For a while I toyed with the idea of turning this weblog into a Websnark-like weblog wherein I comment on various webcomics. After all, Eric Burns himself isn’t the snark he used to be, and I have yet to stumble across a weblog that’s a suitable replacement. Heck, if I had the time, that’s exactly one of the things I would do.
The trouble is that I can’t afford the time to go hunting for webcomics anymore. I’ll follow Project Wonderful ads that happen to catch my eye, but for the most part I’m sticking to my regular comics and that’s it. Right now, I have to turn my video gaming hobby into a profession, so my other hobbies have to take a back seat and that’s just how it has to be.
Nevertheless, I am going to post a Websnark-style post about Gaming Guardians. Come to think of it, this post is already starting to look like a rambling self-referential Websnark post already, so I’ll just go with it. Anyway, Gaming Guardians Is Finally Back.
GG started out as a webcomic based on the premise that the cartoon alter-egos of the writer and artist of the strip, Graveyard Greg and EDG, were members of an inter-game-system security force called the Gaming Guardians. Early strips were filled with gags and references to games of all kinds, but mostly tabletop roleplaying games. After a while, more and more regular characters were added to the cast, the cartoon alter-ego of Shane Hensley served as a recurring villain, and while the storylines had drama added to them, it wasn’t too bad.
Then the strip devolved into a bizarre melange resulting from far-too-many-new-characters-at-once (like what happened with Megatokyo), too many obscure references that were tangental to the original gaming theme (one major world in the GG universe is based on Greg’s favorite online forum and not a game, per se, at all), and too much soap-opera type plot developments that compounded the problem because they were based on the too-many-new-characters and obscure references.
What Greg was trying to do was to pull a Cerberus Syndrome, and he partially succeeded. There are some gems among the junk, but the trouble is all the junk. Greg seriously need(s? ed?) to learn Lesson Zero, or at least keep it in mind in the future. The strip had a good start, but if you manage to lose ME, the strip has a serious problem. Just look at this:
I know that NerdTests.com isn’t exactly perfect. After all, they asked me if I was in the middle of reading a 300+ page novel while I was taking the test. This is a false assumption, because I wouldn’t be on the internet if I was in the middle of reading a novel. When I bought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows I worked an 11 hour shift, finished reading it, and still got a full night’s sleep less than 24 hours after I bought it. I haven’t read the Wheel of Time books because they’re too long for me to read in one day, though I’ll devour any Terry Pratchett book that comes out before you can say “Have you read the latest Terry Pratchett book?”. My History/Literature score may only be rated at 99%, but in actuality I’m off of Nerdtest.com’s charts in at least one area.
So when I complain that GG is too esoteric in places, you have to understand that Graveyard Greg is being seriously esoteric. And also, concerning the last couple years before the reboot, “seriously esoteric” is being generous.
I actually emailed him about this about two years ago. He replied and mentioned that he was trying to get a wiki going that would have links to all the references for those who got lost trying to figure it out. I don’t know if he succeeded, as I don’t read the GG forums. This is because I don’t even read the Sluggy Freelance forums. (I’m already on a ton of forums, and I can’t afford to check up on all the forums of every freaking webcomic I read on top of all that. I do need to sleep sometimes, you know.)
In any case, it seems that the new story is starting with a “reboot”. Not a complete continuity reboot a la Crisis on Infinite Earths, since already there is mention of “ten months earlier” and “ten months later”, but at least he seems to be serious about not confusing new readers. (Or readers who have been trying to keep up this whole time, for that matter.)
I have a suggestion for Greg: try to bring back more of “the funny”. That will go a long way towards keeping the storylines on track. Pete Abrams manages to do both serious and funny (often in the same strip), and while he has gone off on a bizarre long tangent storyline that lost a lot of his readers, he only did it once.
It occurs to me that GG is also a lot like Kingdom Hearts. KH has characters from many Disney movies and many Final Fantasy games, and many original characters. KH avoids confusion in three ways: it assumes the player is familiar with the Disney characters which appear in their own worlds and (mostly) stay in them, the FF characters are all simple cameo appearances, and the actual plot mostly revolves around the original characters.
There are a few exceptions to this: Malificent from Sleeping Beauty is cast as a recurring villain, versions of Donald Duck and Goofy travel with the Main character Sora throughout the games, and a bunch of characters from Final Fantasy VII and VIII have been re-imagined as characters that are actually from a world original to the KH series. However, for the most part, inter-world travel is limited to a handful of characters and inter-world crossover plots are nonexistent unless they tie specifically into the larger plot.
KH does have plenty of subplots and minor character conflicts (most notably between KH Cloud and KH Sephiroth who both originally were from FF7), but it’s all very straightforward. Roxas may turn out to be a rogue piece of Sora’s soul*, but at least there aren’t rogue Roxases running around after Sora and Roxas merge. And maybe the bit about Rikku thinking he’s Ansem though most of KH2 seems bizarre and contrived and they don’t bother to even explain it until near the very end, but at least it’s not the result of Rikku travelling back in time from a timeline where he kills Ansem only to travel back again and turn out to be Ansem originally.
In any case, I do like the new storyline so far. It hinges on a gaming reference, but it’s a relatively well-known D&D reference that’s easy to look up. I’m looking forward to reading Gaming Guardians regularly again, even (and especially) if it doesn’t turn out the way I expect it to. But, y’know, it would be nice if more funny was brought back alongside all the drama, and the gaming references aren’t so esoteric that a Mega-Dorky Nerd God doesn’t understand them. I’m just saying.
*This may sound like a spoiler, but it’s actually a relatively minor one that you find out early on in KH2.