Review of The Guild: Tink Comic, with FULL SPOILERS
March 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
My oh my, I loved the Tink comic. Like the Codex comics, it deepened my understanding of both the character and her place within the guild. What I found frustrating about the Vork comic was that its main accomplishment was introducing the character of Vork’s grandfather, but didn’t actually deepen our understanding of Vork himself, or his relationship to the guild and to online gaming generally. We know that his gaming history is fundamental to his identity, and the comic missed the opportunity to explore that. His grandfather was interesting, and, as I argued in my review, offered a nice historical contextualization of Vork as not only the oldest member of the guild, but also the member most invested in preserving his genealogy. But again, his social isolation was merely there in the comic, whereas in Codex and, happily, Tink’s, specific motivations for social isolation are offered.
Tink seems in the series to be the most socially competent member of the guild. We know that she regularly goes on dates, for example, unlike any of the other members, and we also know that she is confident about her own social and sexual boundaries, which cannot be said for any of the other guildies. The closest we see to that is Clara, and we see her genuinely struggle to find intimacy with her husband, as a result of her refusal to be entirely honest with herself about her desires and needs. Vork, Zaboo, and Codex are plainly of the hot mess persuasion when it comes to sexuality, and Bladezz is no more confused than any other high school student, but that still leaves him low on the developmental ladder.
Tink, however, is in college, and, although we know from the series that she is pre-med, we learn in the comic that she’s actually deeply interested in the humanities, although she’s disappointed with the way in which their taught at her college, which seems to be USC (also attended by one Amy Okuda!). I was excited to see this represented in the comic, both because it introduced a pathetic English teacher character, seen below:
as well as because it made sense that Tink’s character would make up stories based on books she’d read for college courses — after all, for the vast majority of us, great literature is something we only encounter within educational institutions, unless we’re the rare and oft-mocked soul actually drawn to the Barnes and Noble classics section. Tink’s interest in these stories is probably a lot like that of the above-average but disaffected college student of the 21st Century — she’s drawn in by the drama and skillful use of generic conventions, but is hard-pressed to rank these stories above those she sees on television — recall her attempt, in the first season, to borrow her “life story” from the television series Ugly Betty. This reveals an attention to audience, which contemporary literary studies has not yet fully incorporated.
In fact, it’s precisely her attention to audience, which led her to choose to address a diverse audience with reference to a mainstream television series, and helped her to select appropriate “origin stories” to tell each guildie about herself. For example, she borrows from romantic conventions to craft her story for the ditzy Clara, from contemporary mythologies of morality born in the rhetoric of the U.S. Military to distract the moralist Vork, family trauma for the ridiculously empathetic Codex, and for Bladezz, exactly what she could predict he would want from her, based on his age, ethnicity, and level of immersion in internet culture:
Of course, eventually, the guildies realize that she’s been lying to them, and they confront her about it. In response, she uses her rhetorical skills to explain what she wants from the social world they’re creating within the game, by explaining her micro-generation’s understanding of online social mores. She’s actually surprisingly forthcoming about her emotions here, again, in a way we rarely see in the other guildies — she explains that she loves the opportunity presented by the game to reinvent herself time and again, something Codex could only even admit to herself in a cursory way. She explains that this pleasure would be significantly altered, and possibly disappear, if she was forced to answer personal questions on other people’s social timetable, rather than her own friendship trajectory. She’s not saying that she’s uninterested in others, or even in making new friends, but she has no interest in prematurely forcing this space to replicate the kind of social surveillance that already grates on her IRL. We see her college roommates wondering where she is and why she’s always yelling “newb” in her bedroom, and we can see why she might relish the opportunity to form an identity with more power and autonomy than the typical college student is given.
Being a college student, Tink is accustomed to being asked to defend her identity and her choices related to her self-presentation, which is why she has such a rhetorical arsenal to combat this in the space of the game. The others, however, have no such arsenal, and therefore, their worldviews are thrown in various ways by Tink’s speech. This is ultimately a good thing, and leads to a mutually-supportive relationship among the guildies, but it also has some unforeseen consequences: for example, as we see in season three, Clara, emboldened by her friendship with Tink, cheats on her husband with sexy stunt man Wade, something she probably wouldn’t have done if she hadn’t found the social comfort of the game. On the other hand, Tink, because of her confidence, is able to help all of the guildies, including Clara, get to know themselves better and clarify their values, as well as to stop blaming external forces for their problems, something they’d all had a tendency to do pre-guild formation.
Tink has some problems of her own, to be sure, mostly related to money, but again, this makes sense for a college student. The way in which she uses men to get money is obviously not laudable, but college students are indeed in a disempowered position when it comes to financing their desires, especially when these desires fill precisely the need that they would have hoped would be filled by college coursework — unsatisfied by English 301, Tink immerses herself in Warcraft. Maybe I’m reading too generously, but I’m okay with that.
Can’t wait for the Clara comic!