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I was in a strange room filled with black couches, ebony walls and various elevators trapped behind glass gates. It would have felt like a bank or government building were it not for the ice-cream stand and Easter memorabilia, which included a giant rabbit plush and some egg-shaped statues with human-sized chicks inside.
Many spaces in Habbo, a virtual world created by Finnish developer Sulake, feel like this one. The platform is loosely modeled after a hotel, but its user-designed chat rooms span a broad set of themes. Jungles, high schools and coffee shops -- they're all in here.
As I glanced around my Easter-themed classroom and speculated on its architect, Unicorn_farts ran through a long and surprisingly thorough script. "Now, let's take a look at some basic rules of HIA," she said. "One, show respect to everyone, regardless of rank, gender, orientation or beliefs. Two, do not ask or hint for a promotion, pay, room rights or badge admins. Three, do not sit on the floor, use all caps or effects, flood, spam, or dance while in the HIA HQ."
Roughly thirty minutes ago, I had been scrolling through the Habbo hotel directory, looking for a way to earn some in-game currency and upgrade my avatar's shabby clothes. I soon stumbled upon the Habbo Intelligence Agency (HIA), which had "★ DAILY PAYING JOB ★" written in its room title. Intrigued and desperate, I entered the central lobby, walked up to one of the eight pre-check booths and asked for a job. The receptionist said sure, provided I change into a tomato-red uniform and add some special information, including a custom HIA "badge," to my Habbo profile page.
A few moments later, I was magically transported to a tightly-controlled corner of the room filled with travelators and waist-high barriers. My avatar was stuck there, rocking back and forth, until a security guard returned to his post and yanked a lever. I was then whisked to a different part of the room, staffed by Unicorn_farts, and told to step into a hotel elevator pressed against the wall. Confused and slightly disoriented, I obliged. The contraption was a portal to the Easter-themed wonderland that would serve as my private classroom. Clearly, the agency didn't want anyone eavesdropping on these sessions.
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