Monthly Archives: April 2012
Okay, stick with me here. This is going to sound a little strange, but how would you like to go on a journey on this journey?
The last entry of my Journey to the Centre of the Internet was focused on a single website, but it was fairly general. This week, I want to talk about the vast database of walkthroughs, cheat codes and info about every video game ever made (pretty much), called GameFAQs.
But I want to get a little more specific. I don’t want to discuss all the guides and cheat codes, or the major social message boards like Current Events, Poll of the Day or Random Insanity, or even their contests. Surely, those have made their impact on Internet culture too, but there’s a hidden subculture among the boards at GameFAQs that you might otherwise never have known about.
To explain how this works, I’ll need to explain how the GameFAQs forums (or boards) work. For every video game ever published, there is a message board that gamers can use to ask questions, work through trouble spots or talk about their favourite moments. Every game. The big titles have hopping boards with thousands of users and hundreds of thousands of posts. But hey, you can talk about Pong if you want! Just don’t expect a lot of other people to be there with you.
Game boards have a rule known as “topicality”. You must discuss the game in question on the board. You can’t just start talking about politics or last night’s episode of the Daily Show. There are boards for those things. If you break the topicality rule, you’ll be moderated. Break the rules enough and you’ll be banned.
But how do you enforce boards for every game? The short answer is: you don’t. There’s no way. So, on the boards of game systems that nobody uses anymore, like the Commodore 64, topicality is not enforced. It’s essentially lawless. An entire “frontier” of message boards where the law of the land doesn’t often apply. The consoles are called “dead systems” and they’re filled with “dead boards” or “secret boards”.
(It should be noted that some old consoles, like the NES, maintain topicality. Part of the reason dead systems are dead is because few people EVER used them.)
With no topicality, any topic could theoretically spring up and be allowed. This created sub-culture communities on the boards. Some boards for ancient games became quite active communities of their own. These boards often fill holes in the otherwise nearly limitless selection of topic-specific message boards. A great example is the board Mad Stalker which has become the unofficial romance advice board. The name of the game usually has something to do with the type of topic that springs up around it. Humour and self-deprecation certainly played a role in the selection of Mad Stalker being the romance board.
These boards aren’t advertised on the main site. You won’t find them in the main board list. So if you didn’t know they existed, you’d probably never find them. This created the “board hunters.” People who, in their spare time, visit every dead board in every dead system, one by one. They make notes on what they find, and leave posts of their own behind for others, giving advice on what could be ahead.
Since the boards aren’t very active, posts can last a long time before they’re purged and archived. One of the goals for many board hunters is finding the oldest topic threads on the site. In fact, there are still a handful of topics that were originally posted eleven years ago in 2001, that haven’t either been purged and archived or reached 500 posts (at which point, they automatically close). It is considered bad form to link to these ancient threads, because trolls often like to flood them with posts to force a closure before the thread would have closed naturally. I’ve only found two or three, but I only know of one that’s still “alive” so to speak.
It’s not a very lively hobby, and not many board hunters still stalk the dead systems, but it’s a fascinating little subculture of its own and one that could ONLY exist on GameFAQs, simply because of how the forums are set up, and just how many boards there are. What few board hunters are still around hang out mostly on the board of the old Commodore 64 game Zamzara.
Maybe that’s where your own board hunting journey will start.