Every town or city has one; heck, even most videogames have an area like this, if it’s not the setting for the whole game. You’ve probably had to go to the one near you at some point or another. And when you went, you did what most people do when they go there: avoided eye contact, kept your head up, tried to look confident and tightened your grip on your belongings. It’s almost instinctual. It’s survival.

Some people thrive there. They’ve learned how to play the game in these places, have the right language, the right connections. They sometimes prey on those who wander in haplessly, not knowing where they were going. They are the ones with whom you don’t make eye contact. They are the ones who survive in, and in fact choose to inhabit, these places.

And inhabiting these places is not all bad, to be sure. These are often rich cultural undergrounds, complete with local dialects and cultures. There are traditions, social mores and gems of knowledge you’ll not find elsewhere. If you’re daring enough, a venture into one of these areas can be quite the rewarding experience.

The way our cities are built, these areas tend to be consolidated into central areas of our populations. Much like the namesake of this issue, The Tenderloin of San Francisco, they are small, cramped and full of dark alleys bursting with life – if you care to look.

But this bustle does not transfer well to the structure of the internet. These collectives are at the fringes of the web, nestled in places most either don’t think to, or perhaps dare, tread. It’s difficult to simply happen upon one of these places; they are whispered about or alluded to with a knowing tone in the forums you frequent, not spoken about openly. And certainly, for some of these places, it’s not at all wise to wander in haplessly without some manner of primer on proper “etiquette”.

This week, we take you into “The Terabyte Tenderloin” travel guide-style. We’ll show you some of the interesting places, some of the disturbing places, and some of the downright weird. We’ll uncover some of the odd behaviors, and perhaps some … less than legal ones, too. Jump on in, and take a walk on the dark side in this issue of The Escapist.

Julianne Greer

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