The Gaming Industry has its own #MeToo movement. Reports and allegations against men in gaming have become more prevalent over the last two weeks. While this type of harassment, misconduct, and twisted culture is not news for many in various industries, including the comics industry, a perfect storm of facts have emerged. The leading gaming site, Kotaku, part of G/O Media, is leading the investigation into some of these claims. Amid all these allegations, one company is right in the thick of the firestorm: Ubisoft.
“The past two weeks have been filled with accounts, some anonymous, some with names attached, as people, mostly women, take the risk of speaking out on social media about harassment, abuse, and assault, mostly against men in gaming. And while abuse allegations have rocked Twitchand other corners of the gaming world, no one company has seen as many reports leveled by and against its own people as Ubisoft, the multinational video game publisher behind Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry,and Rainbow Six Siege.
In an interview with Kotaku, the woman who says one of Ubisoft’s co-founders, Maxime Béland, “jokingly” put his hands around her neck at a party shared not just an account of a disturbing incident but of a structure and culture that she said made her hesitate to report it. “You’re conditioned to feel like you’re lucky to be there,” she said of her time at Ubisoft”… continue reading article, here.
Among board games, I was always intrigued with the idea of Clue but never played it. I did see the 1985 John Landis movie version and remember being entertained. Clue, which was first released in 1949, always struck me as strange and erudite, compared to the far more popular Monopoly, first released in 1935. Now, cartoonist auteur Dash Shaw has created a 3-part Clue comic book series. All in all, I think Clue: Candlestick, published by IDW and available on comiXology, falls neatly into place with other works by Dash Shaw. It doesn’t matter if Shaw is a fan of the game. What matters is that Clue is an opportunity to do something interesting with comics.
You can tell from these examples that Shaw is having fun interpreting the game as an artist. That said, he also seems to get into the spirit of the game too. He turns Clue into part of his world and the reader, in turn, gets immersed in this hybrid of art and popular board game.
Dash Shaw does a wonderful job with playing with storytelling elements while also keeping the Clue narrative in play. It’s a fun balancing act; and similar, on some levels, to how pop artists related to consumer culture. It helps the creative process if artists remain as open as possible with their subjects. Of course, it depends upon the project, but there is much to gain by remaining flexible. And, as for Clue, who doesn’t like a good mystery?
The third and final installment of Clue: Candlestick is available as of July 17th. You can find it at IDW and comiXology.
Here’s one for all the gamers: Are you a fan of D&D and do you enjoy the antics of the popular webcomic, Penny Arcade? Okay, the answer is clearly yes and the press release below is for you. If you are not familiar with Acquisitions Incorporated, then learn about a very special 224-page Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook:
Acquisitions Incorporated, the official third-party Dungeons & Dragons sourcebook from Penny Arcade and Wizards of the Coast, brings hilarious fantasy antics straight to players’ homes June 18.
Acquisitions Incorporated is based on the (in)famous D&D campaign popular on Twitch and at PAX events featuring PAX and Penny Arcade’s cofounders, a cast of celebrity guests, and D&D Lead Rules Designer Jeremy Crawford as DM.
Pax West 2018
For the past decade, the renowned retrieval company known as Acquisitions Incorporated has shared their (mis)adventures with hundreds of thousands of attendees at PAX and viewers on Twitch. Dungeon Master Jeremy Crawford (Lead Rules Designer of Dungeons & Dragons) does his best to shepherd the mischief of Penny Arcade and PAX co-founders Jerry Holkins (Omin Dran, Cleric) and Mike Krahulik (Jim Darkmagic, Wizard) as well as a rotating cast of celebrity guests including author Patrick Rothfuss (Viari, Rogue) and gaming icon Morgan Webb (Môrgæn, Ranger).
Now, with the 224-page sourcebook, Dungeon Masters and players alike can experience the uproarious exploits of Acquisitions Incorporated in their own game. New spells, a new race, and introducing character positions mean it’s easier than ever to join the company and take part of this universe. Want to jump in headfirst? The book also includes an adventure module so players can get started right away.
Obviator by Aviv Or
“Being able to give back to the game that I’ve been playing most of my life is incredible,” said Jerry Holkins, co-founder of Penny Arcade. “I can’t wait for players to join my friends and I in Acquisitions Incorporated, not just because it’s a book and a world we’re very proud of, but also because my character gets a cut of their earnings.”
Penny Arcade is a webcomic focused on video games and video game culture, written by Jerry Holkins and illustrated by Mike Krahulik. With over 3.5 million readers, it is the most popular and longest-running gaming webcomic online. Penny Arcade is also responsible for the Child’s Play Charity, the Penny Arcade gaming expos (PAX) in Seattle, Boston, San Antonio, Philadelphia, and Melbourne, multiple video games based on the brand, and multiple online video series.
