Friday, January 29, 2010

Comic 695: In Bad Spirits

Spirited away?
Maybe NASA wouldn't have abandoned you on mars if you weren't such a whiny bitch.

Anyway, this is another of the "man+machine" comics, and to be fair, we haven't had one of those in a while. But that's still all it comes down to - what if the mars rover felt bad? HA HA, it would be just like a sad human. Cry, readers, cry! For you can feel sad for the rover.

But, to quote someone reading this comic over my shoulder, "you can't make me feel bad about leaving a rover on mars. I refuse to feel bad." Unfortunately, it looks like a lot of xkcd readers actually are that easy to manipulate, and are all sad about this robot having human feelings. Or again, there's this.

guys I know I have been super bad at keeping up with comments and e-mails, and I still haven't written that post about the ads I put on the site and the SPECIAL CONTEST which i am still figuring out, but hopefully next week I'll be able to catch up on that.

Also, guys, I was looking around the internet and I found a photo of Randall that I think explains a lot about his comic and style, anyway tell me what you think, it's here.

ok I just photoshopped that picture, and poorly at that. But still, i think it's a funny idea. has anyone here made that joke before?


  1. Munroe needs to have a heart attack already.

  2. I liked this comic and here's why:

    I like it because it is a good presentation of dramatic irony used in the context of the worker who just wants to be accepted and feels they can change their situation through harder work.

    The audience knows this hard work is fruitless and feels empathy for that character, and is (supposed to be) moved by their persistence. It is a timeless theme applied well (though far from the best example) to a current event. Other examples I can think of are Nana in Elfen Lied, Boxer in Animal Farm, and yes SEYMOUR IN FUTURAMA (fuck all of you who say it is not).

    What it is NOT, is WALL-E. Which is about a robot who is driven to work an unending task, but has NO DESIRE TO BE ACCEPTED BY HIS MASTERS OR RETURN HOME OR WHATEVER. Wall-E likes what he does and then falls in love with another robot, abandons his work, and tries to earn ITS acceptance.

    I can empathize with the Spirit rover even though it doesn't have any form of sentience, much like someone can empathize with their car or a childhood toy.

  3. Justin, most of the time I think xkcd is utter shit. But I like this one and it was getting far too much heat over 694, which deserved way more hate. In fact here's a new theme, let's hate on the previous comic in the new comic thread!

    Retro Virus! Mo' liek Wretch-ro Virus! AMIRITE!

  4. "Maybe NASA wouldn't have abandoned you on mars if you weren't such a whiny bitch."


  5. aloria i swear to god i will write you a christmas card soon. every day i delay, i just resolve to make it that much more awesome.


  7. i think the headless joke has been made before, but without a picture. anyway it is still enjoyable is what i am saying

    also i promise i am sort of back, though i must say a month of not reading xkcd has really made my life brighter and more cheerful. but all things must come to an end.

  8. I can't say I liked this comic. It just made me really, really sad. I was one of those NASA nerds who really rooted for Spirit and Endeavor, and to see them anthropomorphised like this is very unsettling. So I guess in that way, it's a very successful comic.

  9. I like the new comic. Concept was very nice, execution was...well, good enough for it to be enjoyable.

  10. He didn't even bothered to read enough news stories to know that Spirit has been driving _backwards_ when it got stuck.

  11. I actually liked the execution but not the concept. The concept of taking something vaguely science-related from the headlines and turning it into a kind of crappy joke with a depressing emo conclusion doesn't appeal to me at all. The art and stuff is actually decent and the last panel would have been poignant if I wasn't too distracted by the lame idea of "What if a robot was like a human?" It's basically another rehash of this:

    which XKCD has done way too much.

  12. Holy shit Amanda is back. Sorta.

  13. I think Randall forgot to make a joke.

  14. Got bored:

  15. randy's pacing is all over the place. i don't know how many comics i've read that i felt yeah, that had just the right amount of panels focussing on just the right moments of that joke.

    with the 'fantasy journey's consequences on reality' one, he squashed too many sudden leaps into too few panels.
    but here, he takes what is actually an alright one-sentence joke idea ("what if that nasa rover that kept going for so long did so because he was expecting his hard work to result in a homecoming reward?") and stretches it out way beyond bearable limits.
    and plays it for 'aww's not 'ha's too. urgh.

    bad: the joke is stretched too thin across the ten (count 'em) panels. holy shit! TEN PANELS to express a joke you can sum up in one sentence!? where/when did the 'decompressed comic = poignancy' fallacy spring from?
    but good point: the art is more complex than stick figures, and coloured-in too.
    but bad point: ...well not so much coloured-in as just splashed red. presumably to show it's mars.
    but good point: he didn't just have a caption saying 'ON MARS' - he told us something about what's going on through the art.

  16. also regards giving emotions to things that don't have them:

  17. In light of the comparison to WALL-E, WALL-E was WORLDS better. Anybody who would attempt to say otherwise is nuts.

  18. Actually a friend of mine read this and he said it made him laugh, because the idea that the rover was all alone and thinking "Guys can I come home now? Guys?" was funny to him. Then I told him the forums were full of people who said they cried and he just shook his head in disbelief.

    Also I think this should be linked:

    I agree with the person in the previous joke that WALL-E was good at making the audience feel for the robot on an emotional level because they did a good job of developing his personality WITHOUT telling directly. Hell for a long stretch of the movie outside of a few commercial/TV sound clips there's absolutely no speech whatsoever. Come to think of it they were good at in Up, telling the story of Carl's life with no words too.

    Anyway I agree with Capn that Seymour from Futurama was genuinely sad and moving. But that's because we know that dogs feel on some basic level, and even if they didn't it's a fictional universe where that can be allowed for, so it's not out of place when Bender has feelings.

  19. CONCEPT: Stupid bullshit. "What if the Spirit rover had feelings? I bet it would be sad." Wow, thanks Randall, great concept.

    EXECUTION: Stupider bullshit. Seriously, how the fuck can you say the execution of this was good? It's incredibly base, incompetent heartstring-tugging, and anyone who actually thinks that this is effective execution...come on. Come on. It's probably unfair to compare Randall's trite shit with Pixar's shit, because Pixar are goddamn masters of creating emotional resonant scenes and Randall is an incompetent hack.

  20. I absolutely hate xkcd and constantly rip on how terrible a comic it is every time someone brings it up. This blog might as well be my homepage. But there was something about this particular comic that I really liked. I kept waiting for my eyes to roll out of their sockets at that enivitable lame xkcd punchline... but it never came. Instead it just ended, somber and bleak.

    Say what you want but I thought this was the best xkcd comic in years. Maybe it's because I like robots, or have dealt with depression, or maybe it's because Randal is so pathetic and horrible at humor that a pathetic comic with no humor turns out to be his forte. But for whatever reason I actually enjoyed a xkcd comic, a feat I had long thought was impossible.

  21. I like the line "I thought I analyzed that rock really well... It's okay, I'll do the next one better."

    Other than that I feel like the comic could have been snappier. Too many frames.

  22. WALL-E and xkcd's VERSION of Spirit are both anthropomorphized rovers with some form of sentience which are supposed to appeal to your emotions. After that THEY ARE NOT SIMILAR IN ANY WAY.

    Even the emotions they are supposed to appeal to are different. And Pixar does a better job than Randy (no shit), but that doesn't make me think the comic sucks (or that Randall is any LESS of a hack).

    Are there any big Asimov fans out there that want to say this sucks and why (other than the argument that spirit is already a real robot, which is stupid)?

  23. jeez vgcats is fucking weak that it just wholesale lifts that ikea joke.

    why's that deserve to be linked nate?

  24. Oh how easy it is to win people over with fake sentimental bullshit.

    It reminds me of that animal crossing dying mother comic that i absolutely loathe but other people went nuts for.

    Just worse.

  25. I actually sort of liked this one. At least compared to the awful shit that Randall has been pulling from his bowels lately.

  26. Normally I love personification and I'm a sucker for anything with robots. I DID love the poor lamp in the IKEA commercial, even as I laughed at the "you're crazy" ending. But that lamp spoke for itself just through the framing of it, the way a human could actually look at it. It didn't need all this explicit thought-bubble crap. If Randall could have made us infer this sad story ourselves, maybe using some outside narration from the news if he had to, but NOT using thoughts stuck onto the robot itself, it could have worked.

    But not only was this pretty shameless in how it pulled at the heartstrings, like everyone's already pointed out... there was something else about it that bugged me. I think it's that the robot's characterization doesn't even make much sense.

    If this robot is so plucky and determined to just buck up and think "oh I'll do a better job, I'll be a good rover like they wanted!" then why is it so obsessed with going home in the first place? Why is it operating under this false assumption that "going home"="they love me"? and why isn't it happy to be staying out in the field and still doing its good service?

  27. ...right after I post that, I can imagine that even if Randall kept all the thought-bubble crap, it would've been heaps better if he'd just gone with that better characterization of the robot.

    If the robot actually thought like a robot, just sticking to its programming and staying unchangingly positive to the end, all "Well I can't move any more but I can still transmit! Work work work! Can't give up!" but eventually started breaking up as it slowly crusted over and died, now THAT could have been great.

