Extra Punctuation

Extra Punctuation
To Hell With Comments

Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw | 31 Dec 2013 12:00
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But it's not just comedy. Anything that relies on pacing - like, say for example, video games - is buggered up by the acknowledgement of comments. Ideally in something like Super Mario 3D World, once the trials of a level are complete and excitement has peaked, my brain is ready to move onto the next one. But a little row of comments on the loading screen forces the train of thought to turn around and get snarled back up in the experience just gone. And because the comments were the last thing I'd see before I moved on from a level, it is the memory that stands out the sharpest in my mind's eye. Oh yes. And I know you can turn the comments off in 3D World, but if I'd done that I wouldn't have been able to complain about them.

But it's not the only game requesting your input. At the end of every mission in Assassin's Creed 4 you're asked to give it a star rating like a needy child. Piss off, Assassin's Creed 4, I'm not your focus tester, there are British clippers out there to cannon into splinters. And one of the most valid complaints about the game is that all the awesome swashbuckling pirate fun gets interrupted now and then so you can hover around an office ruminating over all the fun you just had, which is basically the spirit of a comments section within the game's canon. It's the way of things now. That's why everything on the PS4 dashboard feels it needs to tell me how many 'likes' it has gotten. For fuck's sake.

But getting back to 3D World, the big question for me is this: who, exactly, is benefiting from putting user comments all over it? The game certainly doesn't. The game is what it is. Either you enjoy it or you don't. Comments, at best, do not change that, and at worst distract from it. It doesn't benefit the other players in the world who will see your comment, because there is no conceivable way that they can give a shit what you think. Do you think they exist for the benefit of the developer? Do you think Nintendo keep a great big leather-bound book of every comment that the users make, so that they can read every single one and put the feedback into their next game? I bloody well hope not. They'd be fools to waste the effort; they'd have to pick through an awful lot of hilarious fart pictures to find the attempts at criticism.

So the conclusion we reach is that commenting exists solely for the benefit of the person commenting. Cockheads are permitted to distribute their little spunk platters so that they can enjoy a brief masturbatory thrill from feeling they have made their oh-so-bloody-important contribution. They are the unregulated hecklers, smugly expressing their individuality to an audience who isn't listening and never asked them to pipe up. But even this is a flawed benefit, because you cannot see your comment once you have made it, and can only take it on faith that it will show up in the game of a stranger you will never know or care about.

I play video games to escape the inconvenient truth that I have live in a world with a whole bunch of other people in it. Just let me live in my nice comfy cave without people showing up every five minutes to ask me how I feel about the lichen.

Yahtzee is a British-born, currently Australian-based writer and gamer with a sweet hat and a chip on his shoulder. When he isn't talking very fast into a headset mic he also designs freeware adventure games. His personal site is www.fullyramblomatic.com.

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