Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Game   Rewatch 
April 5, 2021 11:25 AM - Season 5, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Wesley Crusher visits the Enterprise only to see everyone behaving strangely on account of an addictive, mind-controlling game.

We're increasing the available bandwidth so more science teams can use Memory Alpha at once.

Story and script
  • Like "Darmok", the story for this episode had a somewhat tumultuous path to the screen. It had originally been pitched by Susan Sackett and Fred Bronson during the fourth season. However, as Ronald D. Moore recalled, "'The Game' kicked around for quite a while and went through lots of permutations." Many writers had taken many approaches to the story, including two drafts that were abandoned. (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 230-1)
  • Bronson recalled, "It was based on the fact that I had a Tetris game on my computer at home. Whenever I wanted to […] distract myself I would play Tetris and it was very addictive." (Starburst Special #29, p. 58)
  • Michael Piller was convinced the premise couldn't be saved. However, Rick Berman reminded Piller that he had been concerned about the lack of science fiction premises on the show. Berman thus suggested giving the story to Brannon Braga, as his first assignment after joining the writing staff. Braga took the pitch in a darker direction, summarizing his treatment as "Wesley's come home and his family's out to get him." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 230-1; Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 181))
  • Braga compared the plot of this episode to Invasion of the Body Snatchers. (Intergalactic Guest Stars, TNG Season 5 DVD special features) Jeri Taylor commented, "Through an evolutionary process – without really intending to ape that movie – this insidious spread of a game had its origins in kids being addicted to video games now, and what happens to them. That was the original intent and that's what drove the final story and script. That insight followed the development." Braga added, "It's ironic to have the adolescent come back to find all the adults are addicted to a game which is something you'd expect the other way around." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 230)
  • Braga observed, "We were going for fun and high concept. It's an atypical show in some ways and a lot of people had trouble believing Picard would become addicted and all these people would get hooked, but that's the story. Either you tell it or you don't. Not that we didn't give a lot of thought to how the characters became addicted. The characters only become addicted because they were getting the game from people they trusted, which is exemplified in the notorious chocolate scene, which had a very mixed reaction, but I had a lot of fun writing it." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 230)
  • Braga saw this episode as a chance to make the character of Wesley Crusher "a little hipper", by giving him a girlfriend and by showing him to be a cadet capable of pulling practical jokes. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 181)) Braga remarked, "When I was writing the teleplay, I tried to relax him a little bit and took the opportunity to make him a more relaxed character with some personality and some spunk. He's more savvy because he was at the Academy and has gone through some changes and he'll pick up on Robin Lefler." (Captains' Logs: The Unauthorized Complete Trek Voyages, p. 230)
  • While at Dragon Con 2011, Brent Spiner recalled that during production of this episode, the scene wherein Data is deactivated by Dr. Crusher and falls down onto a bio-bed, Spiner actually hit the bed so hard he cut his chin and had to go to the hospital. After returning to the set, director Corey Allen immediately asked Spiner to do the scene again.
Cast and characters
  • This was the second and last appearance of Ensign Robin Lefler (Ashley Judd). After her first appearance, in "Darmok", the writers had been looking for a vehicle for her return, and this story was seen as a perfect fit. (Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 181))
  • Wil Wheaton fondly remembered working with Judd, noting that he was Judd's first on-screen kiss. (Intergalactic Guest Stars, TNG Season 5 DVD special features)
  • Brannon Braga admitted that he hit on Judd during filming, and was "dutifully ignored". (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 227)
Sets, props, special effects, and costumes
  • The headpieces for the Ktarian game were created by property master Alan Sims, using telephone headsets. (Star Trek: The Next Generation 365, p. 226)
  • This is the first appearance of Wesley Crusher's cadet-style Starfleet uniform. The Star Trek: The Next Generation Companion (2nd ed., p. 181) notes that Wesley's cadet uniform lacks pips, as was later established in "The First Duty".
  • This is the first appearance of a matte painting as optical extension of the Jefferies tube. The call sheet features the note "Art/Graphic – translight backing of tube".
  • Data references the events of TNG: "Data's Day" when he tells Wesley that his mother recently taught him how to dance. This also means that Data broke his promise to Doctor Crusher that he keeps this fact between the two of them.
  • Deanna Troi's love of chocolate was established in "The Price". Wesley and Picard also discuss Boothby, who was first mentioned by Picard in TNG: "Final Mission".
  • While in a turbolift, Nurse Alyssa Ogawa comments to Wesley that she is on level 47 of the Game, repeating the theme of including that number in the series.
  • This episode was the second time the sonic shower was referenced and the first to mention it by name, though it was several years before one was seen again, on Star Trek: Voyager.
Poster's Log:

