Run The Marblz
The Marble Cinematic Universe
There are many, many things to hate about Reddit. Aside from all the political nastiness and meme stock pumping, the site is a cesspool of guys who say stuff like “Wow. Someone being nice on the internet? Have some gold, my good sirs,” or reminisce about depraved 2012 Reddit culture (Cumbox, COLBY 2012, Broken Arms, calling the user “shitty_watercolour” just “shitty” like it’s his first name, canceling “unidan” for vote manipulating his own answer about jackdaws) like it isn’t something to shamefully repress.
I still go on this stupid website almost every day. I have no idea why; I learn nothing and am often brought to the brink of despair reading threads meant to convince people who have never seen a Marvel movie that they will enjoy WandaVision (they won’t; it’s hard enough to enjoy if you’ve seen all of them). Watching all online forums, hobbyists, and niche interest groups migrate onto this one website, funnel their discourse through its algorithm, and slowly converge culturally with the rest of the pedantic, moronic Reddit hivemind is pretty depressing, but it also makes it exceptionally easy to access the group of people “most into” something. If I want to find the people who are the “most into” biking in NYC, I can just go to the NYCbike subreddit, where people act like everyone in the world bikes 30 miles north to Nyack every weekend. Reddit is an exceptionally accessible lens into the most obscure online subcultures, and for that, it has some value.
One of Reddit’s fun little features is allowing subreddits to determine what their users, both at large and those who are currently active, are called.
The only reason I bring this up, or bring up Reddit at all, is because of the hilariously uncreative names that the moderators of /r/marblerun gave their users.
I love online videos, but I’ve always been a fan of less algorithm-friendly ones that don’t really involve people vlogging or highly produced content. (Except Dhar Mann, who I have been watching every day.) I love me a good primary source video where something actually happens. People jump off cliffs, animals make a weird noise, giant trucks tip over—that’s the kind of stuff I gravitate to. So I was very pleased when Susan Wojcicki hand-delivered an envelope to me suggesting that I might enjoy this thing:
I implore you to watch all of it. It’s genuinely mesmerizing. I find myself truly impressed by the sheer amount of vertical space that this guy has. Great camerawork too. And it’s underscored by a hypnotizing electronic pulse. It’s meant to impress. This video kicked off a weeklong foray into marble run subculture, which seems to be dominated by 5MadMovieMakers, Scott’s Marble Runs, and Jelle’s Marble Runs. They all have incredible domain expertise, and they’ll sometimes comment on each others’ videos.
5MadMovieMakers has diversified a bit; they also build crazy Hot Wheels tracks, Knex Rollercoasters, and model trains; they make little stop motion shorts and do cool stunts with Thomas the Tank engine. In short, they live my ten-year-old self’s ideal life.
Toys like marble runs and LEGO® Bricks and racetracks are meant to spark creative interest in kids; encourage them to build and build until they’re able to handle more complexity, then toss them into some engineering role or whatever and let them work on the perpetual problem of scaling up society. Being any kind of engineer is fundamentally frustrating. You’re always coming up against hard reality or stakeholder issues—that’s just part of the job. But these guys have found a way around it. Instead of moving onto more fundamentally complex things, they’ve added levels of size and scale and complexity to the original, uncomplex thing. They don’t have to manage relationships within engineering organizations. The only relationship that matters to them is the singular point at which the marble is kissing the track at any given time. And man, do they make ‘em smooch.
Look, we all know YouTube sucks. It encourages fundamentally idiotic behavior in the pursuit of fame, it puts a staggering amount of information directly under the control of a massive corporation, and it radicalizes men into believing that Marjorie Taylor Greene is hot. But it also provides an opportunity for people who are weird hobbyists to share their output with the world. People who have devoted huge amounts of time, energy, and brainpower to being really good at something completely frivolous. YouTube gives people the financial freedom, strangely enough, to center their lives around their passions, provided said passions have a video output. It feels like a weird and counterintuitive way of escaping the eventual, soul-crushing fate of helping someone else maximize their profit; you’re selling yourself to one of the largest corporations on Earth to do what you love. But for these guys, it works. They don’t have to worry about ethical questions around their work. Their work has no repercussions. All they get to do is enjoy something low stakes that they love to do.
Watching these videos is fun because it is simply fun to watch a sphere go from point A to point B (this is why people enjoy soccer), but also because it’s fun to imagine some guy, tongue sticking a little bit out of his mouth, meticulously taping track to the walls, testing each jump and each loop, maybe mapping out his designs before putting all of this up. This is why it’s imperative that White Guys continue to exist on this planet: who else would do this necessary work? Everyone else is too busy fucking!
Here’s a glossary for anyone who may need it.
Yes, dude. Holy shit. Totally. 100%. That is exactly why people enjoy soccer. Nailed it.