John: Quickly retrieve arms from drawer.
November 17, 2011 6:11 PM   Subscribe

On 11/11/11, Homestuck entered Act 6 (of 7). This follows an explosive 13-minute finale to Act 5, which brought down its host Newgrounds on the day of its unveiling and was released with a fantastic companion soundtrack. In the two and a half years since it was created, Homestuck has become a full-blown epic, approaching the length of War and Peace, but with hours of accompanying animation, several interactive games, a loop machine, and a baffling 19 soundtrack albums, ranging from VG-inspired soundtrack to jazzy mood music to solo piano to parody kids TV show soundtrack. It also has an obsession with Nic Cage and Betty Crocker, and comes with a metawebcomic called Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff which is in and of itself pure gold. Intimidated? You probably should be! But it's hilarious, epic, and surprisingly addictive, so if you've got nothing else on your plate, you can either start from the beginning, or, if it seems too daunting, you can learn...

...a little bit more about what Homestuck is, why it works, and why it's so awesome.

Homestuck is the latest thing by Andrew Hussie, who you know is a cool dude because he owns this painting. Hussie started writing fun little interactive text adventures where members of a forum fed him instructions and he responded. Earlier adventures include Jailbreak, which is short and crude and funny, and Bard Quest, which played with branching narratives. By his third, Problem Sleuth, Hussie was moving into darker, more dramatic stories, which resulted in Homestuck.

Homestuck is first and foremost about games and gamers, both in shallower ways – it parodies video game conventions like inventories and battle systems, it chiefly tells its story through chatlogs, and it occasionally summarizes its story through GameFAQs – and in its core story, which is about (ACTIVATE SPOILER ALERT) a Sims-like game called SBURB that accidentally brings about the end of the Earth. It structures its plot around various board games: the primary good-vs-evil struggle is explained as a chess game that starts off simply and grows increasingly complex (depicted in this animation; a plot about summoning a demon into the universe is explained through billiards terms, and an explanation of alien romance starts out by explaining that while we humans represent love with a heart, the more complex aliens feel love in all four suits.

That metaphor of the chess game growing increasingly complex is a great metaphor for Homestuck itself, which has become an incredibly convoluted story by taking basic themes of good and evil and then squaring them. We start off with a kid in a room, then we meet his three best friends, each of whom has a name and a room of their own. They each have a parent or guardian with whom they share an antagonistic relationship. The kids each create a Sprite in the game to serve as their guide, and each kid creates a different thing. The story's complexity is contained within these repeated tropes and archetypes, so that even if you get lost, you can still have a brief idea of what's going on...

...only here's where things get trickier. Because Homestuck introduced, in its fifth act, a second universe full of kids playing this game, only in the second universe there are twelve gamers, whose parallel narrative is so complex that Act 5 was split into two parts, with the first half just getting us up-to-date. Of course, time doesn't run linear between the two worlds, so their interactions with the first universe occur entirely out of order, to both hilarious and chilling effects. This joins with another series of parallel characters, also in a separate timeline that interacts with the other two. A fourth story was told in an intermission between acts 3 and 4, and it intersects the other three similarly. And this is just skimming the surface.


It's an epic narrative that's at turns breathtaking and self-deflating. And this is important: Homestuck is very, very funny. Whether it's making towns out of survival rations, poking fun at video game weaponry and overly-complex storage systems, drama involving ironic gay puppet porn, detailing an elaborate passive-aggressive fight between a girl and her mother, or the tragic realization that one's father might not be as cool as previously assumed, we are dealing with a very silly, very geeky, very smart comic. And that's not even getting into the rap battles.

(Fun bit for storytelling geeks: towards the end of Act 5, Hussie lampooned the complexity of his own narrative by creating panels of dropped cards, each of which spun into a handful of sub-plots as a way of tidying up for the finale.)

