Girlz 'N' Games
|Original review author:||The Luigiian|
|Webcomic name:||Girlz 'N' Games|
|Start Date:||August 24, 2004|
|End Date:||No idea; but the site's dead, so...|
|Genre:||Gender targeted massively matriarchal video game comic (GTMMVGC)|
|Defining Flaw:||Do we really need a video game comic that combines Sex and the City, Twilight and Portal references? For fuck's sake.|
The first thing you'll notice is one particular guy's chin. No, wait, every guy's chin, plus the lead's perpetually scowling expression, all tied up with lifeless line work, insufferably bad anatomy, and ugly coloration.
It doesn't actually have the female characters talk about their periods in every strip, but this comic pretty much covers every other gender-stereotype base. Absolutely appallingly written from start to finish.
Poorly drawn, even more poorly written, and stereotyped out every orifice, not one character is likable, realistic, funny, interesting, or entertaining in any way, shape or form.
This comic attempts to appeal to both males and females, but its tiresome "grrrl-talk" pseudo-feminist pastiche hides a comic that's more like Ctrl+Alt+Del than anything even approaching an understanding of feminine issues.
Whether male or female, it's easy to see that this comic neither provides a true voice for female gamers nor is appealing to male gamers. It's the worst of all worlds.
The very first two things I thought of when starting this review were, somewhat ironically, Samus Aran and Shredded Moose. Why? I'm not sure. Samus Aran is exemplary of a tough, independent woman who was capable of fighting off scores of alien beasts just like the guys, a female character that any gamer could comfortably play, or, to put it more bluntly, exactly the kind of gender-blind intelligent female character that Erin, star of the webcomic Girls 'N' Games, most assuredly is not. Meanwhile, Shredded Moose is exemplary of everything that is wrong with gamer comics, centering only fleetingly on games and more often centering on the author's quasi-political, sexist pandering to a knuckle-dragging audience incapable of looking at anything opposite their own gender without grunting out some tired chestnut about how it is gay or gross or somehow offensive to the hyper-masculine homophobic emotionally shielded facade they use to prevent themselves from realizing that they are either closet gay, pathetic or most likely both.
Actually, now that I think about it, I know exactly why I thought of those two things first. It's because Samus Aran is what this comic wants to be, and Shredded Moose is what Girlz 'N' Games actually is. The comic, in essence, is the same crappy, banal pandering machine that Shredded Moose exemplifies. I will admit that it isn't disgusting, disturbing, violent, or sickening like Shredded Moose is. It doesn't horrify, doesn't fill the reader with sadness and suicidal thoughts, but what it does do which makes it more similar to Moose than Metroid is its core message. The message: Girls are different.
I am aware that they are. But I wasn't aware that this difference applies when it comes to playing video games. Surely this is one place where the difference between a man and woman is, oh I don't know, immaterial, right?
First and foremost, Girlz 'N' Games has a shitty title. We see that Adams is the kind of individual that likes to use misspellings in a vain attempt to make her comic appear informal and "fun". But here she isn't even consistent about it. At least if you spell every plural word with a finishing z, a la Girlz 'N' Gamez, it makes some kind of sense, with a bit of perverse (or at the very least reversed) alliteration to lighten things up. But here we see the author not even holding true to her own particular spelling style. It's a simple, silly bit of nothing, but the kind of thing that drives certain people (i.e. myself) absolutely nuts.
Furthermore, this comic does a bad job of trying to appeal to men, like myself, and also will almost certainly offend women. The truth is that a comic like this implies that somehow Penny Arcade isn't for girls and that women who play video games need their own, special gaming webcomic, which is, uhm, not true. If there were a gaming comic for gamer girls, or more specifically one that was actually good, it would simply star female characters that act like actual women, who most likely would not spend their precious comic strip panels talking about how they aren't gender stereotypes. In fact, I could see them pretty much acting like Tycho and Gabe from Penny Arcade but possessing vaginal parts between their legs instead of penises. It seems obvious, but in fact having a vagina does not automatically mean that you need to add an "I'm a girl, but" tagline every time you do something which is considered culturally masculine, a fact which Adams apparently has forgotten.
It's mostly fine, but I want to comment on the fine details, which like the rest of the comic are trying too hard to be feminine and come across as both degrading and insulting. I begin by critiquing the pink icon which appears on the tabbed windows in my Firefox browser, a color motif which is spread across the entire comic like herpes.
