Passed the test?
Passed the test?
News: Posted September 3rd, 2019 by Alina

^ 26 Comments to “Passed the test?”

  1. Robert Says:

    Sometimes having that perception check pass works in your favor!

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 3:28 am
  2. Krystal Says:

    Alright, I have to say this.

    I am getting more and more turned off of this comic. A big part of why I started reading this was the connections between the group of friends, and my own wish to have such a group. Yet the longer this comic runs, the more it becomes clear that they are NOT good friends.

    It started with Dustin and the vampire game. He was the victim of cheating and blatant favoritism by the GM. He was rightfully so angry that he outright quit. But did anyone else? Did even a single one of them talk to the GM about it? Did anyone else go, “Hey, how you treated Dustin was not right. Your decisions were not fair. If you don’t address this, I am leaving too.” No. All they did was tell him, well now you can play a different game, and that was supposed to just solve everything. Not one of them had his back, not one of them stood by him. Not even, the ‘tough love, says whatever he wants regardless of how harsh it is’ Joel.

    Now with this. Mark was clearly, visibly upset. Rather than help him, they banished him to the out of character space, alone, to stew in his thoughts. They prioritized the game over Mark. When Dustin DID finally go in to talk to him, though he was trying to help, he essentially came in with saying what could be summarized as “You’re life has been easy. So this little issue seems like a major problem because you’ve never had it hard. I’ve had it much harder than you.” And people wonder why Mark got defensive. I’d have done the same.

    Further, when Sarah finally decides to try and go in, Joel STOPS her. He just decides there is nothing to be done. Instead, they ALL should have helped out. In fact, they all should have STOPPED PLAYING THE GAME to be with their friend who was in obvious distress. Before even sending him away, they should have put him over a game. They can always play during another session. They can’t replace a friend. When it became obvious he was having a problem, the first thing they should have done was say something like, “Hey, I can see you are upset. Do you need to talk? Or do you want to leave?” And they should have been willing to leave the game, take Mark home, if that is what he needed.

    Yes, Mark’s actions are his own. He made his own decisions and choices, and he is responsible for them. (And those actions are horribly out of character for him, from what we’ve seen up to this point.) But, it is much easier to make good decisions when you have people supporting you. Had his friends stood by him, instead of abandoning him he might have handled it much better. Maybe not, but he might have.

    And now this. Joel is NOT showing ‘tough love’ here. He is being an outright jerk. You DO NOT ‘test’ someone in a position like this. You do NOT deliberately push someone to make them mad when they are hurt (both physically and emotionally). Yes, cleaning CAN be therapeutic, for SOME people. But certainly NOT when done under the watch of someone playing Drill Sergeant. You want to help someone in a case like this? Say something like, “hey, I noticed you need a bit of cleaning done in the bathroom, and a clean space always makes me feel a bit better, plus the work will help keep your mind off of things for a bit. Come on, I’ll help.” And then you work WITH them. You don’t stand there watching while yelling at them to do better. This will only make things worse. Joel is not being a good friend. He is not giving ‘tough love’.

    I used to love this comic, but more and more I am thinking about quitting reading it. I’m not quite ready to give it up, I’m holding out hope it will get better. But I had to get this out.

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 4:55 am
  3. Julez Says:

    Sigh, dammit Joel, being a machiavellian prodigy in real life doesn’t make you cool.

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 7:08 am
  4. Incubi Says:

    hey The mark of a great ST, getting the players todo what you want without them realising lol. I like that Joel thought of a practical non confrontational way to assess how Mark was doing… and yeah he can be a bit of a Jerk sometimes but that’s why we love him.

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 8:30 am
  5. Azrael Says:

    Green Textbox is the Therapist I assume?

