Happy new year, everyone, and fuck comments. Just before Christmas I did a video on Super Mario 3D World, and that’s the sentiment it left me with: fuck comments.
I’ve never liked comments. The practice, that is, of allowing anyone to speak their mind about a piece of content and leave it for all to see. Of all the hideous manifestations of Web 2.0 ooh-let’s-all-be-friends-together huggy-muggy your-opinion-matters bullshit, it is the most egregious and the most pointless.
I despise the notion that everyone has something of value to contribute, because that’s provably false. Just try to think of how much of a twat you are. Here’s a hint: You’re a big twat. Now consider that, in any given large number of people, a significant percentage is going to be even bigger twats than you. And not just twats, but boring twats, and why on Earth would we want to listen to boring twats? I consider it an insult that material created by trained people with experience and qualifications and talent is forced to share space on my computer screen with the musings of uninvolved people with no qualifications bar a keyboard and bottomless twattiness.
It particularly offends me as someone who works with comedy. I watch a lot of comedy videos on Youtube, and in such context, comments aren’t just pointless, they’re detrimental. Because on a comedy video, the very first, highest upvoted comment on every single one, inevitably, is someone quoting the funniest bit. And if I accidentally look at it before I can expand the video or expand the ‘about’ window to push the comments off the page, then the funniest bit is spoiled for me.
But it’s not just when they spoil upcoming gags, it’s when they try to add to the existing gags that they set my teeth on edge, too. The essence of comedy is to take a joke to the peak of humor and then move quickly on. That’s why it’s called a “punchline.” You treat it like a punch: you deliver it, and then you run away. But the world is full of desperate spods who want to leech off the success of others, and so they endeavor to draw out the joke by adding to it, therefore feeling like they have become a part of the joke we all just enjoyed. Like when somebody tells a very funny joke about how a walrus would be an inappropriate host for the Academy Awards. And we all have a laugh but then some prick goes “Ha ha yes, and neither would a manatee!” and then another prick goes “I saw a walrus once at Sea World and I can confirm that they would make very inappropriate hosts for the Academy Awards.” And then the joke lies dead, beaten to death with two pricks.
I despise unfunny hecklers at live comedy acts. Those self-important gadabouts with nothing of value to offer who want to stand out from the crowd and consider themselves equal to the live act that everybody else is here to simply see and enjoy. And it’s always a joy for the comedian to then respond to the heckle with unflappable spontaneous wit in such a way that destroys their unwarranted confidence. Internet comments are basically a special platform for all the hecklers to come out onto, one by one, but without the comedian around to put them in their place. The comedian has had the good sense to move on and get the drinks in at the venue bar. As has 90% of the audience, leaving the shitheads to talk only for the benefit of themselves, voicing their stupid opinions into the gaping void of each other’s heads.
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.