MalcolmLittle in "HardlyLand"

Archive for December 2010

The website Penny Arcade is much larger than the sum of it parts. It consists of a web comic (which could be easily be seen as the main draw for the majority of the site’s visitors), the creators Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins’ musings/”blog” entries, an online store, a forum and a growing collection of web shows under the name “PATV”.

The creators of Penny Arcade have long been vocal about their opinions on video games, pop culture and pretty much what ever they feel like. Child rearing, psychopharmacology and the newest in gaming consoles are some of the varied topics that come up, both in the comics and their accompanying posts. During one of their podcasts (where you can listen in on the creation of a comic strip) late last year illustrator Mike Krahulik asked the writer Jerry Holkins whether shedding light on their lives as comic creators would make for good television. Jerry said that it likely would, at the same time being horrified at the thought of such an endevour. It was the first time Penny Arcade regulars were introduced to the thought of a reality/documentary series based on the pair.

Little less than a year later the show Penny Arcade: the Series was first shown on their site. It revolves around interviews with the creators, the myriad activities of their company and the creative process of the webcomic. The comic is central to the website but it is not the strips alone that creates the phenomena that is Penny Arcade. The genesis of a comic, often a three-panel humor strip that is heavily grounded in gamer culture, is the two creators going through recent gaming headlines from news outlets like Kotaku where they wonder if anything strikes them as interesting or something they can have an (often humorous) outtake on. As comics go it is often funny, the angle of gaming isn’t as simple or as one-note as one could think, and the art is competent. It is the tone of the entire site that is the draw. You get the creators’ viewpoints, their “philosophy”. They are to-the-point, unapologetic and crass. They curse. They often depict violence. They tell you their honest opinions on games, people and culture. The humor is cutting. Game creators have said that having a comic about their game can either make or ruin their day. Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins are above all else sincere.

Always a good read, with great comedic phrasing, the comic is is really at its best when it is not “gamer topical”. The comic has always had a touch of reality to it. Since the beginning the comic characters Tycho and Gabe have been alter egos for Jerry and Mike. Their real lives bleed into the comics and with the addition of the blog posts, and now the documentaries, you get a context that leads to more than just a joke in the second or third panel.

The short documentaries have shed further light on the going-ons at Penny Arcade and have finally made these voices manifest. You can see them fidget and laugh. You see how the comics come to fruition at their desks, and how their personalities cope with having to be “on” for the cameras. They are even funnier and more earnest on television (or webcast, to be correct) than in their comics.

The show displays nicely what a intriguing workplace Penny Arcade must be. You see the employees, with mastermind Robert Khoo in command, detail how such an work environment affects them and what a generally cool place it is.

PATV houses also the animated series Blamimation, created by webcomic artists Scott Kurtz and Kris Straub.

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