So how do you start reading Homestuck? Well, it won't make much sense unless you start from the beginning. But if you want something more immediately fun, you could go to the Intermission, which requires no prior Homestuck knowledge and is way, way more violent, or you could cheat and read a few pages detailing Can Town, which is kind of a spoiler but also really funny. If you'd like to try and jump right in with this new act, you brave reader you, you'd better start with the three recaps, followed by the wiki-driven Act 5 summaries, and chase it down with Hussie's four-part explanation of the Act 5 closer. But beware: this new act introduces another two new universes, and an entirely new cast of characters who are themselves comments on older characters (or who possibly are those other characters in an alternate timeline), so even if you're all caught up, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Alternatively, you can skip Homestuck entirely and just read Sweet Bro and Hella Jeff, which is a fantastic (albeit highly irritating/ironic) web comic in its own right.

Here's some cheerful mood music for if you're still a little scared.
posted by Rory Marinich (66 comments total) 69 users marked this as a favorite

It is really impossible for me to describe how much I love this series. It's really pushing the envelope of what hyperlinked art can be.

posted by winna at 6:16 PM on November 17, 2011

My only experience with Homestuck has been listening to Strife!, which I got a copy of without any context. It all sounded like Sega Saturn BGM, so I loved it. Heir Conditioning is a particularly good song if you grew up on the Saturn and PSX and have a sense of nostalgia.

You know how to make a comeback, kid.
posted by griphus at 6:16 PM on November 17, 2011

Thanks for posting this whole thing. Problem Sleuth was hilarious and remarkably enjoyable, but I never got around to Homestuck... I have a good feeling about this.
posted by bxyldy at 6:18 PM on November 17, 2011

posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:18 PM on November 17, 2011

posted by The Whelk at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2011

As far as I know, Homestuck is possibly the only... webcomic? web experience? with a serious fanfiction posse, and for that I have to think that it's awesome, even though I've had a really hard time reading Problem Sleuth, and thus am completely daunted.
posted by muddgirl at 6:21 PM on November 17, 2011

muddgirl: Achewood's got a bit of a posse too. I don't know how often that crosses over into fanfic, though, though I did think about dressing up for a thong-and-necklace Ray Smuckles this Halloween.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:23 PM on November 17, 2011

Achewood doesn't have much (if any) fanfic, but damn if it don't beat all on tattoos
posted by griphus at 6:26 PM on November 17, 2011

What sense does it make to make a long FPP about MS Paint Adventures where the only use of those actual words "MS Paint Adventures" is a tag?
posted by JHarris at 6:27 PM on November 17, 2011

rory where is your HAIR CUT
posted by shakespeherian at 6:31 PM on November 17, 2011

As any Doctor Who fan knows, you can't kill a guy named Rory permanently.
posted by oneswellfoop at 6:32 PM on November 17, 2011

posted by kitarra at 6:33 PM on November 17, 2011 [7 favorites]

Fantastic writeup! I wouldn't know where to begin with Homestuck, but this is apparently what "beginning with Homestuck" looks like.

It's impossible to fathom looking from the outside -- a webcomic media assault combining animation, music and Internet memetics into one of the most touching bildungsromans I've ever read. Agreeing that it's the only websperience with a serious fanfiction posse: its active fandom numbers over ten thousand strong, and that's being conservative. Andrew Hussie -- who is an adept artist, storyteller and humourist -- is all these and serving an audience that ranges from screaming teenagers painting their faces grey to the hipster twentysomething set. For free. That he views his posse with any affection should net the guy a sainthood.

It's different than the Achewood crowd, who were/are legion but who, to everybody's relief, did not sit down and start drawing art of Ray, Molly and Roast Beef all kissing each other.

So yeah, huge for what it is. I won't be surprised if it somehow manages to pick up its own convention. Go to any con nowadays and you'll see throngs of people walking around as the Homestuck cast, toting around buckets and Faygo. Say what you will for the comic, it's boosted Faygo sales and ironic appreciation of Nic Cage considerably.

(just how HIGH do you have to BE............)
posted by monster truck weekend at 6:37 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

JHarris: It's a Homestuck post. MSPaintAdventures just happens to be the site that hosts Homestuck.

MetaFilterFilter: the reason I linked this song separately from the album is because I think it's proof of how utterly geek-demanding this comic is. This is an unimportant song on an album based on a recurring joke in the main story, yet it still takes the time to drop in an unrelated and hilarious meme. I had this album streaming one day and I heard the end and cracked up something awful.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:37 PM on November 17, 2011

did not sit down and start drawing art of Ray, Molly and Roast Beef all kissing each other.

