Ctrl-Alt-Del Online

In Webcomics on October 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm

This webcomic has been on my ‘bad’ list for longer than is respectable, given my predilection towards actually blogging, and it is only fair I actually address the analysis and evaluation that placed it under such a heading.

Mention CAD and you’ll only really see two opinions, though they will be presented in great numbers, with great passion, and possessing numerous spelling errors; this phenomena is constant throughout the internets, and no particular circle or forum is immune to the impassioned debates about Tim Buckley’s successful sojourn. Given his wild reactions to criticism as well as the comic’s own reputation for rubberbanding between quality and mediocrity, it’s no wonder he firmly holds the love-it-or-hate-it trophy.

Not to detract from Tim Buckley’s polarizing public relations, I find it most compelling to view this as an issue between outright wish fulfillment and cutting it close to the bone, depending upon to whom you’re talking; catharsis or cathexis. Ethan is in every part pampered by the author, inflicting no serious or lasting harm upon himself or his friends. Awesome opportunities are dropped in his lap and his every whim and goal are granted the instant he sets out. To top it all off, even the mundane aspects of his life are enviable: he lives in his own house with his gamer friend and his gamer girlfriend.

It helps to realize that he’s living the dream that most of us gamers thought we’d see at some point in our teens; a simple life filled with friends, games and fun. Some of the readership must be partaking vicariously in Ethan’s success, enjoying his achievements as a fulfillment of their own. Escapism may come into play here, as readers replace their own lives with the trappings of CAD‘s protagonist.

For others, this only rubs salt in the wound. Ethan is a completely obsessed social retard for whom the probability of having finished highschool recedes distantly into the horizon. Were it not for the constant monitoring and care of his friends, to say nothing of the author’s direct intervention, he would likely be in prison or dead. By all rights, the most Ethan should have amounted to is an underwashed, basement-dwelling familial embarassment with no friends to speak of outside of like-minded zealots on whichever internet forum had supplanted his social life.

Is it too dramatic to simply state that, to many, Ethan and CAD are an embarassment that we publicly share as gamers? While somewhat clever in its construction, I certainly cringed during the gaming-as-religion arc, especially as it took pedantic potshots at the establishment. Why Mr. Buckley felt the need to exaserbate Ethan’s hospitalization by forcing his character to suffer withdrawal symptoms for not having gamed in mere days is similarly beyond me. And, of course, seemingly normal and successful people are placed around the protagonist as enemies and rivals in a staggering display of illogic and nonsense.

Were CAD a satire, it would be brilliant. Ethan is the horrific gamer that non-gamers imagine us to be, with his many faults and obsessions; on the other side, he is living the life most of us wish we had and suffers no ill-consequences for his actions. With the introduction of his brother, who seems to be normal, socially well-adjusted and in all ways possessing the lesser of the siblings’ faults, this would normally be a prime opportunity to lampoon his own character…except he won’t.

Perhaps, in the end, CAD is less wish fulfillment for its supporters and moreso for its author. Just as Ethan’s antics bring the character success, so too has Mr. Buckley been treated well by his highly flawed creation.

  1. I’m a fan of CAD, but not usually a vocal one on internet forums, because most of the arguments I see against the comics are actually just childish slander against its creator – so I can appreciate that your critique is a genuine analysis and opinion on the comic and characters themselves, which you are entitled to.
    That said, I can’t resist observing that your principle problem with CAD seems to be that it’s not realistic, that Ethan could never survive in the real world. If you’re looking for something true-to-life, pick up a non-fiction work – I’m pretty sure Ethan is just supposed to be a caricature (aka deliberate exaggeration) of a hardcore gamer. As for the unliklihood of his relationships, the comic wouldn’t be able to develop very far without secondary characters. Of course Ethan would never survive in real life. Then again, in real life, you can’t come back and try again after you die, like you can in video games. Comics, works of fiction, video games, etc, exist for the sake of escapism. Try not to read into it so much, and you might enjoy it more.

    • To be honest, I probably shouldn’t place CAD in my list of “bad” webcomics – the article had been sitting in drafts for a while and the quality of the work, as well as my opinion, has changed since I began writing the piece. Of course, any article specifically discussing the merits of a webcomic will be overanalytical by nature, and I don’t feel any public offering should be shielded from such commentary regardless of intent or scope. That said, my critique deals less with the comic being unrealistic, and more with the events of Ethan’s life rubbing certain populations the wrong way; a casually assumptive postulate, to understate things. Again, the creator is well known for overreacting to such criticism, which offers ground for debate as to how seriously he takes his own creation. Certainly, it’s a livelihood and he should laugh all the way to the bank, but his more dramatic attempts show that he does occasionally reach for something more than escapism.

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