Sunday, December 11, 2005

Double-you tee eff.

(From Penny Arcade. Click for full sized... WTF?)

Yeah, so I've read the whole thing. All of the archives. And yes, I am a bit tired. But I'm snarking while I still have this fresh on my mind, just for you. Happy? Good. Because I'd have to kill you if you weren't.

...let's start with the good news, shall we?

The good news is that it defenitely improved towards the end. By the time I got to the beginning of 2005, my impressions improved drastically, and tHence the thumbnailed strip on the right. That, I will freely admit, is funny. The idea of sending someone a soppy "beary sorry" e-card for aggro? Hysterical.

And so, as you may have already figured out, I laughed at some of the strips. In short, sometimes it was funny. I've already caught myself grinning while thinking of the phrase "I’m curious about the colander on your head."

And the cardboard tube samurai. Crap on a crutch, did I love the cardboard tube samurai or what?

Also, while we're on the subject of what was good, I would like to say that I totally grooved on the Penny Arcade Presents section of the site. It's a bunch of more serious story comics that Gabe and Tycho did about video games. Just to name a few, there's one for Empire Earth II, which makes me grin, and one for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which was awesome, and, my personal favorite, the one for Painkiller, which rocked my world.

In this vein, what surprised me is that whenever Gabe and Tycho would go off onto little tangents of story and continuity, I was hooked. I liked the Scion storyline. I liked An Alternative Lifestyle. And Cardboard and Steel was just awesome. Have I mentioned that I like the Cardboard Tube Samurai?

But... the problem was that it's fairly obvious that those aren't what the strip is about. Those are little sidequests, playful diversions of our fearless heroes to do when the mood strikes them. The main focus of the strip... is Gabe and Tycho sitting around and saying things. Things that are unconnected from strip to strip, floating out in space.

Let me first say that I could very easily tell that many of my problems with PA were simply my own fault. The first is very much one of them: It's a problem that I have with all gag-a-day strips.

As I've said before, I am a total sucker for stories. If anything tells a really good story, then I'm on it like a raving lunatic, drinking in every ounce of story that I can get.

So for a comic to be set in an almost completely continuity-free environment and be purely gag-a-day, as PA is, it has to be very funny. And in many cases, I found PA lacking in this case. It was funny sometimes, but occasionally I found it... wanting. For every comic like this one, there would be at least four or five that I just stared blankly at, shrugged slightly, then moved on, either because I didn't get it or I didn't think that it was funny.

A second problem, one that was also my own, I suspect, because it is closely related to the above, was that the characters made no impression on me whatsoever. There was Gabe and Tycho, of course (though I often have trouble remembering which is which). And they have those girlfriends whose names... I don't remember. And the DivX player (a one-trick pony, in my opinion; "Oh that crazy DivX player! He gets drunk and insults people!") And the juicer, of course. (But that's a gimme; everybody knows about that.) And maybe some other recurring male characters? There was that guy... who liked Macs. Maybe his name was Charles. And some other guy who might be named Gary. And Tycho's niece (or maybe she's Gabe's niece? I don't remember) Anne. I remember her name because I liked her. And... that's it. If there are more recurring characters, I don't know them off the top of my head.

And that's bad, folks. Especially in my department. If I read more than half a decade's worth of strips and still don't remember characters' names? Ouch, guys.

And I know that it's supposed to be structured so that you can read each individual strip without knowing any backstory or character names and everything... but heck, Narbonic and Schlock Mercenary can both do that, and they have backstory. What it boiled down to is that it simply wasn't my cup of tea.

The gist of it is that, though I enjoyed some of the strips, most of them, for me, simply fell flat. They seemed bizarre. They were referring to some weird news event that happened four years ago, or to some strange industry joke.

This is probably a good place to mention that some of the jokes undoubtedly passed me by because I am not really a gamer. Yeah, I've shot a few bots in UT2004, I've played FFIX, I have a general inkling of how WoW works, and I like Zelda, but... a lot of PA's jokes made me feel... alienated. Like it might be funny if I had even a remote knowledge of what they were talking about. Some might say that PA simply went over my head because it was a more of a hardcore gamer comic. But I've never had a strip lose me because I wasn't, essentially, a member of its demographic. I get CAD and VGCats, which are about video games, at least in theory. I get OOTS, which is rife with tabletop roleplaying references. Even The Splendid Everlasting, which is basically a political cartoon referring to all kinds of weird political events, makes me laugh. But when I was reading PA, I felt consistently lost. Like I was missing something before, or that there should be some follow up to explain. And, of course, a lot of the strips, I understood. Take the above strip as an example. I understand it, and you can understand it even without having ever had a previous encounter with Kingdom Hearts. It stands alone, and can be found funny by anyone with a sense of humor. But... some of the others I simply found... incomprehensible.

Another thing which was adressed slightly in the debate at Websnark was whether or not CAD and PA are really comparable.

And in my reading, I have become strongly of the opinion that they are not. They look extremely similar at the outset, but really they are two very different comics, despite appearances.

And... that's my two cents. Hope you liked it, because it represents a significant investment of time. And if you don't like it... *Shrug.* Who cares? I'm tired, and I'm going to bed.



Blogger tedzsee said...

so... would you keep reading PA now? that's the real question.

8:32 PM  
Blogger Kneefers said...

I think I will. I'm not going to let all that readin' go to waste. And, as I mentioned, I *did* like it better towards the end. So yeah, why not? It's not *that* bad.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Merus said...

It'll probably be easier to enjoy because of the newsposts. Hell, I mostly read it for Tycho's posts, and they certainly do well at setting up the context of the comic.

4:08 PM  

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