Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Thanks to thekiko for the photo.

The Penny Arcade Expo is kinda like the Mecca for gamers. Obviously without the deep religious connotations and how it fulfills a devouts Muslims life with love and joy and the uplifting of the spirit etc. More like, a place where everyone that is quite like you can gather and feel sorta normal. A cattle drive of nerd herds, if you will.

All sorts, flavours and shades of gamers will find PAX irresistable. I know what you're thinking, "There is more than one type?". Alas, like your vegetarian co-worker who you see sometimes having a Filet-O-Fish, there are so many, many degrees of us.

There are the table top gamers, the role players, the RTS dudes, the FPS maniacs, the handheld acolytes... Oh, it goes on. Sure, there is overlap. But there are only so many hours in the day, only so many ways to particpate in a hobby that brings universal denigration and sneered lips of disdain.

Now, what's Penny Arcade? Imagine if you will the most powerful gaming webcomic in the world. Granted, that's like saying 'imagine the worlds most radical needlepoint'. It's a niche of a niche market. Something that mostly appeals to geeks (webcomic) about something that only appeals to geeks (gaming). Nevertheless, it's webcomic that can shape and change multi-million dollar game's futures, can leave PR hacks quivering in their cocaine-dusted hooker-lipsticked armani suits, and can quite literally make or break a game development house.

And it's two guys.

Two guys who started small, and through wit, great drawing, and not a few references to wangs, created (what I assume is) a multi-million dollar empire.

It's the sort of maverick story that any red-blooded American hopes they'll star in. These fellows speak truth to power (albeit, you know, power spoken about how richly detailed and/or nonlinear a given game narrative is). In a world where everyone, even the gatekeepers, are in the pocket of the Rich, Powerful, and Morally Suspect, it's refreshing to think of two guys who can make their way because they speak The Truth.

At least how they see it.

Which is better than the pablum and middle of the road handjobs that most journalists in the gaming industry seem to write. They who are beholden to the great corporations for access, and therefore who's very job becomes just another way to give free advertising.

Penny Arcade are, in short, like the Daily Show, except about something far, far, FAR less important.

Well, not unimportant. Just not earth-shattering. You aren't going to turn heads at your next company picnic talking about the great untapped potential of Psychonauts or the rise of free-to-play MMOs in South East Asia. No one is going to stop talking to the National Geographic amazon rain-forest photographer doing a stint in war-torn Sudan to hear you expound on the procedurally generated content.

Gaming as a hobby is what I'd put as a solid second tier hobby. I mean, objectively. From the average man on the street, it probably fits somewhere between professional pan-handler and collecting all McDonald's Disney commemorative cups. But you know, myself, I can't put gaming any lower than watching TV. Hell, in many respects, gaming is much different from playing board games. Not, you know, Settlers of Catan, but Pictionary or Boggle.

It's a fair bit below what I would call first tier hobbbies, also known as Facebook-profile hobbies, admitted-to-at-cocktail party hobbies, resume hobbies, and meeting the in-laws hobbies. First tier include the outdoors and perspiring. There might be powerbars involved, sometimes tournaments and ladder draws.

But second tier is nothing to laugh at. Often, or loudly, anyways.

In short, I'll be going to PAX this year. My first time. I'm more than a little nervous. I mean, real people. Real nerd people who probably abhor social contact as much as I, which takes the whole ordeal past Terry Gilliam absurd and careening blithely towards Hasselfhoff/K.I.T.T. slashfic bizaare.

Assumedly there will elan, maybe some bon homie, and perhaps even more French phrases that mean 'friendship, but the really good kind that makes every X-Genner wish they were part of a small but close knit World War Two commando unit'.

Or maybe I'll see some cool games and get sloshed. You know, whatever.

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