Gaming Web comics. You all read them. You all know the big names. You know their purposes. Or do you? These sites, these pieces of our little subculture, are more important than many think. They are where many people get their gaming news. They introduce us to new ways of thinking about videogames and the themes they put forward. I mean, seriously—have you really read VG Cats? I mean, really?
This month I will detail a few of my favorites, and we’ll try to find how they’ve contributed to our lifestyle as a whole. Because I really don’t want to think about a world without 8-Bit Theater.
Lets start off with the big boys—Penny Arcade. These guys, along with a couple others, started the Videogame Web Comics Renaissance. Though its style has gone through many iterations, its feel and quality have stayed the same. But other than the jokes, what have they given us? In recent years, I can count at least five times that Penny Arcade has given the common game player a voice. When there was a scandal, when someone’s ego had become too big—when a game needed a much needed boost, they gave it to them.
I know many gamers (including myself) who shy away from the normal news sites (IGN, Gamespot) and look to PA for what’s new and interesting. In one newspost, Tycho tried to describe what his actual job was—he settled on “Free time Coordinator.” He helps you use your free time in the best way possible.
I suggest, if you haven’t done it already, to check out their archives. Look into what they are talking about, and then go further. I’ve found out about many games that you can’t even get news on through PA—Guitar Hero, for one; before I heard about it anywhere else, Tycho was raving about it. Finally, PA and my next review, Player vs. Player, reenergized World of Warcraft in a way that no one thought possible. Sure, it was a popular game, but in the months and weeks before they got involved (from what I read anyway), people were getting bored with it. The war of the comics sparked new players (like myself) to pick it up and try to join up on one of the two sides. That’s damn special.
Next up, we look at Player vs. Player. Where Penny Arcade is the rogue element of gamer comics, PvP is the softer, gentler side. And while it has more to do now with all around geek culture instead of just comics, it still stands in my mind as one of the more powerful forces in gamer comics today. Why? Because Scott Kurtz, while seemingly professional, is not. And I love it. The man speaks his mind to whatever crosses it. Sometimes he comes across as a jackass, but after a second of third reading, you see that has a point. What the hell was wrong with me that I didn’t see this before?
Why is this so important? Because, like PA, he gives voice to what many of us are thinking. His best work in recent months has been when he steps off the storyline for a quick hit on a hot button issue—like Net Neutrality, or The Da Vinci Code. His commentary from the perspective of a geek who can’t take it anymore pisses off more people, and then an actual discussion begins. Read his rants. Think about what he’s saying. Instead of just saying “this sucks,” he actually tries to explain why. The comic is only a springboard into the consciousness of someone who isn’t afraid of putting his opinion out there. You really have to respect that.
There are a few more that I’d like to look into, and I think they will have to wait till next month. Until then, read some archives. Look at what the art and words are trying to say; I assure you—they aren’t just there for laughs.