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Penny Arcade was created by author Jerry Holkins and artist Mike Krahulik, who often go by their names of their in-comic alter egos Tycho Brahe and Jonathan “Gabe” Gabriel, respectively, in November 1998. The strip was originally written for the gaming website Loonygames, where it ran until Penny Arcade moved to its own domain in 1999. It’s one of the first webcomics in the “Two Gamers on A Couch” format where two characters comment on the topic of gaming. Though they no longer exclusively cover games, having also covered television, sports, and parenthood, gaming is still the main focus. The first comic strip depicted Gabe waiting for a level to load while playing the first person shooter game SIN, which was known for its extensive loading time between levels.
In late November of 2003, Holkins and Krahulik established the Child’s Play charity in response to a column by Bill France titled “Violent video games are training children to kill.” In order to combat the stereotype that gamers are violent and antisocial, Child’s Play was set up to encourage gamers to donate money, games, and toys to children’s hospitals across North America. In its first month, the charity raised over $250,000, and by the end of 2012 had raised over $17.5 million.
Appearance in Poker Night at the Inventory
On November 22 2010, Telltale Games released Poker Night at the Inventory, a poker-themed video game featuring a hypothetical crossover of the player character (dubbed ‘The Player’ in the game) Max the Rabbit from Sam & Max: Freelance Police, the Heavy Weapons Guy from online multiplayer game Team Fortress 2, Strong Bad from the popular webcomic Homestar Runner and Tycho from Penny Arcade, all taking place within ‘The Inventory’, a in-game bar in which people play poker competitively. Occasionally in the game, Tycho will not have any money he can bet, so instead uses a Pac-Man themed watch called the Enthusiast’s Timepiece instead. If the Player defeats Tycho and takes the watch, it can be used by the Spy character in Team Fortress 2 as a reskin of the Invis-Watch item.
Although Tycho himself does not appear in person in Poker Night 2, a framed photo of him along with Max, Strong Bad and the Heavy taken from the Player’s perspective can be seen on one of the walls within the establishment.
Vs. Jack Thompson
In 2005, infamous anti-video game lawyer Jack Thompson pledged that if a game about murdering game developers was made, he would donate $10,000 to the Entertainment Software Association. Krahulik (Gabe) sent an email with his phone number to discuss the hypocrisy of such an idea and how through their Child’s Play charity, they had already donated much more than that. The following phone call consisted of Jack threatening to sue them if they ever contacted him again. When such a game was made (in the form of a Grand Theft Auto mod) Jack Thompson refused to donate the money, saying that his proposal was “satire”. Holkins and Krahulik eventually made a $10,000 donation with a check carrying the note “For Jack Thompson, because Jack Thompson won’t.”
American Greeting/American McGee’s Strawberry Shortcake
2013 Twitter Controversy
On June 7th, 2013, Kotaku published an article on the mobile game HappyPlayTime, intended to gamify female masturbation. The article pointed out that the game was exclusionary of transgendered women, as the available screenshots made it look like the game focuses on clitoral stimulation. The same day, Mike Krahulik tweeted out a link to the article, mocking Kotaku’s criticism of the game. After blogger Shidoshi pointed out that he was excluding transgender men and women, whose genitals do not match with their gender identity, Krahulik stated that he did not find labeling a game for “vagina havers” as a game for women “exclusionary or unreasonable.” That day, a number of Krahulik’s tweets were compiled on Storify by two different users and were viewed more than 8,600 times combined within two weeks.
On June 20th, the panels for PAX Australia were revealed, including one titled “Why So Serious? Has the Industry Forgotten That Games Are Supposed to Be Fun?.” The original description of the panel (shown below, left) suggested that questions about race and gender equality in games were overbearing and that games should be exempt from this type of criticism in the spirit of “fun.” As the panel description began to circulate online, it was quickly changed (shown below, right) to remove any mentions of sexism, misogyny and racism.
The two situations began to mesh together, resulting in a number of social justice bloggers attacking Krahulik and Penny Arcade itself on Twitter. Krahulik responded with more tweets that some considered transphobic, including telling people who used the term “cis” not to bother tweeting at him (shown below). Krahulik then addressed the situation on the Penny Arcade blog, where he posted an email exchange between himself and gaming journalist Sophie Prell in which she expressed her concern about the incident and revealed to him that she is transgender herself. At the same time, gaming forums and feminist blogs began to discuss the story, including the Facepunch forums, NeoGAF, the Feminist Gaze Tumblr, and Gay Gamer. Men’s rights subreddit /r/SRSSucks also had a conversation about the situation, praising Krahulik for asserting his beliefs.
heads up if you use the word "cis" save yourself some time and don't bother tweeting at me.— cwgabriel (@cwgabriel) June 20, 2013
On June 21st, Krahulik apologized for his tweets, claiming he snapped and should have walked away from his computer instead of “put[ting] on [his] asshole hat.” Despite his apology, the same day, indie game developer The Fullbright Company made a blog post noting that they were going to pull their game Gone Home out of this year’s PAX Prime Expo’s Indie Megabooth, scheduled for August 30th, 2013. The post cited not only these recent events, but the 2011 “Dickwolf” incident in which Mike said it felt “pretty good” to “support rape culture.” Fullbright also acknowledged that the decision would hurt themselves, but as a four person team with two women and a gay person, they no longer felt comfortable aligning themselves with Penny Arcade.
By April 2010, Penny Arcade had attracted more than 3.5 million readers. As of June 2013, the site gets approximately 3.4 million visitors globally per month, with a Quantcast rank of 1,669 and Alexa ranks of 1,351 in the US and 4,637 globally.
The Border House – A Rundown of What’s Going on with Penny Arcade Now
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