Yesterday, Sony revealed its "DualSense" controller for the upcoming PlayStation 5. Social media lit up with takes and opinions before Sony could even finish saying "Ta-da!" The controller is admittedly an attention-grabber, as it's quite a departure from the DualShock 4. In fact, the "DualSense" name, which bids farewell to PlayStation's long-lived DualShock line, is a departure in itself.
Sony has big plans for the DualSense, which will offer complex haptic feedback, among other things. Social media seems split on the DualSense, with most negative opinions of the controller gravitating toward its dual black-and-white color scheme. I'm unsure about it myself. The chunky white plates on top of the controller reminds me of the dragon armor from Panzer Dragoon, which is kind of cool, I guess? I'm mostly concerned with how the DualSense feels in my hands. I might be the only person on Earth who prefers the slim DualShock 4 over the hefty Xbox One controller, but I am who I am. (A person with small hands.)
While the expected amount of heat and noise emanated from social media with the reveal of the DualSense, the discourse hasn't dissolved into out-and-out mockery. Comparisons to the infamous (and scrapped) PlayStation 3 "Boomerang" controller have been raised, but Twitter hasn't seen anything close to the roars of laughter that echoed down the runnels of YTMND, 2005's answer to social media.
Founded in 2001 and recently restored after languishing for years, YTMND ("You're the Man Now, Dog"—a reference to a line actor Sean Connery says in 2000's Finding Forrester) isn't a social platform so much as it's a purposefully loud and garish dumping ground for three-word opinions on news and pop culture. If you click on a YTMND link, you'll be whisked to a badly tiled image or GIF that's accompanied by a short, looping sound clip. Hideous pop-out text often garnishes whatever point the creator is trying to make.
YTMND is a primitive platform, but it was extremely popular in an age where Twitter and YouTube were still pulling themselves onto the internet's mucky shores. It's responsible for a number of memes that endure to this day, e.g. "Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the U.S.S. Enterprise" and "Safety Not Guaranteed," which became the basis of a 2012 film. Though it never became a household name like Facebook, YTMND made significant contributions to game culture in the early aughts. So when its user base zeroed in on Sony's repeated mistakes with the impending PlayStation 3, it left an indelible mark on the console's launch.
YTMND's heyday ran from 2004 through 2006, which is also when Sony introduced us to the PlayStation 3 through a disastrous E3 press conference that's still mocked. For starters, YTMND had a field day with the "Giant enemy crab" line born of the E3 2006 E3 demo for Genji: Days of the Blade. Conveniently, that was the same press conference that gave us former Sony Corporation CEO Kaz Hirai's "$599 U.S. Dollars" (the announced price for the PlayStation 3) and "Riiiiiiidge Racer!" One industrious user merged E3 2006's "best" PlayStation 3 memes with an unusually lengthy YTMND titled "The Price is Kaz."
To make things worse for Sony, the PlayStation 3 made itself a popular target for mockery before its extensive, poorly received introduction at E3 2006. The boomerang controller, revealed a year earlier at E3 2005, was already the subject of several popular YTMNDs. Said popular YTMNDs were often mash-ups where, for example, legendary comic book character Tintin would witness a murder by the PlayStation 3 controller. Another YTMND saw Link use the controller in place of his boomerang. "Banana Phone," a song by the children's singer Raffi, was the basis for a popular YTMND where the controller was edited to look like—you guessed it—a banana phone.
The PSP, which never gained much momentum in the West, was a favorite YTMND whipping boy as well. Early adopters complained about their disks ejecting involuntarily, a "feature" that YTMND creators jumped on with enthusiasm. (And, again, this was an instance where meme cross-pollination proved popular.)
The PlayStation 3's missteps and the consequences of those missteps are etched in history. Though the console gradually garnered a userbase comparable to its direct competitor, the Xbox 360, its start was undeniably bad. Sony did a lot of things wrong, and the PlayStation 3's debut was likely fated to be hobbled regardless of what memes YTMND passed around.
Nevertheless, I still wonder if YTMND's influence played some small role in helping Sony slowly get the PlayStation 3's act together. Did Sony notice the "Banana Phone" meme? Did it see the pictures of the boomerang controller paired up with Baltimora's "Tarzan Boy?" It's impossible to know for sure, but YTMND's looping audio clips have a way of making a permanent home in your brain. If you saw a grainy GIF coupled with a five-second song snippet that was making fun of something you made, you might be compelled to respond somehow.
YTMND was in real danger of fading into nothingness thanks to the disuse (and upcoming death) of Flash, so I'm glad to know it's recently been given a permanent home. It's noisy and crass and silly, but it's also a diary of people's thoughts and feelings (and scorn) during the game industry's bumpy transition to the HD era.
YTMND is back with us just as the PlayStation 5 prepares to make its debut. I don't think we'll see a significant number of YTMND memes about the DualSense controller, since game discourse has shifted to modern platforms like Twitter, Twitch, and Discord. There's also less to mock these days: Sony learned some hard lessons with the PlayStation 3, and most of those lessons stuck. The DualSense is strange-looking, yes, but its appearance isn't silly enough to pair well with Italian synth-pop from 1985.