'token'. All of the tokens you are carrying are represented as a single coin with a denomination that changes with each transaction. The teleport booths charge 2 tokens for a ride. It seems there was a bug in the host program. It allowed you to take a ride with only 1 token. This caused the token carried to have a value of negative one and because of the way computers work, -1 = 65535! Yep! Use the teleport under certain conditions and you could produce all the wealth you ever wanted!

This 'bug' was not reported right away. One night, a brash avatar "Boowy", who was known for his pranks, bragged to Oracle Layza about this bug. She didn't believe him so she contacted a few reliable friends to confirm this bug. It was confirmed a short while later. Layza scrambled to get the programmers to fix the bug. The bug was repaired in a matter of hours, but the economic damage was another problem. The programmers were unable to determine who had this bug-created wealth and who were actually legitimately rich. The Oracles were in a quandary.

The avatars (customers) were divided. Many thought that those who exploited this bug had gained their wealth in an 'unfair' way. Others saw the bug like winning the Lottery; They could now finance their own events, open a business, or hust purchase the most valuable objects. What should they do?

There was a decision made by the people: They would turn in their tokens! They were under no compulsion by the Oracles or any other Fujitsu Employee to do this. The money was collected by the Habitat Police, and turned over to the Oracles. Over 250,000 tokens were collected. The programmers redistributed the returned cash to everyone and that amounted to about 200 tokens per person.

I don't think this would have worked out quite the same way in Club Caribe. A voluntary redistribution of wealth is a foreign concept in America[1].

When you wish upon a star...

'TANABATA' is a Japanese Star Festival. To celebrate, the operators held a Haiku poetry contest. The theme of the poem was to be a 'Wish Upon a Star'. There were over 50 entries (out of a potential customer base of only 1000) and five winners. The prize was the granting of the wishes from the winning poems. A tombstone, a Budda statue, A racoon and a giant dinosaur egg. This giant egg is 1/2 the size of the screen, and several times larger than an avatar!

What is so interesting about these prizes is what the winners did with them. Since these objects were one-of-a-kinds, they had real value as collectors items. The winners had special parties at their turfs (private Habitat homes) to show them off. They used them for hide-and-seek. But the most special thing to happen was that the owner of the giant egg decided to give it to a close friend, and that person gave it to another... and that person to another... The egg now is a legendary status symbol. "Have you carried the Giant Egg?"[2].

The Side Effects of Women in Habitat Politics...

MICKEY and JULIE had a big Habitat wedding last spring. They were very happy.

In October, when JULIE decided she would run for mayor of her Habitat village, MICKEY instantly requested a divorce because "I don't want a wife more popular than I am! I don't want to be Mr. JULIE, I want her to be Mrs. MICKEY!". JULIE refused, she wanted to stay married to MICKEY.

The elections were in early November and JULIE won. MICKEY is frustrated, and the latest rumor is that MICKEY will remarry even if Mayor JULIE doesn't give him a divorce!

It seems that traditional roles are not necessarily the same in Habitat as in the real world, even if some would like! Men watch out! (smile!)

The Performing Arts

There is quite a bit of theater going on in Habitat. (Tomoko has a background in dinner theater I am told). The known groups as of now (2000 customer base) are The N-PA New Comedies Group, the Red Shirt Troop, and The Candies (an all girl band). There is enough competition between these groups that the First Academy Awards were held in November!

One of the nominated productions is named "A Head-Thief Comes to Town", and performances of this play have been attended by as many as 50 at the one time!

The Red Shirt Troop all dress exactly the same, from head to toe. They run around screaming "KEKEKE" and perform a synchronized parade through downtown Populopolis. It started as a 2 man troop, and after 10 days the ranks swelled to 29! If you are ever on around town at 10:30pm, head down to the the parade starting point: Gallery J and check it out. This group was organized by, and run solely by the avatars[3].


I saved the best story for last.

The YAKUZA are Japanese gangs. Fujitsu Habitat has YAKUZA[4]. The largest this week is the IZUMI Family. Current IZUMI membership is around 30. It is even rumored that the Prime Minister of Habitat is a secret member of a Family! These YAKUZA are formed and run 100% by the customers and receive no special support from Fujitsu or the Oracles. They are turning a tidy profit by running gambling casinos, and selling 'H-memos'.

H-memos are erotic stories and other 'dirty' publications. They sell for a hefty 50 tokens each! As of November hundreds have been sold!

The 'Casinos' are are run in a very strange way. There is a type of magic wand that will inflict the victim with a disgusting curse: Every time he tries to 'talk' what comes out is one of 10 randomly selected phases of the type "Have a nice day"[5], "Oh gosh!", and "I seem to be having problems expressing myself.". The curse is meant as a way to make your friends look silly, but the YAKUZA see it as a random number generator, like spinning a ten pocket roulette wheel. One of the members gets zapped with this magic wand and each person bets on what the 'wheel' will say next! Of course, you can probably see how such a contest can be 'rigged', if the 'wheel' is very very careful, and types very carefully!


The similarities in these stories and the American versions are striking:

1) People forming spontaneous social groups including 'Gangs' and 'Police'.

2) Early attempts at self-government 'Mayors' and 'Sheriffs'.

3) The most popular group activities being based on customer-created team events.

4) Gender and role confusion with some wanting the status quo, and others wanting change.

And the differences are just as interesting:

1) Gangs as thugs vs. Gangs as business.

2) Individual profit vs. Voluntary redistribution of accidental wealth

3) Completely different languages and cultures.

One can't help but wonder what will happen when Habitat or some other Cyberspace like it is truly international. So many similarities, but differences that technology alone may not be able to bridge. I can't wait to visit!

[1] See the story about The Great Token Scam in my other Habitat Anecdotes and The Lessons of Lucasfilm's Habitat.

[2] This is much like the original Habitat's Tome of Wealth and Fame see 'Habitat Anecdotes'

[3] This is much like 'The Wave' competitions that take place in Club Caribe.

[4] Club Caribe has its own gang, the Club Caribe Mafia, but instead of running it like a business, the 'Mafia' were more like thugs, existing mostly as a loose collection of thieves.

[5] Read more about the original "Have a nice day" curse in 'Habitat Anecdotes'.