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 8:41 am
  6. C.A.Collins Says:

    Or the test was to see if he’s rebuilding boundaries yet. That’s the fun thing about tests

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 8:58 am
  7. Hfar Says:

    Yeah he’s a jerk. But he’s your jerk, and you know he cares. πŸ™‚

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 11:45 am
  8. Diogo Salazar Says:

    @Krystal
    I mean, Mark took off, and his makeup was one of the easiest ones to clean, maybe he left before the rest of the group had a chance to catch up and he was really taking on everybody, so asking him to wait could make him even angrier.
    About Dustin, yeah, it was a dick move and nobody supported him, I’ll give you that.
    But regarding Mark, he basically never showed any empathy towards anyone except his former girlfriend (who I forget the name now) when she didn’t give him the chance to explain it was a game (although I still think out of sessions communication in LARP a no-no).

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 5:38 pm
  9. Drraagh Says:

    @Krystal First off, we don’t see what happens off camera, and while my LARP knowledge is theoretical and not practical as never having played in one, it is possible that the players did talk to the GM. As for leaving, it is possible Dustin could have told them “Don’t quit on my account” not wanting his friends to stop having fun because of his issues with the game. It may be hard not seeing that and seeing some references like in the visit to Dustin’s house where someone asked if he talked to the GM, I believe.

    As for Mark; Abbie tried to talk to him and he didn’t want to speak. You can’t force people to fo something they don’t want to, we can give them space if they need it to have a breather away from the problem, we an offer a shoulder to cry on and a friendly ear if they choose to make use of it. And with “take Mark home”, he drove there so he was free to leave any time he wanted, there was nothing keeping him there besides his own anger and other emotions.

    Dustin comments may not have been what you would have wanted to hear, sure, but it was a bit of analysis from one friend to another saying “I think the reason you’re taking such a problem with this is you’ve never had to be second to anyone” speaking from experience in the Poly relationship that he found himself in. Mark was way over his head in the relationship, entering unprepared for the experiences, so he was bound to have some hurdles. Dustin attempted to help him see past the “You’re always used to being the prettiest one” and maybe it didn’t work as intended, but it did show he cared as he wanted to help Mark work through it. Could he have used another angle, definitely.

    As for Joel, this is another situation where friends will act in what they think might be the best way to help learn ways to manage your anger (or that letting it out to a friend can be healthier than other methods). As Mark says, perhaps Joelvwants to see if Mark is still bubbling under a calm surface as he steps about everything or is he able to keep calm and relaxed.

    The problem with writing drama, especially with characters we have connected to over years is we’ll always insert ourselves into their scenario. How would I handle that, what would I do… because we see the characters as real people as well, and sometimes they act in ways contrary to real people because of what the author may wish to Express or experiences the author may be drawing on.

    Posted September 3rd, 2019 at 6:06 pm
  10. _Pax_ Says:

    It was a test, sure. Something, I bet, along the lines of: “Is Mark really generally a violent maniac and we just never saw it? Or did he completely lose his cool ONLY THAT ONE TIME, and so, I can champion him with the LARP group and maybe get him unbanned.”

    Posted September 4th, 2019 at 12:33 am
  11. Jess Says:

    Yeah, Joel can be a bit of a jerk sometimes.

    That said I really like this arc. Joel, Abbie, Dustin, Sarah – I see them all doing their best to help their friend. Honestly I don’t think they could have done more given how resistant Mark has been to admitting he needs help. I mean look at how Abbie tried to encourage Mark to talk to her before the game – I’m sure if Mark had agreed, she would’ve skipped the game entirely to be there for him if he needed it. But Mark insisted on going to the game. When someone is so resistant to help there’s really not much you can do for them. Unfortunately some people have to hit rock bottom before they’ll accept they’re not okay and they need help. And even after breaking his hand, Mark’s still reluctant to admit he needs help.

    I want to be clear that while I see Joel, Abbie, Sarah and Dustin doing their best to help their friend – that doesn’t mean I think all of their actions were actually helpful.

    1) None of them are mental health professionals
    2) Aren’t they’re all early-mid twenties…? (I base this off Abbie finishing college recently) They wouldn’t exactly have a huge amount of life experience.

    Personally I find it extremely believable that this group of young adults would do their best to help their friend but not always get it right. And that’s exactly what I’ve been seeing in this arc – some of Joel’s efforts have been excellent (ie. the comics just after Mark got back home), some of them are not so great (ie. yelling at Mark last comic – seriously Joel?!). Ditto with Abbie’s attempts to help Mark – there were some great choices by her AND some not so great choices. And again, there’s only so much you can do to help someone who refuses to accept they need help. It’s all very realistic to me. People in real life, including older people with more life experience than these four, very often don’t get it right either.

    Posted September 4th, 2019 at 12:44 am
  12. Prosnit Says:

    I’m not sure Mark is facing a test from Joel here. In my opinion, this scene is seen from the point of view of “Angry Mark”, the one that got Mark in trouble in the first place. Angry Mark and Mark are not quite the same character and they can switch in Mark’s head.

    I’m not saying Mark is suffering from multiple personnality disorder but I think, picturing what’s happening to him in this manner can makes us realize how terrifying it could get when losing temper feels like losing control to someone else. Mark is probably feeling guilty about that. The trick, for him, is admitting he needs help and to make amend without fleeing any responsabilities, which is difficult. It’s a delicate balance and, lucky for him, he has friends to support him along.

    In this panel, I can see how much a paranoid Angry Mark is. I can see how he twists Mark’s perception. And I can see how Mark is trying to sort it out. Of course, this reading doesn’t rule out Joel being a jerk from time to time. I just think he isn’t one right now.

    Posted September 4th, 2019 at 1:52 am
  13. Velgar Says:

    @Krystal It’s not always quite easy to see who the real friends are and who are the foe, but like couple have already stated, these fellows are in all actuality good friends.

    They are not the kind of friends mob-up for your every trouble or try to hold your hands while dealing them, but they don’t let you alone with them (and no, letting a guy think things through for an hour or so is reeeeeaaaaaally not leaving him alone, it’s more in line respecting the friend to have some common sense and to be able to think things through).

    And the cleaning thing with friend helping wouldn’t be ‘tough love’ at all. What Joel is doing is exactly ‘tough love’. He thinks (knows really) that you should have something to do, he knows you’ll get annoyed at him for making you do the thing and he’s perfectly ready to accept your hate and anger if you decide to feel such towards him too. He knows he has something to lose if you do decide that you hate him despite your friendship and he probably wouldn’t even fault you on that or really change either how he sees you as friend, just that you need more help than he could have feared. But he trusts you. He wants to believe you’re better, that you can work through the anger in one way or another, through labor or thought, and you’ll get better through it.

    Relationships aren’t easy, ‘cose you have to take some and give some. It’s not always clear-cut what is “good” and what is “bad” and sometimes the two are interchangeable even when talking about the same thing. People are different.

    All in all, I can only hope you’ll find the group you want to be part of, but I must say that you’d probably be better of with group like they have here. It might not be the perfect for one person in a group, but I think they’d be quite close to perfect for all in the group.

    Posted September 4th, 2019 at 8:11 am
  14. Eva Says:

    I find Krystal’s take on this situation interesting. I guess I’m more willing to give some of the characters benefit of the doubt on some things, but I definitely can see how Krystal got to that perspective.

    Like I think Dustin was genuinely trying to help Mark the best he could when he talked to him. Dustin isn’t a therapist, he manages a bookstore for goodness sake. He was trying, but sometimes even people with the best of intentions are going to say the wrong things or hit buttons they don’t know you have.

    I get the feeling that the group of weregeek friends has a strong unstated social rule that while it’s ok to meddle, you have to let other adults manage their social relationships for themselves if they tell you to stop meddling. And while that can look negligent or not like good friend behavior… that is a real social norm that exists in some groups. It’s not inherently toxic or maladaptive (and the reverse, refusing to let other adults manage their own relationships when they tell you no, can be very toxic). So things worked out shit, but Joel didn’t tell Sarah no because he hates Mark. He told her no because Mark had already made it clear that he didn’t want and wasn’t going to respond to help from his friends and Joel figured that at that point any more interference was just going to make things worse for everyone involved. It’s a bad situation, but it doesn’t need bad friends to get there.

