Posts Tagged gamer

COTM: The Humble Indie Bundle #4

I like video games. This ought to come as a great shock to no one, really, considering that I made JRPG jokes in my first online comic and am, in fact, typing this on my laptop between levels of Dynasty Warriors. And I’m sure a lot of my readers have a soft spot for one game or another, be it Skyrim or Smash Bros. or Call of Honor: Medal of War and the Gears of Duty or Plants vs. Zombies or Commander Keen in Good-bye, Galaxy! or any number of other games for various platforms. There are a lot of them out there, with a game for just about every taste imaginable (up to and including the taste for robot unicorns).

So if you’re still looking for a few gifts for your gamer friends this holiday season, why not check out the Humble Indie Bundle of games? Until December 27th, gamers have the chance to name their price for a bundle of five independently developed computer games . . . and they can choose how the money is distributed, between the game developers, The American Red Cross, and Child’s Play Charity.* Those who pay more than the average will also receive the games from the previous bundle, along with a copy of Cave Story+ and Gratuitous Space Battles.

And as long as I’m promoting a few good causes, I’ll also put in a link for GoodSearch, a search engine that donates a portion of its ad revenue to whichever charity the searchers pick. Just go to their web site, enter the charity of your choice, and start searching. They also have a shopping division that allows you to donate a portion of your purchases to charity as well.

With that, I wish you all happy holidays and a new year full of good will.

* I’ve given a direct link to the charities as well, so if you don’t want the games, you can always just donate directly to them.

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Review: Less than Three

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m something of a prude, at least by the Internet’s standards. Granted, I was still a bit more prone to ribald jokes and unkind comments than the average student at my alma mater. The campus newspaper, The Daily Universe, was notorious for featuring letters to the editor whose writers were “shocked and appalled” at various things that got published and apparently shouldn’t have been. Some days I was amazed that the entire population of campus wasn’t stumbling around in a dazed pallor.

This stands in contrast to The Towerlight, student newspaper for Towson University, subject of recent controversy over an explicit sex column and publisher of the comic I’ll be reviewing this week. While that may seem to be an unfair introduction to Less Than Three (submitted for review by Steven Baird, who writes and draws the comic), it’s a bit more relevant than you’d think. Like the last self-submitted comic, <3 does its best to make NSFW seem like such an inadequate tag.

Originally intended to be a World of Warcraft comic, <3 shortly found itself in print and didn’t seem to know what to do from there. There were a few editorial cartoons and cracks in the fourth wall before the comic settled into a sporadic regimen of poop jokes, sex jokes, poop sex jokes, celebrity smear gags, more sex jokes, and loud left-wing politics.*

Some of the time, Baird’s comics rely on pop-culture references for their jokes. (As the saying goes, “Steal from the best.”) This includes sources as diverse as Peanuts, The Wizard of Oz, VG Cats, The Silence of the Lambs, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Resident Evil, Star Trek, Batman, and (perhaps most baffling) The Newlywed Game. His comic titles have also referenced Rudyard Kipling, Lewis Carroll, and Terry Pratchett (who is himself referencing Alan Moore). Of course, it’s somewhat depressing to see an allusion to Robert Burns tacked onto a comic about a mentally retarded ice cream cake.

Oh, well. At least he loves his mother.

Comic Rating: Two evil Snuggies.

* Political humor has its merits, chief of which being that as long as you express a popular opinion, people will laugh at your jokes no matter how tasteless or cruel they would otherwise be. The problem, however, is that it’s rarely done well enough to get people on the other side of the aisle to laugh. And once you start regularly expressing your political opinions in the middle of an otherwise neutral comic, BAM—there goes half your audience.

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Review: Weregeek

Every once in a while, you find a comic that makes you giggle at the same time it makes you squirm. You know the sort: you laugh because it puts up gosh-awful stereotypes that most people couldn’t be expected to believe . . . and then you squirm because deep down, you realize that you know someone like that. This, for example, is why I can no longer watch The Singles Ward or anything else by Halestorm Entertainment: I’ve lived in the Utah Valley and seen every one of their characters in real life.

Enter Weregeek by Alina Pete, the most recent addition to Keenspot Comics and one of the more recent additions to my reading list. Just her cast page reads like a list of the people I’m usually eating lunch or attending medieval club meetings with: there’s the guy who still wants to be normal; the small, energetic LARPer girl; the “lovable lug”; the sarcastic MMO addict; the hyperactive fangirl; the guy who can’t stop talking; and the woman who dresses in vaguely pirate fashion. There’s even the occasional normal person who wanders over and lasts all of five minutes before fleeing in terror.

The art style is easy on the eyes. Being a graphic designer, artist, and animator, Pete is another of the cartoonists who have quite nicely avoided the typical webmanga look in favor of something fresh. And every character is recognizable and distinct from the others, which I can tell you is no mean feat. It’s a good litmus test of an art style to see if you can still tell characters apart after you change their clothes, and Pete is able to pull this off. You can even tell who’s playing which character in the many “gaming night” plot diversions by their resemblance to the players.

