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Ask Massively: Whitebackgroundgate, image captions, and sockpuppets


OK, AndyMonahan. You win. You broke me. This Ask Massively is for you.

AndyMonahan asked (approximately eight million times): It doesn't matter what games you cover as I can't spend more than five minutes on the site before my eyes bleed. Any news on a choice of background colour?

Do you really think you're going to like the only answer you know I can give?!

About two and a half years ago (seriously, it was that long ago), the Joystiq network (or at least two-thirds of it) got a massive site overhaul that came to be known among our commentariat as "whitebackgroundgate" because it replaced our creaky old tan, black, and green website with a sleek white-and-grey modern skin.

By the ensuing reaction, you might have thought we shot someone's dog. People went ballistic over the new white background and the low-contrast layout.

The staffers at the time were just happy to have something that mostly worked. Our old site was falling apart at the seams, and if the new site had been hot pink but functional, dude, we would have taken it.

Of course, the "look" of the site really isn't up to us. We have no control over it. We can control certain elements within posts, certain static pages, certain banners and sidebar elements, but not the fact that the site is white or where the ads go or what our logo looks like or whether we'll ever get the day/night color scheme switch we asked for way back when. We really are just here for editorial content. Those other bells and whistles are decided on by the AOL techies, and I can't speak for them.

Since it has been so long since our last revamp, I think you can probably assume that another revamp is coming eventually. I don't know what it will look like. It could be worse than this one. It could be better. It could even be hot pink. If we're really lucky, it won't have blurry images that take up 90% of the screen. I just don't know. You might hate it even more than this one, Andy. But there's your answer, weak as it is.

Congratulations, you passed the test!
Protip for anyone else out there with bleeding eyes: The bigger browsers have plugins to allow you to change a site's colors yourself. A really simple one for Chrome, for example, is called High Contrast; it just inverts and/or greyscales website colors so that a black-on-white site is suddenly white-on-black (shown above). If you dabble with CSS, you'll find even more plugins open to you, like Change Colors for Chrome and Stylish for Firefox.

[Edit/update: Reader WrecklessEric posted a cool not-white Stylish template for those of you so inclined!]

Doopslayer wrote: I wish you guys captioned your pictures. Extremely annoying!

I swear we're not trying to annoy you! That is a limitation of our CMS. We caption pictures with (rather dated) alt text, which is the only such input available to us when we upload images; the current standard is the title element, but our CMS lacks it. Reader pat728uk helpfully pointed out that you can right-click images to inspect them and view the alt text. If you're a regular Massively user, you might consider Chrome's Visible Alts or Firefox's Popup ALT Attribute plugins to make alt-text on images behave as title text. I use the former myself. If I didn't, I'd miss out on most of the snarky Easter eggs Eliot hides in his images.

SusanRamsey and a bunch of other obvious sockpuppets wrote on totally unrelated articles: Don't worry about running outta games to play; you should check out Age of Wushu. It might be worth your while.

The sockpuppet viral spam is only making a good game look bad (and sockpuppetry is an insta-ban on Massively anyway). I hope you got paid for your trouble, at least.

What should you play? Where is the MMO industry headed? How does Massively operate? Has Lord British lost his marbles? Why is the edit button on a timer? Should "monoclegate" be hyphenated? Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce submits to your interrogations right here in Ask Massively every Thursday. Drop your questions in the comments below or ping us at Just ask!

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