A History and Analysis of the Downfall of Backrooms/Tech Support's Core Themes
Culture & Community
With the one year anniversary of The Backrooms Wikidot site coming up in a few days, it’s nice to check on the site’s roots to see what progress has and has not been made. Site restructuring, theme changing, and several other things have been changed in the site’s appearance, all in the name of giving it a more polished look and making it more appealing to the average viewer of the site. From its fledgling days up until now, one could say that the site has went through an aesthetic metamorphosis.
But looks aren’t the only thing that have changed with the site. As The Backrooms went from internet meme to unique confic creation, the growth of the site brought — and still brings —with it many new waves of authors, each with their own styles of writing and blossoming ideals for what The Backrooms should and should not be. A few people writing their own Backrooms with no rhyme or reason on the original Fandom site quickly turned into a community with more organized standards; standards which not every author could keep up with.
These standards have seen The Backrooms undergo a drastic change in content style. The lackluster quality control of the early Wikidot days and the Fandom site brought with them a myriad of authors with varying degrees of expertise, all writing with no ulterior motive than having created their own level of The Backrooms. Once criticism, serialising, and polish were added to the article-posting formula, the purpose of writing went from having left a mark to having written a story. This new scope left its mark on the theming of the site’s writing. Because people now had an idea of continuity, structure, and organisation, the original theme of The Backrooms, i.e nostalgia (or liminality, as some people describe it), found itself in jeopardy.
How Did We Get Here?
To contrast and compare, take a look at pages on the site from different eras. A large amount of articles from the early eras of Tech Support have not stood the test of time, succumbing to either the dreaded -5 deletion range, rewrites, or generally being deemed... inappropriate, to say the least. Despite all this, one exemplary article of the time that still remains on the site — and will remain there for the foreseeable future — is the Old Level 0, an archival of the first iteration of Level 0 prior to its rewrite later on in 2021. Every aspect of this level reeks of the old, unprofessional style of the older days. The description is evidently vaguer than most articles nowadays, reliant on the image rather than the writing – a trend observed in nearly all of the old writing on Tech Support and Fandom. The information feels more informal, less analytical in nature and more like the author is telling you something you already know. The article feels less realistic as well, with there being little to no explanation, theories, and other hypothesises about the nature of the article’s contents.
The old Level 0, in my opinion, characterizes the old writing on the site, the hallmarks of which can be summed up in three points: vague descriptions, stiff and informal writing, and a lack of realism. The writing was formulaic and without much narrative presence, opting instead for a more descriptive approach to the contents. These obviously cast a bad light on the old writing and aren’t exactly shining examples of what good containment fiction should be. One can’t exactly fault new authors for disliking the old writing — once a piece of literature is replicated a billion different times but with a different image, it gets exhausting to read through. People will want change and variety, something which the old writing isn’t exactly well known for.
There’s something in these old articles that shines however, and that is a cohesive theme. The old articles are so memorable, despite their quality being mediocre at best and appalling at worst, because they stick to that aforementioned theme of nostalgia which The Backrooms are known for outside of the community. It was writing that had an identity of its own, independent from other similar sites, unique from other similar sites. The liminal was what The Backrooms Wikidot was founded on, and these articles represented it better than anything else. If the Fandom/Reddit era was the stone age of The Backrooms, then the advent to Wikidot was the beginning of a new bronze age that was to bring the concept’s themes to life. Anyone here could be an author if they followed the formula because the posting rules back then were far laxer than they are today, meaning that there was an abundance of articles and unstifled potential. With a concept as fresh as The Backrooms, the seeds for the future were set despite the apparent lack of skill, the principal concepts were created, and The Backrooms cemented its place as a confic site with its own characteristics, a new hat in the ring ready for its competition.
Of course, every epoch has its end. Come November of 2020, and suddenly The Backrooms are no longer the obscure internet writing niche which they were just a few months ago. They have just begun to attract some more prolific authors – namely, a few of the big dogs from the SCP Foundation. This new presence of experienced authors quickly established a dominance over other users, bringing with them a big change in overall site quality, particularly in regards to the people at the helm of the greenlight team (the people responsible for quality control and proofreading on the site). Because of this, The Backrooms saw its humble beginnings in the realm of ‘professional’ writing, the first venture into building a reputation for itself as something more than just scatter-brained worldbuilding and poor writing.