Well it's not updating anymore so somebody has to do it.
posted by The Whelk at 6:42 PM on November 17, 2011

I read the entire first 5 acts in one swell foop but couldn't handle waiting on tenterhooks for each new update. So now that I've watched the act 7 intro I'm going to try to wait it out until the end before reading it all.

Hmm. I was going to link to a post on Hussie's Formspring Q&A where he talked about how different the experience of reading the story all at once is vs. reading it as it develops in small updates, but the fiend has deleted his account again.
posted by kitarra at 6:43 PM on November 17, 2011

I've had a lot of trouble with homestuck. I appreciate how it's really doing new things in terms of storytelling on the internet, and there's a really interesting toolbox that Andrew Hussie has developed since the story started.

But as a thing, it's fun to read and watch, and yet... I think that Homestuck is good proof of the fact that no matter how many cool events/characters/twists a thing contains, it doesn't actually make that thing any good. Just like Scribblenauts lets you use god to attack dinosaurs and cthulu, and however many other silly things along those lines, but it isn't actually fun to play. Homestuck is, on the whole... I don't know. Unwieldy. Lumbering. Scattershot. I'm going to keep up with it, but my I've soured on it a bit since it started.
posted by Rinku at 6:44 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I forgot to mention the best part is how frequently Homestuck updates, by which I mean, just a minute ago he uploaded four new panels.
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:46 PM on November 17, 2011

and things like this which might push Homestuck above LOST on the scale of "things which resemble LOST"
posted by Rory Marinich at 6:53 PM on November 17, 2011

I am really, really glad for this post. Homestuck strikes a chord with a lot of gamers, and I've watched it spill into a few of the forums I frequent. Homestuck fans are very enthusiastic, but they seem to have a difficult time articulating what it's about and what's going on, so it's been a little daunting for me to explore. But this post breaks it down pretty neatly, so I'll just bookmark this and use it like a guidebook of sorts. I like being able to discover and appreciate new things. Thanks for the effort.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:07 PM on November 17, 2011

(act 6 intro that is)

Found the formspring archives here. For people interested in learning more about his methods & motivations, if you're willing to wade through the shit there's also a lot of interesting content there, including a lot of his thoughts on the nature of the medium itself. For instance, in the June 10th, 2011 section, he says:
To strive to satisfy serial readers all the time is to do nothing but make something terrible in the long run. It means you can't do much to set up anything sophisticated with deferred payoff, as you perpetually submit what will immediately gratify. I can't tell people that reading serially is the "wrong" way to read it, because this is not true. But there's no escaping the fact that having pages leaked out so slowly radically warps your perception of what is happening, sometimes for the better (community discussion, noticing details etc), but often aggravates (arc fatigue, rushing to judgment...) Try to imagine watching your favorite movie, for the first time ever, but only a minute at a time, every day. Sound frustrating? How often do you think you might get irritated with the director for his pacing decisions? Or his "plot twists", which are really just the products of scenes cut short before fully paying off? How often do you think you might want to insist he move it along? What about reading your favorite book, but only receiving about a paragraph or two every day? And what if the author/director was tuned into the responses to this daily output? Is there anything he could do to outrun the impatience of the reader for plot points he's carefully set up to be evaluated in the minute-space of archival read-through, which the reader labors over in the month-space of serial digestion? Can he do anything to deflect or mitigate their rush to judgment of incomplete arcs? Should he? Probably not.
I certainly don't feel the same satisfaction reading it update-by-update as I did tearing through the first loooong chunk of it all at once. My husband, on the other hand, is a compulsive page-loader, eager for each new panel as they drop.
posted by kitarra at 7:08 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

I find Homestuck to be fascinatingly unapproachable. I will probably never read "the whole thing"; I simply don't have enough interest in the thing to read page after page of meandering Pesterlogs. I found it well after the Trolls appeared and read the whole thing from scratch over a day; once the trolls showed up and started each speaking in their own variation of l33t, I basically stopped reading closely and began turbo-skimming.

Once the Trolls show up, Homestuck becomes actively hostile to the reader IMHO.