It's been just about a month, in-show, between Silicon Avatar and this episode and Riker is horning it up on Risa? I guess his grief over Carmen was kind of short-lived.

Katherine Moffat, seen here as Etana, would return to the Trek universe one more time as Vaatrik Pallra in DS9's "Necessary Evil".

I know we were just introduced to Ensign Ro a few episodes ago and the show didn't really need to add another recurring character, but it would have been great to have a few more Lefler episodes.

Stewart's delivery during his tea chat with Wesley is lovely, especially the abruptness of the demeanor change when his recollection of "A.F." comes back .

"It's just a fad. It's here this week. Next week we won't even know it existed." - Robin Lefler, lampshading both general TNG continuity and her own disappearance after this episode.

"We should keep these mock-ups with us", and then they don't?

They're holding Wesley's eyes open, but he can still blink?

Worf's "Engaging tractor beam" would be more meaningful if he was actually standing at his console.

Outside of Worf and Troi, I don't think we see any non-Humans on the Enterprise in this episode. Where are our Vulcan crew members? How would Doctor Selar react to the Game?

Poster's Log, Supplemental:

Another episode that I was cringing about rewatching. There is a lot to dislike here, from the characterization of Troi's love of chocolate through Beverley's attempting to weasel into Wesley's date with Robin to the deus ex literal machina of Data appearing on the Bridge to save the day.

I get that she's trying to portray a mother who hasn't seen her son in months, but Gates's performance in this one is oddly touchy.

The saving grace in this one is Lefler and Ashley Judd's ease with the character. I'm a little grossed out to know that Braga hit on her, but that's mollified a little by knowing that he's only a couple of years older than Judd herself.
posted by hanov3r (28 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've always thought "control someone with pleasure" was a more interesting sci-fi concept than "control someone with pain." If Gul Madred had had one of these games he could have made Picard see whatever number of lights gets him to the next level.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:35 AM on April 5 [2 favorites]

Wes has done fine throughout this episode and his developing relationship with Robin is excellent. But then they kiss at their parting at the end The kissing in this one has never impressed me. Come on, Wes, if you're going to kiss her again and again and again, take her in your arms and kiss her! And then he tacks that line on the end about friends across the light years. So he's friend zoning her?
posted by Fukiyama at 12:15 PM on April 5

I kind of go back and forth on this one. On the one hand, Wesley comes back to the show for what amounts to an after-school special about the EE-vils of addiction (see "The Naked Now" and "Symbiosis" for previous examples, with Wesley being heavily involved in the former and getting a lecture from Tasha Yar in the latter), and whatever mojo he's supposed to get from becoming a merry prankster and getting frisky with Lefler gets pretty seriously mitigated by being saddled with having to learn A Very Important Lesson. (And, speaking of Lefler, Judd does fine and I'm also wishing that she'd reappeared, but what are the odds of an actual commissioned officer, even if they're just an ensign, dating a cadet?) There's also the nature of the device itself, which is less about any sort of real-life addiction--electronic, chemical, or otherwise--and more of just a plain ol' magical mind control gizmo. If anything, it reminds me of Star Trek V with Sybok gaining a similar degree of control over most of the crew with what amounts to mind-meld therapy.

