This Virtual Club Has a £4 Entry Fee. Is It Worth It?

Space Rave is a mix between a video game and a livestream.
RAVE SPACE – Left: the bouncer outside the virtual club. Right: avatars dancing
Fotos: RAVE SPACE. Collage: VICE

This article originally appeared on VICE Germany.

It’s been 14 months since the start of the pandemic, which means 14 months without nightclubs. Obviously, clubs aren’t exactly compatible with halting the spread of a dangerous virus, but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss them. 

In Berlin, a city whose DNA is linked to nightlife, the sector has experienced huge losses. According to NBC News, up to 9,000 of the city’s nightclub workers have lost their jobs over the last year. The industry has received some local government support, but remains cash-strapped. A report by Pollstar, a trade publication for the live events industry, estimated that, globally, venues might have lost up to €25 billion to the pandemic.


That’s why clubs in Germany and across the world have been trying all sorts of alternatives to reach out to party-goers online and make up for lost income. For instance, the Griessmühle – a riverside club in Berlin – recently relaunched itself digitally on Minecraft. The Kauz Club in Zurich did the same on Second Life. In April of 2020, Dutch and international DJs participated in a month-long live streaming event to raise money for clubs in Amsterdam. One of the most talked about queer clubs on the internet, Club Q (short for Quarantine), attracted thousands of people to its Zoom parties throughout 2020, with celebrity hosts like Lady Gaga and Charli XCX.


While looking for something to do with my evenings, I came across RAVE SPACE, an online-only club at the intersection of a video game and a live streaming event. In RAVE SPACE, you get your own avatar who can dance, talk to strangers via voice calls and order fake drinks with real money in a virtual space. Everything’s anonymous and you can’t see other people’s faces when you talk to them, just like when you approach a sweaty stranger in a dimly-lit club. Oh, and there’s a €10 (£8.64) entry fee, although it was recently lowered to €5 (£4.32).

After logging in, my avatar materialised in the club space. Just like all the other users, my alter-ego looked shiny, black and mannequin-like, almost as if it was wearing a latex bodysuit. The first thing I saw was the club’s entrance area, where I waited in a small queue for a bouncer to let me in. To my left, a corridor led to the dance floor and I could hear muffled music playing in the background. 

Before I pushed my way through the shiny 3D bodies, I got a voice call from an anonymous user who turned out to be one of the three founders of the club. Fabian Burghardt – a designer and web developer, who launched RAVE SPACE six months ago – said the team wanted to develop a gamified version of the club experience that was as close to the real thing as possible. 

That’s why they built interactive features, like letting users buy drinks through tokens called Ravecoins (€1 [86p] each) and uploading stickers (for 1.5 Ravecoins a piece) to decorate the walls of the club. Real-life DJs play in the club, too – some are local, some international. During my night in the club, I’d only heard of one of them, DJ Hell. Five years ago, Burghardt launched a website called BerghainTrainer, where a virtual bouncer scans your face and asks you questions to assess whether or not you’ll make it into Berlin’s best-known, and famously selective, club.


After the call, I joined a group of anonymous avatars gyrating together on the dance floor. Up to 10,000 people can join the platform at the same time, but they’re divided into rooms of 20 users. Only the DJ, standing at the far end of the space, had a face. It looked deceptively real. I decided to go to the bar, where I could pick a drink from a list of two – a shot of peppermint liqueur, or a cocktail containing vodka and Club-Mate ice tea. Both options are popular in Berlin’s actual club scene, and here cost half a Ravecoin. 

After downing the shot, my avatar’s vision became slightly blurred. It was time to make some moves. By keying in a number between one and three, I could get my avatar to perform three dance sequences. Pressing four made it stop. I also tried out the sticker option Burghardt mentioned – I went to my profile, uploaded a picture of the VICE logo and stuck it on a virtual wall where future generations of SpaceRavers will be able to see it for as long as this virtual space exists.

Eventually, I decided to hang out in a different room – by pressing “p”, I could choose which one to join. Each room has a different vibe and of course different (though identical looking) people in it. Some had louder music, others were more quiet. There was a moment of silence before the third DJ of the night began their set. In the live chat, someone proposed that people dance by the toilets. I tagged along. 

The music and the vibe reminded me of a club, but ultimately, I was still very much in my flat. There was no entry queue, nor one for the toilet, no brushing up against real bodies, no sweat dripping from the ceiling – none of the messy encounters that make you feel alive when you go out. Everything I missed so dearly was only happening on my laptop screen.

RAVE SPACE is nothing like a real club. I had fun, though, and to me it was worth it. At least I could share my longing for the real thing with others, and maybe that’s enough for now.