This here is what I personally like to refer to as the silver age, the bridge between the site’s early days and the modern eras of Tech Support. The staff structure, writing, consistency, userbase maturity, and progressive thought improved as the SCP cabal brought with them values from their own community, which ultimately still affect it to this very day. Articles published during this time were a mixed bag in terms of quality, but classics such as Level 200, the Red Knight, Nostalgi Gaius, the Level 6.1 rewrite, and Escapism, were all posted at this time. People saw the quality of these articles and wanted to replicate them, as is evident with all the clones of Level 404 and Level 200 onsite today, so the tropes associated with this new method of writing were transferred onto the ripe ideas of The Backrooms, eventually changing it entirely into something… different.
The Decline of Nostalgia
The new writing onsite brought with it new perspectives. The old articles began being received rather lowly by the community. This can be seen clearly in the forum section for the previously mentioned Level 0 iteration and how it was being perceived.
Eventually, Level 0 was rewritten to fit the quality standards of the site during the Silver Age, which is the entry we all know to be as Level 0. This trend has been followed pretty regularly ever since, with popular/influential pages being rewritten every once in a while to be up to the site’s modern standards.
Some other examples of positively rated articles being received poorly during this time:
Interesting to note is the fact that most surviving critiques in the discussion tabs are done by the same people, partly due to the fact that very few people actually critiqued using discussion — an issue that plagues the site to this very day.
And so on so forth. This was a trend as more and more articles were deleted, rewritten, etc. As such, very few reviews from this time are available, but the ones that are left show that in the winter of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, a shift in standards occurred. New users were no longer pointed towards the old levels when asking the age old question of “What should I read first?”, rather, they were directed to the newer, more popular pages.
Around March 2021 is where I would say the scale tipped. The old liminal writing became something that new authors did to establish themselves on the site as opposed to having it be a part of their individual franchise, and articles no longer were written without ulterior plans. Articles such as the classic Level 906, Level 907, the Gods of Griots storyline, the Berry tales, and entries to the Black Knights series, were posted around this time. A new generation of authors was brought up reading writing different than that of the ancient authors of the site. This was around the time I joined, so I may be biased in what I say next, but this is where TS had reached its zenith. That golden period between March and June of 2021 where the writing had both the edge of SCP and The Backrooms’ core themes still being utilized. With both Liminal articles and story-based articles still being created during this period, harmony was reached in terms of writing – but it was short lived.
The Summer of 2021 rolls about and this is where this equilibrium begins shifting to the side of the story-based writing. Sure, liminal articles were still being created, but they were far rarer now that story-based writing — and by virtue of that, tales — rose in popularity. This wasn’t exactly a community wide thing, for the users of Tech Support still enjoyed these entries at the time, and they still do to this day. This was instead caused by greenlighters being tired of the stereotypical liminal article formula, thus, giving the permissions for less and less of these liminal articles to go onto the site. The idea of The Backrooms being more than just liminal spaces and encompassing more themes saw widespread usage here as a sort of slogan by people, so more ‘other’ emotions were put into The Backrooms. These sentiments would then be transferred onto the broader community, thus, changing how even these users saw the site.
These changes of attitude made it so that the writing on the site was becoming more and more of a slurry of emotions and concepts than a fixation on one particular theme. People couldn’t decide what they wanted from The Backrooms, which resulted in a bitter, cold-war-esque conflict between site members and offsite members which all had a different view on what The Backrooms should be.
Level 27 and The Point of No Return
The largest and most raucous events of this period was the debate between fans of the new Level 27 and the old one. For those unaware, the old Level 27 was one of the levels from the old days which was regarded as a ‘classic’. Despite this, its poor quality and abhorrent grammar resulted in it being deleted off the site during this great shift in standards, like many other articles prior. The article as it was doesn’t exist anymore, but you can see for yourself what kind of writing the page contained by viewing its page on the Fandom Wiki, which I presume is either identical or nearly identical to the old Level 27 in its unaltered form.
