Sunday, October 5, 2008

Comic 484: Only Suckers Pay For Games

lousy comics sold here

Well, I said I didn't have much to say about this comic, but luckily for us all regular commenter Thomas did. And through the magic of the internet, I can make it look like I posted this in a timely manner. So here's his guest post, with the usual stipulation that I do not have to agree with what he says. Also, the title of this post is his.


Comic 484, "Flash Games," leans on a very fun truth: that free games made by hobbyists are often more entertaining than multi-million-dollar productions made for high-end consoles. I agree, and so do the xkcd forums, that there are plenty of great flash games out there.

But xkcd is a comic, not a public service announcement. Let's look for the wounded joke.

The bottom caption spells out the joke, in case Stickman sitting at a small computer enjoying a puzzle doesn't clue us in to the fact that he's ignoring his monstrous gaming setup. Speaking of monstrous setups, why does Stickman own one if he's going to spite it anyway? Giant speakers, a TV so large it requires a steel reinforcement -- if flash games are more addictive, consoles must be doing something right to sucker hundreds of dollars out of everyone who agrees. What's next, does Stickman buy a McMansion and then revel in the joys of having a small garden? Which is better, having your cake or eating it, too?

Stickman appears to own two or three consoles, depending how you look at the grey boxes. The only visible controller is a motion-sensor and what appears to be a wiimote. Hey, wait a minute, I thought the Wii was known for appealing to casual gamers with the sort of simple fare that flash games use? And that there are flash-based sites that take advantage of using the wiimote's pointer as a mouse cursor, so if you wanted the best of both worlds -- nevermind. Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft are only selling millions of consoles per year because people are blind to open-source gaming. More physics-based puzzles, please!

The alt-text doesn't help the smarminess. Does Randall actually look forward to head-tracking, or is that a shot at the idea that paid-for games will ever be fun, that the "next-gen" will always promise what the current consoles fail to do?

Randall's already shown that his next comic doesn't make up for this one.


  1. I feel like this is kind of like his Bernanke reference, in that it just sorta shows that he likes to jump on the bandwagon. What, everyone's got all the latest games? Must get! But they're just for show.

    Anyway. I enjoyed your post, Thomas. I did not enjoy the comic.

  2. If I may assist in hostile over-analysis...

    Most Flash-based sites are not open source. "Free" and "open source" are not synonymous. Actually, no Flash-based site is fully "Open Source" (capital letters) because flash is a proprietary language owned by Adobe. Richard Stallman (everyone's favorite katana owner) would never play a Flash game for this reason.

    So assigning some "open-source crusade" motivation here is factually inaccurate.

    This essay makes a brave attempt to turn a single panel and a single statement into social commentary and a personal attack on everyone who ever bought a game system. But it isn't. Ah, but then you strain to fit the contradictory alt-text into your thesis by filtering it through the "Randall is full of spite for everyone who has spent a dollar on games" assumption. But I am reasonably sure Randall has linked to head-tracking on his blog, and thinks it is awesome. So the assumption of sarcasm is implausible.

    Maybe the game system is comically large to emphasize contrast. I would bet that Randall has some of "the most powerful gaming systems in the world" and did not write this comic to express his self-loathing.

  3. Amanda - Thanks!

    Pat - I see what you mean. If I could make two edits to this entry (hear hear, Carl), I would change "open source" to "freeware" and add "Except Me" to the title (Only Suckers Pay For Games, Except Me).

    However, the alt-text is addressed with a question, because I think Randall could be going either way. If he's being sarcastic about motion control, then that's smarminess all the way. If he's being serious, then he would seem to be temporarily undermining Stickman, since he would play head-tracking games for five minutes and go back to shooting arrows at precise angles or falling for a girl who uses a ceiling-mounted head tracker to measure the wildness of men in bed OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. Extra stick-boners if a chart is involved.

    Anywho, the post was a brave attempt at dissecting the social joke in the strip. The strip is much too tame to be an actual attack. Thanks for bringing clarity.

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