The scary thing about Burger Time

Also: strange lines, questionable geometry, and nerd domains.

The scary thing about Burger Time

EX is a research report about where culture is headed. You can learn more here. This week, we’re talking about strange lines, questionable geometry, and nerd domains.

1. One of indie rock’s most misunderstood bands is back

Real ones never stopped listening to MGMT. Ever since Congratulations’ notoriously controversial reception separated the posers (aka the “Time to Pretend” enjoyers) from the true fans (aka the “Flash Delirium” enjoyers) back in 2010, the band has struggled to be understood by the listening public. Yet Loss of Life — their latest record, out today — is, in some ways, their most straightforward work. When compared to their previous LPs, its songs are tamer in arrangement and more horizontal in structure, though they still exhibit the band’s tendencies towards psych rock and baroque pop songwriting. Album single “Bubblegum Dog” is one such example, using suspenseful chord changes and an icy harpsichord bridge to hearken back to the classic MGMT sound.  

Today, MGMT’s listenership displays a unique generational split. Despite coming out in 2018, Little Dark Age’s eponymous track went viral as TikTok audio back in 2020, introducing their music to a generation of people too young to remember spotting Joanna Newsom in the “Kids” music video. For longtime fans, Little Dark Age was instantly legible as the band’s “Trump era album,” a record studded with vague political aphorisms and not-so-subtle references to the recent election; for people who discovered the record through TikTok, “Little Dark Age” is also the clandestine anthem of the platform’s “Wehraboos.” Millennials might associate the bassline of “Electric Feel” with the age of fixies, suitcase turntables, and flannel; zoomers might associate it with a tryhard who went viral after posting themselves playing it. As tempting as it is to be curmudgeonly about this, the zoomers admittedly have it pretty good — Little Dark Age is far and away a better “first MGMT album” than Oracular Spectacular.

2. TikTok dev uses the oldest marketing trick in the book


Let us know what you think. Game is called Deniz and more info soon! #newgames #newgames2023 #gameplay #gaming #actiongames #storygames

♬ Murder - Bgnzinho

“Would you play this game?” is a bold way to open a promotional TikTok that shows very little by way of gameplay, setting, or visual design, but that doesn’t matter to the team behind upcoming shooter Project Deniz. There’s only one thing they want you to know about it: You play as a lady with a giant ass. Though the dev describes the game as “an evolving indie game harmonizing intense third-person shooting and an engaging story,” their TikToks fail to show off anything more than their callipygian player model performing parkour through empty maps that could’ve been ripped straight from the Unreal Engine asset store.  

This is the kind of marketing tactic one would normally associate with mobile game advertisements, which notoriously traffic in thinly veiled fetish fodder. It’s unusual to see an indie FPS adopt a similar strategy, hoping viewers are horny enough to ignore the absence of any substantial gameplay footage or world-building. To their credit, however, the TikTok has amassed over 10.6m views, 164k likes, and countless comments with the word “gyatt” in it, so maybe it’s not such a bad approach after all.

3. The AI quarantine zone

As a service to readers with strong feelings about AI stories, we’ve corralled all AI-related social media diversions this week into one conveniently skipped (or savored!!) section.

  • An AI-generated 3D model of a mega-pistol was mocked on Twitter for containing an excessive number of triangles. However, “the critics” failed to imagine how satisfying it would feel to handle a weapon of such opulent geometry.
  • A viral photo of boomer-bots applauding AI-generated houses on Facebook led to a secondary loop of Twitter reply guys saying “dead internet theory” and “plot twist” to each other as porn bots tried to get their attention by commenting “A S S  I N  B I O.”
  • Many users reported ChatGPT losing its mind this week and saying things like “would it glad your clicklies” and “may you ever offer your legends a silk dive in the manual of recognition.” But the viral (now deleted) tweet collecting these moments also exaggerated the degree to which the ChatGPT subreddit was melting down over it; in reality, they soon returned to complaining about other problems with the LLM, like its inability to understand math or the alphabet.
  • Google Gemini stopped making images of humans after users found that its built-in diversity instructions made it hard to generate white people, even if you asked for images of Popes or the Founding Fathers. Bing Image Creator also had a quirk where it would regularly change the races of well-known people, as we mentioned back in October.
  • People who willfully missed the point of Beyonce’s reclamation of American country music as an outgrowth of Black culture have used AI to remake her new singles with Miley Cyrus’s voice.

4. Anti-piracy screens have become urban legends

Know Your Meme posted a helpful chronology of creepy anti-piracy screens in Nintendo games, which have a surprisingly large footprint on the internet. Almost all of these are fake or rooted in unfamiliarity with the games that use them — the “eerie” images from Donkey Kong Country 2 and 3, though real, are just the normal Game Over display with new text. The fan-made piracy screen phenomenon seems to have peaked in 2021 around the time of Beta Mario’s fake Mario Kart Wii video; the channel hasn’t stopped grinding since, releasing “Anti-Piracy Screen Games (Part 49)” earlier this month. Over the years, these creepypasta hoaxes and homages in modern horror games (like Baldi’s Basics) seem to have successfully incepted the spooky anti-piracy screen into the collective gamer consciousness. 

