Number Three

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I'm on vacation, and while I'm gone, with computers and Net connections in short supply, I'm counting down the Ten Greatest Crimes Against Humanity Committed By The Internet. The series begins here.

The final three. It's a bit exciting, isn't it? At least, I imagine it is. I know what all ten of them are, so for me, it's really just a matter of rage dictation. But for you, it's a suspenseful roller-coaster ride of hate. And which online Fabio gets hit in the face by my well-timed goose of disgust today? The collective pile of nerd-spunk that is the GameFAQS/GameSpot message board and talkback community.

It's an unwieldy name, I know, but you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and nerditry. You've got the GameFAQs message boards, serving the Internet's main site for redundant Final Fantasy walkthroughs. Then, when the GameSpot people bought the GameFAQs people, the boards began to double as the GameSpot message boards. On top of that, every news story on GameSpot features a dreaded talkback, in which the site's members can take a break from posting the stupidest shit possible on the message boards and post the stupidest possible reactions to the Activision press release the crack GameSpot reporters have just pasted into their content management system.

Most of the conversation is the kind of thing you'd expect from video game nerds. Rampant console partisanship (Wii SUXX0RZ - PS3 forever!), rampant console partisanship disguised as serious analysis (With this announcement of Jenga for Wii, the console wars are officially OVER.) and rehashes of the same arguments and points that have traveled over the Internet since Al Gore first e-mailed Tipper about blast processing.

And because the message boards are also the boards for GameFAQs, they incorporate a special, unique subset of an already very short bus indeed. People stuck on games, asking questions about being stuck on those games, and being offered in return varying degrees of poorly-designed abuse (deserved and undeserved), incorrect advice, correct advice stated in a way that makes it either incomprehensible or at least highly suspect, and forty thousand variations a day on "stuck too help pls thx".

And since each game has its own separate message board, each game's ubernerds can move in and fill the place with the kind of ubernerd activity like "Which Tekken character would you bang".

But the most horrifying part is that all of this occurs on a truly massive scale. The numbers of people, threads, and messages involved in this undertaking is absolutely terrifying. Worse, because the boards are so large and make up such a significant portion of the online video game discussion, roughly one tenth of one percent of the total content is not only useful, but unduplicated anywhere else.

So otherwise sane, reasonable people end up wandering into the asylum, attempting to filter the firehose of shit for that one nugget of nutritious corn. And there's no way to do that except by wading through pages and pages of hyperinane threads, each with a title that only hints at the contents via the text equivalent of a funhouse mirror reflection. Sure, odds are one could safely skip "best music to play while playing", but what the fuck lies within "this had to...."? It's probably shit, yes, but you've got a one in a thousand chance that the "this" is what you were looking for.

It's like a communist-era bureaucracy. Or the DMV. You hate every single thing about it, but since you can't go without renewing your license or getting your toilet paper ration voucher, you endure. And making us endure the GameFAQs/GameSpot message boards is the third greatest crime against humanity committed by the Internet.