Speaking of plot diversions, the plot is where the comic gets either its most confusing or most fun, depending on which side of the line you want to sit on. The story at its most superficial concerns itself with Mark, an otherwise normal young man who, under the light of the full moon, develops a bad haircut and jaundice. Just kidding! He’s merely forced to confront his repressed desires to enjoy role-playing games and quote cult-favorite movies by being driven insane and running for the closest gaming shop post-haste.

That’s right, Mark is a weregeek. And as pretty much every recent monster movie other than Dog Soldiers has taught us, were-things are noble things, but terribly misunderstood. Hence, they must keep their existence a guarded secret and band together on full moons. Unless, of course, they feel like freaking the mundanes, in which case it’s perfectly fine to fling your darkest secrets to the wind and whatnot.

And you’d think they’d be a bit more careful when they have violent psychopaths tailing them. Yes, there are geek hunters. People determined to dress alike and preserve the city’s sense of normalcy by hunting down every last geek and making them suffer. Y’know, kinda like high school, except they kill you instead of stuffing you in a locker and calling you gay. Then again, considering that geeks are actually vicious shadowbeast fiends in human form as opposed to well-meaning social maladroits, maybe the hunters have more of a clue than the geeks give them credit for.

There’s also the trickiness of the storyline taking detours through various gaming experiences without much prior warning. Occasionally you can’t even tell that they’re in a deeper layer of fiction until someone ends up with elf ears or something. It’s not worth a massive gripe, and it’s not like it turned me away from the comic, but it can be disorienting on occasion.

So there you have it. I recommend giving Weregeek a look, if only to immerse yourself in the occasional justified wackiness that pops up.

Comic Rating: 2d6 + Int.

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Review: AWKWARD ZOMBIE

Gamer comics are, generally, considered among the lowest of the low in the webcomic world, along with (at last count) college roommate comics, bizarre fantasy comics, comics that try to push a social message about alternative lifestyles, furry comics, anything to do with politics, drunken lout comics, and generally anything else that gets published on the Internet. People who review or talk about webcomics often point to Penny Arcade as the end-all, be-all of gaming comics and attempt to shut down any conversation about a new gaming comic. While I agree that maybe we could stand to stanch the flow of recolored Sonic and Mario sprites, I also think that credit should be given where credit is due.

And I think credit is due in the case of AWKWARD ZOMBIE by Kate Tiedrich. To start with, she draws the characters herself instead of ripping and recoloring sprites, which earns her a lot of points right there. It’s also interesting to see her art style progress over the course of her art gallery, starting with a rather odd cross of anime and Precious Moments styles, then progressing to a much more individualistic style. It’s always nice to see an artist who can be recognized when compared to others; I’m generally guilty of falling back on something that looks like anime when I’m pressed for time, and I admire people who can push themselves to go for a bit more.

As for plot . . . you can see that it’s pretty obviously a Nintendo fan-comic of sorts, mostly centering on the Super Smash Bros. series and the presumed interactions between the franchise characters (along with Pokemon, The Legend of Zelda, and World of Warcraft [in a slight break from the Nintendo things]). The comics on the site itself start with Tiedrich’s transition to doing comics in Flash instead of on oekaki programs, giving her the ability to do larger, longer comics and use smoother lines; right off the nailed bat, we’re treated to her characterizations of Roy as a somewhat attention-deficit wacko, Link as a clueless tag-along, and Marth as an imperious and somewhat effeminate fop. This is something of a thread in her Smash-related comics; she generally avoids the more notable characters (like, say, Mario) in favor of inventing her own personalities for the lesser-knowns. It’s a clever way to do fan works without being scrutinized over whether you’re properly matching canon.

One of Tiedrich’s quirks is to throw silly faces onto background objects and make enemy monsters look deranged, which I’m not above admitting gives me the giggles every time. And while her backgrounds are generally lacking, she makes up for it by getting the characters more detail than most people can handle.

It’s also refreshing to see an author avatar character who isn’t stunningly attractive, all-powerful, or generally just more awesome than everyone else. Tiedrich portrays herself as a scrawny, pale young woman with thick, uncontrollable hair, dark circles under her eyes, and what I can only hope are freckles and not some sort of polyp. Actually, she kinda creeps me out a little now and then.

And one last comment: I like her tendency more toward the “show, don’t tell” style. Some of her best comics use no words at all, other than the title. Sure, there’s commentary on the bottom for people who don’t get the strip at first gloss, but she can generally get the joke across without too much effort. And when she does wax verbose, it’s generally for comedic effect by making the long-winded character look like a babbler. Not to mention she really rocks the long, awkward silences.

I know a lot of webcomics rely heavily on wacky, random humor for their punchlines. And usually it’s what really turns me off to them (such as, say, White Ninja Comics or Castle Arfenhouse). But AWKWARD ZOMBIE manages to channel the wackiness into something pretty deft, and I give Tiedrich kudos for that. I recommend it to any Nintendo fan without a chip on the shoulder.

Comic Rating: Four Wii-motes, all pointing at Marth.

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