One of the most hated sites on the internet

Also: Crypt Underworlds, Joe Is Hungry, and a new way to feel feelings.

One of the most hated sites on the internet

EX is a research report about digital culture. You can learn more here. This week: good music, bad wikis, and perfect Cartman.

1. The most dastardly name in tips & tricks

The release of king-size RPG Baldur’s Gate III means brisk business for everyone hawking walkthroughs, boss strategies, tips, tricks, secrets, exploits, best weapons, best spells, BROKEN builds, and other balms to soothe the mind of the anxious gamer. In the front of this crowd of touts you’ll find one of the most hated sites on the internet: Fextralife.

Fextralife is a network of profit-first RPG wikis that usually grabs the top spot on Google for questions about bosses and items. Their sites are infamous for factual inaccuracy, unmoderated comments and edits, and for embedding auto-playing Twitch streams everywhere, giving each lore page the character of one of those gas pumps that makes you watch ads. (Fextralife’s video wing was also recently in the spotlight for complaining that Armored Core 6 uses an old engine instead of Unreal.) Popular Elden Ring YouTuber Zullie the Witch described Fextralife as “a beacon of misinformation that treats its users as viewbots” yet is “the automatic first result for any search.”

BG3 already has an ad-free community wiki set up to oppose the Fextralife wiki. It’s a classic tale of two wikis, in which a noble non-profit resource stands against an unmoderated ad hive, and Google directs all traffic to the latter. But recently that story may have started to change. An “Indie Wiki Buddy” browser plugin, launched last week, helps users avoid Fextralife/Fandom wikis when possible. Path of Exile’s developers did something even more dramatic: last August, they began endorsing and hosting the game’s fan-run wiki to promote it over a run-down Fandom wiki that ranked higher in search. Larian and other RPG developers might consider doing doing the same.

2. A cloud rap icon returns

To a certain strain of music listener, Friendzone is canon: a singular production team often working in atmospheric hip-hop but really smudging the textures of JRPGs, vaporwave, digital media, and nostalgia into an emotionally charged blur. Across albums like DX, Collection 1, or the three Kuchibiru Network mixtapes, the duo established themselves as uptempo contemporaries of Burial and Oneohtrix Point Never — deeply online, melancholic, and capable of room-rupturing moments of beauty. When James Laurence, one half of the duo, died in 2017 at the age of 27, Dylan Reznick released one final track — the haunting "Sweet Dream" — and hung up the moniker.

Last week, Reznick released his debut full-length as Chlorine Mist, which doesn't so much pick up where Friendzone left off as transport the listener to the same headspace that his former work did. It's a sense-memory thing hearing many of these same elements configured like this again: gothic cathedrals of MIDI synths, DDR-tier drum programming, vocal samples pulled from the haunted spaces of abandoned MMOs. At 70 minutes, BL3SS3D is a lot of music, but the highlights are many, like the 9-minute "STRIFERAVE" (which Reznick described on Twitter as "full-blown orchestral mode ... went crazy with the mallets") or the gut-wrenching camera-pull crescendoes of "JAMIE'S PRAYER." The record sort of melts over its runtime, the emotional core that's always been at the heart of Reznick's music beating louder and louder, until you hit album closer "KISS HER," and hear it burst at last.

3. Crypt Underworld gets a surprise release

Cicada Marionette's Crypt Underworld, the sequel to 2013's Crypt Worlds, is finally playable on after a surprise announcement this past week. Crypt Worlds is a first-person adventure game that originally turned heads due to its piss-based economy, cryptic NPCs, and maximalist approach to designing dense, varicolored levels. Its surreal, labyrinthine structure prompts new discoveries with every corner you turn, and Crypt Underworld promises to expand the vivid universe introduced in the original.

Though highly anticipated in certain niche corners of the internet, news about Crypt Underworld has been sparse since the Kickstarter page for the project went live in 2015. Cicada Marionette has occasionally posted glimpses into her progress on her YouTube channel, but she's otherwise kept her head down during development, only emerging to occasionally publish various game assets to her page. Though Crypt Underworld is still receiving updates in the wake of its release, it's currently in a fully playable and downloadable state, and early response indicates that it was well worth the wait.

4. AI video creeps forward

via @weirddalle and @realcadew

A spooky “VHS found footage” reel that did numbers on Twitter on Monday also showcases some recent improvements in AI video. Its creator, @realcadew, said he fed Midjourney prompts like “1980s VHS, ominous rural landscape,” etc., then simply ran the resulting images through Runway Gen-2 image-to-video software. Gen-2 got an update on July 21 that supposedly improved fidelity and reduced the “creepy-crawly” effect that makes every object in an AI video look like it’s eating the things next to it; this change was warmly received within the small community of enthusiasts.

Generally, though, AI videos have lost some steam. Back in early May, clips like “Pepperoni Hug Spot” and “Synthetic Summer” went viral, but the creators of that stuff (channels like Pizza Later and AI Lost Media) now get only a few thousand views on more recent projects. The crowd of viewers interested in AI shitposts has been content agnostic, moving from meme to meme, from static “X as an 80s movie” slideshows to semi-animated Balenciaga Harry Potter slideshows to fake beer/pizza video ads to a recent audio-only phase of variations on “Ballin’” and stuff like “Eric Cartman - Bring Me To Life Evanescence PERFECT Full Version.” If anything reignites the AI video scene, it will be a strange new meme rolling through, rather than patch notes about another 10% reduction in creepy-crawlies.

