I’ve been to a PAX before without knowing that it stood for Penny Arcade Expo so don’t feel bad if you fall into the number of gamers who are unaware of Penny Arcade and all their epicness. The main thing that Penny Arcade does is put out a webcomic about gamers and gaming culture. Beyond that they put on PAX three times a year, run the charity Child’s Play, record a podcast, moderate their forums, and create multiple webshows about gaming. At their question and answer session today it was clear why they are so popular. They interact with fans in mostly one-liners and sarcasm, but when you actually think about what was said it becomes unmistakably wise. People asked the Penny Arcade guys about such varying topics as Zelda games, Lasik eye surgery, Cards Against Humanity, knuckle cracking, Titanfall, and the television show Torchwood. It wasn’t all about games, but it was all about having a good time with gamers.
Anything Penny Arcade will make you laugh, but there were some parts that I caught myself thinking about after they got off the stage. These are those things.
That Dislike Box
Gabe and Tycho said that when they are reviewing games they have to fill out a form saying how much they liked it. They noted, “We don’t check that dislike box much anymore.” More often they find themselves realizing that a game just isn’t a good fit for them. I respect shooters, but I have no skill so I don’t play them as much as strategy games and RPGs. I wanted to reiterate that because the internet needs to be nicer to each other. It’s not “your game is terrible” it’s, “I’m not into that.” I think people should remember that just because something isn’t your style doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad game. To make the “horrible game” argument you should be able to point to specific mechanics that you think make the game less interesting.
When a fan asked Gabe and Tycho what they thought of their success they mentioned how “some crazy thing” is possible now in ways it never was before because there is “no gatekeeper.” In days where you used to have to get a publisher for every post, comic, and show you wanted to make there were restrictions on what you could and could not do. Now any good idea can go viral through the power of social media. If you have an insane plot to make something interesting, then just do it. Nothing is stopping you.
Wanting a Writer
The Penny Arcade comic recently had a strip where the artist talked about how much more value his work had than the writer. It caused uproar. Although drawing takes longer the artist did admit that before he had a partner all he wanted was a writer to help him. As a writer, I feel like what I do is sometimes undervalued. I keep wondering if beautiful language is worth as much as beautiful art. I don’t know, but the Penny Arcade has me thinking.