Shot by Hifdzul Muhammad Siregar

As a veteran of many social media platforms, I remember my first few weeks as an admin in the fedi. I felt like an explorer in a strange new digital landscape. No altogether unfamiliar but different enough that it felt like a unique space. My background made the tech issues manageable, and my time on said other platforms contributed to me finding my footing quickly. It was undoubtedly a strange and new environment, but I had a few advantages coming in, so it felt manageable. I felt like a natural because picking it up was easy. It was a lot of fun.

And those first few weeks in the fediverse felt like a new journey. Yes, the part about running my own social media platform was cool, but the magic for me was meeting people I probably wouldn't have if I hadn't joined the fedi. Sure, there were pockets of subcultures on centralized platforms. But the commonality of having to play by the same set of (often discriminatory) rules contributed to the feeling of a homogenized experience as if we had to engage in a specific way. And many of them were not healthy.

But in the fedi, people could make whatever circles they wanted. In the course of a day, I would see furry communities, a smattering of sex workers plying their trade, random hobbyist technologists making weird things that were of no use to anyone but still cool as hell, people that posted nonsense for the sake of silliness and so on and so on. It was just wide open here in a way that I hadn't experienced in a long time. I would have been overwhelmed if I wasn't so enamored with seeing it all. And I wanted to see it all.

Also, and most importantly, the influence of Marcia cannot be overstated in the beginning. I knew early on her blend of intelligence, charisma, and kindness would be influential in a space where she could just be herself. I was extremely fortunate that she accepted my offer to be a moderator and eventual admin of PV. The insights she gifted me in the first weeks of our journey into the fediverse were critical to the developing culture. Her presence improved my ideas for social media space in ways I needed to think about. Play Vicious was what it turned out to be with her involvement.

At the time, I didn't realize how unique our partnership was. The nature of our friendship had always been a kaleidoscope of subjects ranging from good books to lousy tv shows with a bit of social theory and irreverence. We skipped topic to topic, laughed at some, and vehemently disagreed about a few. There wasn't a particular style to how we interacted; it was just organic and open. We talked about what we wanted to talk about in a nonjudgmental space that was always enthusiastic and warm. It was just our vibe.

That vibe would be the foundation of Play Vicious. The improbable combination of a straight Black dude who had a peculiar but compelling perspective of the world and an extensive technical background and a non-binary Afro-Latinx who simultaneously possessed an intimidating body of knowledge about how culture is created, applied and sustained in combination with a natural gravity that just drew people in. Admittedly I had taken this mix for granted because I was used to it. I didn't even realize how special it was until I experienced it through the eyes of people that experienced our dynamic for the first time. Honestly, I didn't have any grandiose ideas to make PV this unique thing that was separate from the other instances in the fedi. It just was because that's what we were.

The amalgamation of my tech prowess, dry humor, and candid commentary with Marcia's razor-sharp cultural analysis and infectious charm catalyzed the popularity and visibility of my little social experiment. At the time, I thought people were just mesmerized by the idea of an instance not led by white tech dudes, but now, I cannot deny how fresh our perspective was in that space. I am trying to remember other sites talking about the wide range of topics we engaged in from a cultural perspective. Sure, some were about the analysis, but we thought differently and knew how to express it with precision and enthusiasm. Engaging with PV was fucking fun.

Of course, with the fedi being a decidedly white space, not all greeted PV with warm intentions. Unfortunately, we had to deal with quite a few people who did not want to see a platform such as ours gain prominence, but I'll get to that a little later.

Because in the beginning, the sum of Marcia's and my collaboration was much more than our parts. Even I was surprised by the level of engagement and sheer attention we were getting initially.

It didn't take much to realize that we would need some help soon.

This was when I started to think about what kind of team I wanted to support what we were doing at PV. Ha, and what transpired next turned out to be one of the most satisfying and affirming experiences of my online life.