But then again, this is one of those episodes that's become much more relevant with virtually each passing year since its original showing, thanks to portable electronic devices and in particular smartphones with games on them. In 1991, portable games weren't that common [braces for responses listing all of the portable--as in handheld--games available then]; the Apple Newton didn't show up until 1993, and Snake didn't show up on cell phones until later in the decade. I got my first PDA, a Palm III, in the late nineties, got a Tetris clone for it, and was immediately hooked (see Fred Bronson's comment above), to the degree that I ended up deleting it from my phone because it was distracting me from my work and, before I got a screen protector for the Palm, I started to get visible wear on the touchscreen where I was hitting the controls. That was also around the time that people started getting hooked on Tamagotchi. The form factor of The Game is different from that of a smartphone (the smaller PADDs would have been a better fit, and if they'd decided to make it an app rather than a dedicated device...), more like Google Glass, but the preoccupation of people with their gadgets rather than each other, even in a space dedicated to socializing such as Ten Forward, is intensely familiar to anyone from the millennium onward. The reward system that gets people hooked on electronic games does indeed involve dopamine, and it's pretty easy to headcanon a system whereby unlocking higher levels may require someone to do something IRL... such as parking the ship in a particular location or giving a Ktarian the prefix codes to the ship. I don't know that they could take over the whole Federation that way--you'd hope that, after the events of "Conspiracy", there would be procedural firewalls in place to keep that sort of thing from happening again--but a particular addictive behavior can sweep through a relatively closed community fairly easily; Stephen King (who knows more than a bit about addictions) wrote a novella titled "Hearts in Atlantis" about a group of college freshmen who neglect their studies, and some of whom flunk out and are drafted into the Vietnam War, due to compulsively playing marathon Hearts sessions in their dorm, and King revealed that the story was based on poker addicts in his own college dorm.

So, yeah, even with its drawbacks, not an entirely implausible episode, and even a little prophetic.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:17 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]

You can see Spiner's chin injury throughout the episode.

Possibly the strangest moment of this strange episode is Troi's big chocolate scene. Is TNG trying to actually be sensual, and if so, what made them think it was a good idea for them to try?

Anyway, I never much cared for this one and that didn't change on rewatch, although I had forgotten that they do manage to LASIK Wes, and that it's Data with an Aldis lamp that saves the day. The last several minutes do ramp up the tension effectively, even if the rest is more of a simmer. And Braga did succeed at his stated goal of making Wes seem less dopey.

So he's friend zoning her?

I wonder if it's because he found out how skilled she is at fakin' it. But, y'know, sometimes your neuroreceptors are a little tired, and you're just like, enough already.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:26 PM on April 5

"The Game" is another one of those TNG episodes that completely understates what should be a major plot point. A foreign power has suborned the command crew of the Federation flagship as part of a plot to take over Starfleet! But it's just a backdrop for the "Wesley-comes-home" A-story and we never hear about it again. Oh well. Reset and on to next week's episode.
posted by Stuka at 12:27 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]

Possibly the strangest moment of this strange episode is Troi's big chocolate scene. Is TNG trying to actually be sensual, and if so, what made them think it was a good idea for them to try?

Maybe trying to reassure people put off by the preachiness of the episode that not all pleasures were bad or addictive? She's even got a special, elaborate bowl for it. (Thinking about that made me speculate that, if smoking snakeleaf weren't seen as a vice, Raffi could have a special bong for it that resembled a miniature warp core.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:16 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]

I felt like this one did a good job setting the tone: we're going to be doing a campy horror movie, so don't expect anything different. I loved Patrick Stewart's affably pretend-to-be-interested performance while Wes is trying to explain that there's something bad about this game. I totally expected Picard to put on the headset as soon as Wes left the room--felt like such a payoff when he did.

I feel like it's not fair to ask this episode to make any sense, but you still gotta wonder how it really would have gone done when someone started pusing the game on some of the staff...

I figure Worf's would declare that Candy Crush is not a warrior's game. But maybe Riker could have tricked him into thinking it's VR for practicing combat with Skeletor.

Ro? I expect offers of the game to be met with an icy stare at best.

With LaForge's super cyborg vision, it seems like a long shot that the mind control would work on him, or alternatively he might have seen someone else wearing the headset and immediately yelled, "Whoa, that thing is emitting epsilon radiation! It's ususally used for mind control, and I am not going there again."

