After making a living for 22 years as one of the better-known creators in any artistic space, you’d be forgiven for wanting to more or less keep things running as usual. The temptation must be strong, especially in a field as difficult to break into and ultimately monetize as making comics on the web. After two decades of success, why mess with the formula? Why start fresh, when it’s so much easier to just keep feeding the beast?
We should respect, then, that this is what comics writer/artist Scott Kurtz just embarked on, with what he seems to have dubbed PvP 3.0. Kurtz is the creator and artist behind PvP (technically Player vs. Player), which would rightly be considered one of the first wave of influential “gamer” webcomics. Alongside the likes of Ctrl+Alt+Del, Penny-Arcade and Megatokyo, PvP contributed to the late 1990s/early 2000s boom in gaming-related comics, which in turn had their part in molding internet gaming culture as the web grew from infancy to maturity. For 22 years, a comic like PvP, updated almost daily, has grown and changed with the times, but now Kurtz has decided to narratively upend its established characters by sending it hurtling into the future. This is no small decision, and we can only imagine there must have been some hand-wringing on the writer’s part as to how such a decision would be received.
PvP, at its heart, is an office comedy about a group of characters who act as an extended family, working at what is initially a gaming magazine that becomes a website, and then a game developer, and eventually a tabletop game developer. Presaging the likes of the U.S. version of The Office by launching seven years earlier, it brings together a cast of characters who range from snarky editorial writer Brent to middle-aged manager Cole or lazy teenage gamer Francis. Those characters have all aged substantially over the comic’s run, in some cases falling in love and getting married, starting families and rearing children. And along the way, they’ve found time for regular film and gaming commentary, naturally.
Now, however, the “3.0” launch would seem to be sending the familiar cast of characters sailing into the future. The reboot began with Monday’s comic, debuting with little fanfare—Kurtz notes in his blog post that he wanted to reimagine the story in a time beyond the current hurdles of the coronavirus pandemic. That led him to consider placing comics into an era years from now when the characters could again “be themselves,” but in doing so he’s committed to a vastly different version of PvP than the one he’s been writing for 22 years.
How far has PvP moved forward in time? It’s a bit hard to say, but the new protagonist looks an awful lot like a grown-up version of Brent and Jade Sienna’s daughter Katherine, who we last saw as a little girl. The first comic depicts her arriving at the PvP office (they’re still in business, which is impressive) for a job interview, so we can deduce that perhaps 15 years has passed. And that manager ... does he bear a certain resemblance to a now middle-aged (and pot-bellied) Francis Ottoman? Where does this leave all our other characters? How slowly will Kurtz unspool the mysteries of what’s going on in the year … 2035? Something like that?
Regardless, it will be fascinating to see how one of the best-known creators in webcomics approaches such a large change to the series that has been his signature creation for more than two decades.