I would like to ask you, Ms. Adams, directly, is pink really your favoritest color in the whole wide world, or did you choose this color because you are attempting to ingrain in everybody that reads your comic that it is for girls? I know many women and men who love the color pink. I live in a pink house. My penis, which is not female or feminine in any way, is also a shade of pink. There is nothing intrinsic about the color pink that makes it feminine. Nor is your using the color "ironic" or "funny" in any way.
No, I'm serious here, quit it with the fucking pink shit.
In addition to the pink coloration Adams uses to hammer the SILLY BOYS VIDEO GAMEZ ARE FOR GIRRLLLLLZZZ attitude into everybody's face, she also has little love hearts in her logo, a logo which is also accented by these cute little affectations in the lettering. This is shit one would expect if they were drawing up the logo for a Pretty Princess Unicorn Fairies toy box, but which seems like forced "ironic" attitude here (much like the visually oppressive PINK COLORING EVERYWHERE)
Art (or lack thereof)
Since we've been talking about visual stuff, let's focus on the actual strip which exists between the obnoxious logo and the pink calendar and the essay long blog posts underneath. Noelle Adams does not know how to draw chins. Especially not the lead male character's chin. Sometimes she does an almost passable job, but that isn't to say it's very good. No matter where you turn, her facial details are poorly drawn and don't emote. For example, no matter how she's feeling or what she's thinking, you can always find Erin, her lead female character, because she's usually scowling.
Until I got this far, I hadn't noticed a single background, probably because none of them are worth looking at. Every background is either made up of random abstract shapes, nonexistent, a copypasted Google Image Search item or utterly boring.
Looking back, in the forums I once said I wasn't bothered by the boring backgrounds in another webcomic, The Red String. I think having a simply bland background doesn't bother me primarily because of comics like Girls 'N' Games, where the artwork is so nonexistent or lazy that the artist doesn't even bother trying. I would still harp on Girlz 'N' Games, but for me the backgrounds in these strips are the last straw. It's almost like I'm not reading a comic at all, rather, simply looking at Google Images stiched together with poorly-drawn cartoons pasted on the front, with dialogue pulled directly from some boring fucking blog nobody would ever want to read and plotlines pulled from the darkest, least-explored portion of Adams' anatomy.
Yes, I used the "vagina bats" comic for reference. So sue me.
Writing (as it stands)
Actually, I have to admit, I'm sure that Erin gets laid. For you see, like any truly sexist piece of trash this comic depicts Erin, the female, as having a (completely unnecessary) boyfriend to latch onto. Exactly the kind of boyfriend you'd expect a stereotypical sitcom woman to have, I might add, a stupid, brainless lunk of a stereotype "gamer male" who wears a Rockstar gamer shirt, has a big jutting chin and big pecs and abs, all of them so hyper-inflated (especially with regards to the chin) that he'd might as well have some kind of disorder. At every turn his second brain hacks his first in some kind of blood-rerouting minigame, leading to his being overcome with lust for things like three dimensional women on computer hardware boxes to the point that he must choose this one over a superior competing model OOGAH BOOGAH BOOGAH ME MALE ME HORNY
The truth is, this would be fine, assuming it were actually funny. But like most of this comic, it's not, as so many of the late Portal references and poorly-done allusions illustrate. Like with most video-game related webcomics this one has a fatal defect, namely a complete and utter lack of inspiration. This comic, for example, references "the cake is a lie", on Christmas 2010. When was Portal released again? With the Orange Box, yes?
She referenced Portal beforehand, in a comic which also dealt with Twilight and Sex and the City, thusly fulfilling her "female stereotype+videogame reference" quota. Of course, the punchline is indecipherable. Although alternately, one could argue that the joke is that Noelle Adams is still banging on about how she is so totally not a typical girl, is special and knows video game references and can coherently babble out dialogue that GLaDOS said years before in a song which everybody got tired of minutes after first hearing it.
Adams milks every pop culture reference for all she can, and mixes these references with nerd culture to no end. She mixes vuvuzelas and Dungeons and Dragons. She'll mix Alice in Wonderland with MMORPGs. And, naturally, she'll mix Avatar and World of Warcraft. And then, even more inexplicably, Avatar and Clash of the Titans.
