Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thrustin' Roulette

Hi, I'm J. And I've never been on Chatroulette. But chances are that you have. Or, if you haven't, you've been on at least one of its ten million imitation wannabe competitors.

And I guess my biggest question is: why? Why on earth would you ever go on Chatroulette? And why is it so damn popular? So widely used that everyone needs to imitate and launch a million more websites like it?

For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, the conceit is a simple one to grasp: Chatroulette is a randomized webcam site. As in you sign on, fire up your web cam, and two screens and a chatroom appear, in one screen is your poorly lit face, in the other: a random stranger.

Of course, a person is not always what you will find in that other screen. From what I understand, more often than not you will find a penis. Or a person dressed up like a tiger. Or a person dressed up like a penis. Or (if you're lucky), Ben Folds singing you a song with a crowd of thousands cheering behind him.

Okay, so that last one is pretty awesome. I might go on Chatroulette, digging through penises and furries and Alaskans with ukuleles, in the hopes of coming across Ben Folds serenading me. (Though, his observational song might be something like: "Hey guy, why are your eyes bleeding? Why do you look like you've observed something terrifying? Oh guy, don't cry. No, don't put your eyes out with that letter opener...")

Even the name, Chatroulette, I contend with. Because, in roulette, you are hoping to win and, while you might not win, the punishment is merely loss of money. Imagine if playing Roulette in Atlantic City had the same consequences of Chatroulette. "Sorry kid, double zeros! Now please sit here while this 80-year old man in grease paint and a pair of torn bicycle shorts straddles your face!" Would people still play? Well, some might. The same people who go on Chatroulette.

I suppose Chatroulette is more akin to Russian Roulette: the game played only in James Bond movies. In case you don't know what Russian Roulette is, it involves passing around a gun with one bullet inside and everyone takes turns sticking it in their mouth and pulling the trigger. If you lose this game, you die. Winning is exciting in that you're not dead, but losing really sucks. Problem is, using this analogy, Chatroulette would be like a gun with five thousand bullets loaded in it, and you're playing by yourself, continually shooting yourself in the face.

Then again, I might sooner play Russian Roulette than go on Chatroulette.

So I wonder: what is it that people love about Chatroulette? Is it the fact that you never know what type of penis will appear on your screen? Is it like the excitement of opening a box of Cracker Jacks, only to find that it is filled with odd people (and their penises) you'd never want to know in real life?

Or maybe it's like going to the monkey cage at the zoo. You can walk up to the bars and watch them scratch themselves, smear poo on each other, and do vaguely almost-human things, all while knowing that you're safe from their grasp. On Chatroulette, all of the exhibitionist weirdos in the world are the fecal flinging monkeys, and yet they can never grab you, mangle your face, and drag your cadaver around their cages. You are safe. And if anyone gets too creepy, you can always skip to the next crazy stranger.

Either way, Chatroulette is so hot right now, and so everyone is copying it. There is a Chatroulette for stoned people (penises and canabis). There are tons for gay people (penises and... more penises). I'm sure there's a Catroulette and a Ratroulette and a Drat! roulette (no penises, and it never works). Because when I'm looking to be flashed by someone, I want to decide what TYPE of wacko is flashing me, god dammit!

This is silly, and very, very stupid. Because Chatroulette is a bad enough idea already. We don't need five million more bad ideas flying around, further splitting and dividing the nice solid group of weirdos we've safely confined to Chatroulette. It's better that we keep them all in one place, so we can better observe them and determine how they can be defeated.

The disagreement between myself and technological trends is not something new. FourSquare, to me, seems like the most useless social media tool in the world. I have no interest in knowing that you have just re-captured the mayorship of your bathtub, or that you just checked in at the laundromat to find the sock you left behind. But clearly others think it's important that all of their friends know that they've stopped by the card store on their way home. And they REALLY want to earn that "nickel off a beer" you get by being the mayor of that bar they don't really like.

Not every tech trend is terrible, though. At least in Twitter you have to give some editorial or insight ("At the laundromat, saw a random penis! Sooo chatroulette up in here"). I dig Twitter. I get Twitter. And Facebook. And Blogs. Even Tumblr. All of these things make sense in some way. But FourSquare? Or Chatroulette? No. Those make no sense whatsoever. They are testament to our society and generation's sudden need to over-broadcast, letting people know where we are, how often we've been there, and making sure that every random stranger gets to see our penis.

Unfortunately, it seems like the Internet doesn't follow Darwinian logic. If Chatroulette were a living creature, it would be weighted to the ground by all of its exposed genitalia and would drown when the first Ice Age hit. But because of the democratic nature of the Web, and the fact that there are tons of people sitting around bored with un-noticed penises all day with nothing to do, I am pretty sure that Chatroulette and its ilk will be sticking around for a long, long time.

And if that's the case, perhaps I should just jump on the trend, do some quick manscaping, and start broadcasting my goods to the people. Perhaps it is my duty. Does anyone know where I can buy a grizzly bear costume?

Ra-Ra-Ra-Ra-Roulettes Face,

No comments:

Post a Comment