Cart ride for corndog

Also: a high-five guide, falling 🗿 heads, and 1000% traffic.

Cart ride for corndog

This week, we're talking about imaginary friends, gifts that enrage, and the golden age of GameFAQs.


The glory days of guides are already over

A 2024 map made by GameFAQs legend Starfighters76 for the 1987 game Ai Senshi Nicol.

Kotaku’s editor-in-chief recently resigned over an edict from management to pivot from news to guides. You can already see this on the site, where timely stories and commentary have been deprecated in favor of Q&A-style articles about recent releases like Final Fantasy 7 Rebirth and Dragon’s Dogma 2. This sort of stuff can do well, is easy to produce, and is wholly innocuous, so it makes sense that upper-management types would want to lean into it. But it’s also voiceless SEO filler that's starkly at odds with the editorial reputation Kotaku has built over the course of decades. Text guides created on an assembly line don't serve anyone: subreddits post the best strats earlier and explain them more succinctly; videos are much clearer when it comes to easy-to-miss secrets, multi-step instructions, and timing.  

Still, the unexpected “all guides” directive does evoke memories of the glory days of guide writing, in which deeply passionate fans created massive tomes full of ASCII art, personal asides, fan-fictional flourishes, cantankerous warnings about copyright law, and idiosyncratic grievances. GameFAQs is full of now-legendary works by volunteer writers who seemed happy to pack the entire modern internet into a walkthrough of EarthBound. In 2022, PC Gamer talked to one famed user, StarFighters76, who has created over 3,700 charmingly detailed and usable maps over the course of some 20 years of labor — entirely in MSPaint. An occasionally NSFW SomethingAwful thread from a few years back is chock-full of quotes from old guide-makers philosophizing about the nature of time travel in Chrono Trigger or lambasting readers who do not save Gina from the griffin in SaGa Frontier. Perhaps most indicative of the sort of obsessive fervor that drove the GameFAQs era is the legendary "perfectly justified monospace Super Metroid FAQ." 


Cart Ride for Corndog

via Hunter the Top Hat Guy.

Cart Ride for Corndog is a Roblox game with jagged Win95 sprites, pop-ups, a Clippy-type mascot, and corndog jumpscares. It feels a bit like visiting a museum of millennial artifacts that have been collected by industrious teenagers. In one video, the game’s bug-eyed proprietor appears in person to guide a top-hatted YouTuber through the course. “Cart ride into [meme]” is a venerable early-childhood Roblox genre (sometimes visited by adults for the content), but this is the first we’ve seen that gives the impression of a fully realized and actually cool amusement park.


Elsewhere in Roblox: Chaos reigns 

via @willycronka's TikTok.

A 7.3M-view Roblox TikTok recently blew up seemingly by sowing maximum confusion among viewers. The clip shows someone flying a plane into an elevated platform full of players and causing a kind of Lego 9/11. But the setting is mysterious. The structure looks like the spectator platform in popular disaster survival game when the (that’s the full name). In when the, you spawn onto a little themed landscape and try to survive meme disasters like a rain of Avocados from Mexico or falling 🗿 heads. When you die, you warp to the spectator platform to watch the survivors from a distance until the next round. It’s not a bad hangout game: you get long-ish periods of downtime to run around looking at the little jokes around the stage, and then there’s a sudden chaotic extinction event.

Anyway, you can’t crash a plane into the spectator platform in when the, or in its more sedate predecessor Natural Disaster Survival (whose blue-staircase lobby resembles the one in the video). The game depicted seems like a private mod also used in this TikTok. But the resemblance to when the led to an endless cycle of commenters asking “What game is this?”, other people saying “when the,” other people getting understandably confused about “when the” being the name of a game, and the uploader chiming in to say “It’s not when the” but refusing to say the name. Another feedback loop of people asking if anyone has seen “the other POV” and others responding “it’s the same uploader” (true) repeated at least a thousand times, in the manner distinctive to TikTok comment sections. 

If there’s anything to be learned here, it’s that Roblox isn’t just confusing to you — it’s often confusing to the kids who play it the most, and they’re confusing each other on purpose for engagement.


Welcome to the mid-email information oasis. EX is a free weekly-plus newsletter written by Chris, Clay, and Pao. It’s about the future of culture, and about turning each week’s mass of links into a few useful thoughts. If you enjoy reading EX, please share it on the social platform of your choice.


Character.ai remains the internet’s favorite AI toy

A character.ai chatlog from last year that became a classic; the character is from indie bartending sim VA-11 Hall-A.