    Posted September 4th, 2019 at 2:51 pm
  15. HousePet Says:

    Krystal: If you are upset about the way the comic is going when the characters are in trying situations, its because you care about the characters.
    This comic is frequently about real life social dramas, with real life consequences and real life pain.
    This part is possibly one of the hardest things that has happened to Mark, but Alina has cushioned that by making it clear that he is finally speaking to a counsellor. This is a great outcome for him, and there might be more good outcomes from this.
    We can’t expect Alina to make the characters sort out each others issues before they explode. Because they all have their own problems going on and don’t have the XP to do it. Instead we see them slowly grinding through the Dungeon of Life. Which is what this comic is about.

    That said. I do feel frustrated at times, as I want to see more of the in comic game-plots as well. But we just have to see what Alina has time to create for us.

    Finally, Joel can be a real jerk sometimes? What does he mean by “sometimes”? πŸ˜›
    I’ll leave it to the Counsellor as to whether or not Joel is being a good friend at this stage.

    Posted September 4th, 2019 at 7:27 pm
  16. Knottygeek Says:

    @Prosnit I understand what you are saying. Not multiple personality disorder, he is just seeing things through the Angry Fog/Post-Angry-Fog Lens. Not 24 hours before he had gone through a really high stress point that not even sleep can 100% get you out of.

    I am sure that Joel is being a bit of a jerk but I don’t think he is being as big of one as Mark perceives him to be. These are a bunch of younger adults and they are going to make mistakes. But I think they are doing the best they can to help their friend. They were there at his home waiting on him with open arms to help take care of him when they had all of the reasons to not be.

    I’m really enjoying this arc and seeing where it leads.

    Posted September 4th, 2019 at 7:28 pm
  17. Trivena Says:

    Re: this being a test – Joel has been a DM for a long time, it was part of his characterisation in the Hunter arc that withholding information is a deeply ingrained habit for him. In all likelihood, subtly manipulating his friends and their reactions is a part of his standard toolbox by now, whether he’s doing it deliberately or not. Even just saying something to provoke the right response for them to have a realisation, either immediately or later after thinking about it, counts as manipulation.

    Posted September 5th, 2019 at 12:30 am
  18. HousePet Says:

    After some consideration, I agree with Joel’s decision not to let Sarah near Mark while he was in loose cannon mode.
    Sarah is smart, but she is also an emotional person. This is not normally a bad thing, but the are two possibilities that would have just made the whole situation worse.

    a) Mark getting angry at Sarah and Sarah retaliating.
    b) Sarah seeing Mark do bad things and getting angry at Mark.

    Anyone else in their friend group would be much less likely to let either of those happen, and anyone else would be less upset by it happening.

    The Sarah card is far more effective when played to deliver hugs, pancakes and sarky “talk to a therapist” comments, after Mark has calmed down.

    PS for Alina:
    I hope we are going to go through a few more swap overs.
    Seeing how differently Sarah and Joel are managing Mark is a great way to examine their characters. I would love to see what Dustin and Abbie handle it.
    Stretch goal: Quick visits and chats from Katie and Darren. πŸ™‚
    (Also, I can’t stop giggling at panel #3. Damn you.)

    Posted September 5th, 2019 at 6:56 am
  19. Netty Says:

    @ Krystal. I think you’re expecting just a little too much from Mark’s friends. They’re not mind readers and it’s easy to judge how people hand situations from an outsider’s perspective. They all have their own quirks and ways of dealing with things, and I believe all of them are handling the situation the best that they know how. While Joel’s behavior does show a more abrasive way of dealing with the problem, he’s always been the type of character to show his love in passive aggressive ways, but his friends accept him for that. As for expecting everyone to drop out of the LARP because of what happened to Dustin, that’s really unreasonable. Sure, they could take things up with the DM, but asking people to just drop something they’ve invested a lot of time, effort, and expense for because one of their friends had a bad experience one night isn’t really fair to his friends, or the other players involved in the game. Each one of them had a pretty prominent role in it and if they had just thrown a fit and quit, not only would that have been a blow to the DM, but the overall story that was being told with the possibly dozens of other players. Is it fair to them for everyone to just throw a fit and quit? Definitely the DM was in the wrong for what happened with Dustin, but his friends did support and talk to him after the fact. They just didn’t do anything super drastic. In the end, Dustin dealt with the situation and cut ties with the DM for being unapologetic. This guy had been a long time friend with him. Heck, they lived together. It’s sad that that one experience was enough for him to feel the need to break off a long time relationship. It’s equally sad the DM was too stubborn to admit his fault in the situation to prevent that. Ultimately, what happened at the LARP was between Dustin and the DM and while his friends were upset for him and empathized, there was only so much they could reasonably do. It’s not fair to expect his friends to sacrifice both their efforts and disrupt several other people’s creative works over a single incident. Dustin never held it against them, why should we?

    As for this whole mess, as many have said Mark isn’t one to let people help him through his issues. He shuts down and there’s only so much you can do at that point. Joel didn’t let Sarah go to him because it was clear that he was irrational and if she had gone, some more damage would have been done. Joel knows that there’s still some tension left after the ‘Jess’ incident, and given that the whole reason that Mark got himself into this situation was because his out of game interactions with Sarah led to him losing his long time girlfriend and throwing himself into a relationship he was not equipped to handle while simultaneously having some unaddressed feelings toward Sarah.

    We see that he didn’t exactly seem happy that she is now inaccessible being with Hadeed even if he had decided he wanted to pursue her, he was in the state of mind that he could have VERY possibly lashed out at her and blamed her for being in this mess in the first place, because that was the level of irrational he was at that point. Dustin had already taken an emotionally abusive beating from him in his failed attempt to have him rationalize his feelings toward Damien. Sure, he didn’t approach it well, but I can see how Dustin came to try that angle. He may have had it somewhat wrong, but generally what he was trying to get Mark to understand was that he didn’t hate Damien for anything Damien had done. He hated him because he felt inferior to him. Up until that point, Mark was the ‘attractive’ one in the Poly relationship. He didn’t feel romantically threatened by Dustin. Damien made him feel threatened. That was what Dustin was trying to get across. He was likely aware that Mark even subconsciously felt safe with Dustin being Ravenia’s other partner because he could see it more of ‘She likes Dustin’s personality and just enjoys spending time with him’ so it was easy for him to see Dustin as more of a good friend to her than an actual romantic partner. Damien sent a shockwave through him of “Oh my god this whole Poly thing is real and I’m suddenly truly aware that Ravenia isn’t just my girl.” I may be wrong, but I don’t think Dustin was completely off the mark with that. No pun intended. But just because you’re correct, doesn’t mean that the person you’re addressing the issue with is going to accept that truth. Especially when they’re in that particular emotional stage. Dustin was trying to get him to see that yes, it was his own fault he hated Damien, but no matter how he approached that subject, it was a slippery slope of how Mark in his angry rage mode would accept the message because he wanted someone to blame, not to face his own shortcoming. It was a situation that was doomed to fail from the start because Mark had been internalizing for way too long and he had finally imploded.

    As friends, there is only so much anyone can be expected to do in situations like this. They are truly doing their best to help him pick up the pieces in their own way. Given that a lot of commenters were calling for everyone to throw Mark away as a lost cause the moment he laid a hand on Ravenia or pushed Damien, I’d say this is going a lot better than some commenters would have had it.

    Posted September 5th, 2019 at 1:09 pm
  20. ETree Says:

    As some one with some training on dealing with a mental health crisis this group with no training did what most with no training do. Offered advice, got rebuffed and backed off until it got worse. Mark pushed back not one but 2 people who offered help and advice. Dustin was not necessarily wrong in his assessment of the situation but Dustin is happy in the poly arraignment. Mark is not. Mark has had it easy until his old girl friend left over her inability to accept a harmless pass time. He hen moved into an alternate relationship where he is not the sole partner. The problem for many in moving into a relationship that does not fit the way you were raised is many people cannot let go of the expectations of how that relationship should be. Mark needs help but Mark may never be at a place where he can truly accept an open relationship because it does not fit the “normal” he taught to accept even with therapy. Some people are happier in a monogamous relationship. We as readers will just have to see how it plays out in the upcoming story. Unfortunately Mark knows the relationship is open but actually seeing her with someone else did not go well. Where I live this kind of situation has often led to a knock down drag out fight with both men in the emergency department and/or jail. Also where I live Mark would probably not go for help until he attempted suicide and it got court ordered.

    Posted September 5th, 2019 at 1:28 pm
  21. Lee Says:

    It’s really interesting to see people’s takes of the friend group not doing enough for Mark when I’ve been like “holy shit, these are the most insanely dedicated friends I’ve ever seen” the second I realized they were taking SHIFTS so someone could be with Mark at all times. Like goddamn, that is Drug Intervention levels of “I am here for you, man.”

    It’s interesting to me how different people have different expectations of their friends; I would never be there like that for a friend unless they were like a best friend I’ve had for 5+ years. I can list on both hands the number of *family members* I’d do that for. And I’d not only never expect it done for me, I’d be irritated if someone tried without asking me first. Really shows you the depth of human experience!

    Posted September 6th, 2019 at 1:13 pm
  22. CleverName Says:

    Psh. Joel is trying to see if Mark has learned his lesson – COMMUNICATE when stuff bothers you, don’t bottle it up and internalize that stuff until you blow up. Mark failed this test.

    Posted September 7th, 2019 at 11:54 am
  23. Chug Says:

    Honestly, I think the therapist was wrong to identify it as a test. A far more useful question would have been simply ‘why do you say that?’ How Mark sees Joel’s actions and his own reactions is far more important than how the therapist sees them.
    That said, I also disagree that it was a test– Joel is helping Mark redirect his anger (at the bathroom, at himself) so he can wear it out and get at the emotions beneath it. In his odd, kind of jerkish way, he’s helping.

    Posted September 9th, 2019 at 12:29 am
  24. AhegaoAmigo Says:

    Knowing Mark’s mental health history (ie him thinking the “weregeek” larp was real) should have gotten his friends to his side a lot sooner and with a more understanding viewpoint. Hell, that alone should have gotten him in to see a therapist. In the span of what I can assume is only a couple years in the comic’s timeline Mark had the reality/fantasy disconnect with the first LARP, had a huge falling out with his girlfriend, and a few other issues I can’t fully recall off the top of my head.

    Regardless there should have already been a couple red flags on the forefront of his group’s mind during this (especially Dustin) to know that Mark was just one bad moment away from losing his cool.

    I know from personal experience with a former roommate that “testing” someone who is in a rage mode and had hurt themselves is not a good idea. I get his group is trying to help out in their own unique & quirky ways but a situation like this needs other types of assistance.

    Posted September 9th, 2019 at 1:27 am
  25. Lark Says:

    @AhegaoAmigo – Mark didn’t think the weregeek larp was real, he pulled Joel’s leg over it in the big reveal to get him back for the vampire thing. He did think that the zombie walk was real but there are people with non-joking zombie plans. He did briefly think vampires were real but again, not once larp was introduced to him.

    We’re already seeing that Mark is *getting* other types of assistance because he’s clearly talking to a professional in the narration. But he’s still telling said professional about the first 24-ish hours and man, speaking from experience you do not find a free therapist or psychologist in under 48 hours. He’s lucky to have friends who are willing to stay with him and make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or other people, in my opinion.

    Posted September 9th, 2019 at 6:39 pm
  26. PiLS Says:

    As a pretty buff guy myself (not the bodybuilding empty muscle-like body type, more like the dry muscle type packing actual punch), I must say that punching one’s head in is always an option I consider -and immediately dismiss- when confronted. I’ve sometimes left public transportation to de-escalate when I was the only target (never bailed out when the bullying targetted another person though, but in this case just me stepping in usually suffices -that’s not the point).
    Thing is, I can relate to these thoughts.
    It nevever ever happened with my friends though. Even in response to very aggressive behaviors from (very) drunk friends.

    Posted September 10th, 2019 at 3:44 pm