[Alt: 'How about a little ... *family growth*?' 'Dude, that's not until round two.' ]
Let's talk about art. More specifically, let's talk about how comics use certain symbols to represent concepts that are inherently undrawable. For example, speech. The usual convention is that a character's speech is either contained in "bubble" which points to the character speaking it, or, there is a line connecting the person's mouth to their words. None of these bears any particular resemblance to what happens in reality when a person speaks, but it is a necessary convention in order for comics to work at all (or at least, non-silent ones). Moving on.
What happens when two characters need to say the same thing, at once? The usual convention is to have the text written only once but have it connected to both characters. As you can imagine, this can be tricky if, say, the characters are on opposite sides of a crowded room, or if the characters have other lines to say. Now, I firmly believe that a good cartoonist can find a way to make this work, but sometimes it can be tricky.
I bring this up because the first panel of today's xkcd offers a helpful example of a massive failure in this sort of problem. He has two characters, who each say one unique line and one shared line. I think a better way to deal with this situation would be to have the lines in separate panels - so that the panel with both of them saying "Wait, who are you?" doesn't have any other text. As it is, there is a continuous path going from the man, through his first line of text, through the shared line of text, into the woman's line, and then into the woman herself. This is very bad. We naturally read left to right of course (at least, when we are reading in english) and so we'd be inclined to read the text in that order - Man's Line, Shared, Woman's. The line tracing that path only makes it more natural to read that way.
But that's not the way it should be read - the shared line has to be last, because the unique lines are both said before the character realizes there's a mistake. Anyway, it ends up making the whole comic get off to a hugely confusing start.
Also, the woman has some kind of spider sponge monster attacking her neck but I assume that is just usual xkcd bad art.
The second panel, I am happy to say, is not as awful as the first. Astute readers will figure out the premise of the comic from here - that characters from different cliched pornographic films are interacting in a situation they are not prepared for. The less astute readers should hopefully understand it by the end of panel 3.
Let's pause and let me point out that, glaring flaws in panel 1 aside, this set up could be amusing. What could have conspired to have these people all in the same room, all expecting certain other people but not the ones who are there? More importantly, will anyone have sex? It must be a complicated plot - after all, all the characters are actors, knowing that they are in some kind of film. Unless the author thinks that people actually behave this way. But I doubt it. In any case, yes the first three panels seem unrealistic - but they also seem like they could be a good way to set up a great punchline.
Alas, the only punchline in this comic is the "line" that my fist traces as it "punches" Randall Munroe in the face. I'm sorry. I do it out of love.
As I tragically learned, none of our questions were answered. Instead, the comic took a jarring turn, having all the characters begin to play a semi-unknown board game. We don't find out why they are where they are. We don't see any consequences. The Jones family, whose house was broken into by these sex workers, can't muster any sort of reaction beyond the first half of a sentence, and that sentence is filled not with anger, but with simple confusion.
Now, most of this comic is not enough to send me into a spittle filled rage. But then there are those pesky little details -
Look. I'm sorry Randall. I know you are a nerd and you are proud of it. I know your audience loves nothing more than realizing that you play the same nerdy games as them ("OH EM GEES, Randall plays Settlers of Catan? I DON'T KNOW ANYONE who plays that game except the people I play it with and most of the Internet!"). But goddammit that does not mean that porn stars all love the same games as you. I don't really care why you made this comic because the ultimate feeling I'm left with is that you wanted to make a comic where extreme sexiness was forever linked with playing your danged resource-based tabletop game and all the characters suddenly start acting like socially mistaken middle schoolers and hey holy fuck! that's what your entire audience is made of!
The problem is that none of this makes sense. In the world, humans tend to make choices and actions based on the present situation as they understand it, past knowledge that they have (firsthand or otherwise) and desired future outcomes. BUT IT DOESN'T MAKE SENSE THAT THREE STRANGERS, TRYING TO HAVE SEX ON CAMERA WITH NON-PRESENT PEOPLE, AND FINDING OTHER SIMILARLY CONFUSED PEOPLE AROUND THEM, WOULD SUDDENLY DECIDE TO START PLAYING YOUR STUPID GAME. that is not what happens. ever.
God, using that game is such horrible fan pandering. Why does it have to be that game? Why can't it - and again, I'm here temporarily conceding that it makes any damn sense for them to play a board game of any kind at this point in their sorry little lives - be a more normal game? One that a variety of confused stranger may actually know the rules to? Because xkcd readers won't feel special that way! xkcd readers want to come to the site to find out that their own little quirks and joys - the things that make them so unique and special in exactly the same way that every other pseudo-nerd is - are shared, appreciated, and most importantly, acknowledged as special. If the game had been scrabble or monopoly or clue or chess or checkers or backgammon or anything reasonable, then hell, anyone could have appreciated that joke! Even NON-NERDS might have laughed at it!
I'll pause to let the xkcd lovers out there have a heart attack or two at that thought.
Luckily, Randall knew to pick the sort of game that would make pretend nerds fall over with glee merely to read the name of. Do you think this does not happen? YOU ARE WRONG, MOTHER FUCKER.
But look - terrible middle school sex fantasies aside, and stupid nerd pandering aside, the biggest problem with this comic is that it simply makes no sense. We don't know why they are in the house. We don't know why they seem not to care. We don't know if they are meant to be actors or merely people acting in real life the way certain actors reportedly act in certain films. I'd be happy to suspend my incredible amounts of disbelief if it were worth it - for example, that's what I did only one comic ago. But that doesn't help! It doesn't make anything make more sense. We're still just left with confused, sexed up strangers playing games like they are at an all boys 8th grade sleepover birthday party but they are in a stranger's house. I just - I guess I just give up. This comic utterly confounds me.
Perhaps the alt-text will redeem it? Or perhaps you are a silly fool who hasn't learned the way this always ends?
Let's talk about the alt-text. I can't quite decide what the joke is - it's either that in the game you can "grow" your family my having the two parents make a child; presumably they do this through having sex (shown off screen). In that case, the alt-text is taking the concept of "having sex" and using it as a euphemism for the act of having sex. OR, it is a joke because in the game your family grows larger, whereas while having or preparing for sex, a man's penis grows larger. What I'm trying to say is that there are complex layers of humor here.