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So You Want To: Write A Gaming Comic
Gaming. Is there a more quintessentially nerdy activity? Perhaps, but that certainly hasn't stopped hundreds upon hundreds of cartoonists from creating webcomics based on the activity, many of which have become surprisingly popular.

While the vast majority of gaming webcomics follow the best-known sort of gaming, video gaming, there's nothing to stop you writing a webcomic about Tabletop Games or Tabletop RPGs - such comics are comparatively rare though.

The market for gaming comics is perhaps fairly saturated, but then again, an awful lot of the stuff out there is pretty weak, with poor artwork, unfunny jokes and blatant Leader Following. If you think you can do better and buck Sturgeon's Law, then read on!


Necessary Tropes

The humour of nearly all gaming webcomics comers from the Genre Savvy characters Lampshade Hanging all the Acceptable Breaks from Reality that gaming entails - much of the rest is spent riffing on recent news in the world of gaming. Seinfeldian Conversations on how Videogame Tropes could apply to the real world are a must too: what would life would be like if you could always see a helpful display of how much life you had left, for example?

Many gaming comics take place on World of Weirdness. The real world is not nearly as exciting as videogames, where anything goes and Death Is a Slap on the Wrist. As a result, you are more likely than not going to have to jazz things up a bit to make

Finally, all gaming webcomics must include at least one Take That against Jack Thompson. It is practically the law. It might be possible to make one that does not, but no-one has ever tried.

Choices, Choices

You're going to want a character (or two) to act as the gamer: the one who actually plays the games and comments on them. You do however have a choice here: the characters can be sitting around playing the games - the Two Gamers on a Couch approach favoured by Penny Arcade and Ctrl+Alt+Del - or they can actually be the game's characters, living inside the game world, either by Deep-Immersion Gaming (as used by VG Cats) or an RPG Mechanics Verse (The Order of the Stick).

Also, what sort of games do your characters play? Do they play anything that catches their eye, or are they drawn to a particular genre? Are they RPG fans, always joking about inventory limits or wondering why Link doesn't just buy his bottles at the shop, rather than going on epic side-quests for them. Or maybe they play First Person Shooters, and decorate their home with dozens of plain wooden crates. Perhaps they're into retro gaming, ranting about why the 8-bit era was the best or bemoaning that freakin' duck. Or are they into two different genres, which can make for a lot of conflict?

Pitfalls

Writing a gaming comics means Writing Who You Know, and if you're writing a gaming comic, then the gamer you know best will most likely be you. Likewise, your character's best friend will most likely take elements of your best friend, and your Love Interest will more likely than not be based on your wife/girlfriend/stalkee. There's nothing wrong with this - many great webcomics are just Life Embellished - but it can very very very very fall into Marty Stu territory. No matter how awesome you may think you are, a perfect main character who is beloved by all yet completely off the wall stretches the Willing Suspension of Disbelief very fast. This is particularly a problem when the character acts like a complete Jerkass Man Child to all and sundry, and yet is still beloved by all.

Further, gaming webcomics take Most Writers Are Male to its logical extreme: virtually all gaming webcomic writers are male, and usually fairly young, affluent and nerdy at that. Combined with the Great Internet Fuckwad Theory, many webcomics sink to Refuge in Audacity Black Comedy fast. Scatological humour, gratuitous bloody violence and blatant sexism are unfortunately much too common.

Finally, there is the dreaded Cerebus Syndrome to watch out for. While there is nothing wrong with trying to make your comic deeper than just two guys shooting the wind about whatever crosses their minds, trying to do it with crassly-examined rape, abortion, miscarriage or terminal illness is a good way to hemorrhage fans fast.

Oh yes, and look out for that accursed Schedule Slip too.

The slightly repetitive nature of some of the comics - the same characters sitting on the couch, or doing the same things - can also lead to your comic becoming a Cut and Paste Comic if you're not careful. Try and throw in a bit of variance in settings, facial expressions and layout if possible. Or, at least, try and make your standards as interesting and well-drawn as possible.

Potential Subversions

  • The main characters of Two Gamers on a Couch style comics are Always Male. Female characters typically just act as love interests (or sex interests, depending on the level of your comic), and spend all their time just standing around being female. You would think more people would have tried to subvert this one by now.
  • Most gaming comics are primarially about video games. There are far fewer gaming comics about board games, tabletop role-playing-games, wargames, LAR Ps, trading card games, standard card games, or classic games.

Writers' Lounge

Suggested Themes and Aesops

A popular one is that New Media Are Not Evil, often in response to the latest "video games cause violence" controversy.

Other than that, you can write about just about anything - gaming covers an incredible number of subjects, and there will always be something to interest you.

Departments

Set Designer / Location Scout

If you're writing a Two Gamers on a Couch comic, your characters will probably live in Friends Rent Controlled Sitcom Standardized Housing. You can subvert this if you want, but bear in mind that either you or the artist will have to draw the backgrounds for this comic, and making it cramped and messy makes the art much harder to draw.

If your comic takes place in an RPG Mechanics verse, then it will take place in Arthurian/Medieval England unless specifically stated otherwise.

Props Department

Games consoles, handheld consoles and computers, obviously. Being able to draw a BFS and the Standard FPS Guns will help too.

Costume Designer

Jeans, t-shirts, messy hair, nothing fancy. Unless your characters are inside the game, in which case you can go crazy, so long as you follow the game's theme.

Extra Credit

Note: Opinions vary wildly about the quality of some of these comics. Take with a pinch lots of salt.

The Greats

The Controversial

  • Ctrl+Alt+Del - A somewhat popular comic that nevertheless is accused by the Hatedom of many of the problems of the genre. Walls of Text, Cerebus Syndrome, poor art style and the infamous miscarriage are frequent points brought up by critics.

The Epic Failures

Further reading


Write A First Person ShooterAnalysis/Video GamesWrite A Real Time Strategy
Write A Furry ComicSoYouWantTo/See The IndexWrite A Good Yaoi

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