‘Rise of the Dungeon Master: Gary Gygax and the Creation of D&D’
Creating a biographical work in comics is a very distinct venture. It requires a fine agility as you’re balancing a myriad of facts, more than you will be able to neatly fit into one graphic novel. Any number of factors can add to the complexity, such as the writer figuring what to use if he has personally conducted interviews. David Kushner was one of the last journalists to interview D&D co-creator Gary Gygax prior to his death. He has now teamed up with award-winning illustrator Koren Shadmi on a nonfiction comic book chronicling Gary Gygax’s life and the creation of D&D: RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER: GARY GYGAX AND THE CREATION OF D&D, recently published by Nation Books. It is an ambitious undertaking, the first of its kind, and well worth a read.
Dave Arneson, a true dreamer.
Kushner and Shadmi do a wonderful job of laying down a behind-the-scenes narrative to Dungeons & Dragons, a pop culture phenomena that we all know to some degree. You may have never seen yourself as a role-playing game enthusiast, but you can’t help but get caught up in the details and history of a bona fide subculture. This book succeeds in putting a face to what has become known the world over as Dungeons & Dragons. In fact, there are two prominent faces involved here: Gary Gygax, the original guy to tinker with new ideas for role-playing games (instead of always military themes, why not include wizards?); and Dave Arneson, the guy next in line who refined what Gygax set in motion (don’t get lost in the rules and keep it fun!). Gygax was a middle-aged man with a family and Arneson was a young security guard working his way through college.
For the love of the game.
The best moments in the book are once we get to observe Gygax and Arneson just being themselves, warts and all. Gygax turns out to be more motivated towards turning his innovations into a profitable business. Arneson is far more the dreamer, only interested in refining the game. Arneson is so caught up in his own D&D world that he is left out of the burgeoning D&D business venture by Gygax and his associates.
“One day, you catch a break that will change your life.”
Kushner’s script places the story in various first-person points of views. At times, the narrative boxes are quoting Gygax or Arneson or simply become omniscient. While this narrative shift can be disconcerting at times, it’s understandable given the many segments to cover. You have a broad canvas to fill with this person saying this and that other person doing that. And, given the interview source material, there are times that you want to do a flashback scene and other times that you want the person to speak in the present moment. Overall, Kushner and Shadmi do a commendable job of bringing this tale to life. One thing is for sure, you will never look at Dungeons & Dragons the same way again.
RISE OF THE DUNGEON MASTER: GARY GYGAX AND THE CREATION OF D&D, published by Nation Books, is a 144-page black & white trade paperback. For more details, visit Nation Books. You can also purchase the book directly from Amazon right here.
Box Brown is a cartoonist that I really admire for being able to take a subject he’s passionate about and distill it to its essentials into a comics format. His previous graphic novel was on the all-time great pro wrestler, Andre the Giant. You can read my review here. Brown’s latest book is all about the all-time classic video game, Tetris. Published by First Second Books, “Tetris: The Games People Play,” is a testimony to Brown’s determination to collect all the pieces to a story and create a greater whole.
Page excerpt from TETRIS: THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAY
You most likely know the game even if you don’t normally keep up with games. It’s right up there with such legends as Pac-Man and Donkey Kong. It’s a game with a simple charm and an uncanny allure with origins dating back to antiquity. You can learn more about it and play it for free at the official Tetris site right here. Essentially, the goal of the game is to arrange little blocks as they fall down your screen in the most efficient way possible. There’s a Zen vibe there in its relative simplicity. Ironically, the innocent little game of Tetris became entangled in a complex legal fight that found the game industry giants, Atari and Nintendo, locking horns.
Tetris was originally created in 1984 by Alexey Pajitnov. Brown faithfully follows the creator’s journey and all related Tetris canon. Now, what you probably do not know is that there is a lot of intrigue behind what happened to this game on its way to becoming a classic. When Pajitnov created the game, it was the result of his passion for games without any other plans beyond that. As a citizen of the Soviet Union, his only plan was simply to be a good computer programmer for the government. Brown runs with the story once a profit motive is triggered.
Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov
And so our story gains numerous twists and turns as a cat and mouse game is played out. It is at this point that all the machinations can get a bit overwhelming. Brown handles all these moving parts well. He keeps to a basically lean and clean grid of panels that helps to steady the eye. And, at various intervals, he will devote a page to a portrait of the next key player in the drama. It is a modest little portrait set off by a black background. It amounts to a perfect pause, a great way to catch one’s breath.
