Welcome to The Essentials, a new concept here on JFO. Our goal today is to take a look at an essential facet of the Marathon community, some well-preserved record of perseverance, conflict, creativity, brotherhood, and so on. In this case, I’ll be taking apart the infamous Pfhorums thread 2.5D Game Discussion post by post, analyzing everything that occurred in this great war of CLIQUE vs. Sweatervest (a.k.a. Mr. Cardigan). Although I don’t have the time or energy right now to go over the entire thread, I’ll take you on a journey through the first page. Won’t you please join me?
This thread is historically significant for a number of reasons. It was the final, decisive factor in demonizing the term “2.5D” to the extent that learned readers of #a1 roll their eyes automatically when they see that sequence of letters. It was the last thread to make its way to the Legendary section of Pfhorums, and not entirely coincidentally was the last great show of force from most or all of CLIQUE. Sweatervest fled Pfhorums shortly after the thrilling conclusion of the thread, having exhausted his strength through posting roughly seven thousand words, subsequently earning his appearance as a lifeless shell of a stickman in patrick’s unrivalled Spirit of the Age (c.f. “Uki’s Big Date”). Even ray posted here, thereby attaining his boast of 100% Legendary posts.
Out of all Legendary threads, this one is probably the most substantial. As Treellama said today upon reading it again, “It’s like a small novel.”
Post 1. A user with the deliciously misspelled name cheif23 poses a seemingly innocent question: “What were some other 2.5D games you have played besides Marathon.” It was this post that made me wonder if cheif23 was a troll. Possibly most interesting about this first post is that it’s a completely bland question that a reasonable person should expect to sink into the realm of forgotten discussions. $lave summarizes this sentiment in the second post, a blue, enlarged, serif “g_g.” Things are just heating up. The third post is also short, with W’rk claiming that he has played Pong (which I doubt, even if it is a 2.5D game). W’rk has set up the usual kind of ending for these threads: a chorus, #alephone style. Cheif23 responds halfheartedly, recognizing the folly in directly opposing a member of CLIQUE during this time. His poor attempt at keeping everyone on-topic is admirable and he will soon be forgotten. Finally we get a word from Treellama in the next message, which prefigures the flamewar that is just around the corner. He humors me at the same time, dredging up the old “Minotaur” joke, God bless him. An emotionless plea of not-guilty issues from cheif’s fingertips, countered by Treellama’s suggestion that he rename the thread and list which games cheif thinks are similar to Marathon. Right jolly chap epstein lets the good times roll with his own private Minotaur. Jessenator, perhaps the first and the last neutral voice of reason, tries to deflect accusations of 2.5D‘s offensiveness and suggests Dark Forces, a first-person shooter with its own surprising ties to Aleph One: the first collaborative project I attempted was a total conversion of Marathon to Dark Forces back in 2005. Everything is linked, I suppose.
After what seems like forever, we get our first wall of text from heavy-hitter sweatervest, who has already been in similar arguments elsewhere on Pfhorums. He claims that 2.5D means “something very specific,” which is a portentously vague assertion that contradicts iteself, setting up a running theme for sweatervest’s subsequent replies. For now, he is content to say that it does have “a quite consistent and useful definition. The term itself is not flamebait, though if it is associated with people who use it incorrectly I can see how that interpretation evolved.” If only, Mr. Cardigan, if only. The rest of the post describes some “2.5D” games, but no one got past his first paragraph anyway, so it was all in vain. I pop in here, providing the only response I can in the hope that I might keep out of the brewing storm as well as I can while still providing occasional rays of light to others. I know it will be a long argument. I don’t know it will be an incredible one.
A volley comes from Treellama in the 12th post, and his gun-toting avatar lends weight to the notion that he is already hostile to sweatervest. He says that the cardigan is wrong for the first of many times; while sweatervest thinks he has his finger on a specific meaning of “2.5D,” his meaning is meaningless to everyone else. So Treellama believes. Sweatervest fights back. He accuses Treellama of not knowing the meaning of 2.5D: “Treellama you seem to have a hard time understanding that if you aren’t familiar with a word or its definition, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.” Ominous overuse of “that” and “doesn’t” in this sentence, as well as the omission of a comma and perhaps the message’s identity as the 13th post, will come back to haunt everyone in later messages; the explanations only get longer and less clear. He points more fingers by saying, “It has a specific meaning to people who know what it means, and clearly you are not one of those people.” I enter the fray for a second time that I might point out some critical spelling errors. My warning goes sadly unnoticed.
Treellama uses and demands references like a fool. He does not know what he’s asking for: sweatervest begins his long and glorious campaign of referring to himself. While neither he nor I would “use the fact that [Wikipedia's] 2.5D article is a bit aimless and inconcise as proof that the term itself is ill-defined,” he should understand from the article that he’s treading in dangerous territory even for people who waste their time trying to define things (whether this is a shot at Wikipedians or at sweatervest I know not). We can regard his aside that “many things are defined a little differently in physics than they are in math” as yet another sign of what is to come. Keep in mind a few posts in the future his claim that he “already did [his] best to explain what 2.5D means” (which implies that he had to formulate a definition of his own); however, the main thrust of this post is the most important: “…if you think 2.5D is not a well-defined word, then how about defending that instead of simply posting ‘It’s not a word’. My responses have been much more than ‘Yes it is’.” Oh, boy. Treellama’s reply immediately tackles the cardigan’s last sentence. He posits that his duty is to negate sweatervest’s empty assertions until sweatervest can rise to his own challenge. Yeah, it’s already getting confusing.
Although sweatervest admirably begins the eighteenth post with “Dude,” it does not continue with the requisite seriously; thus, he dooms himself(s) to oblivion. “You are assuming that I made up the definition of 2.5D,” he says, following with, “(which I already explicity said twice that I DIDN’T)”–even though he implicitly said once before those two times that HE DID in fact formulate a definition or explanation. “It may not apply to you because you are not familiar with it, but for you to sit in front of your computer and claim that nobody in the world would know what I am talking about is just plain silly.” Again, sweatervest places the blame on Treellama for not being able to understand the nebulous definition that sweatervest may or may not have invented himself and/or taken from Wikipedia. While the question “Doesn’t the mere existence of a wikipedia article [...] suggest that it is a legitimate term” might be legitimate somewhere else, it certainly does not mean what he wants it to mean: ok, let’s assume it’s a legitimate term. Where’s the legitimate definition? He then decides to take the Wikipedia article’s “definition,” telling us that it “describes both kinds of 2.5D that I talked about (2D engine with 3D gameplay and 3D engine with 2D gameplay) and does a pretty good job of removing any possible contradictions,” possibly not noticing that he has introduced up to four more terms that will later require fastidious discussions of their own. His last post on the first page ends with a classic NO U and he appears to lapse with Treellama into an impasse.
Ryoko, Psycho Hose Beast, Nazi, Admin, steps in to shout at these noisy children. He also becomes the second person to challenge sweatervest for a respectable definition. He is not the last.
Finally, the first page comes to a close in a thoughtful manner, thanks to me. I give my own take on sweatervest’s earlier complaint that “no one should ever say anything because we’ll never understand each other.” Signs, signifiers, and signification, oh my!
Here ends the first lesson.