REVIEW: “Good Game, Well Played” OGN

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Good Game Well Played

Good Game, Well Played is an original graphic novel published by Mad Cave Studios. It’s written by Rachael Smith, illustrated and colored by Katherine Lobo, and lettered by Justin Birch. In 2009, a young woman named Sienna flies back home to her hometown of Boston to attend a funeral. Flashbacks circle back to 1999 when Sienna and her friends Hope, Art, Jo, and Sid work and/or hang out at the local video game store Game Champ. When Game Champ is threatened with potential closure, Sienna and her friends work to raise money to help its owner Tim, while also dealing with the ups and downs of adolescence.

It’s no secret that I enjoy the coming of age genre. Whether it’s in films like Inbetween Girl and Booksmart or comics – most notably Spider-Man, stories that explore teenage life tend to wear their hearts on their sleeves and find innovative ways to tell stories. In the case of Good Game, the comic explores the theme of change. Sienna is shown to constantly wish that things would stay the way they are, but that’s not how life works. Change is a constant, and all of her friends are going through changes. Art is trying to balance his artwork and his feelings for Sienna. Jo is dealing with family issues – most notably her over-controlling father. Sid attempts to fine-tune his music while taking care of his younger sister. Hope has secrets of her own.

All of these plot points are handled with care by Smith, who lets her narrative unfold at a steady pace. Throughout the story, Sienna slowly learns more about her friends’ lives which conflicts with her desire to keep things as they are. When she finally reunites with her friends in the present day, she’s gone through some changes of her own, and those changes explain a great deal of her behavior. Smith doesn’t approach the narrative with kid gloves, either. There are some heavy themes tackled in this comic, and I freely admit to shedding tears at more than one moment. I also love that the comic is powered by a found family narrative; through all their ups and downs Sienna and her friends truly care for each other.

Good Game is brought to life by Lobo’s artwork, which takes on an anime-esque flair. Characters have expressive eyes and mouths leading to moments that are hilarious or heartbreaking, depending on the narrative. The ’90s era is perfectly brought to life as well; characters have smaller cell phones and, rather than fire up the X-Box, have to go to an actual store to play video games. Lobo even gets to play around with the style of her art, particularly when it comes to the crew playing video games.

The shooter Time Chaos is styled after the visuals of the Time Crisis series, and when Sienna and her friends play a Dungeons & Dragons styled game the art shifts to a 2D platform. The colors are also warm and vibrant, with heavy use of purples and pinks; Boston’s night sky has never looked more beautiful. Birch has some of the most creative lettering I’ve seen in a comic, especially when Sid plays his songs. The lyrics take the form of winding gusts of wind, circling around characters as they go about their lives.

Good Game, Well Played is a found family fable that wears its hearts on its sleeve, while paying loving tribute to video games and the 90’s. If you love coming-of-age films or manga, or you’re looking for a fresh breath of air when it comes to comics, this is the story for you. I truly hope that this creative team has the chance to make more comics together.

Good Game, Well Played is available wherever comics are sold.

 


Good Game Well Played
5

TL;DR

Good Game, Well Played is a found family fable that wears its hearts on its sleeve, while paying loving tribute to video games and the 90’s. If you love coming-of-age films or manga, or you’re looking for a fresh breath of air when it comes to comics, this is the story for you. I truly hope that this creative team has the chance to make more comics together.