Level 27’s slot was very quickly filled once this void opened up, and a new article more up to date with the modern standards was posted in its place. The problem? It does not conform to the tastes of the offsite community, that is, the notion — now considered antiquated — that The Backrooms are all about nostalgia. In short, the death of an old article is superseded by a new one, and the jump in quality is clearly not appreciated by everyone. On one hand, you have the onsite community whose standards have, at this point, strayed far away from the copy-paste liminal formula. The article is favoured for its writing and for its rich concepts, and it is hailed as one of the hallmarks of a developing Tech Support.
On the other hand, the offsite community is still not as up to speed with the recent writing practices adopted by The Backrooms Wiki. Their reactions to something which is clearly not liminal, a format screw, and a total abandonment of that formulaic writing characteristic of the early days – the same writing which the offsite community still believes The Backrooms to possess – were negative in nature. In Backrooms servers unrelated to Tech Support, the articles were slammed relentlessly for their modern take on The Backrooms, for not ‘living up’ to the original, and for not embodying the essence of The Backrooms. See for yourself just what some users had to say.
In the end however, the users complaining were not part of the integral community writing for The Backrooms. This meant that despite their complaints and their furious opinions, the writing for The Backrooms continued down the way it had begun to shift towards. The captains were steering the ship despite the pleas of their crewmates.
As the next few months came and went, the numbers of liminal articles continued to dwindle. More depth was encouraged in writing, and liminal levels simply could not keep up with this — after all, how much depth can one possibly give to an infinitely repeating set of hallways? Story-based writing became the norm, and as new authors became household names and the old authors’ work was shunned for its quality, The Backrooms took its final step towards the new style of writing. It had hidden its roots and developed a new character that was more appealing to the changing community, and nostalgia simply was not a part of the vision for a greater Tech Support.
Now that you are aware of the story behind the writing of The Backrooms, I would like to provide a bit of an analysis of my own regarding this story which I have told. Illustrated above are the key periods in which I believe the writing on The Backrooms has distinctly changed.
As has been said earlier, The Backrooms immediately threw its hat in the ring with a fresh new take on confic, dubbed by many as Limfic (Liminal Fiction), the next step of confic’s evolution as a genre. The early ages were rife with potential, and there were many opportunities for the defining articles of the genre to be created due to the lax rules at the time. No quality quota, no sense of continuity, and no real obligation to continue writing. The embodiment of the desolate liminal space pictures could be explored best because the articles themselves were empty. Once you ponder this, it sort of makes sense – in a real world situation, what exactly would there be to describe when speaking about an infinitely looping place other than a basic description and an image for courtesy? The lack of professionalism, the lack of information, the scarcity; put simply & succinctly, the emptiness felt real, different from the overly analytical, indulgent SCP articles which confic readers were used to at the time.
With this came an obvious lack of general quality, because the idea itself needed to evolve to have a chance of survival. The modern eras of Tech Support and even the new direction which Fandom is going in show that quality and continuity are much preferred over a distinct character. Despite being so unique in nature, these articles were hard to read through and get invested in, so a narrative needed to be created. This was attempted with the groups and factions of The Backrooms, which was why the M.E.G., the B.N.T.G., and all the other popular factions at the time were created, although it was more notoriously achieved with entities. I am speaking here of The Partygoers, which were the first successful attempt to give The Backrooms continuity and story; the idea of a Big Bad which every person could hate regardless of who they were, which also fit with the writing at the time. Conceptually, The Partygoers were exactly what The Backrooms at the time needed – an antagonistic force to tie everything together. With them, I would say The Backrooms had peaked in its originality and concept.
The moment the professionalism and values of the SCP authors entered The Backrooms’ culture is when the concept of The Backrooms truly diminished in originality. Of course, we couldn’t stay in the era of infinite levels forever, but the direction taken was… incorrect, in many ways. For how much us modern users of the Wiki will claim that we try to stray away from SCP, it’s undeniable that its influence has permeated through the site’s writing and changed the way in which we perceive the organisations in The Backrooms, the entities, the levels, objects, notable people, so on so forth. This internal conflict of concepts resulted in varying interpretations of the same key concepts of The Backrooms, the solution for which was also dreamt up by SCP authors: the no-canon policy. With this, any discrepancy in lore could be chalked up to “No canon!”, and The Backrooms were now a sandbox once more, albeit, in a different way.