Guinan, of course, has too much dignity to play a game, unless it's to show Worf that he actually doesn't know shit. I think as soon as she saw this thing taking over Ten Forward, she would have asked some penetrating questions that led everyone to see that this isn't who they really are.
posted by polecat at 2:01 PM on April 5 [4 favorites]

Data references the events of TNG: "Data's Day" when he tells Wesley that his mother recently taught him how to dance. This also means that Data broke his promise to Doctor Crusher that he keeps this fact between the two of them.

Oh shit...what happens when he eventually lets slip the big secret from episode Clues. Will the Paxans come hunt down the Enterprise and destroy it?
posted by polecat at 2:05 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]

OT but TNG related: a teaser for PIC S2 just dropped, and guess who's gonna show up?
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:18 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]

There's also a DISCO S4 trailer which, AAAAAAAHHHH, I love it.
posted by hanov3r at 2:43 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]

I stumbled on this quite a few months ago when I was channel-flipping; I normally don't watch it because it makes me cringe so much but I thought maybe I'd watch it to tide me over till it came up here and OMG, I'd forgotten how utterly batshit this episode is. The allusions to Invasion of the Body Snatchers were obvious even back then, but I think I'd scrubbed my brain of all the weird, horrible, inappropriate and creepy stuff around their attempts at "sensuality." Or something.

It starts out just plain annoying for me, because the constant, dialled up to 11 giggling of the actress playing Etanna sets my teeth on edge (tone it down, honey), and I just really didn't need to see Riker's O face. Then Wes comes back, which I was glad to see, and the game doesn't become a huge thing at this point so we can enjoy his storyline (although, wth Braga, playing practical jokes makes you "cooler"? okay). But then we get that ridiculous, dudes-wrote-this scene with the chocolate, which I haven't listened to all the way since it first aired because I have to run out of the room, it's so awful. THEN we get Doctor Crusher being all breathy and post-orgasmic toward her son and trying to force him to join her in this bizarre sexualized response game. Holy shit, was that gross.

I liked that the young people figure out what's going on pretty fast, and I agree with polecat that there are definitely conspicuous absences in this episode who would no doubt not have reacted well when approached and that some who have started playing it kinda strain credulity. THEN we get Ogawa orgasming all over the place in the turbolift with a teenage guy (who thought that was a good idea?), and eventually they're Clockwork Orange-ing Wes when he's being held down by a large group of people including his ultra-breathy mom. (And like, I'm not going to say anything more than just...that alien forehead makeup is very...something.) All of this is just wild and it is so weird. I mean, I'm laughing when I'm not facepalming, because it's just so batshit.

I've never really grokked the idea of games being an actual addiction, because games are the most boring things around to me and I seem to be utterly missing the game gene, but even back then I knew this was very much a moral panic type story, for all that they want it to be a science fiction plot. Oh, kids these days and their games/devices. I'm all for mind-control episodes, even if it does feel like they dipped in to that well a little too soon after we had Geordi mind-controlled (I would have loved to see him, when approached with the game, react like Hawkeye did in Avengers: Age of Ultron and just be like, "I already did that" and then zap everyone with a device on their heads). And it just feels incredibly lecturey and yes, Afterschool Special-y.

Maybe if they'd taken the weird sexualized aspects out of the story (that focuses on a teenager!), it would have been a better allegory about some showrunner dudes' problems with control over playing games. I don't know. But it's one of the most hilaribad episodes they ever did, for me, and I find myself recalling the time I showed this to a friend in the early aughts who spent the entire time yelling "WHAT" at the screen and making me pause every few minutes so she could pull herself together.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 2:47 PM on April 5 [2 favorites]

I was reminiscing about this ep recently and looked it up on Memory Alpha. I was gobsmacked that it’s neither “Robin’s Rules” nor “Lefler’s Laws”, but rather “Robin’s Laws”. How in Klingon hell did that happen? What was going on in the writer’s room that day?
posted by chrchr at 4:16 PM on April 5 [8 favorites]

I was reminiscing about this ep recently and looked it up on Memory Alpha. I was gobsmacked that it’s neither “Robin’s Rules” nor “Lefler’s Laws”, but rather “Robin’s Laws”.

