Penny Arcade

When asked to think of a popular blog, my mind goes right to Penny Arcade. To be honest, besides all of my classmates’ blogs and the occasional Scientific American article, PA is the only other blog I read consistently. The more I think about it, the more Risdahl’s qualifiers for blog popularity apply to Penny Arcade. I’ll get to that, but first, an introduction for those who haven’t heard of Gabe and Tycho. Wikipedia gives a pretty concise rundown of their operation:

Penny Arcade (webcomic) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Penny Arcade is among the most popular gaming webcomics currently online, and it hosts both a children’s charity (Child’s Play) and a gaming convention (PAX) each year.

The two characters [of the comic, representing the authors] spend much of their time playing and commenting on computer and video games, forming the basis of the humor in the strip. Another theme, albeit less common, is the use of conflicts between the two in real life. The strip also sometimes refers to other Internet subcultures, and often features in-jokes that are explained by the news posts accompanying each comic, usually written by Holkins.

With more than 2 million pageviews daily, the sway of these two men in the online gaming sphere is undeniable. (It’s typical for juggernauts such as Microsoft and Nintendo to send free products to the pair in hopes of a favorable mention in one of their posts.) Though the comic was the duo’s ticket to popularity and remains the ‘star of the show,’ the Penny Arcade main page – the first thing a visitor sees – is their blog.

In terms of content, Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik delivers some amazing material nearly every day. He is a literary swashbuckler who can made the English language dance for him and communicates some very complex and abstract ideas in bizarre yet canny ways. It’s no surprise to me that the blog’s readership is so high. The following paragraph appeared in this post.

The user interface, which I have heard decried, is the only serious point of contention. The game has a very persistent internal logic, and is very explicit in how it presents itself. The shortcuts we expect as a player today aren’t really present. It’s a very literal interface, clearly designed by a programmer. It wants to tell you everything, and it never wants you to feel as though something went by too fast for you to take it into account. It’s also written in Director, so it’s not as responsive as it it could be. I can’t really apologize for any of it, the complaints are entirely factual. I can only urge you to see it as a kind of “peel” one must manage to devour the paradise fruit within.

If this had been my game, having it be so interestingly dissected and interpreted would be an honor. It seems that this kind of perspective would deliver a critique worth so much more (to the gamer and the developer) than a professional gaming magazine’s “the interface could be better.”

Penny Arcade has become one of the leading influences in the gaming sphere and have acquired a thriving community of their own. Their message boards are remarkably active, populated and managed by about 70 moderators. The comments on their blog have a home here. My impression of PA in general is that their comic, blog and forum all feed off of and contribute to each other.

As for controversy, Penny Arcade goes out and gets it. There was a fiasco a while back with the notorious Jack Thompson (that’s worth a read) and lately some small-time reporter from Townhall.com. (As Gabe notes in the same post: “Blogspot for nut jobs.”) Holkins and Krahulik know that they have a large community behind them, that they represent thousands of gamers, and when the gaming community is attacked, they don’t hesitate to defend their folk intelligently and scathingly.

I’d talk about personality at greater length, but that’s something that really comes across after reading PA for a while. Suffice it to say that they have it in spades and that, even with enough of a presence to be a question in a New York Times crossword puzzle, they directly share their personal lives with their readers through their blog and podcasts.

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Filed under Class Discussion, Popularity

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