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In the dark and listless times before the Internet, game designers were able to hide the Infinity+1 Sword in such a way that it took years to find. They could keep you from the end of the game in any arbitrary way they liked, or they could be just plain mean. And if you wanted to scoop all the last bits of juicy goodness out of your games, you needed the Official Guide (at the low, low price of $14.99).
Thankfully, all that's changed now. Websites have sprung up where dedicated gamers can get together and pore over every screen for the smallest clues, fight every fight a thousand times, try any combination of items, and share the resulting knowledge with the world at large.
GameFAQs, with thousands upon thousands of FAQs, walkthroughs, codes, tips, information, and discussion forums on just about every video game ever made, is one of the largest such sites. Merged with GameSpot back in 2004, much to the annoyance of some users.
This site is home to pretty much every type of online persona known to man, and many other fan-based tropes such as Fan Dumb, and Unpleasable Fanbase. In addition to this, they also named the tropes Hot Skitty-On-Wailord Action (after a meme on the Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire Board), and 8.8 (a reaction to a GameSpot review of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess).
The site is the definitive destination for any game help. If GameFAQs doesn't have anything on a game, the game doesn't exist.
One notable fact about the site is how basic the forums are compared to others, although there are plugins for browsers which support them which give improved functionality. Rather than the BB code favoured by many more recent forums, it still uses HTML (italics and bold text only), users can preview their message before posting (they have the option of spellchecking it at the same time), and there are no avatars. Most GameFAQs users prefer it that way. Topics automatically get locked if they reach 500 posts, and creating a 500 post topic is considered an achievement of some sorts; indeed, there is a "instant 500 post topic!" meme which is mentioned when a particularly controversial topic is brought up. To make up for this, every game and system announced has its own board, plus there are a ton of social boards, regional boards, topical boards, and private boards. The unused boards for relatively obscure old games are often located by "board hunters" and turned into unofficial social boards as well. Some of the more well known social boards include the following:
- Current Events (CE; 400): Largest of the social boards as of June 3rd. Most People here have moved from RI because of the amount of Roleplaying, and just want to chat. They call themselves "CEMen", an innuendo to the boards, in that There Are No Girls on the Internet... and the gamete for males. It's also home to some of the site's most infamous suicides (see below), such as the church burning suicide or the child porn/"candy" suicide. The Wiki Rule can be found here.
- Life the Universe and Everything (LUE; 402): Notable in that new users can no longer access it. Only accounts which were made before a certain date are allowed to post, and even among those accounts only those that signed up for LUE access before the deadline (Accounts created after this date promoted to moderator stats may view, but not post, on the board). This was an attempt to kill off the board when it got out of hand. In effect, the first private board. LUE is basically what 4chan would be like if it had stricter moderators trying and failing to keep the users in check.
- In the past few years LUE has calmed down a lot due to being closed off. Now, most of the users are in college or jobs. There are several lawyers and teachers, and LUE is not the mass of chaos it once was. Many moderators are frequent social posters on LUE, as well as many moderators were chosen from LUE specifically. LUE is now one of the most tamest and mature boards on GameFAQs, maybe even the internet due to being closed off and having the same user-base, many of whom know, and even date each other.
- Random Insanity (RI; 403): quickly spun into one of the largest social boards on GameFAQs, and like its name implies, is chock full of nonsense and random posting focusing more on social topics and small factions of users. It could be equated to a less offensive, slightly more controlled LUE that doesn't share LUE's history of rise and downfall; RI is and was always at a constant.
- WoT (408), it originated as a forum to discuss the events of 9/11 and then the war on terror. One of the two acknowledged instances of board decay; it quickly devolved into a social board, and due to the topicality issues, the board was temporarily removed, then reinstated as a hidden board. In the process, it was officially renamed from "War on Terrorism" to WOT. The politics discussions were then given its own board, 261.
- Poll of the Day or PotD (3): One of the older boards. It used to have strict topicality, being about the current poll, or for users to post their own polls, but no longer has it, and is rarely used for poll talk beyond early in the morning; in fact, most regulars proclaim the first rule is not to talk about the poll.
- G:Other (825): A private board that its owner won in a contest. Its name comes from a PotD meme that lead to the current lack of topicality. Unlike the rest of the private boards, it has mostly open invitations, requiring only the nomination by a current user.
- GameFAQs Contests (8): A social board which was supposed to be PotD for contest season. It keep its very own wiki. Has a historic animosity against PotD because the level of traffic on each board depended on whether a contest was running.
Special interest boards
- Paranormal/Conspiracy (214): as the name says, the board is for discussing conspiracy theories and the paranormal, but has a known tilt towards the latter, and is more often filled with creepypasta and outlandish conspiracy theories. Less decay than WoT, but still enough for SB Allen to create a private board for more serious discussion in 2010.
- Roleplaying and Fanfiction (200115): The board for Roleplaying of all sorts on Gamefaqs. It is known for the high quality of writing often found there and for abrasive community. Notably, one of the R Ps was almost published as a comic. It is also the only Social Board on the whole site there it is possible to mark someone for being off topic.
- Anime & Manga - Other Titles (2000121): Originally created for those miscellaneous anime that don't fit into any of the other categories (Currently Airing, Gundam, Super Robots, etc), it has become by far the most active anime discussion board, known affectionately by its members as "OT-kun". Discussion ranges over all topics of Otaku culture, and even has its own wiki, which primarily houses contest results and archived "epic topics".
Dead game boards
- Snack Attack (579987): A board for a game which was used by users to spam flags for messages its posters considered inappropriate. An infamous feud with 313 developed when users disrupted an attempt to create "GameFAQs fastest 500 topic". Snack Attack was closed back in 2006, and linking to violations was no longer allowed.
