So You Want To/Write a Gaming Comic
Gaming. Is there a more quintessentially nerdy activity? Perhaps, but that certainly hasn't stopped hundreds upon hundreds of cartoonists from creating webcomics based on the activity, many of which have become surprisingly popular.
While the vast majority of gaming webcomics follow the best-known sort of gaming, video gaming, there's nothing to stop you writing a webcomic about Tabletop Games or Tabletop RPGs - such comics are comparatively rare though.
The market for gaming comics is perhaps fairly saturated, but then again, an awful lot of the stuff out there is pretty weak, with poor artwork, unfunny jokes and blatant Leader Following. If you think you can do better and buck Sturgeon's Law, then read on!
- 1 Necessary Tropes
- 2 Choices, Choices
- 3 Pitfalls
- 4 Potential Subversions
- 5 Writers' Lounge
- 6 Departments
- 7 Costume Designer
- 8 Extra Credit
The humour of nearly all gaming webcomics comers from the Genre Savvy characters Lampshade Hanging all the Acceptable Breaks From Reality that gaming entails - much of the rest is spent riffing on recent news in the world of gaming. Seinfeldian Conversations on how Video Game Tropes could apply to the real world are a must too: what would life would be like if you could always see a helpful display of how much life you had left, for example?
Many gaming comics take place on Planet Eris. The real world is not nearly as exciting as videogames, where anything goes and Death Is a Slap on The Wrist. As a result, you are more likely than not going to have to jazz things up a bit to make
Finally, all gaming webcomics must include at least one Take That against Jack Thompson. It is practically the law. It might be possible to make one that does not, but no-one has ever tried.
You're going to want a character (or two) to act as the gamer: the one who actually plays the games and comments on them. You do however have a choice here: the characters can be sitting around playing the games - the Two Gamers on a Couch approach favoured by Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del - or they can actually be the game's characters, living inside the game world, either by Deep-Immersion Gaming (as used by VG Cats) or an RPG Mechanics Verse (Order of the Stick).
Also, what sort of games do your characters play? Do they play anything that catches their eye, or are they drawn to a particular genre? Are they RPG fans, always joking about inventory limits or wondering why Link doesn't just buy his bottles at the shop, rather than going on epic side-quests for them. Or maybe they play First Person Shooters, and decorate their home with dozens of plain wooden crates. Perhaps they're into retro gaming, ranting about why the 8-bit era was the best or bemoaning that freakin' duck. Or are they into two different genres, which can make for a lot of conflict?
Writing a gaming comics means Writing Who You Know, and if you're writing a gaming comic, then the gamer you know best will most likely be you. Likewise, your character's best friend will most likely take elements of your best friend, and your Love Interest will more likely than not be based on your wife/girlfriend/stalkee. There's nothing wrong with this - many great webcomics are just Life Embellished - but it can very very very very fall into Marty Stu territory. No matter how awesome you may think you are, a perfect main character who is beloved by all yet completely off the wall stretches the Willing Suspension of Disbelief very fast. This is particularly a problem when the character acts like a complete Jerkass Man Child to all and sundry, and yet is still beloved by all.
Further, gaming webcomics take Most Writers Are Male to its logical extreme: virtually all gaming webcomic writers are male, and usually fairly young, affluent and nerdy at that. Combined with the Great Internet Fuckwad Theory, many webcomics sink to Refuge in Audacity Dead Baby Comedy fast. Scatological humour, gratuitous bloody violence and blatant sexism are unfortunately much too common.
Finally, there is the dreaded Cerebus Syndrome to watch out for. While there is nothing wrong with trying to make your comic deeper than just two guys shooting the wind about whatever crosses their minds, trying to do it with crassly-examined rape, abortion, miscarriage or terminal illness is a good way to hemorrhage fans fast.
Oh yes, and look out for that accursed Schedule Slip too.
The slightly repetitive nature of some of the comics - the same characters sitting on the couch, or doing the same things - can also lead to your comic becoming a Cut and Paste Comic if you're not careful. Try and throw in a bit of variance in settings, facial expressions and layout if possible. Or, at least, try and make your standards as interesting and well-drawn as possible.
- The main characters of Two Gamers on a Couch style comics are Always Male. Female characters typically just act as love interests (or sex interests, depending on the level of your comic), and spend all their time just standing around being female. You would think more people would have tried to subvert this one by now.
- Most gaming comics are primarially about video games. There are far fewer gaming comics about board games, tabletop role-playing-games, wargames, LAR Ps, trading card games, standard card games, or classic games.
If you're writing a Two Gamers on a Couch comic, your characters will probably live in Friends Rent Controlled Sitcom Standardized Housing. You can subvert this if you want, but bear in mind that either you or the artist will have to draw the backgrounds for this comic, and making it cramped and messy makes the art much harder to draw.
Jeans, t-shirts, messy hair, nothing fancy. Unless your characters are inside the game, in which case you can go crazy, so long as you follow the game's theme.
Note: Opinions vary wildly about the quality of some of these comics. Take with
a pinch lots of salt.
- Penny Arcade - The Ur Example of the gaming webcomic, and also the best known. Practically everything that appears on this list is inspired by PA.
- Order of the Stick - The best known RPG Mechanics Verse comic, and an example of how effective even simple artwork can be. An example of comic based on TabletopGaming rather than computer games, and a good example of Cerebus Syndrome done well.
- VG Cats - Two cats play games, generally subverting or deconstructing the premise as they go. Spawned both an RPG Mechanics Verse spinoff (Super Effective, a Pokémon parody) and a Deep-Immersion Gaming one (Adventure Log, based on Final Fantasy XI)
- Castle Vidcons - A surprisingly original take on the Console Wars, presenting each of the major consoles as medieval royalty at war with one another, putting a unique spin on the most recent events in the industry.
- Powerup Comics - A deliberate attempt to make the worst gaming webcomic ever, with shoddy art, flagrant sexism, racism and homophobia, no plot or jokes, and the most intolerably smug Marty Stu ever. It works.
- It is no match however, for the truly abominable mess that is Shredded Moose. Gratuitous and pointless violence to everyone (and we mean everyone) an insane level of misogyny, as every woman who appears winds up naked, dead, or date-raped by our protagonist Brew (not necessarily in that order.) The art is a blatant rip-off of Penny Arcade, which they have the gall to mock. Why it is officially classified as a Gaming comic is a bit of a mystery
- These Webcomics Are Bad are...well...yeah. Bark Bark Dog and Yell Cat parodies pretentious foreign art (we think), while Garphuck and Oakfable try to outdo the absurdly offensive, as well as mildly exaggerate the creator's own lack of talent.