  28. Perhaps it's just my skewed interpretation of funny, but what struck me is panels 4-5.

    Because the robot took 24 days to get between those two thoughts. 3 and half weeks. Hahaha, stupid personified robots.

  29. Capn I disagree with your comparisons for why we should feel sorry for them.


    We feel sorry for her for a LOT of good reasons (spoilers for people who haven't read/seen Elfen Lied) and I think the biggest one is that she went well out of her way to obey the wishes of the director (Papa to her) and she lost her arms and legs for it. We feel sorry for her not because she selflessly went above and beyond her call of duty to get Lucy back to the director but we also feel sorry for her because the consequences of her actions was her losing her arms and legs to Lucy.

    Nana: Loses arms and legs in futile effort to fulfill her directive
    Spirit: Gets stuck on a barren planet simply studying rocks and completes its mission many times over all for not.

    You know even from that comparison, Spirit in any light does not deserve as much sympathy as Nana and I didn't even get to how she's characterized either.


    This one's easy, as everyone in Animal Farm (outside of the pigs) was essentially brainwashed by the pigs and Boxer was the hardest working of them, we did feel a lot of sympathy when he died. Not only did the gentle giant die altruistically, but the pigs sold him to a glue factory for profit, wtf? That's how the establishment honours their greatest worker? They send his corpse to a glue factory to be melted down? Granted the propaganda showed him off as a great hero to the farm, hoe he struggled to the end to not die and his burial was extravagant, but the reader was not fooled and knew that they were lying through their teeth.

    Boxer: We feel sympathy because he willingly went above and beyond the call of duty to both build the windmill once, but worked himself to death to build it a second time. He is honoured by factually being sold to a factory for money for the administration and is infactually portrayed as being honoured by said administration.
    Spirit: Goes above the call of duty to... survey rocks on a barren planet and NASA doesn't give 2 shits since they probably sent Spirit to show the world that they can survey distant planets for shits and giggles.


    Seymour loves Fry and Fry loves Seymour. Seymour loved Fry soo much that he tracked him down in the Cryo facility post-freezing but couldn't get anyone to defrost Fry. After realising that he would just have to wait it out, Seymour waits outside Pinnuzi's Pizza for Fry to return one day and in the future before Fry is about to have Seymour cloned to have his best friend returned to him, he declines upon learning that Seymour died at age 15, noting that Seymour had lived a full life without Fry so he must have moved on. This is touching because the reveal is that the ever faithful Seymour waited day in and day out for those 15 years (probably more around 12 years waiting for Fry) for Fry to return and never did anything else except sit and wait.

    What I fail to see, capn, is how a robot that simply continued its function and is just a program that was probably never given a "terminate after x days" command somehow deserves our sympathy when compared to characters that the authors went out of their way to develop and lay the foundations for us to genuinely feel sorry for.

    I do not doubt that even Ravlov could make us feel sympathy for Spirit, but in one comic? There's not enough time to establish characterization for Spirit for it to genuinely work like your three examples, it is a futile effort.

  30. what the fuck people are comparing this to wall-e? wall-e didn't even have to say more than his own damn name!

    also: yes i am sort of back! i never really left, just life got extremely busy. but then i saw that someone had tacked up an xkcd comic in both the cs and math buildings and i was re-annoyed.

  31. @ Keep:

    Yes I realize it's just the Ikea lamp joke, but it's easier to link to (I have a friend whose computer is sort of old and Youtube videos frequently cause it to crash).

    Either way it still sends the same message. Why should we feel sad about the Spirit rover? It has no feelings. It's just an object.

    Being able to think for itself from an AI program is not the same as having a personality or feelings. Hell plants react to things like position of the sun and physical touch and whatnot but I don't see anyone out there boo-hooing every time they step on a blade of grass. Maybe because even though plants are undeniably alive they don't have feelings.

  32. All of you pointing out that a two hour movie made with a multi million dollar budget produced over the course of years is better than a comic made by one dude over maybe a day or two are tools.

  33. why are we tools for saying that there is no comparison?

    i think you are a tool for sucking so hard

  34. fuck yeah you guys it feels so good to be back

  35. You're tools because 0 comics ever made by anyone are even 1/10th as good as WALL-E, so it's an entirely useless thing to say. It's not quite as much of a non-sequiter, but still adds about as little to the conversation as saying "This most recent XKCD was less meaningful to me than my relationship with my wife." Like hey, no shit.
    That said, the comic was also less good than many many other comics by many people, and evoked no feeling from me.

  36. Except it's more of an argument that the way WALL-E portrayed its main character is more effective than the way this comic portrayed its main character, which, due to the crappy thought bubbles, doesn't work well at all. It isn't about comparing the quality directly, it's about comparing their methods, which I'm sure most of the people comparing it to WALL-E were getting at, as only one person simply said "WALL-E was WORLDS better."

    In light of that, you added about as little to the conversation as the people you called tools, of which there was one.

  37. Well saying "you're a tool, one guy back there" just doesn't have the same ring!

  38. Oh Amanda ... you will be my newest bitch, yes?

  39. Well this site is starting to annoy me. I actually like reading what you guys have to say about xkcd, but lately you just don't seem to get the idea behind the comic anymore.

    I think it is pretty obvious that this comic is not supposed to make you feel sorry for that robot, just like 502 is not supposed to make you feel sorry for beret guy (something you mixed up as well, if I remember correctly).
    What you're supposed to do is laugh, because he thinks it's all about him and that his masters are dissatisfied with him, when in reality they just don't care, because it's just a robot.

    A sentence like "A good rover would keep going. A good rover like they wanted." simply doesn't work if it's NOT a joke. I know there's no bad writing you wouldn't put past Randall, but nobody in their right mind would think that he could make people feel genuinely sorry for a person by letting that person say such things. It's like having a character say "I'm a loser I'm a loser I'm a loser!" - you can't possibly try to create sympathy for a character that way. If you put sentences like these in somebody's mouth, then it's supposed to be hilarious. And by the way, it is a joke that Randall uses VERY often - having the audience laugh at a person because he is so pathetic in his sorrow. (Apart from the aforementioned 502, comic 481 comes to mind as well, and there are lots of others that I can't find right now.)

    And the xkcd forumites who cried because of the comic are NOT a good counter-argument! Because in this one thing, they are very similar to some people here: They can't see beyond the surface of each comic. If they think that a comic is supposed to be funny, they'll find something funny (just like the people here will say that it was supposed to be a funny comic but Randall screwed it up big time (and yes I know that is often really the case)). If they think the comic is supposed to make them feel sad, they'll start to cry.
    That's how bias works.

    So... please, if there's something you shouldn't rant about, it's the fact that he's just a whiny bitch, because that's the goddamn joke. A lot of people already said that they or others laughed about this comic because they thought that pathetic robot was funny.
    If you want, you can say that making a joke about that is not funny, or that the joke was poorly executed and therefore not funny... anything at all really, as long as you acknowledge that it IS supposed to be a joke, and not a "aaawww poor robot I guess we learned something today" thing.

    And Ambivalicious - at first he's doing his job, and doesn't show any signs of being very enthusiastic about it. He's enthusiastic about going home, and being loved for the efforts he went through. When they don't fetch him at the date they were supposed to, he starts to think that they're mad at him because his work was actually not good enough for them, so he tries to correct that by doing his very best now (which probably isn't very different from what he did before, since he's a robot, but whatever). Up until the day he gets stuck and can't move anymore. He knows that he can't do his work anymore now, so he hopes that all he did up to that point was already good enough, so that he can finally go home now.
    So yeah, its primary goal is ALWAYS to go home. What the hell is so inconsistent about that? Why do you assume he WANTS to help his masters at all and go for 90 days to a big lonely planet? He's saying the exact opposite right from the start.
    On another note, I think your characterization would have been extremely lame. "I'm 90 days on Mars and I'll work super-hard to please my masters!" - "They didn't come. I need to work EVEN HARDER." - "I'm stuck. But I can still send information and work very hard!"
    How is that supposed to be funny? And how is that supposed to be a good characterization?

  40. Hmm...kinda funny how all the incoming comments stopped after the Anonymous textwall. I was beginning to wonder if some of the commenters who regularly visit this blog are no better than the ones who bitch in the xkcd forums...

    P. S. Carl, do you think anyone is fan-wanking off in this blog? How do you feel about it?


  41. One and a half hour, at a godawful time on both coasts of the US, where I assume most of the readers of this blog are,(very early morning and early morning) without a post and you assume some lame wall of text stopped all the comments? Wow.


    The majority of the people read it and believed it was meant to be a "sad" comic.

    You take ONE LINE and say "OH, this line can't possibly be poorly written. This is supposed to be funny."

    And the crying forumites ARE a good argument as to why this comic sucks. If Randy's intention was to make a funny comic and almost no one laughs then he failed. I read maybe one or two comments that said they laughed. That sure does outweigh the sad people!

    You pretend like this is some deep piece of artwork. There is nothing beyond the surface level of this piece, no matter how much you want there to be. It is a poorly written piece of blatant heart-string pulling that many people fell for.

