Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Penny Arcade live!

I began reading the webcomic Penny Arcade back in 2000 before anyone really knew what a webcomic was. Back then no one thought that you could make a living drawing comics for a website (or newspapers for that matter). The people who drew the comics did it because they loved the art and were passionate about the subjects they drew. And not too surprisingly, a number of webcomics were based on video games, a topic which tended to be popular among college (art) students who generally had the most free time and internet savvy to create the comics.

A select few of the comics stood out over the years and soon the modest video game comic with a few thousand readers grew to a few million and became a very profitable enterprise. This week, the creators of Penny Arcade are celebrating the release of their 11 1/2 year anniversary book. They have a knack for celebrating the inane, even their book titles having nothing to do with the actual contents of the book and are nothing more than a reason to create a funny, genre-satire phrase ("Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings", "Birds are weird", "Attack of the Bacon Robots", "The Curse of the Mummy's Gold", etc). They began their book release with a tour which stopped close to my home, so I decided to visit the artists who made me laugh over the last 10 years.
The amazing part of their "presentation" was that they were exactly who they started out as: down-to-earth geeks who love what their do. Talking to them felt no different than talking to a group of gamers about the cool new game or geek collectors item. Even though their company now employs 10 people full-time, raises millions of dollars for charity each year, and hosts some of the largest gaming conventions in the world, these guys acted no different than the fans sitting in front of them. And all of their success is based on their weekly action of drawing characters who enact a funny punchline within 3 panels.

And did I mention they were hilarious?

The entire presentation was a no-holds-barred Q&A session that went to some pretty weird places. People in the audience asked whatever was on their mind and these guys would comment on it. A few of the stand out moments included:
  • When asked how they continue to make time for games even after having young children they jokingly replied that it was definitely difficult, but if a new, must-play game came out it was nice that their kids didn't know how to read a clock: they could put their kids in their lap, look at a clock and make that knowing, fatherly nod that says it is "bed time" even if it was 2 hours until bed time. Suddenly they had two hours to play!

  • One girl asked how she could "please" her gamer boyfriend (maybe she meant it to be more innocent than it came out, who knows). They were too embarrassed to announce on the loud speaker the answer, so one of them began singing a sea shanty (yes, an actual 19th century shanty) while the other took off the mic, ran to her chair, and whispered in her ear. Who knows what he said, but she was embarrassed and laughed afterwords, and then both guys gave her a big thumbs up and congratulatory nod.

  • When asked how someone who is borderline OCD would be able to get a tattoo, they replied to find the largest tattoo artist possible and have him place his hand on your chest as being obsessive compulsive really doesn't mean much when a sumo wrestler wants you to stay in one place. They then showed off the Pac-Man tattoos and described the 400 behemoth who held them in place.
All in all, it was a wonderful time. I look forward to their 14 1/3 anniversary book tour in a few years!

No comments:

Post a Comment