The YouTuber Tech Rules described the phenomenon pretty soon after it began, listing a bunch of made-up anti-piracy screens that somehow turned up in Wikipedia articles, YouTube videos, and a host of eyewitness accounts. His video also dropped maybe the best tip on the subject: the Cutting Room Floor wiki has a giant list of games with actual anti-piracy measures.

5. The internet is finally catching up with Rain World

via Rain World's Steam page

Rain World was a game-blog mainstay throughout the 2010s, juxtaposing painterly, post-apocalyptic pixel art with a cute, characterful protagonist called a slugcat. But when the game finally dropped in 2017, people didn’t get it. It was huge, its systems and controls weren’t clear, and, most unforgivably, it was unfair. Its vast ecosystem operated independent of the player and indeed of modern game-design conventions; a dense network of predators and environmental hazards conspired to create frequent no-win scenarios. Over the years, though, people who stuck through the learning curve came to appreciate a singular Metroidvania, one that shirked upgrade trees and progress-gating for an uncommon sense of place. The slugcat scampered from safe-house to safe-house, creating ramshackle homes deep in the guts of drainage systems and ruined supercomputers. Those unfair systems only reinforced the sense of an interconnected world that existed outside the player’s understanding. 

Last year — over six years after the game’s initial release — developers Videocult released a sprawling DLC called Downpour, which dramatically expanded the game’s map, added new characters and a bunch of new modes. This has functioned as a coming-out party for the game’s cult, activating sleeper cells across the internet. Over the past year, YouTubers grappling with the game have praised it as a “masterclass in bullshit” (180K views), “the most complex ecosystem in any game” (5.1M views), and “a failure simulator” (75K views). Videocult has kept fan activity high with a busy Discord, rich fan art community, and a mod scene that actually drove the additions to Downpour. It’s a case study in turning a small community into a much bigger one by sticking resolutely to your (unfairly designed) guns. And the game seems unlikely to age a whit: For those attuned to its wavelength, there’s still nothing like it.

6. Redditor rages at GitHub aristocrats

I am new to GitHub and I have lots to say
by u/automatic_purpose_ in github

A profane Reddit post raging at GitHub developers for not providing an installer and catering only to “nerds” got the attention of nerds this week. To many developers, the poster was the epitome of a clueless user blundering into their space: it was like a random guy barging into a restaurant kitchen and complaining that he doesn't know how to use the deep fryer. 

But he's not alone! GitHub is a platform for developers, but people who can’t code now get linked to it all the time from elsewhere on the internet. It’s a library of real and useful projects, including game mods and utilities, on an internet that’s otherwise filling up with ad-laden junk. So it gets an increasing number of visitors who don't know how to "clone the repo." It feels like we’re headed to a point where everything that’s easy to access on the web will be fully enshittified, and the real goods will either be paywalled, stored loosely in a Discord server somewhere, or gated by technical hurdles that keep the riffraff out. (Though, as the r/github denizens point out, installing Python is not hard.) 

Chum Box

Image credit: @DeMickyD on Twitter
  • A lost Fallout: New Vegas mod featuring Fred Durst as a playable companion was recovered by Elder Scrolls YouTuber/meme guy Micky D. The real Durst responded.
  • Starship Troopers/Helldivers 2 edits and "trooper improv" moments continued to pop up on Twitter this week. They actually released a Starship Troopers co-op FPS last year, but it was no Helldivers.
  • The indie RPG Secrets of Grindeaan "old-school action RPG" that also has four-player co-op — will release its full version next week after a staggering 13 years of development.
  • Riot revealed new details about their long-gestating fighting game, which they’ve given the horrible name 2XKO. It sounds like an A/B test, but looks like Granblue Fantasy Versus
  • A mutating crosshair is bad enough, but the traveling minimap really sets this painful Counter-Strike setup apart.
  • Here’s a picture of Frank Herbert giving Kyle MacLachlan a piggyback ride.
  • True Detective’s fourth season is its first not helmed by creator Nic Pizzolatto, but it was, like its predecessors, a hot mess. This didn’t stop Pizzolatto from posting negative takes on his IG. If you feel like revisiting the “sublunar” glory days of the Pizzolatto era, check out this classic Deadspin roundup of season two’s worst lines. 
  • Borderlands has emerged from movie jail after three years in the can and at least three directors. 
  • Here’s the scary thing about Burger Time.” [via Something Awful]

That's it for this week. We'll be spending next week preparing for the impending release of Queen's Blood.