After years of growing within the confines of the rest of the site, Scott's annual "Ten Best Films" feature finally breaks free and lives as its own entity. Perhaps inspired by the weirdness of films like I ♥ Huckabees and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Scott experiments with graphic design that gives each page a unique look while sticking to a consistent combination of elements. Scott's busy schedule keeps him from writing the whole feature at once as usual, so for the first time he publishes it one day at a time, discussing each film on the list with other Tragic Comedy authors as he goes.
With Tragic Comedy bustling with activity, Erik Bates suggests that the group begin some kind of virtual book club or possibly a movie club, to provide more structure to their loose pop-culture conversations. The idea is a hit, but before it can become reality, the squabbling between Amy Austin and Anna Gregoline that dominates so many other discussions invades this one too, and other members' attempts to steer it back to the book club fail. Scott saves the idea for another time when the feud is over, but years pass and participation dries up, especially after Amy and Anna leave. Scott eventually incorporates the "movie club" idea into a redesign of Thorough Movie Reviews in 2012.
Fed up with months of pointless bickering and insults between a handful of authors, Scott cancels Tragic Comedy with a heavy heart, knowing that it means his project has failed. Response from the authors is sad but accepting. What soon convinces Scott to restore the forum is a comment written by Steve Dunn a few weeks earlier, in which he praised the forum as a place for civil, intelligent discourse among diverse people who would normally retreat to separate web forums catering to their beliefs, exactly what Scott had always wanted it to be. Steve's kind words single-handedly save Tragic Comedy from permanent cancelation, but it is never quite the same again: Scott restores it with the requirement that participants agree to official rules of conduct, and also gives members the ability to hide each other's comments and report each other for rule violations. The forum enters a gentler era mostly concerned with pop culture fads and weird news, with a fraction of its former vitality.
Scott introduced his friend Erik Nelson to the site, who in turn introduced his friend Aaron Fischer, who in turn introduced his friend Mike Eberhart, but it is Mike by far who introduces the most new members to the site. Starting with his sister Wendy Eberhart, Mike brings in his co-workers Kelly Stokes, Jerry Mathis, Justin Woods, Russ Wilhelm, Bill Thompson, Derrek White, Ryan Tut, and Bob Miller, who in turn invite their friends and family Jacque Miller, James Miller, Joanna Woods, John Julitz, and Justin Hampson. Scott even overlooks his usual ban on pseudonyms to allow one of them access, although he does force another to give up a few ghost accounts. Many of these new members become accomplished goo players over time, making the strongest argument yet for a team-based structure to the goo game even though Mike himself is the most outspoken opponent of the notion.
The site enjoys its first planned crossover between sections when David Mitzman and Scott Horowitz inspire "New York Week" in Celebrity Goo Game and the characters return to their New York headquarters in Fin du siècle, gaining new player Michael Paul Cote while there. The crossover is noted in the large photography at the top of the homepage: The goo game's portion is noted with a modern color photograph of downtown over the Brooklyn Bridge and the message "I [Heart] NY," while the RPG's portion has a grayscale 1899 photograph of the same view with the message "I [Skull & Crossbones] NY" after a fictional villain launches a crime spree in the city.
Other players don't realize it at the time, but Celebrity Goo Game has just been joined by someone on the verge of real celebrity. Justin Hampson is introduced to the game by his girlfriend Wendy Eberhart, who was introduced by her brother Mike Eberhart. Justin plays strictly for fun, solving only 154 goos in two and a half years, but he has a good excuse for the lack of free time: A few months after joining the game, he makes his Major League Baseball debut as a pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, going on to play two seasons with the San Diego Padres. Scott doesn't become aware of Justin's celebrity status until the end of his time playing the game, but can't resist turning him into a goo anyway, making Justin the first player in Celebrity Goo Game to become a goo himself.
May 24:Tragic Comedy members learn a lot about each other when the "Four True Things" discussion asks authors to share five hard-to-believe facts about themselves, four true and one made up, then guess who's lying about what. The game is a hit, revealing surprising information about fellow authors, and drawing participation from nearly everyone in the forum at the time. A week later, it is succeeded by the "I Have Never" variation, where members list five things they have never done, a game that proves just as popular.
Scott hits upon a kooky idea for a themed week: Celebrities whose names are homonyms for prominent site members. Lori Lancaster has already requested a goo of Mexican actress Lorena Velazquez (her maiden name) and the concept has worked, so Scott creates seven new goos including presidential candidate John Edwards for Fin du siècle player John R. Edwards, NBA star Chris Webber for Tragic Comedy author Kris Weberg, and porn actress Nadine Roussial for goo game stalwart Nadine Russell. The themed week stretches the definition of "celebrity" but is a hit nonetheless, inspiring a recurring tradition with such goos as comedian Jackie Mason for newly-married Jackie Mason (formerly using her maiden name on the site), evangelist Adrian Rogers for new member Adrianne Rodgers, R&B crooner Craig David for former goo player Dave Craig, and more.