If OpenAI’s DALL-E 3 image generator went offline for a day, no one but a few content farms would notice. But when the goofy/horny chatbot hub Character.ai goes offline, thousands of users cry out in anguish. After the site went down on Thursday, its 1.1 million-user subreddit went into a joking-not-joking meltdown: “I want my nine billion husbands and boyfriends BACK,” one redditor wrote. Many Twitter users complained that both C.ai and the fanfic archive AO3 went down at the same time, cutting them off from entire universes of imaginary friends. C.ai’s fans now range from kids making chatbots for their stuffed animals to bored posters to Slate contributors exploring S&M, so it’s safe to say that it’s established a stronger cultural foothold than the many forgotten AI toys released since Midjourney V1.


Hey, what's James Blake up to?

@jamesblake on Instagram

Earlier in March, the electronic musician James Blake went viral for a thread where he claimed, “The brainwashing worked and now people think music is free.” He was talking about the way streaming platforms have devalued music to the point where being a musician is plainly no longer a viable career. (A song that gets streamed a million times nets the artist $3,000, for example, and that’s before label and manager fees.) Last week, Blake announced a partnership with Vault.fm, a platform that allows listeners to subscribe to a musician’s feed for a monthly fee, which grants access to unreleased music, chat features, and other exclusive content. 

The announcement was met with a lot of eye-rolling: Vault.fm is backed by VC and blockchain types, neither of whom inspire confidence in consumers and creatives in 2024. Vault’s value prop also isn’t entirely different, as the musician and writer Peter Kirn notes, from similar initiatives by Bandcamp, Patreon, Discord, Endless, Gumroad, and Drip.fm. But as Drip’s founder Sam Valenti argues, “we have a more interesting world now” than when he launched Drip, and fans may be more open to this model than they were back in the years immediately after Spotify launched. People already pay enormous bounties for unreleased Playboi Carti, Lil Uzi Vert, and Ye tracks, for example. Musicians with fanbases that aren’t suburban hypebeasts may similarly be able to tap into the free-to-play model popularized by mobile games, monetizing their most devoted acolytes while still earning passive income from larger platforms and more casual fans.


For some gamers, a thank-you that stings 

In Dragon's Dogma 2, a wakestone is a valuable item to gift another player; a wokestone is a counterfeit to torment them with. Via Demolicious via PC Gamer.

Dragon’s Dogma 2 is filled with brilliant touches, from the falling animations to the high fives. (Some poor soul was made to write a guide on how to high-five; it’s automatic.) But its darkest thrill is a carryover from the first game: giving people gifts they'll hate. You can pay this guy Ibrahim to craft non-functional forgeries of things you own, which is helpful for quests where multiple NPCs want the same key item. But forgeries can also be gifted to other players through a system where you send one thank-you item after hiring someone’s player-created henchman. The interaction between these two systems is diabolical and surely intentional. For the last week, people online have been complaining about/relishing the fact that the game has become one huge, impressively toxic round of white elephant. DD2 even slightly improves the forgery system in the older game, which assigned giveaway names like "Wakestone Forgery."  Now the names of fakes are only one letter off: portcrystals become partcrystals, ferrystones become ferristones, and wakestones become wokestones. 


Chum Box

  • Australian comedian Tom Walker is trying to play GTA IV with traffic set to 1000% speed and it is breaking him. The full video is great stuff; there are newer VODs as well.
  • A “PS2 filter” blew up on TikTok and Twitter at the end of last week, leading to many gamified album covers and this take on The Lighthouse. Everyone used an AI model called face-to-many to do it — an equivalent CapCut filter exists, but doesn’t look as good.
  • Rift Wizard 2, a roguelike’s roguelike, launched into Early Access on Sunday. It’s a turn-based dungeon crawler that procedurally generates wild spell combos and monster types. Retromation gave it a look.
  • A new indie-focused digital event, the Triple-i Initiative, promises to reveal a bunch of new games without all the Geoff Keighley bullshit. It’s on April 10.
  • The 15-minute micro-horror game Rental found a neat way to take donations through Steam — the game is free, but fans are encouraged to pay $3 for a digital “making of” fanzine.
  • We generally avoid stories that boil down to “idiot tweets,” but this thread that synopsizes “11 ideas to upgrade your mind” from the works of Charles Bukowski is one to savor. It’s hard to imagine a greater misreading of a man whose tombstone reads “Don’t Try.”
  • Two great Wes Anderson moments: conspiring with Gwyneth Paltrow to turn Neon Genesis Evangelion into a Scientology-style religion and refusing to have his quotes edited by the New York Times
  • Fans of the anime Dungeon Meshi/Delicious in Dungeon revived the lost art of lazy Photoshops to imagine the full cast of a live-action version.
  • The YouTuber ChadCat’s ADHD summaries are “Saved You A Click” for video.
  • Fans of Purple Haze (2004) will instantly draw strength from this video.
  • The new movie from garbage auteur Neil Breen looks like an FMV game.
  • Competitive FPS The Finals introduced a new revolver made out of a stick.
  • A good tweet.

That's it for this week. We'll be spending next week pondering "what human being was your pet in a previous lifetime?"