Jay & Miles X-Plain the X-Men

HAWK TALK – Doctor Internet

This would usually be a skip week, but the world is still being a jerk, so we made you a bonus, entirely unedited, and almost entirely off-topic episode. This time, we talked about the Internet.

Topics, roughly:

  • Blazing fast 28.8 Kbps dial-up
  • AOL CDs
  • Final Fantasy, MIDI-style
  • Angelfire vs. Carrd
  • The Gaming Intelligence Agency
  • The Brunching Shuttlecocks
  • The finest memes of the early 2000s
  • Chaos
  • Social media, as explained by Jay
  • Social media, as baffles Miles
  • Podcasts vs. the Internet


  1. There’s still one decent forum still going. Primetimer.com . The successor to Television Without Pity and Fametracker, if anyone remembers those. There’s a comics forum that doesn’t see much action, but it only takes a couple of people to start a discussion.

    I prefer to download content onto my desktop PC and consume it at my leisure. Even I’m going to listen straight away and then delete it. Sure, sometimes I listen to a stream. But I just prefer to own my content. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned, or I’ve seen too many sites and services vanish. And certainly, anything I buy from Bandcamp I download. Anyone else, or is everyone happy with just streaming their content?

    1. I live in a rural area with satellite internet (or is it radio?). Either way, streaming really isn’t an option for me. I can’t even get dlc. Although, Sony closing down their older stores shows that digital content can go away.

  2. I just remembered you wondered why people watch games instead of just playing them. Sometimes I don’t have the skill and/or patience and/or right system to play certain games. Watching other people can take the sting out. Plus, having to buy them in the first place. Twitch and YT are free.

    1. I remember standing at the arcade game outside the supermarket, watching the demo play and pretending I was actually playing the game.

      That was fun enough, but if I’d had the quarters I’d ABSOLUTELY have rather been playing the game.

      I can see watching people play to determine if the game looks worth buying, or to get hints or advice on strategies, etc. But doesn’t seem like a good substitute for playing.

      On the other hand, I’ve enjoyed listening to people play table-top roleplaying game sessions (which can be hit or miss. Some groups can do it well, many can’t), so what maybe I’m just being hypocritical.

  3. I used to love engaging people on the mania.com or old CBR.com forums. The moderators were fairly reasonable and I met some really cool people there.

    Over the last year I have found myself growing further and further away from social media. They’ve become breeding grounds for the growing sense of tribalism. Without a middle ground I have nothing to stand on. I also find that I experience less stress and have more peace of mind which, frankly, is worth never going online again.

    Except for this site, League of Real Gentlemen and youtube for music videos and comic commentators who aren’t associated with any “movements”. I’m thinking mostly of Comicsgate and its adherents.

  4. I remember a bit about AOL, but never really saw much there. I think it was before they really had a connection to the true internet.
    I really got on the internet when I went to college in the mid ’90s. There had in dorm ethernet so got to avoid the modem sounds or tying up phone lines.

    The parts I remember about “classic” internet are USENET as a precursor to more specialized online forums, and MUDs (text based MMORPGs over telnet (though less of the massive part).
    Rather than AIM, I was more in to ICQ.
    ICQ had a cool feature where you could just hit a button and talk to a random person (if they were marked open for that). I actually met a few good friends that way. Of course, given today’s internet, such a feature would be totally unworkable. Such are the things we have lost.

    I really don’t know how to replace forums. One of my favorite forums, run by the manufacturer of one of my favorite RPGs shut down last year. They said the security issues just weren’t worth the hassle anymore and said we should just use Facebook instead, but even facebook groups don’t offer near the same experience as a real forum.

    1. Facebook groups tend to be echo chambers for the popular past time of bashing whatever it is they claim to be fans of. I find there is little real discussion if anyone interacts with you at all.

  5. Ah the old days when you could use your landline, or go online, but not both at the same time.

    When the modem whine as it logged in was an abstract tune you could almost hum along with. The nerd national anthem…

    When you were chucked off your connection after two hours and had to dial up again unless you had invested in the broadband option, which was exorbitantly expensive and still had lousy speed, relatively speaking.

    And the broken image links that would pepper any page you loaded.

    Those were the days… the aggravating, tantalising days.

    I once downloaded a 200Mb file (an AVI of the CGI ReBoot Ridefilm) through dialup back in the late nineties or very early oughts. I needed to install a download manager specially for the job and it STILL took something like two and a half days. In fairness, it did work in the end, but I had to be REALLY motivated.

    (I have to give a shout out to the Captain Marvel website which was a deliberately retro deep dive into pure 90’s webpage design… it was awful, but in a GOOD way)

    The internet does make finding people with similar interests to your own so much easier than I ever dreamed it could be, no matter HOW (tastefully) weird they might be, and that is a constant source of amazement to me, who grew up completely pre-internet. I thought myself amazingly lucky to have made some friends in other countries from writing to people from comic newletter pages, fanzines and hobby magazines. (And I still count myself amazingly lucky for that, because many of those people are still friends decades later, though we have somewhat speedier and responsive forms of communication nowadays)

    I confess I much prefer to download (yes, from the website) and listen to podcasts on my standalone MP3 player, as they were my usual commuting listening, back when commuting was a thing, so I now use them for my evening walks. Streaming I’m hoping to get more used to, but using my phone as an MP3 player as well still just seems… weird, that’s what I have an MP3 player for, after all. My phone is for phoning, texting (when I must), Zoom meetings and the odd game or two…. though truth be told the games are probably what I do most of it.

