Webcomics: Scenes From A Multiverse

SFAM panelThough Scenes From A Multiverse started a few months too early for me to discuss on this blog, I probably don’t need to explain what it is: Jon Rosenberg of Goats ditched that comic’s convoluted story and just started writing new jokes in different settings (“destinations”) every day. From kitten holes to dungeon divers, his Mulitverse is full of fresh character designs and hilarious ideas. Rosenberg’s sense of humor can be offensive, as any reader of Goats knows, and he isn’t afraid to wade into political or religious topics, but as long as that doesn’t turn you away, SFAM is one of the best webcomics out there.

It’s almost a shame that Rosenberg jumps between topics so quickly, because every couple weeks he has an idea that would be worth a long-running daily strip. And that’s where SFAM’s original gimmick came in: The plan was for Rosenberg to post five strips each week, and over the weekend readers would vote on a “repeat destination” to visit again the following week. Any destination that won five times would be retired until there were enough winners to vote on one for a focused, week-long story. That brings me to the reason for this article, because last month Rosenberg announced that the weekly votes would end.

I can see why he did it. Almost every time, the latest winner would be chosen again, meaning that new winners could only appear every five weeks when there was no reigning incumbent. And since ending the voting and letting his own muse take control, Rosenberg has done some great work with those Dungeon Diver characters. On the other hand, I do miss the votes. The feeling of participation was a lot of fun (even if I almost always voted against the incumbent, and therefore lost regularly), and I enjoyed the unpredictability that came from Rosenberg coming up with follow-ups to something that had been planned a one-off joke. The quality of the comic has increased slightly in the past month, but my interest has decreased slightly.

And that brings me to my humble suggestion. As a board game player, I know that there are lots and lots of systems out there; The choice isn’t just between the previous voting system and none at all. Once we’ve identified the problem, we can find a solution. My preference would be to structure each week with three new destinations and two repeats. With two winners every week, it would be much easier for a good new idea to win a chance for a repeat, and the people who always vote for the incumbent would be divided and therefore weakened. There are so many good comics that having more repeats would feel like a fulfillment of potential, and I think it would actually be more fun to see additional ideas being developed over time. (It’s good that we don’t have a story as involved as Goats had, but a little more continuity won’t hurt anything here.)

Will this happen? Probably not. I should have brought this up this before Rosenberg made his choice, not afterwards. But this was a big change to one of the best webcomics out there, so I think it deserves some discussion.

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