Tellingly, throughout all of this Erin is followed by "partner in crime" Todd, who is in nearly every scene with Erin. In much the same way that Buckley's Ethan needs Lilah to demonstrate that he's not a complete loser, apparently Erin needs Todd, for reasons unexplained. I don't know why she doesn't have any female friends in the comic, or why she is the only important female in the comic. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that Todd is portrayed as an abusive piece of shit, the kind of controlling freak that would control Erin's every move. But it's sad. For a comic that touts itself as being for gamer girls, this one is shockingly full of testosterone. Some of it is there for eye-candy, but in truth most of the women are portrayed as stupid Sims-playing, Twilight-watching caricatures. I know a lot of women love to play FrontierVille for reasons nobody can explain, but there are plenty of women who love good games like Bioshock.
Which appropriately enough, brings me to my last, and most important critique of Girls 'N' Games. When Adams isn't spouting stereotypes, such as the idea that a woman would be offended to get Wii Fit for Christmas because it implies she's fat, she's not so subtly implying that even gamer girls, women that I'm pretty sure are independent-minded and intelligent like most modern women, still need a big burly man to protect them. When he's not hitting her or being pseudo-submissive, Erin holds Todd lovingly, in a "I gotta stick by my man" pose that would leave Gloria Steinem rolling in her grave. This "I need a man" attitude is carried over into her video game references. For example, Adams makes exactly one comic about the excellent game Bioshock, a game with plenty of independent minded female characters (including, but not limited to antagonist Andrew Ryan's mistress Diane McClintock, BioShock II antagonist Sophia Lamb, brilliant scientist Brigid Tennenbaum, and Professor Julie Langford, a woman who literally controls the gardens and entire air supply of Rapture). Out of this crop of great references and potential jokes, she farts one out about how a girl could really use a Big Daddy to stave off the pervs.
Yup. Out of a crop of female-oriented videogame references, Adams chose the absolute worst, most chauvinist, obvious, and stupidest ones she could think of. Not that she should bother trying for any of the other ideas I mentioned. That game was a couple years ago, and most of the knuckle-dragging gamer morons that might have let out a hoot or some kind of chimp-like approving grunt at a Bioshock joke then have already moved on to games more their speed, ones which involve killing zombies or Russians, and have completely forgotten every one of the characters I just named. For all the potential jokes about Langford cutting off Rapture's air supply because she was on her period, or one where Tennenbaum decides to suggest that you harvest a Little Sister for once just to show the little bitch who's boss, or pretty much anything better than this piece of shit we have here, out of all of that we get pretty much fuck all.
What's sad about all the Bioshock crap I threw out is that nobody took any of these characters and did anything with them. The ideas I expressed were silly, half-assed ones that I made up in about five minutes, sure, but the reason I pointed out them out was to illustrate that all these female characters were practically invisible to the legions of (mostly male) retards that make gaming webcomics. Girlz 'N' Games, "N" concept, isn't necessarily bad. There are plenty of females in videogames that could be empowering to women, characters whose awesomeness is never sung, women who actually fulfill the Samus Aran ideal of being women who can hang with men just fine.
But, in this comic, we get none of that. We get tired, even chauvinist, jokes about women. Jokes that aren't even clever, lack an understanding of both women (at the very least women who aren't gamers) and, strangely enough, of video games as well. The Bioshock joke Adams uses here strikes me as particularly odious, because that's one game with characters that are truly developed and interesting. Boiling all the things in that game down to a crappy joke about Big Daddies puts one at about the intellectual level of a hamster. Truly, none of the references to plastic surgery with J.S. Steinman struck you as interesting jumping-off points, Adams? Nor any of the Little Sisters? Nor anything but the fucking only characters in the entire fucking game that don't say anything?
There's a place for a comic that has some kind of pro-female bent, one where the women are strong enough to not need Big Daddies or big-chinned six-packed boyfriends, but Girlz 'N' Games isn't that comic. If anything, it's a sad reminder that many women today are still constrained by the same stupid stereotypical bullshit that has plagued our society for generations. No disrespect, Noelle, but I really wish you'd have made a comic which didn't need to talk about Twilight. In your current comic, all you do is remind us of that mess. It's a shame that gamer girls like yourself feel the need to remind all us boys about how you don't fit that mold. It's a shame because you really don't need to.