What's this about Robin Laws? The CCG gave them a better name. There's some shared DNA between Lefler's Laws and the Rules of Acquisition.

Also, I have to give this episode a special shout out for the rapidly flashing white light on the screen from Data's flashlight, that's my favorite thing to stare at wait no it's not, that's the worst.

Anyway, here's cards of the episode in the Star Trek CCG:

The events of the storyline are reflected in Ktarian Game, which 'disables' personnel. Not to be confused with stopping them, killing them, stunning them, or putting them in stasis. CCGs can be so pedantic. The card was later enhanced by Seize Wesley. Not to be confused with Ship Seizure, also from this episode, which lets you chump your opponent out of a ship, or with the relatedly-themed Wesley Gets The Point, another card that plays on everyone's love of a certain sweater swaddled acting ensign.

First Edition Etana Jol is kind of filler, but it's neat that the image contrasts with Etana Jol, Ktarian Operative so much. The Second Edition card has a decent skill set (Intelligence!) with her 3 cost, and a bit of draw control as well. I used it plenty. I never used Robin Lefler, Mission Specialist which I would file under 'cards with weird abilities from the first 2E set that weren't very useful'.
posted by StarkRoads at 5:07 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]

[Slowly dons finest Sunday attire, carefully ascends to pulpit]

Friends, I am not here today to speak of the Awkwardly Erotic Chocolate Sundae. [raises hands to calm hubbub among congregation] Now, now, I understand; it is Easter, you cry, and do we not always speak of the Awkwardly Erotic Chocolate Sundae? And I say yea we do, but the Awkwardly Erotic Chocolate Sundae is not the whole of this day's sanctity. For on this day, we must also appeal to the deeper questings of our souls; and so today, I must speak to you of the Disk and the Cone.

"You see the Disk and the Cone?" asks the prophet. And we say yea, we see the Disk, and we see its Cone, but what do we perceive thereof? For what is the Disk, and what is the Cone? As a beginning, they are illusions: we know them to be tricks of the light, a child's game. But just as an illusion is but a projection upon the eye, so let us project upon our inner eye, for the Disk and Cone are real, as real as any other flickering shadow that plays upon the walls of our soul. What do we make of this Disk, and of this Cone?

The young child would say: why, these are but toys! And so they are. But the eye of the Ensign, probing deeper, may instead spy in the curve of the Disk the section of the Saucer, and in the Cone that portion that is due to Engineering. And then again: the seasoned Admiral, in their subtlety, may find the circle of the Disk in harmony with the ring of a Station of the Deep, and in the whirl of the Cone see the spinning maw of a wormhole. "Make the Disk go into the Cone," so says the prophet. What does this tell us? That the one belongs to the other; the Saucer to its Battle, the Station to its Wormhole. And for those that can find that blessed combination, are not all the paths those of pleasure? And when that first union is made, is not the door opened for further unions to be made, greater analogies to be drawn? When the pieces click into place, is it not our duty to forge onwards, yea onto the fifth, the forty-seventh, the hundredth degree?

Now there are those who would darkly hint that the Disk does not belong within the Cone. [murmurs from congregation] No, we must speak of this, too. Some would argue that the Disk does not fit within the Cone, but would instead seal it shut, barring its splendor. Heretics even whisper that there is another shape that would better suit the contours of the cone, that might fill it in a more satisfying manner. To these heretics I pose a simple argument. I ask them this:

Have you seen the joy upon the face of the Riker? [nods among the congregants] Have you seen it upon the face of Troi? Have you seen it upon La Forge? [cries of affirmation] Have you seen it upon Ogawa, upon O'Brien? Have you, my friends, seen anything like that holy ecstasy upon the face of the Crusher? [congregants rise to their feet, shouting with joy] Have you seen the joy upon the Lefler? Upon the merry souls at Ten Forward? Have you seen it, my dear brothers and sisters, on the face of Picard himself? [congregation roars] Do not be swayed! "Do you see the Disk and the Cone?" [cries of "I do! I do!" from the congregation] Oh, yes we do, my children, yes we do! May the Game smile upon us all!

