Monday, February 12, 2018

Awful Hospital

"Monster movie
Daddy Warbucks up against Bobby Fuller

I fought the war but the war won't stop for the love of god"

Metric - Monster Hospital

I've been deriving inordinate enjoyment from Awful Hospital lately, which is slightly odd given its readily apparent flaws. It starts off as a webcomic rendition of a very low-budget adventure game filled with body horror and gross-out humor, then tacks on RPGish adventuring party members and combat turns, making the audience sit through round after round of "Bob uses rusty knife on zombie" - dull enough when you're actually playing a game, much less reading about it.
(No, really, scroll down to Feb 04 below this if you want to see how boring it is. I may be a hypocrite, but I'm a self-conscious one.)

Its general plot, exposition and dialogues might either be called Wonderland nonsense prose or postmodern absolutist relativism, the all-purpose "everything's possible" always so popular with creators too lazy to maintain internal coherence. Or just call it random crap. Some readers might be put off by the gratuitous bathroom humor comprising much of the early action, or by the pointlessly long digressions into which every other chapter seems to spiral. Still, if you're easily captivated by both world-building and biology as I am, Awful Hospital's dash of both might pique your grokker.

Of course, the odd colon-centric character here and there still ranks much less disgusting than the comic's other major gimmick: audience participation. The internet has placed creators directly in contact with their audience, allowing a route to self-publication free of editorial gatekeeping, a truly transformative advance yet not without its drawbacks. Pandering has only grown in importance and with the audience constantly commenting on every installment of a serialized work, a lot of small-timers spend a lot of time micromanaging their appeal. Awful Hospital sometimes incorporates suggestions from its "comments" section into the protagonist's next course of action, as the many competing voices inside her head. Great way to make the audience feel included and keep the Patreon subscriptions rolling (it pays to rub their bellies while you milk 'em) until you discover most humans are barely sentient vermin unfit to continue wasting oxygen - which is how your heroine ends up romancing a hamburger.

I may be biased. The very notion of interactive theater makes my skin crawl. All the weirder that I'm till following the story (such as it is) through its progression from a jumble of throwaway gags about sapient body parts through tedious play-by-play combat scenes to something resembling causality. Likely this is because whatever its faults, one thing Awful Hospital isn't is yet another webcomic about the sex life of highschoolers or twenty-somethings. When not complete gibberish it's creative enough, despite sullying that creativity with us rabble's inane mutterings. I do have to wonder if such setups don't presage things to come. Incorporating the comments section into a work so very closely approximates Bradbury's TV "family" from Fahrenheit 451, the terminally deconstructed faux-art existing solely to make its troglodytic audience feel included.

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