And despite this, I keep coming back to it every week or two. Someone will mention it and I'll be all "oh I haven't read Homestuck lately" and read another nugget of story. Because Hussie is doing some amazing experiments with the form: the games, the animations, the secondary threads taking over the website's header... he is breaking ground.

He's cramming way too much in, IMHO. But I can't stop coming back to see what crazy thing he does next. I don't care what happens to the kids and the trolls and the billiards set and the author insertion. But I care about its FORM. Because that will give me ideas.

*goes back to her own too-much-pkd-and-video-games-and-metacomics comic*
posted by egypturnash at 7:21 PM on November 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

i reeeeeeeeeeeally do not at all get the appeal of this
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:55 PM on November 17, 2011

I loved Problem Sleuth but Homestuck is just too in love with its own convoluted-ness for me.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:04 PM on November 17, 2011

And yes, the trolls are where I stopped reading (as opposed to looking at the pictures and watching the animations, which lasted a bit longer) too. Your story is not so amazing that I am willing to actively suffer to decode the cryptic dialogue.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:06 PM on November 17, 2011





No but seriously it's the most innovative and interesting thing going in the whole narrative business right now. I am not even remotely kidding.
posted by pts at 8:08 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

No but seriously it's the most innovative and interesting thing going in the whole narrative business right now. I am not even remotely kidding.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:09 PM on November 17, 2011

I love Homestuck and MSPA so much.

It really is incredibly creative and innovative, JUST LIKE THEY SAY. The plotting/foreshadowing/retroshadowing is incredibly tight and if you manage to track down the various social media accounts Hussie has created and abandoned to talk about the process, it's clear he's thought through what he's doing a great deal.




posted by kenko at 8:12 PM on November 17, 2011

For me, the appeal is first and foremost that it's ridiculously funny, and second that it's doing interesting things with storytelling and form. I'm not hugely emotionally invested in the characters, though I know people who are – for me it's more a circus of wonderful performances than a story that I take to heart.

The four panels that just got uploaded tonight made Inspector Clouseau and Hercule Poirot jokes. And because it's a web comic/text hybrid it can make extensive jokes about each instead of just a one-off name reference. I'm also rereading the archives, and in the space of only a few panels you get things like fun in-jokes told through newspapers, comically terse letters from a father, detailed conversation about the in-game mechanics of a fictional game-within-a-game, a joke about a guy who keeps accidentally throwing stuff out a window(/hole in the wall), a silly tongue-twister, and some jokes about the pointlessness of leveling up in video games that takes a detour first into surrealism (not only does the main character level up, but all the household devices he's been hitting imps with level up) and then into the truly terrible pun of a busted safe ascending to "Vaulthalla", with appropriately silly illustration. All these panels (and more) comprise approximately three days' narrative.

So the first layer of Homestuck is just, it's delightfully silly. Silly in about a thousand different ways. It's fun to read because very few Writers Of Stories think it's appropriate to include extended gags about a character's inventory fucking up and launching his things out of windows, or about accidentally summoning your grandmother as a spirit guide and her baking cookies, or about a guy's trying to be cool by mastering eight layers of nested irony. The gags are extremely varied and smart and presented without any winking "we're too cool for this" facade; one of the appeals to me is that Homestuck is unabashedly about a group of geek friends whose geekiness is just who they are, no commentary on society or culture or what being a geek MEANS or whether geeks are better than other people.

But the second part of Homestuck is that these gags are all building up to things. Huge things. The way the father writes to the son says something about who the father is, what his relationship with the son is, and a handful of other details that slip my mind. The leveling up is building to a huge finale a year down the line. The game's mechanics are essential to the plot, even as they're also totally ridiculous. There is a deep underlying story which, with each act, folds in on itself and grows more complex. Act 1 is about a boy who wants to play a video game. Act 2 is about that boy having to save the world. By Act 5 you're dealing with three timelines each interacting with each other, collapsing in upon one another, causation's totally fucked up, and, just to make things fun, the story you've just figured out about four unique people dealing with their personal problems and lives? We're going to throw in a parallel story with twelve friends having an even more complex game, and what's more they're aliens. Act 6 promises us two new universes which are themselves comments on the universes we've already seen.