Brown seems to hold back a bit more with his artwork than he did in his last book. He has a rather pared-down style to begin with. For this book, I think he opted to simplify as much as possible for the sake of clarity given all the details involved. Some work in comics is mostly to digest information. Other work is mostly to admire the artwork. And so on. Brown strikes a nice balance of conveying information with a certain zeal and style all his own. Once you start this book, you’ll want to keep with it and get the whole Tetris story.
“Tetris: The Games People Play” is a 256-page duo-tone paperback, published by First Second Books. For more information and how to purchase, go right here.
Mack Stuckey’s Guide to the Center of the Universe
A Kickstarter campaign has been launched (ends 8/28) for the illustrated novel, “Mack Stuckey’s Guide to the Center of the Universe,” a dark satire set in Seattle. This isn’t your “Sleepless in Seattle” or “Singles.” Join the campaign right here.
Later this month sees the arrival of director Zack Snyder’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” which hits theaters on March 25th. As we approach this landmark unveiling which will pit two of DC Comics’ most iconic figures we are gearing up for being hit with a barrage of promotional material and accompanying movie tie-ins. This includes the very recent release of the new Batman v Superman mobile game now available on both iOS and Android.
Those waiting to see the return of the Man of Steel as well as just how award-winning actor/director Ben Affleck will fare as he takes on the role of the caped crusader will be pleased to get in on the action for this upcoming on-screen bout. The game “Batman v. Superman: Who Will Win?” takes place in both Gotham and Metropolis and offers players the opportunity to play as either Superman or Batman.
Any battling game that includes “versus” in its title is going to focus a lot on “Who Will Win?” and, quite frankly, that’s exactly what’s happening here. But that will come as no surprise and won’t disappoint any fan.
Those movie fans who may be considering avoiding this one due to potential spoilers that may be included in the game or storyline will not have to worry as there’s nothing here that directly relates to the plot of the upcoming movie. What’s more this is a great little game to play especially for Superman fans who, let’s face it, have not exactly had a decent offering of video games up to this point that feature the last son of Krypton. While his new opponent already has plenty of well-conceived gaming efforts out there including a cool Dark Knight Rises slot game that you can play at allslotscasino.com and, of course, Batman: Arkham City.
Batman has fared much better in terms of video game adaptations mostly thanks to the series of Arkham-based games featuring a whole host of familiar Gotham faces battling it out against the man beneath the black cowl. With Warner Bros and DC Comics keen to take a bigger slice of the feature-based superhero box office which has been mostly dominated by Marvel for the past few years we’ll no doubt be seeing plenty more gaming spin-offs from their new Justice League venture.
The new mobile-based game from Warner Bros can be played on a web browser also and it’s an endless runner that requires players to chase through the streets collecting power-ups as they go along while dodging obstacles that happen to be in the way. And there is the inevitable face-off battle between the two superhero giants to see just who comes out on top.
With holiday shopping fast upon us, Comics Grinder is ready to start making some holiday gift suggestions. Let’s start with this beautiful book, “Game Art,” published by No Starch Press, a collection of interviews with 40 top video game designers including page after page of eye-popping video game art. And, yes, this is art. You’ll find a wide variety of gorgeous work that would be suitable for framing. This is easily the perfect gift for virtually anyone. Here are some samples:
From “Fatal Frame II” (Koei Tecmo Games)
From “Fairy Fencer F” (Compile Heart)
From “Never Alone” (E-Line Media)
From “Gamebook Adventures” (Joshua Wright)
“Game Art” presents awesome game art that will inspire gamers and aspiring designers alike. Featuring major studios like Square Enix, Bioware, and Ubisoft as well as independents like Tale of Tales and E-Line Media, “Game Art” explores and celebrates the creative process that turns a video game into art. For more details, visit our friends at No Starch Press. You can also find “Game Art” over at Amazon right here.
“In Real Life” is one of this year’s most intriguing graphic novels as it raises questions not asked often enough. A New York Times bestselling graphic novel written by Cory Doctorow and drawn by Jen Wang, it is the story of Anda, a gamer, who discovers a black market system through the friendship she makes with, Raymond, a poor boy in China. The focus is on what exploited people must do in order to survive and what can be done to help them rise up and out of their circumstances. But it’s also about the avatars we use to hide from the world. As is clearly depicted here, Anda has problems with the real world and her place in it.
One thing I’ve been daydreaming about lately is the original Rat Pack from “Ocean’s Eleven.” I just recently posted a review on the original movie from 1960. This detour into retro Las Vegas has led me to games of chance you can play in the comfort of your own home. I stumbled upon a nice virtual Vegas experience over at Slots Heaven. It’s interesting how there are games catering to every taste, including comics, particularly the Iron Man 3 Slots.