Competition in the now-daily goo game becomes so intense that victory seems a privilege reserved for a few dedicated experts, especially Mike Eberhart, Russ Wilhelm, Megan Baxter, Jerry Mathis, Elliot Farney, Denise Sawicki, Todd Brotsch, and Steve West. But none of these players achieves the fearsome reputation of Amy Austin, who Jerry nicknames "Darth Goo" for her apparently insurmountable mastery of the game. She guesses nearly every goo correctly within minutes of its publication, becomes the first player in three years to win a pair of rounds back-to-back, and blows away Denise's long-standing record of consecutive correct guesses, going for nearly three months straight without missing a goo. Amy's domination of the game forces Scott to get smarter about how he creates goos and to de-emphasize the competition so amateurs can play well too.
The site has numerous soldiers and sailors in its ranks, inspiring member E. M. to request "Military History Week" in the goo game. Scott agrees on the condition that the seven goos adhere to his standard rules of diversity in gender (at least 3 women), race (at least 3 non-Caucasians), nationality (at least 3 non-Americans), and category (several non-Military goos). Between E.'s original requests, an outstanding request from Mike Eberhart, and his own creations, Scott is able to strike this balance, but the result is a bizarre mishmash of Hollywood stars playing soldiers, figures from Chinese mythology, and virtually-unknown French resistance members from WWII. The themed week misses its mark so much that Scott throws away his diversity rules and declares that what makes for good goos is the only criteria that matters in the game forevermore.
In April 2005, Aaron Fischer announces his retirement from the goo game while he still has the all-time highest score, but he keeps his member account and continues playing occasionally. Three months later there is a more complete exit: Bickering and veiled personal attacks on Tragic Comedy take their toll when Anna Gregoline makes a sudden exit during a conversation about the infamous McDonald's coffee burn lawsuit. Anna is the forum's most prolific author, as well as an accomplished goo game player, Fin du siècle player, Predict the Oscars contestant, and more, but she abruptly cancels her member account and disappears from the entire site for months, eventually returning to lurk and write occasional brief comments.
A year after the conclusion of The Weekly Curiosity, Scott is ready to launch his next live RPG: Abre los ojos, a science-fiction game about time-travelers with bionic vision pursuing escaped fugitives across history. The game has numerous site members among its players, including John E Gunter, Aaron Shurtleff, Michael Paul Cote, John & Edee Viola, John Pierpoint, Deirdre DeLay, Tom Bruser, and Patrick Little, so Scott creates an extensive minisite for the game detailing all aspects of their characters and adventures. The code he writes is a test run for his full site redesign, proving to himself that the structure will work. When Scott is promoted to management at work in October 2005 and winds up with less free time, he must cancel the RPG, and the minisite never gets integrated into the public site as he intended.
The site's biggest crossover event to date is based on colorful New Orleans: There's "Nawlins Week" in the goo game, a review of voodoo-themed film The Skeleton Key, and an adventure set there in Fin du siècle that has the group meet E.J. Bellocq and Marie Laveau. Unhappily, Tragic Comedy joins the mix two weeks later when Hurricane Katrina destroys the city. For the second time (the first being 9/11), Scott links to the American Red Cross on his site and asks members to donate money, as the site's way of thanking the city for all the inspiration.
In summer 2005, Scott undertakes the ultimate rebuilding of his site: The new version will completely separate content from formatting, allowing him to redesign unlimited times without ever having to reprogram again. When his promotion at work in October 2005 takes away his free time, he struggles to keep up with the project, putting the goo game on hiatus and avoiding his social life in hopes of meeting his New Years Day deadline. When he finally gets there, Scott is crushed when he can't bring himself to finish the last of the work after completing 90% of the new site. In disappointment at the biggest web failure of his life, Scott scraps the new site entirely, waiting for another two months before he begins to devise another version, this time much simpler and less ambitious. Scott suffers the entire frustrating incident alone since he is determined to keep any future rebuild of the site a secret.
June 14, 2005: Competition in the now-daily goo game becomes so intense that victory seems a privilege reserved for a few dedicated experts, especially Mike Eberhart, Russ Wilhelm, Megan Baxter, Jerry Mathis, Elliot Farney, Denise Sawicki, Todd Brotsch, and Steve West. Read more...
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