5. The aficionado’s choice for fast-food reviews

This review of a Popeye's chicken sandwich recently caught the attention of comedy YouTubers, many of whom have descended upon its comments section to express genuine admiration. The videos' creator, Joe Is Hungry, displays some serious editing chops as the video bounces effortlessly from segment to segment, making liberal use of jump cuts and stop-motion sequences. From his supporter shoutouts (a litany of usernames that sound like throwaway jokes in a Mr. Show sketch) to the all-important "Bite Test," every second of the video feels meticulously choreographed.

The video’s main draw is its production value. While prominent fast food reviewers like ReviewBrah and JoeysWorldTour tend to produce fairly minimal videos — often shot while planted in the driver's seat, moments after picking up their order — Joe's setup sports three different camera angles, a scale atop a lazy Susan for weighing and showcasing food items, and a backdrop made up of cardboard packaging from various restaurants. Few treat fast food vlogging as a craft, and it's refreshing to see Joe give his reviews such love and attention despite having relatively few regular viewers.

6. The new way to feel something on TikTok is Humancore


cc: @rtamarino #aesthetic #fyp #people #vitalenta #parati

♬ American Beauty - Thomas Newman

The #humancore hashtag on TikTok (also searchable as "#humansbeinghumans") collects videos of people doing “people things”: swimming, gazing, unicycling, working, etc., set to reverie-inducing music like the theme from American Beauty. Sometimes the point is the mundanity — people on a JumboTron — and others it's the scale — cutting between incongruous clips of people in varying situations. The trend shares some DNA with the match-cut freakouts people have been setting to that Radiohead / “N95” remix, as well as the corecore trend from earlier this year, both of which similarly aimed to evoke an emotional response through the sheer scale of human existence. Where corecore sometimes had a nihilistic bent, though, humancore flips it, often casting the montages as optimistic or beautiful.

Humancore epitomizes something that internet commenters love to explain to each other: John Koenig’s concept of "sonder," or "the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own." The word pops up repeatedly in the discussion below any good #humancore video. Viewers taken with the mundane texture of humancore compilations might reflect that it actually feels like watching someone else scrolling through TikTok, viewing an algorithmically generated feed as vivid and complex as your own. Those less enchanted with the hashtag will see it as evidence that younger platforms go through the same phases that old ones once did (see Sade last week), and currently Tiktok is in its “thinking about other people being alive” era.

7. The FGC Glossary joins the battle

Arcane jargon has always posed a challenge for the sprawling fighting game community, which has been accumulating slang terms since the 1990s. The Fighting Game Glossary is a promising solution, collecting over 900 different terms used across over sixteen games. In addition to allowing users to sort terms alphabetically or by game, the glossary also provides video examples, Japanese translations, and even a "term of the day" segment. A recent update added terms from this year's Street Fighter 6.

The site is mostly the work of Infil, an enthusiast who previously published a complete guide to the 2013 reboot of Killer Instinct. The glossary has become an invaluable resource to various members of the fighting game community since it was first published two years ago, helping new players find their sea legs while giving casters and streamers a handy way to clarify their usage of obscure terminology.

YouTube Thumbnail of the Week

The future of superyachts is RGB interiors. (Source: Jelly)

Chum Box

  • The rapper Gucci Mane, who calls himself "Guwop" or sometimes just "Wop" and has released numerous tracks containing puns related to these nicknames (i.e. "Woptober"), yielded at last to popular pressure and released a track called "Woppenheimer." Containing no references to either the movie or famed physicist, it appears to be just some track he already had in the can about how much he respects his wife. He has promised "Brrrbie" will be next.
  • Surely even those who cast a cold eye toward NPC streamers will be moved to spare a shilling for a consumptive Victorian e-beggar.
  • It'll be hard for any TikToker to "out-NPC" this viral video from the official Japanese Beyblade TikTok account. The sketch recalls a format popularized by Japanese YouTubers Komozawa Isolation, who regularly make live-action videos spoofing open-world games like GTA and Yakuza.
  • YouTube Shorts creators like @Deedaw and @reddeaddave4675 have been using Red Dead Redemption 2 to create "Tarantino style" shootouts where the game’s highly detailed animations and gore effects fill in for stuntmen and squibs.
  • Everyone online has been going nuts for Boston’s cop-hating playground slide. Twitter and Tiktok were full of posters editing the clip or sharing their own death-defying trips down the tube.
  • Voice actor/YouTuber Gianni Matragrano has been doing impressions of characters like Master Chief, Columbo, and Spike Spiegel since 2016, often using existing memes as a script. His new Duke Nukem video is about aliens.
  • Per reports, Meta says the metaverse isn’t dead, it’s just a mobile shooter called Super Rumble that promises “7 epic weapons” and “6 special powers.”
  • Just a month after adding Nicolas Cage, the asymmetrical multiplayer slasher game Dead by Daylight has expanded its horror multiverse with another guest star: the alien from Alien. What’s left? Gremlins?

That’s it for this week. We’re using our bonus action to Dash out of here.