Yet Homestuck delivers this without losing sight of all the gags. And the story's convolutedness is itself a gag; sometimes the plot will skip ahead suddenly to the aftermath of all the things we're wondering about, resolving a bunch of stories immediately because, come on, all stories are predictable on some level. Act 5 ends with an omnipotent, bored narrator summarizing everything that happens for us so that we don't have to deal with reading it all ourselves, and then, when that narrator starts to become irritating, the author breaks the fourth wall and deals with him. Yet that gag leads to something happening to that narrator which is deadly serious, the results of which we haven't entirely comprehended.

Because it's told as hypertext, ordered hypertext which nonetheless can shift from walls of text to chat lots to panels to animated GIFs or Flash videos, the form of the "comic" is fluid, unpredictable, constantly shifting. It's entertaining enough that it can pull off a seven(!!!!)-act plot that functions as a four-dimensional game of chess without losing its readers, and it's able to tell that plot in detail, without the limits of books and movies and TV shows. Does it want to show us a 13-minute animated video? It can! Does it want to give us a novella's worth of information in a single panel? Sure thing. Does it want to spend a few days detailing a character's desire to fuck horses? Or get into a series of Insane Clown Posse-related rap-offs? You'd better believe we've got those.

So, yeah. I can't think of a narrative endeavor that comes close to being as interesting. It's changing the way that I, and a lot of other people, think about media and entertainment, and what things can and can't be. That's not to say it's immediately appealing: it took two groups of friends each INSISTING that I read it to make me start, and even then I tried and gave up three or four times, and I just could not get the appeal. Then it started to click for me and now I'm completely hooked.

The world's wonderful enough that if you don't want to read it, you've got plenty of other wonderful things to consume. But I think this one's special, and I hope that the way I presented it might make it a little bit easier to get into. If not, whatever, more jester imps for the rest of us.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:25 PM on November 17, 2011 [10 favorites]

The narrative for the average Homestuck fan seems to be, "Everyone kept yelling about it, so I slogged my way through all fifty kabillion pages while I was sick/unemployed/vacationing/procrastinating, mostly so I could tell them how stupid it was from an informed perspective. I emerged from it a shell of a human being who can't seem to shut up about trolls and quadrants and chess people and giving the universe cancer."

Oh, Andrew Hussie. You have ruined us all.

And if I had the chance, I would shake your hand and thank you for it.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:26 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

that... did not seem quite that long when it was in my brain. oops
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:27 PM on November 17, 2011

Hussie has occasionally remarked that the difference between the experience of the comic for the devoted forum-dwellers and the casual readers (and that includes people like me who've read the whole thing thus far more than once) is far, far greater than is usually the case with comics that have rabid fanbases—the amount of detailed speculation the forum-people go in for, and the number of things they can keep track of, and are generally alive to, is mind-boggling.
posted by kenko at 8:34 PM on November 17, 2011

Also, regarding the post title, John is instructed to retrieve his arms from his chest, isn't he?
posted by kenko at 8:36 PM on November 17, 2011

I desperately love Homestuck and MSPA in general, but I lost the thread of the narrative a long way back. Of late, I've just been letting it all wash over me, without trying to unpack every conversation/plot point's probable future consequences. That said, nothing beats the rapping and the pitch-perfect dialogue.

It's for that reason that Problem Sleuth remains my favorite MSPA so far. It was hilarious, super clever, imaginative, and yet still manageable. I'll check out Hussie's explanation of Act 5's ending and hope to get a clearer picture of how everything got to where it is now.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 8:58 PM on November 17, 2011

Funny coincidence, I just read the whole thing in 3-day marathon a few days ago.** The thing has an addictive quality to it and you do turn into an obsessive by the end. I have some reactions here but this is the main point:
If I had to sum up the comic, I'd say it is about creation and destruction. The reality-altering computer game the characters are playing revolves around building - building up another player's physical space and building up your own stats - but with greater power comes greater ability to break stuff, and that's without counting all the meteors and falling rocks and ticking time bombs and insane homicidal maniacs who now and again will randomly - except that nothing is random in a comic which revolves around prophecies (of doom), time travel (proving you are already doomed), alternate universes (which are doomed), and (SPOILER) malevolent omniscient aliens who reside outside the flow of time - destroy all the stuff you just built with your awesome godlike powers.
Which is a way of saying that the emotional highs are really high and the emotional lows are really low, and reading 2,000 pages of this in a row does something to you. Also I think the fact that no one can be as obsessive about Homestuck as Andrew Hussie no matter how hard they try makes it easy to obsess over.

