||[Feb. 10th, 2008|12:11 am]
One of the genres of web comics I've never really been able to get into has been gaming comics. I finally figured this out a few months back when I gave Order of the Stick a try out; despite practically all the reviews I've seen of the strip being glowing, I just found it impossible to get into and gave up after a dozen or so pages.
I've spent more time than I really wanted to trawling through the archives of Ctrl+Alt+Del and, while it managed to keep my attention longer than Order of the Stick managed, it's still not going to get anywhere near my top ten favourites list. The basic idea is a group of computer boffins sharing a living space: Ethan, the closest the strip has to a main character, is an alarmingly obsessed computer game player; Lucas, Ethan's slightly less obsessed best friend, and Ethan's girlfriend Lilah. Other regulars are Linux guru Scott, his pet penguin and a robot based on an X-box.
The character part of the story is reasonably interesting (despite a large number of more or less surreal interludes that don't really add all that much) but a large proportion of the story is devoted to computer game humour that I just don't seem to find particularly interesting. It's still readable, and would probably be quite good if you liked that sort of thing, but I don't exactly see myself holding my breath and waiting for the next instalment.
As far as gaming comics go, The Whiteboard is almost a total opposite of Ctrl+Alt+Del; and for some reason, despite being a much more amateur seeming comic than the latter, I found myself liking it a great deal more. Part of that might be that the game concerned isn't a computer game: it's paintball (what was called "The Ultimate Game" back when I was younger than I am now). This means that the players actually get out into the fresh air a lot more than the CAD characters do. Also, for some reason, despite being anthropomorphic (the main character is what was once memorably described to me as "a rectangular bear after a co-ordinate transformation"), the characters are actually more believable. (After all, an anthropomorphic bear doesn't seem anywhere near as weird as an anthropomorphic X-box). Another part of the reason I like this comic more might be that paintball is just what the characters do in their spare time: a large part of the story revolves around the characters themselves, and much of the humour is workshop humour - which doesn't fall nearly as flat for me as computer game humour does.
The Whiteboard doesn't have the polished, professional look of CAD - indeed, it seems to have got its name from the first few strips, which were drawn up on a shop whiteboard; these strips are photographs of the aforementioned whiteboard - and the characters aren't of a narrow band of ages and personality types: while ages don't seem to get a mention, during one sequence showing the home lives of each character they seemed to range from late teens to late twenties in personality and lifestyle. Of other characters, Jinx could be as young as ten and Doc could be in his forties.
This one also doesn't seem to be as linear or as carefully attached to the present as CAD does. Jinx doesn't seem to be getting any older; and when new regular characters show up they tend to be ones who have been "behind the scenes". But basically, this one's got good characters and humour that's much less narrowly focussed than it could be. I enjoyed it a lot.