    About the only correct thing you said was that people have bias. Thanks for the fucking enlightenment.

  42. Anon 6:34, correlation does not imply causeation. Being an xkcd fan, I thought you'd know that.

  43. Anon 7:13 nailed it. If your execution is so bad that a majority of your readership misinterprets the core emotion you are trying to convey, that just means you are a shitty, shitty writer.

    Also, Anonymous textwall happened at 5 in the goddamn morning. Some of use are sleeping. Some of us are in different timezones. You are a pretty stupid guy.

  44. @Anon 7:13

    The majority of xkcd readers is not biased. They don't care enough for that. However, you won't find these people on the xkcd forums or on a blog dedicated to ranting about xkcd, though. Apart from the occasional anonymous comment.

    Also, I said that the crying forumites are not a good counter-argument against my statement that the comic was supposed to be funny. I didn't say that they aren't an indication that this comic sucks.
    I mean, Carl has shown us often enough that those people are complete idiots. I'm probably biased myself here, but I just can't take them seriously anymore.

    About me pretending like this is some deep piece of artwork...
    well yeah, I do pretend that while his forumites simply saw "Look at that sad little robot", Randall was actually going for "Look at that sad little robot... let's laugh at him!" If that counts as "deep" for you, then yes I'm guilty.

    Other examples why I think this is supposed to be a funny comic: All the comments here saying how the comic fails to create sympathy for the robot, and how WALL-E was so much better at that.
    Yes, again, it could be Randall's shitty writing, right? That's already the second time this argument needs to be used. The other possibility is, of course, that there IS bad writing here, however it doesn't keep the comic from being truly touching, but from being really funny. It's not that much of a difference.

  45. If the majority of XKCD readers aren't biased then they have the most amazing ability of consistently reading something towards which they are completely neutral.

  46. Anonymous 5:06/8:28 (Textwall) has it right on the money here. I've been really disappointed in all of you lately, because you're reaching too much to find bad things about the comic, to the point that you're not using your brains anymore.

    As he said, there's nothing "deep" about the comic, and you're far missing the point. If it were an "emotional," "heartstrings-tugging" comic, it would be deeper than what it is: mocking the sad robot.

    I'd be interested to see some of you watch Happy Harry's Irving the Socially Awkward Bee. I suppose you think you're supposed to feel sorry for Irving, as well? Gods no. You're supposed to laugh at him. It's pretty obvious.

  47. There's nothing to suggest that this is supposed to be mocking the sad robot. The problem with parodying sub-Terracciano maudlin emotional bullshit by producing sub-Terracciano maudlin emotional bullshit is that you end up with something indistinguishable from the real thing, especially if you're a fucking talentless hack.

    Also, this wouldn't be remotely deep either way. There's nothing fucking "deep" about "oh my god isn't the SPIRIT rover saaaaaad" and there's nothing "deep" about "haha aren't you chumps, feeling sorry for a robot".

    Really, though, the argument that "This MUST be a parody, Randall couldn't possibly have written something as incompetently ham-handed as what he actually wrote" is pretty weak. Find some evidence in the actual text that this is supposed to mock people who feel sympathy for inanimate objects.

  48. Randall Munroe is a mediocre writer who has a habit of writing sappy strips.
    Spirit has a low opinion of himself but tries to do his best. He is spurned by his creators.
    Harry is kind of funny (from what I've seen) and does satire.
    Irving is loud and obnoxious.

    Obviously these characters and people are exactly the same.

  49. @Mal

    But the line "But a good rover would keep going. A good rover like they wanted" is CLEAR EVIDENCE that this is supposed to be funny.


    So self evident I can't explain it. I just have to point at it.

  50. Eh...fuck it I tried. You xkcdsucks blogites are just as blind as the xkcd forumites; just on the other extreme.

  51. This reminds me of the comic, warbot, (google it) which is also just fucking unfunny sadness emo baby whinings. WHERE'S THE FUCKING JOKES?

    It's awful, it makes me want to punch an old lady.

  52. Warbot isn't very good, but do you seriously think it's about making the reader feel sorry for the robot?

  53. Who cares? THe comic sucks more than my girlfriend! Haha pow! Take that Sandy!

    What a ho!

  54. haha anon 10:51 draws aces.

  55. hahahah

    so we are called blogites now eh

    anyway r and mal, i couldna said it better myself

  56. @Anon 10:00AM Guess who also has bias. YOU DO, YOU TARD. Given that Randy IS predisposed to writting sappy material everyonce in awhile,( it's plenty within the realm of possibilities. Also I've seen versions of that line you keep spouting used in the situations like the one's I've described to try to convey sympathy, it's not just self eveident.

    @R. Given Clevenger's robot fetish and fucking with the audience fetish ... yes, the comic is about feeling bad for an inept robot, and then laughing about it.


    The examples I gave were examples of dramatic irony:

    Papa is never going to love Nana, the audience knows this, Nana goes to extremes to please him, we feel sympathy for her persistence because we know it ends in futility (In retrospect though, I'm probably thinking more of the Nana from the "Nana's Everyday Life" webcomic here, then Elfen Lied which the webcomic is based on)

    Boxer: You spelled out dramatic irony in your post, and in my opinion strengthened my point. Boxer works hard and feels he can change his situation through harder work, we as the audience know that this isn't true so we feel empathy for his futile persistence.

    Seymore: He PERSISTENTLY waits for fry, though we as the audience knows he won't come back, and we empathize with the dog. Where this differs is that we also empathize with Fry in ANOTHER UNRELATED twist of dramatic irony where we as the audience know that there is nothing more that Seymore would want than to see Fry again, because of Seymore's age at TOD he refuses to believe this and we are given a double wammy in that we empathize with BOTH Fry and Seymore.

    Boiled down:

    Nana WANTS Papa's love and attempts to obtain it through PERSISTENCE, we as the audience know this persistence is FUTILE and feel empathy.

    Boxer WANTS Animal Farm to succeed and attempts to obtain it through PERSISTENCE, we as the audience know this persistence is FUTILE and feel empathy.

    Seymore WANTS to see Fry again and attempts to obtain it through PERSISTENCE, we as the audience know this persistence is FUTILE and feel empathy.

    Xkcd's version of the Spirit Rover WANTS to come home and attempts to obtain it through PERSISTENCE, we as the audience know this persistence is FUTILE and feel empathy.

    These all follow a similar THEME, and it's a theme I personally appreciate (other may not). The circumstances surrounding them are different(no shit), but it is a classic theme applied well to current events. It's the little engine that could, but written by Nietzsche.

  57. tl;dr

    Hai Guize! I feel epathy for a hunk of metal on another planet. Fuck you!

  58. Anonymous, since Warbot is one of my favorite comics, it looks like our tastes in humor are just not going to intersect. But even so, I think you did a much better job of selling the "hah hah, this silly robot thinks it's all about him" idea than Randall did in the actual comic.

    After reading your post, I can kind of see it, but what I'm really left with is feeling like Randall was trying to shoot for both humor and sadness, and instead of actually succeeding at both (something I'll admit my scenario wouldn't do, but I think Warbot does) he came up with this weird mixed-up mess that isn't fully convincing either way. It's too schmaltzy to be genuinely sad, but too much beating-over-the-head to be good as a joke either. It feels more like Randall wanted to be able to hide behind the excuse of it being a joke if it turned out people were laughing instead of crying, but if people end up crying on the forums and praising it for that, then that's cool too.

  59. Bypassing the clusterfuck of comments above me, I did kind of like this one. It made me think of a more pulpy, obvious Chris Ware: the object expressing loyalty and naive optimism to the bitter end.

    But, still a funny post Carl.

  60. The ending to this comic is hilarious. But I can see why people would think it's a whiny self-pity party.

    Looks like Randy can't write a comic which conveys any concrete emotion anymore...

  61. It seems like lately, Randall is just taking whatever movie he got from Netflix and half-assing a comic from it.

    695: WALL-E
    693: Children's Fantasy in general
    692: Rain Man and/or Dirty Harry
    690: Loose Change
    686: Ghost in the Shell

  62. Hey there, just to be clear on this. I'm Anon 5:06 and 8:28. I didn't write any other anon post, especially not the one that said "fuck you stupid blogites".
    And as I can see myself posting here more often, I'll just stick with this name now, to avoid further confusion.

    My whole point was that you really have to use the "it's shitty writing" argument very often in order to get to the point where you can say "this is supposed to be a sad comic". Yes that is not a perfect argument. But hey, I'm not defending the comic. I think it's okay, and if it was the first comic you read on xkcd, you probably wouldn't say "wtf is this shit".
    What was upsetting me is that I do like to read the rants by Carl and Rob here, but only if they really stick their finger into the wound, and they seemed to miss that spot lately, even though it was there.

  63. seriously

    i agree that xkcd sucks and all, well it's BECOME megasucky at any rate. like seriously, it's shit. so i'm not gonna defend it.

    but i don't get what's wrong with having the head not attached to the shoulders.

    it's drawn in a pretty sketchy style. that's kind of its "look." lots of animators do similar things. rayman has floating hands. cartoon characters often have floating eyebrows. its a valid stylistic choice.

    and tbh, i kinda think that if randy was really bothered about painting beautiful, lifelike vistas, he wouldn't be using the stick man style. i don't think anyone other than you is having a hernia about the heads not being attached. seriously when there's so much you can say about the content that is a really weird thing to get arsey about.

