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Tycho / on Wed, Oct 22 2003 at 6:46 am

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Safety In The Workplace

We are both extremely fond of Jak II, and though we might try to associate a number with our enjoyment there is no number in all of imagination to describe it.  To look at it, the urban hub (for example) dense with vehicles, activity, and raw polygons, it gives one the impression that Naughty Dog has discovered some secret processor in the machine - hidden, perhaps, under one of the other ones.  I can run around from hell to breakfast, over diverse zones stealing hoverbikes and flying across towns, and I never see a loading screen while I look at amazing graphics and have fun braving their innovations in the tried and true platform style of gameplay.  Like all platform games, it skirts the credible with its ridiculous, useless machines and convenient dangers.

Also, um…  We didn’t actually continue the last comic.  I know why you would think we might continue it, because in the last panel it says “To Be Continued” and it doesn’t really resolve itself.  We never really intended to go on from there, as it basically stands on its own - Gabe is sort of switching teams, the whole thing is vaguely homoerotic and that’s basically it.  If you wanted to call that an “inside joke,” there’s no way I could get snippy with you.  Unfinished jokes and lies are probably an acquired taste, humor-wise.

Gabe rarely indulges himself as he did on Wednesday, detailing the parameters of his artist identity.  This is because he is only pretentious about one thing, that being his lack of pretension, and even discussing it breaks a cardinal rule.  I know a secret, though, and I’m going to tell it to you.  I know that he nearly gave up drawing altogether.  Oh, it might have peeked out sometimes, as from behind a tree, when using the crayons at the tacky Italian restaurant he would impress the waitress with a picture of salt and pepper shakers dancing.  But I mean that he would never actually harbor the insane, fruitless dream of living by what he drew.

People always ask us how Penny Arcade started, and it’s the “Entered a contest and lost, started running at Loonygames” bit that has a populist appeal.  People rarely ask about the next part, though they sometimes do, the part where Jason Bergman from Loonygames started telling us how to write the comic and, in a makeshift flying machine like those confiscated in communist East Germany, we escaped to servers hosted by Old Man Murray.  There’s some takers for that part.  But there’s no takers for the very next period of the strip, probably because newposts of the period make most of our operation public, but it’s the most important part because that’s where most strips find themselves.  They’re simply doing the best they can from update to update.  At that point, I’m working regular human hours during the day and consulting at night, and he’s starting work in the middle of the day and getting home at eleven or one, depending on whether or not he had to climb in the scaffolding for inventory.  Then, you know…  Tribes.  So we’d write the strips in the early morning, and he would draw them, and after about a year of this it exhausted him.   

Not because the physical act of drawing is tiring, although I guess that’s not something I have any knowledge of.  I think that Penny Arcade had become, for him, emblematic of his life as a person who creates things.  I think that he looked forward and saw his entire life like that - populated with ten or twelve hour days that culminated in him up all night trying to maintain the spark of creation, trying to remember what it felt like to make things.  As he began to withdraw, I had reserves enough to fill in.  But something clearly needed to be done.

Penny Arcade was making some money at this point, I think it was a few hundred dollars a month.  Remember that this was the heyday of the Internet, and during that period a few hundred bucks was the same as nothing - “Content Aggregators” like UGO were signing sites to exclusive contracts and paying then with sports cars.  And there were multiple UGO’s, roving the Internet, picking up sites whose traffic had spiked high even once.  We had actively avoided places like that on purpose, we just had a fear of them, and so we joined a small one that was unaffiliated with any of the big fish.  I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when a big fish then bought them, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. 

Something I want to communicate to people doing comics on the web is that you would be truly shocked to find out how little a person can live on if they can cultivate a taste for Top Ramen.  Instead of each taking half of the proceeds of the site, I let him have my half.  As I type this now, the whole thing seems kind of petty even though at the time it seemed like a matter of life and death.  It was certainly a matter of Life and Death for Penny Arcade, I suppose.  But we aren’t like the hero in the movie who feigns weariness and actually has unlimited stamina.  We are ordinary human beings with ordinary reserves of physical strength, and the idea that you could somehow support yourself with a comic strip about videogames was preposterous, so why shouldn’t we just play videogames instead?  Maybe Penny Arcade was, like Sand, Chickenman, Gen13, Scythe, or Clouds, a project we loved desperately but was an unlimited void for us to pour our affection into.  I needed to prove to him that Penny Arcade, and, by extension, his art wasn’t just some fucking hobby or void or anything like that.  I needed to prove to him that it does work out, sometimes, even though I had to make it not work for me order to do that.  It seems like things eventually turned out alright.   

(CW)TB out.

they sold my name to the internet


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