- Hellhole (573081): In some ways the successor of Snack Attack, Hellhole is a board where moderators, hackers, and trolls alike come together. Officially, the unofficial purpose of it is to get a second opinion on a moderation, but it is also home to all sorts of e-drama. Some moderators are on the record as saying that Hellhole's name couldn't possibly be more appropriate.
- Football (584743): A board for the Atari 2600 version of The Beautiful Game, it is many times more active than the actual board devoted to Soccer and one of the largest sportstalk messageboards on the Internet.
- The United Kingdom Board (313): The largest of the regional boards, in fact larger than all the other regional boards put together.
- funny (814): A board which admins randomly allow and block users from. The purpose being to keep the community on the board in flux to prevent it from going the same way as LUE. Later went through some drama, got a name change, and became a generic social board.
- That's What She Said (835): A recent private board that seems to be rising in popularity due to an incident making over 50 people admin of the board. Mass chaos ensued.
A full list can be found here.
Members who are bored or wanting to leave with a bang will try to either break every rule as much as possible until they are stopped by the moderators, or break the more serious rules like posting links to porn. Often, both will be attempted simultaneously. People may also openly joke that they are under the age of 13, which results in an instant ban since there is a federal law saying you have to be at least 13 in order to register on the forums. In fact, the whole rule of being underaged is such Serious Business by the moderators that even jokingly saying you're still a fetus will get you banned very quickly (although this was changed recently). Most members usually pay no mind to someone attempting to account suicide, but there have been a few that posted in such a way that people encouraged the behavior before the user met the banhammer. In these cases, the phrase "suicide is your only option" is commonly used, in reference to a time when account suicide was, in fact, the only way to get your account deactivated (the ability to have an account closed rather than banned has since been restored). When LUE was at its height, account suicides were very prevalent and came to be known as LUEicide. When LUE was sealed off, the LUEicide phenomenon trailed off because getting a LUE-access account banned meant that you could never go back to LUE under any circumstances.
The site is known for having incredibly harsh rules concerning Spoilers. Spoil At Your Own Risk is heavily enforced for pretty much any game that hasn't hit its release date yet (mostly due to the site's strong anti-piracy stance). Spoilers Off is completely averted, and there is no statute of limitations for spoilers on GameFAQs and people have been punished for posting the endings of Shakespeare plays and even for saying that the Titanic sinks at the end of the movie. There have even been cases of people being punished for "spoiling" the fact that Jesus dies and is resurrected in the Bible. Exceptions include historical events, or any plot revelations which have been used by their publishers in advertisement: for example, the fact that Darth Vader is Luke's father is not considered a spoiler.
Speaking of Digital Piracy Is Evil, the site has a very strict stance when it comes to discussing borderline legal/illegal subjects like ROMs and emulators. While it is obvious that posting links to get content illegally will get you moderated, sometimes, just talking about them without giving any links may get you moderated just for referencing it, even if the activity in question is perfectly legal. Same thing with any kind of console Homebrew (even iPhone jailbreaking after jail breaking became explicitly legal in the U.S. falls under this, as violations of the license agreement falls under "illegal activities")
A prevalant problem on the boards are fad topics. Sometimes, someone may see a certain topic and try to recreate it in a new topic with a spin on it. This in turn can cause people to copycat and do the same thing, producing a huge chain list of similar topics filled with nonsense. The Super Smash Bros. Brawl board at one point had a fad topic outbreak so bad that the moderators for just that board imposed a 10 point karma loss and a warning on the user's account if they posted a fad topic in the board.
The moderation system is infamous because its Kafka-esque rules allows the mods to be extremely inconsistent. Some mods are like robots and will mod like the TOU was the Bible; for example, it's possible to get modded for quoting a flame directed at you because the TOU says not to repost violations. On the other side of the spectrum, you have mods -- often veteran ones -- that are actually smart and look at the context of posts. A mod on this side will not mod you for quoting a flame directed at you. Because of the inconsistencies, there are many users who are confused and/or annoyed that they got modded for something and everyone else isn't for the same thing no matter how many posts they mark.
Finally, reviews. Anyone with an account in good standing can submit a review as long as it meets the word count requirement (and for more detailed review types, discusses enough facets of the game). The word count requirements and inability to rate without a written review weeds out most of the obvious "this sucks:1/10" and "this is awesome:10/10" and Single-Issue Wonk reviews, though a few infamous "troll" reviews have been accepted (such as a PSP review consisting purely of the word "crap" repeated enough to meet the word count requirement, or one for Mafia 2 with blatant fake "typos" such as Graphics>Gravy), though are generally removed the next weekday after the forums have had their laugh at the administrator's mistake(s).
Game FAQs vs. GameSpot
CNet (home of GameSpot) purchased GameFAQs in the early 2000s and merged the two game sites' messageboards. It is possible to access the same forums from either website, but the GameSpot version of the GUI is more advanced, allowing for in-thread pictures and avatars. The merger spawned a Fandom Rivalry that continues to this day, with the stereotype being that GameSpot users are the How Do I Shot Web? clueless newbies, and the GameFAQs users being the "Stop Having Fun!" Guys of the boards.
Has it's own Fan Wiki here.
- Much of the rules concerning "Illegal Activities" are due to pressure from the site's sponsors and from CBS Corporation and CNet, who control the site itself. Because the site is sponsored by numerous video game companies, those companies have a great deal of say in how the message boards have to be moderated, necessitating the removal of posts concerning merely shady (but not necessarily illegal) activities in addition to the blatantly illegal ones.