  64. Maybe I should've had a tl;dr version of MY post, capn, because all I was trying to get across is that we FEEL sympathy for the characer examples you gave BECAUSE THEY WERE DEVLOPED THAT WAY. I said it at the end of my post, Randall can accomplish this OVER A SERIES OF COMICS, NOT JUST ONE.

    Randall cannot achieve successful (and by that I mean actual critical success, his fanbase will drool at whatever he posts, no matter how shitty it is) dramatic irony like George Orwell did with Boxer's character because Randall doesn't characterize in his comics, and when he does with things like this, it's a passing thing so it isn't as meaningful because it wasn't built up.

    More or less, yes I get WHY you chose the characters you did, but my post was all about deconstructing them and pointing out that Spirit's little "Oh boy, I hope they bring me home" story means almost nothing in comparison. Yes it is a "The Little Engine that Could" moral, but we also have to remember a few things along with that

    1. That is a STORY, not a one page of an engine breaking down, getting passed by the bigger guys that can obviously help him, him reluctantly accepting help from the engine that just can't do it and then everyone goes "wow we shouldn't judge size, we should judge will and determination instead" at the end. True that summary IS the story, but if you read that instead of the whole book, would you feel sorry for the engine as it comes close to failure during the series of panels?

    2. We seem to be forgetting that the whole point of that story is that with sheer will and determination we can achieve anything, whereas all of the examples you used don't follow that moral, because all of the characters were doomed to failure and did, in fact, fail.

    Any whooo, another long story short, yes I did maybe strengthen the point that those characters were doomed, we feel sympathy, therefore we should sympathize with Spirit because it was doomed to lose power and "die" on Mars, but Randall's inability to correctly communicate this over a period of more than one comic makes his efforts futile and useless.

    I maintain that I would possibly feel sorry for Spirit when compared to either Nana, Boxer or Seymour, IF Spirit were developed properly but it wasn't so I don't feel sorry for it

  65. Also a couple extra points.

    1. The Director actually DID care for Nana, he stated many times that he didn't want her to interfere because he didn't want her harmed and he got even more pissed off at Lucy after the delimbing occurred. We also know that he cared for her because, despite what his job description was and that he was torturing the Diclonius, he still treated Nana differently than the others, otherwise "she would not have survived".

    Whether this is similar to him actually caring about her like a father would his daughter, you gotta remember that Elfen Lied isn't exactly a nice story, Kohta's sister and father were slaughtered before his eyes when he was 7 by Lucy, Mayu was molested by her step-father, and Lucy herself was picked on and watched as boys beat her dog-friend to death. bottom line, who are you comparing to when you say the Director didn't care for Nana? Compared to what happened to all the other characters in the story, he's a fucking saint.

    2. I don't think Nietzsche is who we should use for an alternate author of "The Little Engine that Could" I think Hans Christian Anderson makes more sense since, you know, almost all of his main characters die in his stories making his morals out to be "don't fuck with the natural order or you'll die, horribly and alone."

  66. I think that Boxer is different and I didn't feel any empathy towards the characters in Animal Farm because it was an allegory. When reading it I am reminded of the history involved and feel for the peasants that suffered due to stalinism.

  67. My whole point was that you really have to use the "it's shitty writing" argument very often in order to get to the point where you can say "this is supposed to be a sad comic". Yes that is not a perfect argument. But hey, I'm not defending the comic. I think it's okay, and if it was the first comic you read on xkcd, you probably wouldn't say "wtf is this shit".

    The thing is, "Randall is an incredibly shitty writer" is a fairly well-established position, and I feel fairly comfortable using it as evidence. Quickly skim through the last hundred XKCDs, and behold.

    However, I don't think we need to use "Randall is a shitty writer" as evidence that "695 is supposed to be sad". The text is clearly, overwhelmingly, bludgeoningly hamfistedly maudlin. It is a tragically ironic tale of futility and thwarted expectations and dying alone. The text, on its own, is sad. We don't need to say "This is only sad because it was written by a shitty author."

    Contrariwise, the argument that the text isn't meant to be sad, and in fact is actually a parody of other similarly maudlin texts, is actually not rooted in 695 at all. It is much more reliant on an assessment of Randall's quality as an author, since the argument boils down to "Randall couldn't possibly be so shitty that he would write something this ham-handed."

    You don't need the premise "Randall is a shitty author" to reach the conclusion "695 is supposed to be sad." Judging by the reactions, both here and on the XKCD forum, you DO need the premise "Randall isn't so bad, ACKTUALLY" to reach the conclusion "695 is a parody of sad stuff, ACKTUALLY".

  68. @Cam

    I'm going to have to disagree with your point about not enough characterization, I think the mission the actual Spirit went through is enough of a backdrop, and I've read enough similar short stories by Bradbury (granted a short story is still much longer than a ten panel comic) to think that I don't need a novel to correctly frame that theme. Yes I am saying that Randall did correctly frame that theme IMO, which is why I enjoyed it. I think I'm mostly aggravated at the people saying that WALL-E employed the same theme, which it did not.

    Also like I said, I am probably thinking more of Nana's Everyday Life than Elfen Lied.

    Hans Christian Anderson is an interesting choice, but I think I'll stick with straight up nihlism over natural order (with a sometimes happy ending) for comparison, if not just to put it at the extreme.

  69. well capn, that just means we'll have to agree to disagree, because I cannot find any justification from your examples to say that Randall's Spirit deserves the sympathy appropriately proportionate to your given examples for the many reasons I listed above.

    Also, are you infering that The Little Engine that Could is a novel? It's a fucking children's story dude, it's like 15 pages with maybe 5-10 sentences per page, probably shorter than these Bradbury short stories. In essence, I do not deny that we need a novel to get the point across, that's why I brought up The Little Engine that Could and deconstructed it, to prove that it doesn't have to be long to communicate, but you still have to communicate and, frankly, Randall didn't do a good enough job for it to get the proper emotional response from me.

    Also, I don't know what all this Wall-E shit is about, he was a fucking garbage bot that just did his work day in and day out. The whole intro of the movie was showing us that he never questioned what he was doing, he just did what he was programmed to do, and that was to clean up garbage on Earth, and to repair himself if he became injured. Maybe we're getting hung up on the fact that that bug was his friend, or that he collected cool looking things and decked his pad out, but he still never questioned what he was doing, nor did he ever ask if he was "going home" like Spirit. We feel no sympathy towards Wall-E being a selfless robot doing his job without question, in fact I think we were supposed to take the hint that we shouldn't trash the planet so we won't have to leave these little bots to clean up after ourselves.

    Whatever, all I know is that Wall-E compared to this comic doesn't make a whole lot of fucking sense, and your neither do your character comparisons, so good night, I'll be back tomorrow for part 4 of this conversation.

  70. I'm sorry to derail the conversation but has anyone noticed that it is as if this comic has been trying to be XKCD lately? Just look at the latest two. While they are not as bad as a bad XKCD and it might just pass, I can't help but see a worrying sign here.

  71. Yeah, SMBC is like XKCD but with better art. I don't like it very much, but it's still funnier than XKCD most of the time.

  72. I used to love SMBC, but lately it's been getting too repetitive and hacky for me. So basically XKCD syndrome, although admittedly SMBC managed to produce way more comics before getting shitty than XKCD ever did.

  73. So you think this might be it for SMBC? I see your point, Timofei, but I've considered it to be a bit better than just SMBC + good art, i.e., more both original and more provocative (not to mention, funny), so this is definitely a disappointing downturn for me.

    Perhaps Zach is taking too much time on SMBC Theater to have any for the comic?

    Captcha: reweigne. I vill hawe mai reweigne!

  74. @Anon 3:59:

    "rayman has floating hands. cartoon characters often have floating eyebrows. its a valid stylistic choice."

    That's the point. Rayman has no limbs and floating extremities because that was a purposeful stylistic choice. If you look at other characters in the same universe, they also are missing limbs and have only extremities. That's why it's a stylistic choice (I only really played the first couple of games though, I suppose later games could have characters with arms and legs and stuff but that doesn't matter).

    Even the ads made reference to it, I remember one ad was like "Rayman doesn't have a leg to stand on! But then again, neither does the competition" or something like that.

    If you look at Randall's comics, the head is sometimes connected but most of the time it isn't. Unless you're seriously trying to tell me that in the xkcd universe Randall has created 80% of the population has floating heads and no necks and the remaining 20% have necks for some unknown reason (and if you seriously tell me that then you're a fucking idiot), it isn't a stylistic choice, it's Randall being a lazy and shitty artist.

    If xkcd said something like "A comic about people that occasionally have floating heads discussing math and science" then I would probably agree it was a stylistic choice...but even then it'd still more than likely be Randall being lazy and copping out of it instead of putting forth effort to improve his work.


    Yeah I realize that the WALL-E thing doesn't have an exact parallel as WALL-E didn't care about his work after meeting EVE (abandoning it in favor of her), and never questioned it. I think the reason people brought it up is because it's a good example of a robot that has feelings and was able to garner audience sympathy even though it was a robot and it was a cartoon. The Brave Little Toaster would be another decent comparison to make, though it doesn't work quite as well. The characters in that act more human, but with some appliance qualities whereas WALL-E acts more robot, but with some human qualities.

  75. @Femalethoth:

    Your perception of this story completely differs from mine. I do not think that it is overwhelmingly sad. When I read the comic, I think it is funny. And there are reasons for that, none of which are rooted in any knowledge I have of Randall Munroe.

    1) The way the comic takes only a few scenes of the robot's time on Mars makes it fast-paced and dry. We don't get WALL-E or some other long story that even cares about introducing us to the character, and thus build up a connection that will makes us feel sympathy for him. We just get a random robot and we see him in his fruitless efforts to get back to Earth. Okay, cute little robot, but you don't get terribly involved.
    2) All the dialogue shows him as a stereotypical tragicomical protagonist. Not overly bright, never gives up, kind of jolly. Basically, he could be Butters from South Park. "Uhh it's okay, I'll just do the next rock better!" *does this thing with his hands*
    3) "I thought I analyzed that rock pretty well", "A good rover would keep going - a good rover like they wanted!" These sentences are purely comical in my opinion. They are completely histrionic. No serious writer would try to create a character the audience has sympathy with, and then make him histrionic as hell!
    4) Also, the "Guys?" at the end is mostly used in such a context (loser thinks he's friend of some cool kids, they play a trick on him, he think's it's all a misunderstanding "hey guys, i'm still in here... guys?").

    Of course, there's no certain way to tell what Randall wanted to express. But it's also not true that "sad comic" is the least conflicting interpretation here, because you have to disregard the reasons I just mentioned or somehow fit them into your "sad comic" interpretation. There is a sad background story, sure - even though I wouldn't call it overwhelmingly tragical, because you can't omit the fact that it's just a robot, and a robot that did not get enough airtime to rid himself of that "just a robot" label.
    But what does the comic do with the sad background story? That is the real question, not if there IS a sad background at all. The way I see it, the comic takes it rather lightly, based on the reasons already mentioned.

    Your interpretation has to deal with these apparently comical elements and show that they are either neglectable or in fact fitting. The only argument concerning this has been "it's shitty writing", as I've said before. And while that is a valid argument for the "is it a sad or a funny comic?" question, it is NOT a valid argument for the "is this a good or a bad comic?" question that the aforementioned question is part of.
    Because, remember, this very basic discussion about whether it's funny or not is only important because we have to base our analysis on the outcome of it. Now if we already use the "shitty writing" argument in this first discussion, we're making a circular argument that invalidates the whole analysis of the comic. (Because then we're basically saying "If we assume that this comic has shitty writing, then yes indeed we find that this comic sucks.")

  76. @David:

    HAHAHAHAH xkcd is teh suxxorz!! Anything that comes out of Carl "Handsome" Wheeler's mouth is LAW. Don't you forget it!

    Looks like xkcdsucks's fanbois are as EXTREME as xkcd's. LOL. AMIRITE GUISE?

  77. @Anon 5:06

    Hello, id like to analyze your point of view "deeper".

    Lets dig into the comic, prepare for tl:dr

    First, lets ignore all forum posts and all the discussion going on here as well, lets just concentrate on the comic as objectively as possible. It is not irrelevant how people react to the comic, but for the sake of argument lets just say other people dont exist.

    Secondly, lets get some perspective and context on the comic to fully "appreciate" it.

    The comic is about "Spirit" a mars rover launched in 2003. The mission in total cost over 800 million dollars and countless man-hours before and after the launch.

    The builders and operators of Spirit built a machine that outlasted its initial estimated operation time by a factor of roughly 20.
    This amazing machine spent more time moving about on mars than any other before and sent priceless data from the red planet.

    Now, lets get to the comic.

    If, as you state, Randall intended the comic to be funny, or to make fun of the people that actually "feel bad" for the machine, he did this at a price.

    The price being the emotions of its builders and the crew at NASA. I give them a free pass on anthropomorphizing the machine.

    Shit, they spent countless hours of work, money and resources on it and it actually managed to surpass their wildest expectations!
    Pride is what i would feel and sadness that this amazing piece of technology would be left behind.

    I would feel proud and sad, but NOT because the Spirit rover has a soul, or because he is a whiny bitch like in this comic!

    By laughing at the "overly emotional" response in THIS comics way, you SHIT all over the scientists and engineers that build and sent it away.
    You diminish their pride and sadness to "hur hur you actually think its sad".

    However, i still think the comic is not intended to be funny, its supposed to be a slimy little game with emotions.

    But even here the comic fails, because we are not supposed to feel bad about Spirit because he was such a "good little robot".
    Its because it is an amazing piece of technology and provided us with priceless data over many years.

    Hell, we should feel INSPIRED by this, not SAD, maybe nostalgic or disappointed, BUT NOT FUCKING SAD!

    So in short, Randall fails at making it funny by shitting all over the NASA Team, and fails to make it sad by picking the wrong emotion the Spirit rover is linked to.

    The end

  78. 3) "I thought I analyzed that rock pretty well", "A good rover would keep going - a good rover like they wanted!" These sentences are purely comical in my opinion. They are completely histrionic. No serious writer would try to create a character the audience has sympathy with, and then make him histrionic as hell!

    Will you stop making the argument that "695 is supposed to be funny because otherwise that would mean Randall is a totally awful author, which we KNOW he isn't!" That's an argument that is TOTALLY rooted in "any knowledge [you] have of Randall Munroe." Honestly, your first point is like this too: You're basically saying "These panels can't be an attempt to make the robot seem sad, since only a ****ty author would do such a bad job of it. A good author would take more time."

    I really would say that most of your ostensibly "funny" points are negligible. The robot only comes across as Butters if you deliberately read him that way.

    4) Also, the "Guys?" at the end is mostly used in such a context (loser thinks he's friend of some cool kids, they play a trick on him, he think's it's all a misunderstanding "hey guys, i'm still in here... guys?").

    That's... what? Are you saying that a scene like that is always played for laughs, and therefore its inclusion in 695 means that the comic is being played for laughs? I disagree. I don't think that if that scene is funny at all, it's only funny when we've already established that the rest of the show is joking around. Which, you know, you haven't.

    Because, remember, this very basic discussion about whether it's funny or not is only important because we have to base our analysis on the outcome of it. Now if we already use the "shitty writing" argument in this first discussion, we're making a circular argument that invalidates the whole analysis of the comic. (Because then we're basically saying "If we assume that this comic has shitty writing, then yes indeed we find that this comic sucks.")

    Actually, no. We can judge that the comic sucks quite nicely without making that assumption:

    1.) There are three possibilities: The comic is supposed to be funny, the comic is supposed to be sad, or the comic is supposed to be a mixture of the two.
    2.) Case One: If the comic is supposed to be funny, then it doesn't actually include any comical elements--at least none that are very funny or that aren't buried under unconvincing mawkishness. If it's a Stealth Parody, it's an awful one, and therefore 695 sucks.
    3.) Case Two: If the comic is supposed to be sad, it's ****ing awful. Everything about it is overwhelmingly ham-handed and poorly-executed. Therefore 695 sucks.
    4.) Case Three: If the comic is supposed to be the mixture of the two, then it does each poorly and doesn't create a synthesis of either. Therefore 695 sucks.
    5.) In all possible cases, 695 sucks. Therefore, 695 sucks.

    The reasoning would only be circular if you thought that "If the comic ISN'T sad, then the comic DOESN'T suck", which is wrong.

    Not even then, actually! It would be "Randall is a ****ty author, therefore 695 is supposed to be sad, therefore 695 sucks." Not "695 is poorly written, therefore 695 is supposed to be sad, therefore 695 sucks." Since we have evidence that Randall is a ****ty author that is totally independent of 695, it's not circular at all to use it when judging 695.

    Oh, whatever, keep thinking that it's actually supposed to be funny, on the basis of a few tiny elements which are either totally ambiguous or (despite your protestations) reliant on an indefensibly charitable interpretation of the author.


    See Mal, it's not that hard.

  80. This site is totally depressing. Explaining why other people shouldn't laugh at someone else's jokes only works to limit happiness.

  81. This site is miserable and I only come here to further my chronic depression.
    No enjoyment derived whatsoever.

  82. Thanks to AdamTM for pointing out that bit about mocking the NASA crew. If you can say "well Randall can't REALLY be this shitty of a writer" to justify the idea it's supposed to be funny, I'd instead say "well Randall can't REALLY be trying to make fun of a great work of science and make it look kind of pitiful when instead he could glorify it and try to get us all emotional about it."

  83. This would work so much better if it was only one panel, consisting of the crux of the Spirit's monologue. Maybe it would actually be genuinely funny or heartbreaking if it were only one frame.

  84. This site is so great. I was diagnosed with intractable clinical depression, but after reading this blog I have recovered and am now the author of a best-selling series of books about how to feel happy.

  85. At first I thought maybe this was a Moon reference.

  86. "This would work so much better if it was only one panel, consisting of the crux of the Spirit's monologue. Maybe it would actually be genuinely funny or heartbreaking if it were only one frame."

    I'm afraid that, considering the source material, it would probably be no better. Crap is crap, no matter how many or few buckets you put it in. The comic would probably end up being an emo version of this:

  87. I play strip podracing all the time.

  88. new one sucks because of his incomplete list of certain games (not to mention strip pooh sticks sounds like an awesome, yet cold, gmae to play), he name drops Settlers of Catan, but he doesn't put down Carcassone? Meh, if he were to include all games that you could play a strip version of, then the list would go on forever. But at the same time Randall also used this to namedrop from Wargames again, so fuck him

    Captcha: raceasod, hmmm so if we ever race Randall for anything, we're racing a sod :D

  89. new one looks like a joke a 5 year old would make. except with some "fancy" math thrown in.

  90. I liked the alt-text for the most recent one, but that was just my fondness for all-caps. Otherwise, it's just good ol' fucking sexkcd again.

    Captcha is sprip. One letter off!

  91. The Ikea lamp commercial is awesome.

  92. i went to ikea today!

    anyway new one sucks, sexkcd, blah blah. yay randall you know how to make games fun for adults too

  93. Randall can use Google, and Randall can use a calculator. Tragically, Randall cannot write a webcomic.

  94. pfff, 696 doesnt even include Mass Effect



  95. If this is your definition of fancy math...

    But yeah, it's kinda funny. In the way that lists of funny things are -- an item here or there, but diluted by the random stuff around it.

    Anyway, strip thermonuclear war sounds like fun, but you really need SDI type defenses on both sides for it to last. Y'know, webcam link between Cheyenne Mountain and Yamantau Mountain, remove an article of clothing each time one gets through...

  96. please note the fancy was in quotes.

  97. Apparently Randal had the fraction upside down originally. Way to proofread.

  98. This comment has been removed by the author.

  99. Next he'll do a comic about one of the Saturn V rockets that's on display where it's sad because it didn't get to go to the moon.

    On how about one that's about the Space Shuttle Enterprise which is feeling sad because it never got to fly in space.

    The possibilities are endless!

  100. This comment has been removed by the author.

  101. Previous two comments deleted and merged into this edited one.

    Strip Games is the very essence of a terrible xkcd. Sex, mixed in with pointless mathematics (just using a ratio is somehow enough to make teenagers feel clever about reading this; Randall has the easiest job imaginable), coupled with a boring list that degenerates into nerd culture references (the most arbitrary one being iterated prisoner's dilemma, which is definitely just there for readers to feel clever about getting, or looking up on Wikipedia).

    The ratio thing doesn't even work. Guess what: more obscure terms have the word "strip" before them less often than popular terms. Well I'll be.

    You couldn't possibly make a legitimate case for this being anything other than teenage (or particularly hateful adult) nerd pandering.

    So, it fails as acceptable modern culture due to being obnoxious and foul. It also fails as a comic.

    It's not funny. The joke was made, and it was "haha, naked people where you wouldn't expect them! That's like, sex or something!". The list didn't improve on it. There's nothing funny about the entries, they're just charmlessly plucked from a list of games that the readership would appreciate, with some filler (like cricket). Nothing about the entries expands on the joke. An entry like "Uncle Wiggily" for example would be an actual development of the joke by using innuendo to make light of the nakedness; it's also the name of a comic STRIP, so the ratio is raised in an amusing, innocent fashion. Would it really be hard for a *professional comic author* to think up eight or so games that have some amusing connection to nakedness, instead of literally making a list of games that nerds like just to ensure that the comic is popular with its well-established fan-base?

    To seal the deal he adds a Wargames reference in the alt-text. Again, completely arbitrary and undeveloped. It's just [nerd reference]... but NAKED! Not even a pun. No. That would be using a comedic device to achieve humour, which detracts from the selling of t-shirts to idiots.

    As an aside, this is at least one other Wikipedia article tainted with a reference to an xkcd comic. Building an encyclopedia for the future, are we? Nobody is going to care in 2030 that an unpleasant web comic referenced the iterated prisoner's dilemma. Let's not let cynical dross like this establish itself as a timeless cultural item.

  102. As awful and as much of a non-strip this is, I'd really like to see two people play strip chess by mail. All some guy about to be checkmated, all going down to the mailbox in nothing but a cocksock. Funny image.

  103. Awesome, a google search comic, those haven't gotten tiring or anything. But what inspiration for something a little more interesting:

    "[comic] sucks" / "[comic]":

    11,900 / 2,040,000 = 0.00583

    penny arcade:
    30,500 / 10,500,000 = 0.00290

    dinosaur comics:
    346 / 158,000 = 0.00219

    cyanide and happiness
    266 / 208,000 = 0.00128

    Tim Buckley:
    978 / 489,000 = 0.00200

    Least I Could Do
    9 / 245,000 = 0.0000367

    Perry Bible Fellowship
    3 / 166,000 = 0.0000181

    Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal (SMBC Sucks was searched as the full name for the 'sucks' part got 0 hits and the acronym by itslef was too popular for just that comic)
    26 / 63,200 = 0.000411

    6,090 / 22,500,000 = 0.000271

    This is totally scientific and completely without any doubt ever proves that xkcd sucks more than double any other comic, and any disagreement makes you an idiot. Though Buckley and Sohmer deserve so much more hate.

  104. I was going to make a parody of the latest xkcd by counting the Google hits ratio of " sucks" to "webcomic", but unfortunately xkcd is not the worst webcomic by this metric. xkcd gets 0.6% which is quite high, but Penny Arcade gets a whopping 1.8%! Even Ctrl-Alt-Del gets only 1.0%. I wonder why Penny Arcade is hated so much.

    Damn, as I was writing this, someone had the same idea! Screw you, Capn! Screw you to Hell!

  105. Ha!Ha!, Timofei got ninja'd

    Also: Fuck You Sven!

    I'm about to take my brave little rover and just go home.

  106. Also, you must have miscalculated for Penny Arcade, because with quotes it only yields 1700000 results.

  107. Nope, totally acurate in every way:

  108. Capn that is actually very interesting. But some comics, like CAD, are just so universally hated that no one really bothers to talk about how much they suck. I think someone has mentioned this before?

    Anyway that was not really related. I guess that's just why CAD gets such little hate.

    Also I'm sad that LICD sucks. I really liked it for a while, and now just read it to follow along. I used to enjoy Sohmer's writing, but he just gets more pretentious every day. At least Lar provides the comic with great art.

  109. Screen shot for Timofei:

    I don't miscalculate or misspeel anything. Ever.

  110. So how does the Ikea lamp commercial go?


  111. I get the least number of results (1,410,000), do I win?

    re: the latest comic, it is horrible. Apart from the fact that Randall has done so many of these Google-comics that he needs something fresh and original (which this isn't), the data is horrible. Just searching for "strip " will not result in strip versions of the game. Most of the results are completely unrelated, such as:

    "This narrow strip Agricola fortified and as all the country to the south was now occupied"
    "gunshot victim lying in the road, double parking in the medial strip, stickball games"
    "The comic strip "Cricket and Ladybug's Art Appreciation" is presented"

    In addition Randall is well passed his quota for Wargames references.

  112. Capn said...
    Screen shot for Timofei:

    I don't miscalculate or misspeel anything. Ever.

    February 1, 2010 12:33 AM

    Just to clarify because I don't grasp sarcasm too easily, was the "misspeel" on purpose?

  113. Why thank you Jay.

    Also Timofei and Sam, I think you're using some sort of moonspeak (read: Not American) Google. :)

  114. Mine hate overfloweth to the point where I must comment anonymously 120 posts down on a stranger's blog that I despise xkcd #696. Lots.

  115. Oddly I am on American Google and only getting 1,420,000 normally and only 2,090,000 without quotes.

    Google is kind of annoying about this either way though. I tried to jump to 2,000,000 to see what was that far down and it says Google does not serve past the first 1,000 results. I then tried to jump to 1,000 and it took me to 381-388. It seems that google does not actually show more than 388 out of 2,000,000 results!!! I mean, I know most people don't ever look past page 1, but really... that is ridiculously little.

    On the subject of the comic, I thought it was going well for the first 3 panels but I did not like the last panel. I thought the examples were too "out there". That said, it has turned out to be surprisingly hard for me to come up with real games with 0 hits. A lot of things you think might get them are hindered by results for "Comic Strip - XYZ"

  116. "At least Lar provides the comic with great art."

    Are you serious? He's only capable of drawing one woman's body and putting different hairstyles on it. And he can't draw any expressions other than "smirk" (which was actually kind of hilarious in Looking For Group, as there were a lot of pages in which people were supposed to look angry).

  117. Why is n a percentage? Why isn't it the sample size, like it's supposed to be?

  118. So, I'll just take this meaning that you enjoyed it? I mean, all comics can be boiled down to something that sounds like "what if the mars rover had feelings"

    Applying that filter to Dinosaur Comics would ruin even it.

  119. So, I'll just take this meaning that you enjoyed it? I mean, all comics can be boiled down to something that sounds like "what if the mars rover had feelings"


    Anyway my searches for "Penny Arcade" and "Penny Arcade sucks" gave a ratio of about 2%, and about 0.5% for XKCD. :(

  120. I'd like to point out that the math in "Strip Games" is wrong, if I'm interpreting the comic correctly. I think that n is supposed to represent the percentage of the total hits that have strip in them, as in "Strip (game)" divided by "Strip (game)" + "game"

    Essentially, if I had 4 fruits, 1 apple and 3 oranges, one fourth of the fruits are apples; this comic says that one third of the fruits are apples.

    Sorry if there are spelling mistakes, I'm using IE and I'm used to Firefox.

  121. There's nothing inherently wrong with a "strip: not strip" ratio, I guess, it's just that a "strip: total" ratio seems like it would work better in the comic.

  122. Yeah, his understanding of statistics seems to be kind of off. He is using "N" to refer to the ratio instead of the sample size, and he is calling the ratio a percentage...

  123. Actually, I think the comic is presenting "strip : total", since every result for "strip poker" would also show up as a result for "poker". The misuse of "n" and the ratio/percentage thing is weird, though.

  124. Of course, he doesn't have a sample size, really, other than Google in general...

    I liked the "Died in an X accident" comic, but this one is just sloppy.

  125. The funniest example (to me) of Strip Settlers of C'tan was in the second panel, so everything else was an incredibly boring start, and then an even more boring letdown at the end. For the 0%, he could have picked just about anything and nobody would have called him on it, there are so many things funnier than... whatever the hell those games are. Not to mention that an realistic error analysis for his statistics would likely have anything in any one category being able to fit in any other category.

  126. If we're naming bits we thought were amusing, I thought "strip iterated prisoner's dilemma" was an amusing one. The rest was a bit dull. Plus he fucked up on the whole numbers thing.

    I am pretty sure I know exactly how Strip Iterated Prisoner's Dilemma would play out.

  127. Everyone ends up naked?

  128. That's where it ends up, not how it plays out.

  129. anon 6:12am

    I guess "great" was too strong a word, but I remember really vividly seeing the strip when Sohmer's kitty died and I thought it was an extremely beautiful drawing. But I agree about the women and facial expressions. Even Rayne's little niece looks the same as everyone else now.

  130. HEY Randall
    Hey Randall

    know what the problem with graph jokes is?

    Graphjam did it already and better!

  131. GOOMH RANDALL I also saw Wargames once!

    Anyway the comic was kind of funny but eh the humor peaked around the second or third panel so the rest was just fluff. I also like how he put "at the time of this writing" because he knew the internet would latch on to it and mess up the numbers.

  132. To: Monroe, Randall Patrick
    Re: 696

    >> Who gives a fuck?

  133. I don't think some of the posters here understand the N in the current comic. It's just fine how it is. It's simply describing how frequently a certain game is prefaced by the word "strip."

    Tom's assertion that his N would be "Strip (game)" + "game", and that this would throw off the numbers is wrong. Finding "Strip (game)" and "game" is the same as finding "Strip" U "(game)", where U is the union operator. Then to also find "(game)" again gives Tom's expression as "Strip" U "(game)" U "(game)", which is equivalent to "Strip" U "(game)" by idempotency axioms in set (and vicariously probability) theory.

    Essentially, Randel's N variable is the chance that, if you see a google result for a game, it is prefaced by the word "strip."

    I thought this comic was decent, and I've fucking despised the last month or two. Most of the comedy was from imagining strip Magic the Gathering and the n = 0% ones.

  134. Also, replace also mention of unions in my previous post with intersections. I don't know what became of me.

  135. Except "n" in statistics has a predefined meaning (the size of the sample). He is doing statistics. He is making "n" equal something that is not the size of the sample.

    We understand what Randall is using "n" to mean, but he is using it wrong. As in, what he is doing with it is incorrect; that is not what "n" means. There was no confusion or misunderstanding; there was just the fact that Randy used the variable wrong.

    I shouldn't have to explain that to you. You seem to be the sort of person that should understand that the "n" in stats is the sample size.

  136. Tom, that was just an assumption on your part. R didn't say "This is the percent of references to this game that are preceded by 'strip'," he just presented us with some ratios, EXACTLY how he said he would at the top of the strip. It's not as meaningful as how you would have done it, but it's not exactly a meaningful ratio to begin with. That said, be glad you are not as pretentious or wrong as Neckbeard. I keep re-reading his post to make sure I'm reading it right... and I am, unfortunately. Also, every letter in the alphabet has a bajillion different "predefined" meanings. A lot of letters also have common casual meanings. A lot of people state up front what letter they intend to use to mean what to avoid confusion. N, in addition to meaning the size of a sample (Taking your word on that. I've never taken a stat class... yet strangely I am familiar with the variable n...), is also used to mean "number." Yeah I know, crazy.

  137. And in stats, it means "sample". Check out the Wiki article. Ctrl-F "sample."

    The point being that it is not used to represent a percentage. You can go ahead and say that Randy, who is presenting a (poorly executed) frequency distribution, which is an element of stats, did not intend to use "n" the way it is used in statistics (which is obvious, but does not excuse the fact that he used it wrong)--or you can go ahead and observe that he used it wrong because he doesn't know fuck-all about statistics.

  138. It is pretty silly that he magicked a ratio into a percentage. Nevertheless, it is also silly to claim that all ratios, percentages, and comparisons of ratios and percentages are rightly categorized as statistics. If you really want to, you could categorize a lot of things as statistics... almost anything relating back to the real world. But THAT would be silly, because other branches of math and science just go ahead and divide their numbers on the sly without consulting statisticians. So yeah, nitpick away on the ratio/% stuff, that really is dumb, but you sound like a fool when you try to claim a simple operation for a single branch of math, then apply that branch's rules to the rest of the situation.

  139. Yes. The only problem with his mathematics is that it's missing a "multiplied by 100%". The "n" thing is wrong and is making this blog look like it's occupied by people who want to make any petty attack on the comic that they can, rather than focusing on its real, glaring problems.

  140. n is still correct. 1% is literally 1/100, no multiplication needed

  141. It's

    1/2 * 100% = 50%
    and not
    1/2 * 100 = 50% (which is clearly wrong!) explains it well.

  142. Tom, it's not a "strip: not strip" ratio, it is in fact a "strip: total" ratio, because strip would be a subset of . So essentially, if I have 1 apple and 3 oranges, the way Randall does it says 1/4 of my fruit is apples. The way you'd have him do it says 1/5 of my fruit is apples.
    In short, ur dum lol

  143. Um, that should be strip(game) would be a subset of (game), and me not knowing <<>> is syntax for, um, something.

  144. wayne-marsh, nothing in the comic would imply 1/2 * 100 = 50 % but rather 1/2 = 50% which is most definitely true, because that is based on the definition of percentage. Nobody mentioned that as the "real problem" because it is not a problem at all, and if you even understood the link you posted said you would understand that, you're just an idiot.

  145. No, I pointed out the * 100 vs * 100% thing to clear up with the previous anon that it wasn't what I meant, as he seemed to think it was.

    As I said, missing out the "multiplying by 100%
    " is picky, but some people (apparently such as Aaron, whose post I was justifying) would prefer it was there when you are working with ratios this way. That's what I meant to get across; that this is the only thing you could really pick up on because the rest is definitely correct.

    I don't know what you are talking about re "real problem", but when I said "rather than focusing on its real, glaring problems" I was referring to the quality of the comic as detailed in my lengthy earlier post. Not the fucking mathematics.

    Probably not worth me typing anything as it will provoke attacks by presumptuous dicks.

  146. Probably not worth me typing anything as it will provoke attacks by presumptuous dicks.

    please don't end your comments with shit like that. it's irritating, and completely pointless.

    not that i believe everyone needs to have some sort of epiphany for every comment, just don't be like "oh this was a waste of time and you just read it."

  147. Somehow I find that this blog expects that XKCD is supposed to be good.

    I'm not asking 'why the hell are you reading it?'

    Maybe I am, who cares. But let me get to my point: let's say an olympian sprinter, as an easy example Usain Bolt, runs really fast. That would be the XKCD-past. Then he gets slower. The question I am asking is obvious 'Why the hell are you STILL reading it? You are continually criticising every single thing, as if he needs it.

    It is like saying a turtle sucks because it is so slow. Haha, well, maybe. But really pointless critique.

    Are you still expecting XKCD to be funny? Or do you derive pleasure from constantly attacking a possibly already unfunny comic? Repetition is so freaking fun, I wonder why I hate grinding.

    Then again, there are sad people on Earth.

    On another note, I find the forum hilarious. Personally, I think Randall has not lost all of it, but anyway the forum is enough to make me stay.

  148. David said...
    Hey there, just to be clear on this. I'm Anon 5:06 and 8:28

    But you are quite a few more, aren't you? This site is only visited by 14-15 ISPs each day. I expect that most have several accounts, eh?

