Before I get to what I want to say, a being named Doomerang sent me some complaints about this comic, which i've edited down here:
The problem all lies in the title. It gives away the joke. The thing about a joke is that you are supposed to give a set-up, then a punch-line. Compare the following:
“A horse walks into the bar. The barman sees him and asks ‘Why the long face?’”And
“‘Why the long face?’ said the barman to the person who had just walked in and was a horse.”The latest comic is basically the latter. Imagine, if you will, reading the comic without having seen the title. You see a picture of a Tetris game, you scroll down and what is this? The bottom is curved, it is all wrong! Then you see the caption “HELL.” And you realize that Randall is saying a nerd’s definition of Hell is an unbeatable game. It sounds crap written out like that I know, but come on work with me here. Kind of funny.
What you actually get with this comic is you see the word Hell, then see Tetris and think why is Tetris hell? Then you scroll down and see oh okay the bottom is curved. Huh. And it says Hell again. OK.
This travesty of composition could so easily have been avoided! He could have just called the comic ‘Tetris’ or ‘Blocks’ or something like that. Boring, I know, but the purpose of the title is surely just so people can find the comic when they are looking through the archives? They say “I want to see the comic where Tetris is unbeatable… ah this one is called ‘Tetris’, that’ll be it”. You don’t need to put the joke there. Seriously.
I guess this is why you guys are always going on about Randall getting himself an editor!
It's true! Having the title and the caption be the same just looks silly. Get rid of the title! It's been a long, long time since an xkcd title was worth anything and wasn't just ultra-bland.
Really, the problem is that jokes about tetris are laaaame. First off, there already exist variants of tetris which try to fuck you up, much like this proposal. In terms of sheer frustration expressed purely as a screenshot of a tetris game, there is always this shirt. [incidentally, Randall, when your joke is already basically the same as a shirt on busted tees, you have failed so hard.] There's even Roast Beef's depression+anxiety represented through horrifying tetris pieces.
In fact, on the Achewood thing, one comment on the latter strip wrote: "Nobody else in the universe would think to represent a man's thoughts by using an overly complex, never-gonna-fit Tetris shape dropping inexorably into an area where it will screw everything up." Well, what that guy didn't count on was Randall Munroe! Who, as we know, has never read Achewood.
But the best fucked-up-tetris comedy out there has GOT to be this video, from the magical fantasy land known as "Japan." Not only is it basically the same crazy frustration related to tetris (I mean, the spirit of this video is exactly the same as that of the comic), but it includes the lines "so many bathrooms!" and "why soybean??" How could you go wrong with that, I ask? Seriously you should watch that video, it's so dumb and silly yet it makes me laugh so hard.
Lastly, the alt-text is clearly designed to pander to as broad an audience as possible (mario) while still making nerds think he is referencing their "obscure" game (katamari).
well, that was obvious Update: As expected, someone's made a playable version of this comic. (thanks to Dragon2041 for the link, and sorry that i did not post the guest writing you sent me!) Go play the game. It's made wonderfully; the physics for the most part feel exactly right and I actually laughed playing it, which is not something I did when reading the original comic. There's something about seeing the futility of the whole pursuit, that no matter what you cannot make any progress and yet the game keeps giving you more shit to deal with. If i were an overworked factory person i might consider it a good metaphor for my life. Anyway - especially when my screen was totally full of mishmashed pieces, i kept thinking to myself "why did Randall just draw two pieces? This screencap is way funnier than his comic." Anyway, play it out, see what you think. To me it just confirms that this is a funny idea (if not that new) but poorly executed as a comic.