**While I was sick, of course.
posted by subdee at 9:36 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, whatever Homestuck's narrative crimes ultimately end up being, I will always have these words, thanks to one Karkat Vantas:

posted by pts at 9:49 PM on November 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

So yeah, Homestuck. You should read it if you spend a lot of time on the internet, like programming/gaming/fandom/genrebusting injokes, are tolerant of chatspeak and/or have ever had a really serious conversation about depression over IM, and - this is the most important thing - have the time to start reading a really long epic right now.
posted by subdee at 9:49 PM on November 17, 2011

Oh Homestuck. I had friends going on about it, but none of it really stuck with me. I think the last time it was linked here had a direct link to the epic results of the game, and then I had to know what was going on.

I think the big appeal is that two-fold- it knows how to build it's in-jokes and Hussey knows how to troll his audience - enough so that things are unpredictable because at the point when you think you've put in enough time reading that you "get it" he pulls the rug out from under you, again.

Also it permanently alters your vocabulary The two words which Homestuck has permanently added to my lexicon are "Smuppets" and "Fucknub".
posted by yeloson at 10:07 PM on November 17, 2011 [2 favorites]

posted by heathkit at 10:49 PM on November 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, I was turned off by the various leetspeek from the trolls, too, and I actually stopped reading for a bit. But then I went back and worked through all the troll dialogs, and they've ended up becoming my favorite characters now. They seem richer and more developed than the human characters. Even though there were 12 of them, the troll stories seemed to spend a great deal of time expanding them as characters, while the initial four characters were mostly jokes and plot.
posted by heathkit at 10:52 PM on November 17, 2011

This, of course, alludes to you: You can :| all you like, but I don't actually think anybody's breaking narrative ground the way Hussie is.

Video games have largely failed to effect lasting narratological innovation; while interactive fiction has had (and continues to have) a few interesting successes (pretend I just hyperlinked Short's Galatea, Ravipinto and Foster's Slouching Towards Bedlam, Plotkin's Spider, And Web and a half-dozen others), these successes aren't really built upon by non-text games. As much as I love Skyrim and Portal and Mario Galaxy, these games present their narratives in largely established ways. Even when the rare game comes along that does something interesting with player complicity (Earthbound, MGS2) or otherwise acknowledges the advantages of the interactive form (Planescape: Torment, Majora's Mask, The Last Express), the narrative method rarely strays from familiar grounds.

While there are a few narrative experiments that are more transgressive than Hussie's—I'm thinking mainly here of Blueful and ilovebees—they don't quite capture my imagination the way Homestuck has. Blueful is basically a gimmick. (Admittedly, a gimmick explicitly designed to complement the narrative it's in service to. It's a successful gimmick.) However, ilovebees arguably pioneered the ARG storytelling method; if anything can claim to legitimately surpass Homestuck for narrative ingenuity, ilovebees would be it... except for the fact that it came out almost 8 years ago, and wasn't even the first ARG when it appeared.

Homestuck is multimedia collage writ large, but it's collage with a deliberate narrative thread. A pretentious and predictable part of me wants to invoke Ulysses: it's impenetrable to many, but to those with the taste for it, diving into its convolutions is exquisitely satisfying. I would like to look at it objectively, but I keep being entertained by it.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 11:56 PM on November 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

Damn you I had forgotten about this.

well there goes my friday night
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:28 AM on November 18, 2011

jsnlxndrlv, you might be interested in this fpp from a few days ago if you haven't seen it.