[organ music swells; descends from pulpit, enjoying a chocolate sundae as he does]
posted by phooky at 5:40 PM on April 5 [11 favorites]

There's also a DISCO S4 trailer yt which, AAAAAAAHHHH, I love it.

Very good. Good, and with a mystery menace. Eventually, we'll find out what it is. Really, though, one can't help but speculate.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:41 PM on April 5 [1 favorite]

Someone really liked the ensign’s edicts and later went on to give us the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition.

When this originally aired I thought the game looked laughably basic, but today it’s just another clicker.
posted by rodlymight at 6:43 PM on April 5

I completely forgot this episode came so late in the run. It definitely has the trashy, low quality aspect of a lot of earlier plots. Though now that I think about it a bit more action oriented, so it would have been out of place there too.

When I first saw this I tuned in late, it's actually somewhat less cringey if you plop yourself down in the middle of a Body Snatchers remake that makes no sense.
posted by mark k at 10:16 PM on April 5

They're holding Wesley's eyes open, but he can still blink?

You can also hear his shoes squeak/scuff against the floor when they are dragging him across the bridge.
posted by Servo5678 at 4:52 AM on April 6

~There's also a DISCO S4 trailer yt which, AAAAAAAHHHH, I love it.
~Very good. Good, and with a mystery menace. Eventually, we'll find out what it is. Really, though, one can't help but speculate.

I hear the opening scene is in the secret basement of a small pizza parlor.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:23 AM on April 6

Frozen take: chocolate ice cream is a good thing and Troi is right to enjoy it.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 5:51 AM on April 6

Very good. Good, and with a mystery menace. Eventually, we'll find out what it is. Really, though, one can't help but speculate.

The Delphic Expanse from ENT. Because that was _so_ fun the first time around.
posted by Kyol at 6:39 AM on April 6

Frozen take: chocolate ice cream is a good thing and Troi is right to enjoy it.

I don't disagree with this at all. But a) the writers are occasionally a little gross about it, as the kinda sexualized interaction in this very episode shows and 2) "I enjoy chocolate" isn't a character trait, as much as the writers try to make it be.
posted by hanov3r at 6:56 AM on April 6 [2 favorites]

Let me try again:

Very good.
Good, and with a mystery menace.
Eventually, we'll find out what it is.
Really, though, one can't help but speculate.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:58 AM on April 6 [3 favorites]

Last time I sat through one of those arc plots,
A thought occurred:
No, really.
Does it actually matter what comes at the end?
Repeat viewings demonstrate whether they knew what they were doing.
Understand, my appetite for mysteries is satisfied.
posted by StarkRoads at 7:56 AM on April 6 [1 favorite]


Have never rewatched this one though, to be fair.
posted by wittgenstein at 9:43 AM on April 6

Wesley and Lefler's acting while pretending to play was pretty unconvincing, way too on edge.

When Candy Crush was a thing and people were reporting on the various tricks it used to keep playing always reminded me of this episode.

This episode feels very much like it's supposed to be a drug allegory, but there are bits that seem over the top for that, even by the standard of very special episodes of the era.

I was reminiscing about this ep recently and looked it up on Memory Alpha. I was gobsmacked that it’s neither “Robin’s Rules” nor “Lefler’s Laws”, but rather “Robin’s Laws”. How in Klingon hell did that happen? What was going on in the writer’s room that day?

posted by ckape at 8:53 PM on April 8

I enjoyed this on rewatch, it moved along pretty well, and it felt like something different. Sure, the ending is flat, and the story is chock full of unnecessary weirdness, but... oh, never mind, I have no follow-up to that.

I remember quite a few people bringing up this episode during the height of the Pokemon Go craze, it definitely felt a little eerie.

Anyway, I definitely did not enjoy this one when it came out, I was not in the mood for a "drugs are bad" episode, and I remember thinking right around this time that maybe TNG was not as good as it used to be, and that was kind of sad.
posted by skewed at 7:39 AM on April 9

« Older Special Event: Blaseball Seaso...   |  Critical Role: Aeor... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments