Definitions

Concerned

Concerned

[kuhn-surnd]

Concerned: The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman is a webcomic created by Christopher C. Livingston, parodying the first-person shooter video game Half-Life 2. The comic consists of game screenshots, with characters posed using Garry's Mod, a tool which facilitates manipulation of the Source engine used by Half-Life 2. The first issue was launched on May 1, 2005. The comic completed its run on November 6, 2006 with a total of 205 issues.

During the later stages of the comic, Valve, developer of Half-Life 2, sought to collaborate with Livingston in creating a printed version of the comic. However, this proved impractical due to its low resolution.

The comic follows the same general path presented in Half-Life 2, through the eyes of Gordon Frohman, a hapless, lethally clumsy oaf who arrives in City 17 a few weeks before Gordon Freeman, the protagonist of the game series. The comic's dark humor is derived from its contrasts with the game, or otherwise by making references to various shortcomings of it. On several occasions the comic also has Frohman causing many of the disastrous circumstances that Gordon Freeman runs across.

Concerned has been well received by critics and fans alike. Several reviews praised the attention to writing and presentation, as well as the comic's humor. Livingston stated that the comic would not continue through Half-Life 2: Episode One, the first of an episodic series following Half-Life 2, as the game "doesn't really lend itself to the type of comic [he wants] to do".

Background

As stated in an interview, Christopher Livingston started working on Concerned as a hobby. In the same interview he stated that he chose the Half-Life 2 game world as the scene for his comic because he was a fan, after also taking the original 1987 Legend of Zelda for the Nintendo Entertainment System into consideration. Livingston always "envisioned [the comic] as something that would have a clear beginning and ending, and run along the same lines as the game", intending to end the plot of the comic at the same point where the game ended.

The creator of Concerned also said he thought of a comic as the best way of introducing humor to the game, that he otherwise described as being "mysterious, moody, [and] immersive".

Publication history

The first issue of Concerned was released on May 1, 2005, the comic completing its run on November 6, 2006 with a total of 205 issues. The characters in the comic were posed using Garry's Mod, a tool which facilitates manipulation of the source engine used by Half-Life 2, and the comic frames were assembled using Photoshop 6.

The webcomic derives its name from one of the propaganda broadcasts by Wallace Breen in Half-Life 2, in which he is reading a letter supposedly written by a citizen, signed 'Sincerely, a concerned citizen'. Throughout the comic the main character, Gordon Frohman, sends several similar letters to Dr. Breen, Livingston's intention being to suggest that Frohman was the author of the letter read by Breen in Half-Life 2. The name "Frohman" is derived from the last name of Gordon Freeman, the protagonist of the Half-Life series. According to the credits on the comic's website, this name was suggested to Livingston by Sam Golgert, an acquaintance of his.

Livingston has also employed the assistance of other people, notably Michael Clements, founder of the Half-Life 2 comics repository PHWOnline, and creator of SKETCH, another comic based on Half-Life 2. Clements aided him in enhancing the presentation of Concerned. Greg Galcik also assisted in site maintenance, and Livingston later offered him a "guest week special", in which Galcik wrote and published three issues for Concerned. A similar set of three issues have also been published by Joe Yuska, during a week when Livingston was unavailable.

As stated by Livingston in several interviews, his relation with Valve, the developer company of Half-Life 2, was a good one, the company being pleased to have a comic based on their game. According to Livingston, Valve also intended on collaborating with him to produce printed copies of Concerned. However, this was never finalized as the resolution of the comics was too low for printing.

Synopsis

Introduction

In Half-Life 2, the player takes on the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman. Throughout the game, the player follows the story of a dark, dystopian future in which mankind has been enslaved by the Combine, a mysterious alien enemy. In contrast, Concerned follows the same general path through the story established by Half-Life 2, but instead follows the adventures of Gordon Frohman, a hapless, lethally clumsy oaf who arrives in City 17 a few weeks before Freeman. Frohman is incredibly naïve and, unlike the other citizens, seems to enjoy living under the rule of the totalitarian administrator, Dr. Breen, and the Combine. He holds an insane reverence for the latter, even going to the point of having a plush doll of a Combine soldier.

Plot

The early phases of the comic have Frohman excitedly arriving in City 17. Eventually he takes a job at the Combine's headquarters, the Citadel, under a Combine Elite named Mr. Henderson. As most of his human colleagues become Combine soldiers, he realizes that Henderson has no immediate intention to do the same for him, citing his incompetence. Demanding to become one with the Combine, Frohman willingly sets off to Nova Prospekt, an alien security and detention installation, for invasive surgery to convert him. Meanwhile, he selects Ravenholm as a residence where he can commute to and from City 17, but lacks proper transport with which to get there. After a failed attempt to reach Ravenholm using Dr. Isaac Kleiner's teleporter leaves him stuck in a Counter-Strike: Source server for a week, he seeks Ravenholm by foot instead. Traveling through City 17's canals, Frohman arrives, badly injured and dazed, at Black Mesa East, the headquarters of the human resistance, where he is welcomed as a helper. His stay there is cut short because he causes trouble in the base, and also irritatingly overuses the gravity gun. He is fooled into leaving the base, and finally heads toward and reaches Ravenholm.

