Thursday, April 16, 2009

Comic 569: Worst Game Ever

here's some stuff
Welcome to How To Make A Joke 101. Today's lesson is called, "Make people think one thing is happening, then reveal to them that the situation is different." It is a simple procedure and it will guarantee laffs-a-plenty for hours to come.

For example, look at today's xkcd. You thought he was talking about a kingdom, didn't you? I mean, sure it was confusing, because he talked about people overthrowing the government but then he also got into some stuff about borders and other people being in the kingdom and "our" flag on "their" building or something.

Anyway the point is REALLY HE WAS JUST PLAYING A GAME! ha ha, a game that is usually about violence and shooting crap, he made it about peace and stuff! AND YOU DIDN'T KNOW, UNTIL HE TOLD YOU.

So that is how you make a comic! just follow the formula for some ORIGINALITY

So yeah, that's the feel with this comic. Just formulaic. You know there's going to be a twist, you wait for it, and yeah, there it is. I guess I should give him points for not naming the comic "Worst Server" or "Crappy Capture the Flag Game" and giving away the joke, it's the kind of thing he has done too much before.

On another note, I can't figure out why I love this recent Pictures for Sad Children comic but I do. So read it.

update: Ok this is a weird thing to write, but after a day and a half of thought, I think this is a kind of crappy post. I don't think it's wrong to use a standard comic formula, I think what I meant to write (or at least, what I should have meant to have written?) is that for me, this comic just made me wonder while reading the whole thing what the twist punchline would be. That combined with my lack of capture-the-flag-in-games playing meant that I didn't like the comic much.

But I see that other people liked it more, so I officially declare this one of those comics that for the right people (admittedly a small group, even of xkcd-readers) this was a good comic, and I am not really in a place to judge it so badly.

However: "New Car" does in fact suck, of this I am sure. So all these weird being nice feelings i am expressing here will go away when I post on that.


  1. Most jokes are formulaic, really. How many jokes can't be explained as "you're led to one expectation... until suddenly, it is revealed that the situation is not as it seemed! Ha ha!" ? How many riddles can't be explained as "you're given a series of what seem mutually-exclusive attributes, but then it is revealed that through a twist of language, traits by those names can indeed coexist?" Just because you can identify the formula doesn't mean it isn't good, and I happen to like this one. It is, in fact, the first xkcd in some weeks to elicit actual, vocal laughter; and not only that, but to elicit a second chuckle when thinking about it later!

    Besides, your very own blog undermines your position here. As your previous posts indicate, you really DON'T know a twist is coming. As I read the long text filled with made-up proper nouns of no significance to me, I was expecting this to simply be a boring comic, or suspecting that maybe I was simply missing some obscure physics or cryptography puns. Either way, The twist wasn't exactly a shock, but it wasn't completely predictable either. Less so, at least, than the twist that follows a friend coming up to you and saying "want to hear a funny joke?"

    In either case, knowledge that what follows is to be a joke doesn't in any way ruin the joke, and I think your attacks on this one are a little weak. But then, I really liked this comic. As I said, it's the best in a long time, at least for me.

  2. What Chris said. It was original, had an unexpected twist, wasn't about the usual stuff (python, memes etc), and even has good art *shock horror*

    As far as I'm concerned, best XKCD in a while. The fact that its a textbook example of a normal joke is hardly a criticism

  3. Long time watcher, first time writingApril 17, 2009 at 12:07 AM

    Today's comic (New Car) is actually good, although I suppose Carl might choose to put it in the "observation, not humor" category or something. A damn funny observation, if so.

    It feels like quality XKCD of the days of yore to me. Party time!

  4. Yep, another "meh" comic. Doubly so for me, since I'm mostly unfamiliar with games that have a "Capture the Flag" mode. Nice art in the first panel, though. Sometimes I'm surprised that Randall makes a comic full of stick figures, since he shows signs of being far more talented than that.

    I can't tell if the name "Liate" is supposed to be an obscure calculus reference or not.

  5. Oh, and Friday's comic is hilarious IMO.

  6. Liate is definitely a calculus reference though not too obscure (to the extent that any calculus reference can be), but it was still an enjoyable comic.