Though in any case, it's not really the job of games to break new narrative ground (though it is interesting when they do interesting things with stories)
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:36 AM on November 18, 2011

I quite enjoyed that, actually! I very much agree with the notion that Vivec is intended as a sort of patron god of game-breaking play. It's very reminiscent of the way the Nameless One's uncountable former lives reflect the myriad players who inhabit him, and how he only achieves the release of a true death when the player completes the game and reintegrates his mortality.

If it's not the job of games to break new narrative ground, though, then why bother having stories in games at all? RTS games, arena RPGs, puzzle games, and fighting games (among others) demonstrate that an explicit prescripted narrative is unnecessary (if not actually an obstacle) for enjoying a mechanically satisfying game.

—and yet, the desire to tell stories with games persists. Players grow tired of static cutscenes and the artificiality of quick-time-events, though. While it's possible to interweave a relatively traditionally told story into the interactive framework of a game in an organic way, I think it makes more sense for storytelling to adapt, and I am eager for more examples of this adaptation to appear.

Homestuck encourages me because it's an example of another relatively modern medium (the webcomic) demonstrating exactly the kind of adaptation I'm looking for.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 1:01 AM on November 18, 2011

For mine, I think it's better if narratives emerge organically, so rather than the designers trying to tell a story and treating videogames as a linear medium, the more interesting narratives often emerge from 'story spaces,' for lack of a better word, from the players' own actions. Eve Online is perhaps one of the stronger examples of this approach.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 1:11 AM on November 18, 2011

Oh, absolutely! Eve Online (and really any MMO), Minecraft, GTA, Elder Scrolls games—any sufficiently complex system that can result in emergent behaviors is a great environment for creating player narratives. I don't want to suggest that promoting these mechanisms is an invalid goal for gaming; I just feel like a game environment that produces compelling emergent narratives is sufficiently easy to make, judging by the wide variety and large number of games which achieve such an environment, such that other narrative tools available to the game designer could use a little bit more attention. But this is getting rather far afield from the original topic.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 1:28 AM on November 18, 2011

Oh Rory Marinich, you magnificent bastard. I am both glad to see you back and making fantastic posts like this and seething because dammit, I had shit to do tomorrow!
posted by pseudonymph at 2:06 AM on November 18, 2011

i don't doubt that it's breaking narrative ground but the thing is, what is it about. what's the message? is there one? what are the politics of the story(s)? are there any (yes, of course there are in any story)?

i'm sure he's saying it innovatively, but what exactly is he saying? just getting along on style and innovation (uncharitably, "gimmicks") is probably really fun, but what's the content and the context?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:19 AM on November 18, 2011

It's about kids and fun.
posted by flatluigi at 3:02 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

i don't doubt that it's breaking narrative ground but the thing is, what is it about. what's the message? is there one? what are the politics of the story(s)? are there any (yes, of course there are in any story)?

It's not over. There are certainly themes running throughout this whole thing but until we've seen Homestuck get to its conclusion I'd rather not prematurely label it or classify it. What subdue wrote about creation and destruction is good; when the larger world is revealed we're told this: "Legend holds that Skaia exists as a dormant crucible of unlimited creative potential. What does this mean, you ask? I'm afraid my lips are sealed about that, dear! Hoo hoo!" This hasn't met with a resolution yet.

i'm sure he's saying it innovatively, but what exactly is he saying? just getting along on style and innovation (uncharitably, "gimmicks") is probably really fun, but what's the content and the context?

One of my favorite movies is Airplane!, which is brilliant because it sustains a gag-centric plot for an hour and a half without getting old. One of my favorite genres of book is the one where you have a Good Guy and they fight a Bad Guy. When there's a moral attached I like that too but sans moral it's still a really fun way to write.

I have my theories on what Homestuck is "about", and they revolve around the idea that Homestuck focuses seriously on games and gamers, but until I see how it ends I'd rather just have fun reading it. It's revolutionary in how it treats the medium, and even if it ends up being an elaborate gag the whole time, it'll have been worth my reading.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:05 AM on November 18, 2011

What exactly where Dali and Bunuel saying in Un Chien Andalou?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:07 AM on November 18, 2011

I too loved Problem Sleuth but have repeatedly fallen off the map with Homestuck. Perhaps this weekend I'll catch up...
posted by gerryblog at 5:12 AM on November 18, 2011

i don't doubt that it's breaking narrative ground but the thing is, what is it about. what's the message? is there one?

