Friday, September 22, 2017

You Got Old Twelve Years Ago, Brent

"Another protester has crossed the line
To find the money's on the other side"

Green Day - Holiday

Scott Kurtz made a funny. That this should surprise me at all seems a bit sad, as PvP was one of the first webcomics I ever read, if not the first. Green as I was, the notion "wow, here's one about computer games" actually struck me as a wonderful novelty back around Y2K, and I found Kurtz an amusing dork for being into that roleplaying shit like Ultima Online. Sure I was playing Diablo at the time and wrote fan fiction about my Diablo character but that was totally different of course.

I stopped reading PvP over a decade ago, and skimming its archives now I can't say I'm sorry I did. Though I doubt that even when struggling its popularity ever waned below the average of online cartoonery, it did get quite a bit of grief for gradually moving away from its initial online gamer focus. To his credit Kurtz was relatively honest about snubbing his old audience in favor of embracing the all-too-human condition, and even after the strip degenerated to a plain-Jane relationship comedy, he still managed to pull off the occasional memorable showstopper. It just wasn't funny anymore. The only reason I even visited the site today was for the spin-off comic, Table Titans, which recaptures some small modicum of the old adventuring spirit with an eye toward gamer foibles. Whether it's a GM dramatically setting the scene with crumbs in his beard or a gamer swooning at having an incredibly amateurish portrait drawn of his character, it's still funnier and more lovable than the old cast's frequently overextended dating/family/office dramas. Unless, of course, you've lost your sense of perspective and quality and instead of ridiculing incompetence as we all should, you think some worthless idiot's Diablo fanfic should be held up as worthy of attention.

I was checking back on Table Titans, incidentally, after letting a couple of months go by to run out a particularly long-winded violin concert of a self-absorbed RPG character origin story about growing up on the mean streets of Provo, Utah. Like Pandaren in World of Warcraft, the April Fools' jokes of a decade past become the accepted norm as general intelligence drops. A lack of game humor in itself wouldn't have soured PvP... if it had been replaced with something equally imaginative, insightful or snappy. However, the sheer mundane tedium of story arcs about softball and mall santas is only compounded by the mountain of political correctness Kurtz built around his monetization strategy of championing cartooning in the new online medium. With respectability came the lowest common denominator and self-censorship, and two decades later "ale and whores" sadly still appears the funniest thing he's ever written. No wonder the only recent PvP strip which really made me smile was today's call-back to the innocent days of panda maulings, when his humor wasn't subjected to a veto by fear of the moral majority. The same writer who in his more youthful vigor rightly lambasted newspaper comics for their shallow, moralizing activism ("I never learned how to read!") has degenerated to ensuring his cast looks like the village people, self-flagellating over his white hetero male guilt and tackling social issues while strewing eggshells constantly before himself so as not to bring offense.

Doesn't matter that you've got nothing to say so long as you say it in rainbow technicolor.
Vacuous posturing sells.

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