  7. See, I smirked at the Wednesday comic. That's all, but it's more than every comic for the last few months or so. So it's got that going for it.

    The Friday comment would have been funnier about 4 years ago. Before Firefox and Adblock Plus.

  8. 'Borders' is so dull it left a bruise. My sense of humor is now debilitated by internal bleeding.

  9. I admit the comic wasn't really funny but I liked the alt-text


  11. I thought 'Borders' was one of the best xkcds in a while. Not that that means much.

    But we're back to crap with "New Car", so all is right with the world.

  12. "Borders" would've been pretty good, but the contrast of the second panel drew my eyes there first and spoiled the joke for me. It's a petty complaint, I know, but it spoiled my enjoyment of the strip.

    Also, I agree with Chris. Most humor does follow some sort of formula, but that doesn't mean that you can't be original within that formula.

  13. Also, what is it about Firefox+Adblock Plus users that they can't/won't understand that most users don't block ads, and that many users find ad-blocking unnecessary?

  14. I saw pretty much the same joke that's in "New Car" on a TV sketch the other day, a bunch of blokes ringing round random numbers saying "you've won a fabulous sailing boat" or whatever. Perhaps our friend Randy saw the same show? (I'm so pissed, I can't remember what it was called) :(

  15. Dave: Maybe the fact that Adblock is amazing? (It's like a whole different internet!)

  16. @Carl: Are you now suggesting that you will only accept humor which defies the model of the "joke"? Are are you simply demonstrating that any joke, properly explained, ceases to be funny?

    Here, let's try a few things:
    "Two guys walk into a bar. One of them has AIDS."

    Q:"How do you tell the difference between a duck?"
    A:"One of its legs is both the same."

    "Women's Rights"

    "A baby seal walks into a club."

    And the Noam Chomsky special:
    "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously... One of them ducks."

    Which of these do you find most transgressive and why?

  17. @Dan

    Digg comments suggest it was Mitchell and Webb.

  18. As a player of FPSs, I approve this comic. :P


  19. I've seen the "New Car" comic joke done a few times, and better (Mitchell and Webb's "Massive Yacht" sketch is particularly awesome), but at its core it's still an entertaining if somewhat unoriginal premise. Kudos to you, Randall.

  20. The Massive Yacht sketch is indeed superb: . Unfortunately the second series of That Mitchell And Webb Look was not up to that standard. Even with The Numberwang Code.

    Oh, "New Car"... I laughed. Eh, what can youse do. It's-a nice-a place. Ah, shuddupa ya face.

  21. Carl I too greatly appreciate that pfsc.

    And this one... I dunno. I think this one was one that I actually just didn't understand. And like what happened to Dave, the clashing simplicity of the second panel vs. the wall of text in the first kinda ruined whatever enjoyment I might have gotten outta this comic.

    I will do something new and save my comments for the next comic until you post about it! Although basically it is the same as what everyone else has already said...

  22. So I guess you're not a fan of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal?

  23. Re: Worst Game Ever

    I liked this one, actually, for reasons other people have mentioned. I can appreciate the criticism of it, but I think it needs to be doubly appreciated that this is one of the better xkcds in a good while and it's on a level of humor similar to a lot of other tolerable/even enjoyable comics.

    Re: New Car


    Re: PFSC

    I love that one.

  24. Incidentally, how do we folks (being the splodgy amorphous mass we obviously are) reckon Randall will react to the non-acquittal (guiltification?) of the Pirate Bay dudes? Presumably some form of incisive comment through the medium of comix, but how, exactly?

    A yet-to-be-determined prize* will be awarded to whoever's closest.

    *disclaimer: will have a value of less than $1, Zimbabwean

  25. Yes! It was Mitchell and Webb! I need to lurk moar.

    Nice one on the link, I love it, mostly because of the voices, those guys are so good.

    Do you get that show Stateside or are you guys Brits aswell? I just realized that I (albeit not very seriously) may have accused Randall on stealing a joke that might not even be seen in his continent.

  26. ""Make people think one thing is happening, then reveal to them that the situation is different." It is a simple procedure and it will guarantee laffs-a-plenty for hours to come."

    Yeah... it's called irony, ever heard of it?