On Frohman's arrival, Ravenholm is depicted as a peaceful, bright, and cheerful place devoid of any Combine elements, but "terrorized" by Father Grigori. After adjusting, Gordon becomes accustomed to the town, but unintentionally discloses the town's location to Dr. Breen, who immediately orders his forces to "bomb the shit out of them". The town is fired on with headcrabs, killing many and turning others into zombies. Frohman himself is attacked by a headcrab and turns into a zombie too, yet retains his free will; and after a while his headcrab dies of malnutrition, which is attributed to his lack of intelligence. With Father Grigori's help, Frohman escapes Ravenholm, now the zombie-infested nightmare seen when Freeman visits it in the game, and presses on to Nova Prospekt. After surviving several more hazards, he reaches the coast. Here, after passing the final resistance base and an Antlion-infested beach, Frohman encounters an Antlion Guard, which is killed by a Vortigaunt, an alien race helping the humans in the game. This allows Frohman to retrieve bugbait from the dead creature, with which he can control the Antlions.

Frohman, accompanied by several bugbait-controlled Antlions, eventually reaches Nova Prospekt, only to be turned away as he does not have an appointment. He gives up and returns to City 17 in the following strip, as Gordon Freeman finally arrives in the city, linking the comic's time frame with the start of Half-Life 2. He is then drafted into the resistance after failing to disrupt its operations, and unintentionally signals the start of the resistance's uprising by accidentally killing a Combine police officer using one of his Antlions. During the fighting, he accompanies Freeman himself and mingles with resistance members, aids the Combine in the capture of Alyx Vance, one of Freeman's allies, and reunites with Norman Frohman, his long-lost assassin twin brother, only to promptly witness his's death at the hands of a Strider, a large tripod war machine.

Following this, Gordon returns to the Citadel, unwillingly aiding Freeman in his journey up the Citadel and influencing the plot of the game. As Freeman is pursuing Dr. Breen to his teleporter, Frohman is about to kill Freeman—but he pauses to come up with the perfect one-liner for the occasion, until Dr. Breen's teleporter explodes. Frohman is flung off the Citadel peak by the explosion. Dr. Breen also survives, having fallen from the Citadel onto a pile of dead Combine soldiers. However, Frohman falls right onto Breen, killing him. Gordon himself is only seriously injured. Baffled by his ability to survive, he realizes through a flashback that he has been under "Buddha Mode", a cheat code which prevents his health points from dropping below one throughout the comic's duration. Frohman inadvertently turns off the mode, and even spoils an opportunity to be rescued by a group of Vortigaunts, as both Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance are at the start of Episode One. In the end, Frohman dies unceremoniously, while survivors of the City 17 uprising find him dead.

Themes

Livingston stated that the comic was a good way of pointing out several shortcomings of video games, and first-person shooters in particular. He exemplified the presence of various objects throughout the levels of games, which were intended to aid the player, but would have little chance of being found in the real world in a similar manner.

Much of the comic's dark humor is derived from its contrasts with Half-Life 2: in a depressing, dark vision of a conquered humanity's future, Gordon Freeman becomes a hero and savior; the similarly-named Gordon Frohman, on the other hand, is just an average person, improbably cheerful to the point of stupidity, and somewhat naïve as to what is actually going on around him. For instance, Frohman fails to realize that his return-addressed letters to Doctor Breen reveal his location, and so result in that location being invaded, bombed, or otherwise compromised.

The comic contains many references to events and objects in the game. In one comic, Frohman makes a clerical error that causes the Combine to order far too many explosive barrels, thus suggesting an explanation for the barrels' ubiquity throughout City 17 and beyond. In another, he writes a letter to Dr. Breen asking why using his flashlight reduces his ability to run, a reference to Half-Life 2's flashlight and sprint functions using the same power source. In a further strip, the town of Ravenholm becomes the headcrab-infested ghost town seen in Half-Life 2 after Frohman writes to Breen expressing his happiness with being there, giving away Ravenholm's location. Indeed, Frohman causes (intentionally or accidentally) many of the disastrous circumstances that Gordon Freeman runs across. He accidentally gives Breen the idea of headcrab shells while on a radio, and sets up all of the traps in Ravenholm himself in an attempt to catch Father Grigori.

It is also revealed that, at the Black Mesa Research Facility, Frohman causes the resonance cascade that allows for alien forces to invade in Half-Life by accidentally delivering a wedge of cheese, instead of the intended test sample, to the test chamber where the cascade flashpoints. Half-Life: Decay, however, indicates that Dr. Gina Cross is responsible for this task. Livingston admitted he did not play Decay, and thus was not aware of its storyline. He also stated that the comic takes place in the PC version of the Half-life 2 continuity, and since Half-Life: Decay was never published for the PC, it does not affect the comic.

Reception

The comic has had positive reception from both the public and editors of various gaming magazines. The Globe and Mail stated the comic "stands out from most other gamics [comics consisting of game screenshots] by virtue of the quality of its writing and presentation". Online magazine GGL.com said that "Concerned is one of the funnier online gaming comics, and perhaps the best single-game parody in the bunch", and The Irish Gamers described Concerned as a "hit webcomic". Computer Gaming World described the comic as "funny", and PC Zone called it a "mildly amusing HL2 comic". The comic had also caught the attention of reviewers outside the United States and the United Kingdom; the Romanian magazine Level said the comic is "a recommendation to every fan of the game and anyone looking for a good daily laugh".

The comic's popularity, as well as the fact that Livingston stated he does not intend to continue the comic through Half-Life 2: Episode One, led to the appearance of an 'unofficial' sequel to Concerned, entitled Concerned 2: A Concerned Rip-Off: The Continuing Adventures of Gordon Frohman, and created by Norman N. Black.

References

External links

Official links

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