God, I hope not.
posted by kenko at 5:18 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think the "What is it about?" question is kind of problematic - it doesn't really get to the heart of what can make fiction interesting.

But Homestuck is about growing up, for a start. And about power. And about games. And about fiction, the internet, pop culture...
posted by Drexen at 5:34 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

In unrelated news, Andrew Hussie just posted the first fragment of a longer essay in which he relates his harrowing trip to an Olive Garden restaurant due to a large donation of money by readers for an absurd purpose. Other prominent webcomics figures abound.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 6:15 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

I started reading this, and then I started "playing" Problem Sleuth from the games on the CD rack. long does this "game" go???
posted by subversiveasset at 7:13 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

About 1800 pages.

You may want to get something to eat at some point.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:29 AM on November 18, 2011 long does this "game" go???

I'm not sure, but everyone just lost it.
posted by griphus at 7:32 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Rory! Way to make an entrance.

Fantastic post. I am so totally not the cool kid that this is the first I'd heard of Homestuck, so I started from the beginning last night and I am already addicted.
posted by misha at 9:32 AM on November 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

Status Update: So far, I am enjoying it more than Problem Sleuths, but I am only in Act 2.
posted by muddgirl at 9:38 AM on November 18, 2011

One of the major things to note about Problem Sleuth and Homestuck is that the former was built around reader submissions while the latter, uh, isn't. This changes a hell of a lot of things, namely in the way of pacing and story structure. It might mean we lose out-there commands that fundamentally change the future of the story, like the dream forts, but it certainly means we won't have a six month long final boss battle or pages upon pages of faffing about changing the size of an electrical plug.

Which is a good thing.
posted by flatluigi at 11:19 AM on November 18, 2011

Thx for the faves Rory and yeloson.

I wanna amend my last comment: it's not that having an obsessive creator makes it easier to obsess over the work, it's that it makes it more rewarding.

Also for the people complaining about the character substitutions in troll chatlogs: Difficult-to-read fonts make for better learning, according to scientists.
posted by subdee at 1:22 PM on November 18, 2011

@kenko yeah that is kind of the thing, isn't it.

i dunno, i guess i am rigged to perceive reliance on flashiness and gimmicks as "shallow". "airplane!" is probably a really funny movie at least the first couple of times but i don't know how valuable that is?

also, two of my friends have read that olive garden thing/soul portrait thing and were all pissed off about how hussie sounded like a hipster to them but i don't know that i would go that far.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:33 PM on November 18, 2011

Here's a recent gimmick I like: subverts the long-running "retrieve arms" joke and ups the feeling of interactivity, even though it's not "real" interactivity (because there are only two choices and Jake's panels aren't done yet etc).
posted by subdee at 3:45 PM on November 18, 2011

The Internet's Ulysses.
posted by TwelveTwo at 11:17 PM on November 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Back again. I keep prodding at this post like a loose tooth XD.

Anyway, another thing Homestuck is about is the eversion of the digital world into the physical world. It's not just that the character are playing a reality-altering videogame; even before SBURB came along they were capturing physical items on computer cards and arranging them in decks according to programming logic, etc etc, as if there was no difference between a physical thing and a digital thing.

And every item/card has a unique identifying code, just like a bar code or an RFID, so that it can be read by a scanner and reproduced by a machine, one of the ways Katherine Hegel says that the digital is entering the material world.

Also you can watch the human characters go from using desktop computers, to laptops, to VR goggles, to really silly stuff like wearable bathrobe computers. Computers become more portable and wearable and ubiquitous. Almost all communication takes place over IM and the troll characters even speak the same way they type, as if the two kinds of communication were identical.

And of course, once your reality is digital, you can rewrite it, either using point-and-click menus (the SBURB game) or directly with code, if you are a skilled hacker. So no wonder the two leader characters want to be hackers and admire the two hacker characters, XD.

Anyway, it's no wonder that a lot of people who "live" on the internet like this comic.
posted by subdee at 8:27 AM on November 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

« Older The Science of Sarcasm? Yeah, Right.   |   Something best enjoyed while not alone Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments