Outside of video game websites’ comment sections, the most fucked up things online happened to me on Stardoll (or on other dress up games websites like GirlsGoGames.com and DressUpGames.com), founded in 2004.

Stardoll still exists as some shell of its former self, as far as I can tell. Its front page is mostly populated with paper dolls uploaded around 2011, around the time I used it most passionately. At that time, it was an online community centered around celebrity dress up games. actually the BarbieGirls website collaborated with Stardoll and suggested users join it once it shut down.

The volume of paper dolls uploaded was impressive even to me, a child with no understanding of why and how computers turned on. You could style anyone from Evanescence frontwoman Amy Lee to conservationist Dian Fossey, and outside of dress up games, there were make up games, shopping plazas populated by real, groundbreaking 2000’s fashion brands like Vivienne Tam, Italian luxury brand Miss Sixty, and DKNY. There were also limited-edition “tribute” stores to established and, at the time, up-and-coming fashion greats, like Giambattista Valli, Roberto Cavalli, and Lanvin, all of which informed my love, knowledge, and criticism of fashion today .

But like BarbieGirls, Stardoll clearly perpetuated a highly specific idea of ​​womanhood and of what a great, paper doll-worthy woman was. Skinny, white, highly interested in shopping. And its community, which I mostly engaged with through interest-based forums you could join, was filled with drama and, at least on my end, lies. Once I told people I had a boyfriend who looked exactly like Stefan from The Vampire Diaries except he was in a wheelchair. I also wrote Twilight fanfiction inspired by the 2008 Anna Faris movie The House Bunny. It was fucked up and I did fucked up things. Being 13 is hard.