  149. @Anon 2:13

    And you are criticizing a blog that indeed does what you think is a waste of!

    If you think this is a waste of time, why DO you spend your valuable time to tell us what a waste of time we all are you pompous prick.

    Now go stick your head in your ass like a good little b-tard that you are and


    the end

  150. "It is like saying a turtle sucks because it is so slow. Haha, well, maybe. But really pointless critique."

    Well, most still think the turtle's going strong.

    "Are you still expecting XKCD to be funny? Or do you derive pleasure from constantly attacking a possibly already unfunny comic? Repetition is so freaking fun, I wonder why I hate grinding."

    Ever laughed at a bad movie? Or watched Mystery Space Theatre?
    It's almost like people can enjoy making fun of things. Making fun.

  151. 2:13 Anon here
    Thanks R. for your answer. :)

    I have no idea what positive thing I can say about Adam, so I rather not comment :)

    Anyway, regarding n, n can be a variable for anything. I can call that b, c, d, e, f if I define that b, c and so on. I can even define a=1/0, even though if I am not wrong it serves no purposes at all. That is the first thing anyone is allowed to do in mathematics: to define shit themselves. I do admit that common ways to refer to the same thing is convenient, such as rho for density, or c for celeritas the speed of light in vacuo but always assuming that so-and-so variable MUST mean so-and-so thing is not very good, and worse if you say that n is used 'wrongly.'

    What I would prefer attacking Randall for is publishing it first as / (Proof is in forums, messing up like that is very wrong indeed)

    Also, x*100% shows nothing, as it is multiplying by one, and can be skipped.

    Finally, the XKCD 'Strip Games' was pretty unfunny, but leads to arguments like this which are very funny :D

  152. My
    Strip Game Name
    Game Name

    went to the burning hells it seems. probably due to the brackets > and <

  153. Tl;dr

    Okay, I am a fan of XKCD; I'm also a fan of XKCDsucks... I am not generally a fan of a lot of the people on either website, but whatever (I've actually never been on the forums over there, because I enjoy having braincells, and don't want to kill them all off.)

    But, I have to say this:
    I know the art sucks. BUT, he can't change it now; it's one of the defining characteristics of XKCD. Yes, he can put more effort into, say, connecting heads to bodies and making proportions better (infants should not be up to adults chests,) but he does, at this point, need to stay with stick figures. Art should evolve throughout the course of a comic-- take Questionable Content, for example. The art is constantly changing and getting better. BUT, no matter how much the art changes, Jeph can't begin drawing in the style of PBF or SMBC or the like; it's too drastic a change and too much of a deviation.
    In the same vein, Randall HAS to continue with stick figures. Complain about how you can't tell characters apart, sure-- he could put different hats or hairstyles to differentiate-- but he can't start drawing legitimate people or the fandom will implode. "This isn't XKCD! I liked it for the simplicity of the art and the focus on the jokes! Randall's a sell out! He probably doesn't even like science!" (Save, of course, the rabid fans who will insist his new drawings are on par with fucking Da Vinci and THE BEST ART EVAR.)

    Also: Stop comparing this comic to Wall-E. It doesn't even make sense.
    Wall-E was characterized through his actions and his facial(?) expressions. He didn't speak.
    There's no real way to convey that through a comic, especially one about a real robot. Wall-E could do what he wanted because he was fictional; Randall had to work with what actually happened to Spirit. I mean, if someone here can show me a good way to characterize and personify Spirit like Wall-E was, through a single comic (Cam, I know you said a series of comics, and I agree with you there, but I believe there'd be too much bitching if Randall did a series of [unfunny] comics about an emo robot) then I will personally find and punch Randall in the face... twice.

  154. Did we need another proof that Randall is your prototypal emo-fag ?

    Randall is so emo. He certainly created emo-ness, in fact.

    Remember this horrible one, my personally most hated xkcd ever ? I mean, this one : <---If this is not emo-shit, then what's emo-shit ?!?

    For once, the art is not so bad indeed. And in fact, the idea of a sentient Rover was quite good. In the end, I would have enjoyed this comic if it were ONE up to SEVERAL THOUSANDS that were made of whining.

    But Randall has exploded its quota of whining since years. Pah ! Emo-fag...

    (for those who wonders, my personal favourite is this one : I still laugh each time I see it. Maybe it's because I was so much into Funkadelic a few decades ago).

  155. Dude I think he was making fun of all that shit in #23... and saying that the true sadness lies in the fact that a good portion of those shirts exist.

    Strip tennis made me laugh as an idea, but I'm still too pissed about the Spirit one to talk about 696...

  156. Fantasio: yeah, as much as I like making fun of Randall, #23 is making fun of the types of people who wear those "do I LOOK like a people person?" etc. shirts. This was back when he had sarcasm.

    "The "n" thing is wrong and is making this blog look like it's occupied by people who want to make any petty attack on the comic that they can, rather than focusing on its real, glaring problems."

    No, the "n" thing is a basic fucking thing in statistics. He could have used literally any other letter. It would have been fine except he's clearly trying to make it look like he's doing Real Statistics with a Real Frequency Distribution, and it's clear based on the fact that he doesn't know that a ratio is not a percentage or that he doesn't know what "n" is that Randall does not actually know anything about statistics. It is symptomatic of the fact that Randy doesn't actually do any research on his source material, except for occasionally reading the first few paragraphs of the Wiki article. He evidently didn't even do that on this one.

    "But you are quite a few more, aren't you? This site is only visited by 14-15 ISPs each day. I expect that most have several accounts, eh?"

    I like this particular deluded attack. "I don't like this blog that I managed to find pretty easily, that Randall Munroe knows a good deal about, and which i

    "Anyway, regarding n, n can be a variable for anything. I can call that b, c, d, e, f if I define that b, c and so on. I can even define a=1/0, even though if I am not wrong it serves no purposes at all. That is the first thing anyone is allowed to do in mathematics: to define shit themselves. I do admit that common ways to refer to the same thing is convenient, such as rho for density, or c for celeritas the speed of light in vacuo but always assuming that so-and-so variable MUST mean so-and-so thing is not very good, and worse if you say that n is used 'wrongly.'"

    This isn't math. This is statistics. Or rather, it's trying to be. He has patently demonstrated that he has no idea how to do statistics, and is mostly just trying to look knowledgeable to his credulous fanbase.

    Just as if he were to use a lowercase sigma to refer to the percentage while doing statistics, or the lowercase pi, he would be rightly called out for using the wrong symbols for the field, so too he is being called out for using the wrong symbols here. When you are pretending to be in a field, you use their notation. He did not do so. (He also did his math wrong and didn't display it in a meaningful fashion. Math!)

  157. Having a fictional character whine makes you an emo fag?

  158. i just realized why i used to like xkcd and why i now hate it... and pardon me if this is obvious or already discussed (im not a regular here)

    basically, in the "good old days" of the comic, it just seemed like another lonely voice sending messages in a bottle to the world and i really liked that and felt kinship with that.

    but now he knows that people are reading, that people are paying attention, he is AWARE of us so he's writing FOR US, instead of just writing for himself.

  159. eric: That is basically my theory! I'm glad you have also come to that conclusion.

  160. R, i have never seen Mystery Space Theater. Mystery Science Theater, on the other hand, was pretty great.

    my lord you guys wrote a lot on this comic.

  161. I-I actually googled that to check if I was right
    (I haven't actually seen it)

  162. "This isn't math, this is statistics!"
    LOLOLOL That is so right and so wrong at the same time.
    Rob, you and carl ought to focus more on criticism like eric's instead of... whatever your last comment was.

  163. You mean, we should... continue doing the shit we do all the time?

  164. it works for Randall!

  165. You know, it really ruins your credibility as a critic if you refuse to acknowledge the good things about what you're criticizing. You might want to consider that maybe, just maybe, the story wasn't meant to be taken literally.

    And yes, I know this blog is dedicated to singlemindedly criticizing XKCD. I'm quick that way, and I guess that's fun if you (apparently) have nothing valuable of your own to contribute to the world. Nonetheless, I occasionally feel compelled to make a futile stand against cheap, knee-jerk cynicism. There's plenty of that in the world already.

  166. Balance is for dipshits, and that's assuming there even IS a good thing about this comic.(He used color, yay?)

  167. "You know, it really ruins your credibility as a critic if you refuse to acknowledge the good things about what you're criticizing. You might want to consider that maybe, just maybe, the story wasn't meant to be taken literally."

    Um. Could you please explain how this story could be interpreted as not literally?

    "I'm quick that way, and I guess that's fun if you (apparently) have nothing valuable of your own to contribute to the world."

    Everyone here has their own hobbies and projects and things they work on.

  168. Oh, geez. Don't you have anything better to do than sit around, criticizing other people's works? contribute something positive to the internet, people! Just because you don't like others work, you add to the hate machine that has trapped so many people, leaving them lonely in a city full of people.

    I may not be able to convey my frustration accurately enough, but I hope you get the jist of it- we don't need more hateful trolls or flamers, and pretentious ones at that.

  169. your trolling is not more compelling because you wrote it like it was a bad high school poem