Whilst at the time the consequences could not be forseen, because the no-canon policy had worked “well” with SCP, with The Backrooms it only served to harm them. Since there were so many key concepts in The Backrooms that could be interpreted differently — such as society within the confines of The Backrooms, technological advancements, and the modus operandi of key factions — the no-canon policy made it so that there are too many interpretations of The Backrooms floating around to make sense of. New users will come in, confused why some articles still feature firearms despite the community despising them so much, or as to why the M.E.G. is depicted as being super-powerful in one article and very weak in others. But it’s alright, because no-canon fixes this, right? The harsh reality which some users won’t accept is that it doesn’t. No consistent framework to build your stories on is the sole killer of many aspiring authors entering the novel writing business, so why is it being encouraged in a place where so many people must base their writing on it? Freedom of expression, sure, but what will happen to the story when the web of concepts is so tangled that people can’t discern one’s ‘canon’ from the other?
The writing itself also took a massive hit. Sure, the empty writing wasn’t satisfactory enough for the tastes of anyone experienced with the pen and the paper, but changing it to be more similar to SCP’s style simply was not the answer. The introduction of clinical tone greatly damaged The Backrooms’ character, but it is nowadays the dominant type of writing, an invasive species of sorts. The pedantic nature of this robotic writing, the metaphorical dissection of beasts which are supposed to be shrouded in mystery, the professionalism of the organisations – these are not ideas The Backrooms was born with. These ideas have ousted the irreconcilable values of The Backrooms away from its core, and replaced them with newer values which do not belong to them as a concept, hindering its identity and make it just another Wikidot playground in the eyes of major authors in the confic sphere.
So what has The Backrooms gotten out of all this? Surely, the SCP authors which changed it to be more to their liking will look at it more positively now, right? According to multiple SCP authors on Twitter, not really! The Backrooms, which have dyed their hair in the same colour as SCP to appease it, are now being rejected by the ‘elite’ cabal of authors of the community for being ‘conceptually thin’. For April Fools, a mega-conglomerate of accomplished SCP authors — 19 in all, and including staff members, community representatives, and fan-favorites — wrote “The Bathrooms Wiki”; a week-long collaborative effort that marries the copypasta of Backrooms with the SCP sub-canon of Parawatch. The 7000-word tale approaches a variety of restrooms, public and private, as objects of limspace exploration. The tale, whose metaphor is hard to not interpret in a critical light if only just at first, even features a disgruntled entry that mimics the splintering off of Liminal Archives. In the comments, the authors note that this was not intended to be a criticism of The Backrooms Wiki, and some have complimentary things to say about The Backrooms in their responses there. However, that The Bathrooms wasn't a slight against The Backrooms needed to be clarified, not once, but twice in the author post. The tale is well-received, currently sitting at just under 100 upvotes.
The same people who came and made a ruckus out of The Backrooms’ identity now do not see it going anywhere. In a bid to attract the greats and appease the consumers at the top of the food chain, The Backrooms began losing integral parts of their identity to no avail. The effects of this echo in the site’s culture even today, which have left some authors unsure about The Backrooms’ identity amongst a sea of other confic sites.
The future is not all grim however. Recent additions to the small roster of authors which The Backrooms boasts have seen the number of traditionally written articles rise, albeit, with a higher standard of quality. Several of these new articles can be either hits or misses, but overall, their quality has increased and they seem to not be going anywhere soon. As it is right now, The Backrooms are at a crucial point in their lifetime where liminal articles have gotten a second wind, another chance to make a stand, except this time, with more experience under their belts. The time is right for new foundations to be laid, a time where the site does not rely on the opinions of any other extant confic community to push them around and decide what they have to write. The Backrooms is an emancipated entity of its own now, and only its users can determine what will become of it many years down the line.
Will the core values of The Backrooms prevail? This is beyond what I, or anyone else for that matter, can really answer. Perhaps nostalgia for the old writing will bring it back in full swing, perhaps this is simply a small trend observed due to recent greenlight policy changes which will die out in due time. Whatever the case, it feels good to see that through all that has happened in its lifetime, The Backrooms as an idea is still given an opportunity to forge its own destiny. Maybe one day, it too can achieve the notoriety which SCP has attained throughout the years.
© Confic Magazine