There are two guys out there on the interwebs who have become rather important to me over the last few years. Tonight, for reasons that I'll make clear, felt like the time to write about it so here I sit tapping away at my keyboard in the hope that I can find the words to express why these guys mean so much to me. To millions of fans all over the World Wide Web they are affectionately know as Tycho and Gabe or, in the real world, as Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. They are the creators of Penny Arcade, a comic/news site about computer games and gaming culture in general.
I found my way to their hallowed website after a good friend said something along the lines of "dude! Check out these Penny Arcade dudes, they're awesome!"...Okay so it wasn't quite so "fratboy" but that's how I've chosen to remember it!
To my mind they started out as two guys who just wanted to see if there were others out there who shared their perspective on what is good, bad or ugly about computer games and the companies that spawn them and have evolved into a force that fights injustice and keeps the industry honest. Their PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) conventions brings in 60,000 gamers annually which makes the industry sit up and take notice and their home made charity "Child's Play" which purchases toys for long term child hospital patients, has raised over five million dollars since it's inception in 2003!
I realise that the "fights injustice" phrase makes it seem like I'm fitting them for capes...and I am...but I'm actually making a real point here. Barely a week passes by without some hysterical media type/politician tolling the bell for the "evil" gaming industry and its army of borderline psychopaths, Gamers! We are often portrayed as being one very small step from going "postal" and killing innocents in some game fuelled rampage. This is often inspired by a, tragic, news story in which some deeply disturbed individual who has gone on said rampage is shown to have gaming links. We and our hobby are then all roundly condemned, as if we're all the same! As if we are all one dimensional lunatics!
What Penny Arcade has done is to challenge this nonsense with wit, charm and tremendous patience in the face of popularist hysteria. They really do lend a powerful voice to those who feel they have none and have shown the world that gamers are three dimensional people, with all that that implies, and not dangerous stereotypes on the edge of meltdown.
But is this why I love them? Well...yes...and no. I've finally figured out what it is. It's because they make me laugh. Time and again. Whether it's Jerry's extraordinary prose or Mike's "in-your-face" yet paradoxically subtle artwork they make me laugh and laugh again. Their jokes are, more often than not, in-jokes but I'm in the club that gets them and it's a wonderful place to be.
So, just one more thing to clear up. What made me write this tonight? They recently started airing their own reality show about their lives and creative processes and I watched the first episode tonight. For me it really brought to life all the impressions of them I had already picked up from their work and I was surprised at how moved I was by seeing them in the flesh and in the world. It highlighted something I didn't realise I already knew and brought it to coruscating life. These are two really special guys.
If you're the one or two gamers out there who haven't already heard of them head on over to their site and have a look see. Allow yourself to be taken in by Jerry's wit and eloquence and Mike's amazing visual style and gags and in so doing add a new dimension to your gaming.