Phil Foglio (philfoglio) wrote,
Phil Foglio

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I Have Been Asked to Write an Appreciation of Penny Arcade. Here It Is.

Penny Arcade is, arguably, the most popular webcomic on the planet. Its creators are Mike Krahulik (artist) and writer Jerry Holkins. One of the longest-running online comics, Penny Arcade began posting in 1998 and has been active ever since. This, in a medium where a run of three weeks is considered a noble effort, is quite impressive. It is one of the few online strips that is popular enough that its creators do not need an outside job. An astonishing accomplishment when you consider that the strip itself is given away for free, and that they have yet to publish any collections.

Penny Arcade is about the day-to-day adventures of Jerry and Mike. Sort of. In a stunningly cognizant move, we do not follow Jerry and Mike per se, but their easy-on-the-eyes cartoon avatars, Gabe and Tycho. Gabe and Tycho play games. Console games. Online games. Computer Games. Mind games. Plus they kill each other. A lot. Some people would say that it's obvious that they're both sociopaths who have been permanently desensitized by excessive consumption of violent video games. To this we say; thank goodness they have a job where they never have to leave their houses.

In fact, Jerry and Mike take their caffeine-fueled hate and turn it upon the game industry. Most people who write about "The Game Industry" tend to suck up. They figure that writing nice things about Nintendo will increase the chances of the newest Zelda beta test landing in their mailbox. Jerry and Mike prefer to rule by fear. Rest assured that they get advance copies of games. They are flown out to various game company headquarters around the country to be wined and dined by young ladies who seem to have forgotten to put on half their clothes and presented with advance screenings of the latest techno-froth that said company has to offer. This is because said companies know that these two unprepossessing fellows could utterly destroy them. Penny Arcade is faithfully read by several hundred thousand readers. Readers who like games. Readers who have no desire to waste hard earned money on shoddy game product, and will take Penny Arcade's pronouncements into consideration when deciding where to spend said hard earned money.

Now various game companies have attempted to subvert Gabe and Tycho's street cred by actually hiring them to do work for their games. Relying, no doubt, on the old-fashioned concept that when somebody pays you a bunch of money, you are less likely to want to hurt them. A valid assumption, were it not for the fact that Mike and Jerry are in a very real sense, predators, and view such attempts at appeasement as a sign of weakness. It is this ability to disregard the established protocols and morés of civilization, to openly portray themselves as feral, ruthless creatures unafraid to stalk freely through the corridors of the powerful, turning upon those who would seek to use them, that gain and keep them their ever growing legion of followers.

Mike and Jerry have used the power thus given to them to do great things for humanity. In 2003 they set up a charity ( to donate money and games to various children's hospitals, and in two years, managed to raise over a half a million dollars, as well as get a huge number of game companies to sign on as sponsors. Last year they started their own convention, PAX, a three day event dedicated to gaming and the further glory of Penny Arcade, and really, who could blame them?
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