    Whilst technology doesn’t scare me or worry me I do find social media daunting. (I just try to recall my parents, who took to the internet like ducks to water when in their 70’s and would casually do things like book entire holidays online, years before I even had broadband)

    Twitter I will sometimes look at, but I always balk at diving into, especially as (as anyone who has read my posts here will likely agree) I could never work out how to be so sparse with my words, or worse, spelling, just to accommodate such a small character count.

    I use Facebook, but more as a sort of social hub for staying in touch with old friends and colleagues, and I would never take my news intake from there.

    I like tumblr for it’s relative ease of use, utter randomness, and somewhat less toxic atmosphere (more or less), even if it can also be a bit of an echo chamber.

    I miss the messageboard format too, I preferred them to the old rec.art newsgroups whose layout I found confusing and hard to navigate. I liked the livejournal format and dreamwidth maintains that pretty much exactly (Reflexive quick plug for scans_daily, ahem)

  6. You’re comments about how different things online were for different generations of people had me thinking about the apparent shift in how kids approach internet safety I’ve noticed. I’m just turning 20 this year and I remember as an elementary student having class activities focusing on the ‘dangers of the internet’ where we were told to not even share our first name or the country we lived in because then someone would be able to find us. Now I see teenagers and even younger kids sharing much more personal information fairly freely. Maybe I was just more effected by the internet safety classes, but I’d be curious to see if similar curriculum still exists or if it’s changed.

  7. Ah man, way to get me flashing back to the days of All Your Base are Belong to Us, Badger, End of the World, and even Shoes (though that I see as more early YouTube). It’s amazing thinking of how humor then had a longer lifespan (i.e. you would have to satisfy yourself with one of those videos for weeks if not months). Granted, then I look back at how Bugs Bunny will milk certain references/jokes for a decade in old Looney Tunes or the English are still making Spanish Armada references by the 1610s, so clearly this shrinkage has gone on for a while and is linked to speed and ease of production.

    ANYWAY, I actually got off Twitter from the doom spirals but how Jay describes it makes me want to try again and be VERY specific about how I engage.

  8. Somewhere out there, there is an alternate universe in which Lynx went on to be the most successful browser, and everything is text-based, blisteringly fast, and can be navigated rapidly with simple keystrokes. And that is a better universe.

    As it is, my main request of browser developers is: at least make it straightforward to toggle JavaScript on and off as desired. Give me an option to put in the toolbar. Please?

  9. Interesting episode! I’m a similar age to you guys, so a lot of what you said was very familiar (except my experiences were in the UK).

    I noticed that in your discussion about social media, you didn’t talk about Facebook. What are your thoughts on that? With my particular alignment of mental issues, it’s the one platform I can really cope with, particularly because of the threaded conversations, and the fact that you can come back after time away and pick up a conversation where you left off. With Twitter, Discord, Tumblr and the rest, I either have to read EVERYTHING so that I don’t miss what’s going on (a full time job…) or nothing (to maintain my sanity).

    As a follow up to that – are there any specific X-Plain the X-Men groups on Facebook? I keep trying to interact on other media because I really want to chat about episodes, but I just don’t have the mental bandwidth to use different sites. I’m in other X-Men groups, but I’d love to have somewhere that’s specific to you guys.

  10. So, a couple of the guys who were with the Gaming Intelligence Agency (at least in its classic form) is also still around doing video game projects – Jeremy Parish and Ray Barnholt are among the co-founders of the Retronauts podcast and blog (which has survived two site transitions – first from 1up to USGamer, and then USGamer to independence), with Parish also working for Limited Run Games (and occasionally writing liner notes for video game music vinyl releases)

  11. As a long-time X-Plain The X-Men listener – and someone who wrote the Gaming Intelligence Agency letters column for over a year – it’s always cool when y’all mention the GIA. 🙂

    And yeah, building off of what CountZeroOr said above, there are definitely contributors to the site (and site-adjacent people) that went on to have long and substantial careers in games or gaming journalism, there are people who’ve definitely kept their hand in as a hobby, and there are people who left games behind almost entirely. It was a great experience regardless!

  12. A few things-
    YES Brunching Shuttlecocks! The Geek Hierarchy was printed and taped to my wall for years after Brunching shut down. And Brunching’s spinoff, Fluffy Little Industries guided me into my (admittedly limited) history of computer games beyond Popcap. They’d review flash games, leading me to almost a decade on Kingdom of Loathing.

    The website for the movie Sphere was still up until a year or 2 ago. It used to be a good landmark for 1998 websites.

    I’ll join Jay in mourning the prominence of forums. I’ve tried to navigate Discord and it feels like trying to follow a non-linear conversation. I feel like with forums you looked through when you had a question or time, maybe once a week, and it was there waiting for you. From what I can tell Discord requires constant attention. Many groups that I used to be active in only really exist as Discords now and I’ve just had to let them slip though my fingers.

    I game incredibly little, but twitch gets 75% of my screen time. I like having background entertainment that I don’t have to pay super close attention to so I don’t have to worry about missing the plot. I’ve curated streamers that make me feel like the world isn’t a shitty place. They’ve curated communities that are fun and not toxic, though I tend to be a lurker because I’m not much for small talk and usually have a project in my hands. Many of them focus on found narrative in video games. I initially began watching in 2010 through Desert Bus For Hope, a charity which may revolve around a terrible video game, but during which the game remains, thankfully, incidental.

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