A bit of a departure this week as I sidestep towards an example of serial online storytelling from the world of role-playing game culture. I'll specifically be looking at Rich Burlew's online comic Order of the Stick, now in its tenth year and having just completed the antepenultimate book in its ongoing storyline. The Order of the Stick takes its title from its stick-figure artwork, artwork the characters therein sometimes seem aware in occasional cracks in the fourth wall. So yes, this post is about a stick-figure comic strip about gamers. It's also about more - OoTS has been successful for a long time, and gained a very devoted following (Burlew raised money via Kickstarter to reprint his back-catalog to reach new readers. Out of a goal of just under $60,000 he raised well over a million in what was, at the time, a Kickstarter record).
OOTS began way back in 2003 as a somewhat one-note satire of role playing games in general and Dungeons and Dragons in particular. This came at a time when I still counted myself among role playing gamers, and the humor somewhat worked for me. Sadly (or not so sadly - I've found much else to enrich my life), I've not thrown dice with a g
aming group in years now - likely almost as long as OoTS has been running. Why do I keep coming back for all these years, following the story of an adventure-gaming group which - at least sometimes - seems to know that they're in an adventure game? How has Burlew been so successful for so long with stick-figure artwork? Two factors: first is evolution, and the second is a successful twist of expectations.
|Order of the Stick style fan-art|
This is that the comic looks like
The moral of the story? Given passion and dedication, something which at first seems silly can become something something special and interesting as it grows with you and the audience. Do you have a wild idea? If so, stick with it, and look me up again in a decade. We'll see where we're at.