On January 7, 2022, videographer Kane Pixels uploaded a short film entitled The Backrooms (“The back rooms”), subtitled Image found (“found images”) of the name of this film genre that receives the codes of amateur documentaries. We follow the wandering of a character in a building with yellowish walls and a faded carpet, in the light of the buzzing neon lights. A particularly strange work, but which came four months later to more than twenty-five million “views.”
“He Retreats, it’s a bit of a horrible story about the existence of an alternative dimension that people might fall into unintentionally. “narrates Florian Devigne, alias Ross, administrator of the French branch of the “wiki” dedicated to Retreats. One Dimension ” formed by several very different and interconnected levels “, which Internet users enjoy imagining and documenting. As if, says Florian Devigne, “Explorers published their findings to help other survivors.”
A myth born of 4chan
On May 12, 2019, a shady photograph of a row of rooms with yellow wallpapers and pale neon lights was posted on the 4chan forum in a thread dedicated to images. “liminaris” : is the birth certificate of Retreats. “Preliminary designates all these places where you feel that there has been life or that there could be, like an empty school”explains Mel, another administrator of the French branch of the Retreats. places like “our reality, except that something doesn’t work, which creates a great feeling of discomfort”.
On closer inspection, this foundational photo is really full of curious details: the absence of windows, mismatched wallpapers, walls that do not rise to the ceiling and then an awkward framing, as if the photo had been taken hastily … A user adds a short text, transforming it into “creepypasta” – these stories we invent and share online to scare us.
A relationship with reality that does not surprise David Peyron, professor of information and communication sciences at the University of Aix-Marseille and author of the book geek culture (FYP Editions, 2013): “He creepypasta it is close to the urban legend. Let’s take an already made universe, here the real world, and add a dose of mystery. But it must be as credible as possible. »
We don’t know exactly where this photo is coming from, and it doesn’t matter. From then on, it becomes the mind of 4chan users in the first piece of a maze that they will have fun mapping, according to the sinister photos they find online. Reddit, YouTube, TikTok, Fandom: Today, the stories of Retreats they are present on many platforms but are generally centralized in a “Wikidot”, a site that works on the same principle as Wikipedia. Each of the levels of Retreats, every object, every creature is meticulously engraved in notes, written as if they were the work of anonymous explorers. A narrative extremism that often calls for a scientific or journalistic style of writing.
“The SCP Foundation”: the colossus of collaborative fiction
The practice of collaborative writing is not new, however. “We already saw participatory role – playing games in the 1980s, during which people sent stories by mail, with one person centralizing everything.explains David Peyron. But today, the Internet has changed scale. » Above all, another creepypasta collaborative, the SCP Foundation, paved the way Retreats since 2007. It also originated in 4chan and, one thing leads to another, is structured around a Wikidot. Since then, he has inspired many writers, illustrators, videographers, and other game developers.
It relates the actions of an organization supposedly to hide and document the “SCPs” (for Special containment procedures, “special containment procedures”), creatures or supernatural objects. He SCP Foundation it also began with a photo, that of a strange humanoid concrete statue: christened SCP-173 by Internet users, it would become, in his imagination, extremely violent as soon as no one looked at it directly.
Writing in 4,000 hands is not easy. Unlike Wikipedia, Wikidotes SCP Foundation i Retreats, not everyone is free to modify the pages as they see fit. “Authors are asked to present to the forum the concept of the SCP they want to create. We can let them know if the idea already exists, if it is very clichéd or if it can cause rights issues.” explains Lekter, administrator of the French branch. Posting a final version to the “wiki” can only be done with the approval of a confirmed contributor.
Sometimes disagreements arise and if no agreement is reached, there can be secession, with the key to creating a new interpretation of the universe. “There are four main variants of Retreats and Kane’s Pixels short film series is one in itself. It’s still interesting, but it’s not ours. “, says Ross. Extreme example: June 2018, to protest the decision of the community SCP to temporarily wear a logo with the colors of the transgender flag, a group of collaborators found their own version of the universe, Authority of the PRC. And to internal governance must be added international coordination, which contributes its share of negotiations.
A clear border with great entertainment
Over time, tickets have grown in diversity and horror is no longer the only genre on the show. “We see that a lot of science fiction has recently been added to the universe. SCP can evoke X files somehow, even though our roots remain in the creepypasta »explains Johannes, another administrator of the French branch of the SCP Foundation.
With such a marked aesthetic, one can easily imagine an adaptation of the universe of SCP in conventional media. However, from the community side SCP, the commercial exploitation of the universe, even on a small scale, is far from unanimous. ” There are some examples of people trying to live SCPby crowdfunding or selling writing training sessions, but these are controversial moves that often generate friction explains Johannes.
In addition, these universes are subject to special copyright management. These licenses, called Creative Commons, may require producers or publishers who wish to adapt to relinquish some of their intellectual property. So when, in 2019, the Finnish development studio Remedy launched the video game controllargely inspired by the SCP Foundation by the very admission of their developers, they have taken care never to cross the line and to maintain its originality.
It remains to be seen whether other major studies will take over in the same way Retreats to produce a high-budget video game. A perspective, however, tempered by Mel: “We are still facing a universe that is based on very large and very empty places. It can be a little boring for a video game, right? »