  27. That is not what irony is.

  28. Apparently "." has never heard of irony, then.

  29. Of all the things to argue over on the internet, the one I have a rule to avoid is the definition of irony.

  30. I have a rule to just always tell people they are wrong about it.

  31. "That is not what irony is."

    Actually, it is. A form of it, at least.

  32. "Make people think one thing is happening, then reveal to them that the situation is different."

    Unless I'm very, very mistaken, that is almost a textbook definition of one of the main forms of irony...

  33. Attention:
    1. the use of words to convey a meaning that is the opposite of its literal meaning

    That is all.

  34. Oh wait, there's this too:

    2. Literature.
    a. a technique of indicating, as through character or plot development, an intention or attitude opposite to that which is actually or ostensibly stated.
    b. (esp. in contemporary writing) a manner of organizing a work so as to give full expression to contradictory or complementary impulses, attitudes, etc., esp. as a means of indicating detachment from a subject, theme, or emotion.
    3. Socratic irony.
    4. dramatic irony.
    5. an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
    6. the incongruity of this.
    7. an objectively sardonic style of speech or writing.
    8. an objectively or humorously sardonic utterance, disposition, quality, etc.

  35. Right, we're talking about humor here: a setup and then a twist. Definition five there is the closest to what you're going for, but it isn't quite there--that's referring to events, not joke-telling, and it also implies opposites. If you ask your girlfriend out to dinner to break up with her, and she breaks up with you, that is ironic--it's the opposite or inverse of what you expected to happen. It's not ironic if you go out to get a beer but end up watching a movie instead.

    See the difference? If you're setting up the expectation that, for instance, you are seeing someone waxing poetic about peace and democracy, it is not ironic if you add in the twist "'s a CTF server."

    In essence, the operative word of any definition of "irony," and the common thread throughout the various definitions, is "opposite." Irony is a word of opposition, not just a twist at the end--it's a nuanced and precise term. When something is ironic, there is a juxtaposition happening. You are saying one thing but mean another. The juxtaposition needs to have a sharp and significant contrast. It is not sufficient for two events to be different, they need to be opposed. "Oh haha it is actually a CTF server" is not an opposition, it's just a silly context. While you could make the argument that the contrast is "silly/trivial vs. serious/weighty," that really takes a lot of nuance out of the word--and really that's not a very significant contrast.

    Irony is part of a broader subset of wit and humor which involves playing with expectations, making the unexpected a necessary but not sufficient condition for irony to take place.

  36. What Chris said, really. I didn't love Borders because I don't play games that involve "capture the flag", but I guess it was OK.

    New Car was awesome.

  37. new car was indeed hilarious.

    I dunno, I kinda liked this one. I really believe Randall's coming into a new era of xkcd.

  38. ITT: people who need to learn the difference between 'irony' and 'coincidence'.

  39. "However: "New Car" does in fact suck, of this I am sure."

    Really? Huh.

    I'll be interested to see your reasoning on this one. I thought New Car was one of the best in a long time.

  40. I feel like Rob's explanation of irony is the best I have ever heard. Applause, applause.

  41. the_cuddlefish, don'tcha knowApril 18, 2009 at 4:54 PM

    @Dan: I'm British, dunno about Napoleon. (?) Wikipedia says that TM&WL has aired on BBC America, but then Wikipedia also says that Mathew Inness can get plenty of cut off the seam, when he's actually bloody incompetent.

  42. i live in america and I know that Mitchell and Webb or whoever they are have indeed aired here, on BBC america. I have seen ads for it, but never watched it. So that should settle that.

  43. Cuddle Prime:
    Agree'd. I liked the last two. I tried my best to hate them but I couldn't. Rest assured next week's will be shit.

  44. Rob, ++ on your irony rant. Well explained.

    *is winner of "least consequential comment" award*

    Ah hell, why not. I also think it was pretty big of Carl to go ahead and backtrack what he said about being formulaic.

    You guys are just rolling in good today.

  45. I am glad people liked my explanation! I hope it is informative and helpful etc. etc.

  46. Schadenfreude:

    He's still around somewhere, he just doesn't show his face in public anymore out of embarrassment and shame.