Too Busy For Words - the PaulWay Blog

Tue 23rd Mar, 2010

When awesome is no longer enough

Kate and I went to collect the mail on Sunday from our post office box, and discovered I had a parcel waiting to be collected. "What is it," she asked. I replied that I honestly didn't know. Either it was a T-shirt and book from Penny Arcade, or it was two books from Weregeek, and since both of them were coming from north america it was hard to say which had won the race. Besides, I love getting parcels (who doesn't?) and the delicious suspense was increased by finding out on Monday that the parcel was too large to fit in my small satchel and I would have to collect it on Tuesday.

It was from Penny Arcade, and contained their book The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade and the Automata T-shirt. The latter was awesome enough, but from my brief foray into the former I have to say that it's everything I had hoped for and more. I'm only really a casual gamer so a fair number of the in-jokes about the industry go over my head, but even without that fine detail the humour still bites in. And it's not all gamer jokes, some bits (Cardboard Tube Samurai, for example) are just awesome, some bits are thought-provoking, and some I just love for how they hit home and make me say "Yeah, I can relate to that."

And I think Penny Arcade shows that two ordinary gamers - two ordinary people - can make something fantastic that goes from strength to strength and keeps coming up with new ways to be awesome. You don't need million dollar executives and lots of marketing. You need good things that reach out to people. Jerry and Mike love what they do, and they do what they love, and in the process they give millions of dollars of toys and money to charity, they run massive events like PAX that are insanely popular, they make a webcomic that is smart, funny, crude, bizarre, beautiful and even touching, and they prove that gamers can also be successfull without sacrificing their origins or being chewed up and spat out by the industry. That's an awesome example to show to people.

This is why I love reading the background and history and detail behind Penny Arcade. I love seeing Gerry's comments on cartoons, I love seeing the toys and stuff that people have made for them, or the cartoons that others have drawn with Tycho and Gabe. I love it for the same reason I love watching the episodes of Penny Arcade TV - because I learn more about them as people by listening to them talk about how they make up a comic, and this gives their output more depth to me. To see a guy at PAX take the microphone and thank the guys for keeping him cheered up during his tour of duty in Iraq, and watching Gerry go and give him a hug, says much about how much those guys really care than all of the millions of dollars that Bill Gates donates to his own charity each year.

My charity philosophy this year is to support webcomic artists. I read in the order of sixteen webcomics - some daily, some every couple of days and some intermittent. (The great thing about being in the east coast of Australia is that 4PM is midnight in the USA, more or less, and that's when new comics are traditionally dropped into their waiting servers). I don't pay for reading them normally, and this year I have decided that I will. I've paid $25 to Cheyenne Wright, the Hugo-winning colourist for Girl Genius when he had an accident. I've now bought stuff from Weregeek and Penny Arcade. When the mood takes me I will buy more stuff from the web comics I like. Because this basically goes directly to them, modulo some postage and handling - there's no publisher or media outlet standing in the doorway taking my cash and saying "we'll 'pay' the guys, yeah, sure".

It's not tax-deductible. I don't get a picture of the child in Uganda that I saved from starvation. But someone out there gets to do what they love - write webcomics - and entertain me in the process, and overall I think that's a win for both of us. And I get some nice books and neat T-shirts too, which I can use much more readily than a photo or a ribbon.

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