Wednesday, June 06, 2007

PC Gamer Editorial on Penny Arcade

Bill already beat me to it (check out his opinion piece from today), but I wanted to talk about Greg Vederman's editorial that will accompany the July issue of PC Gamer with a cover story about Penny Arcade's upcoming game, Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness which is being developed by Hothead games with Ron Gilbert (the man behind most of LucasArts greatest adventure games) lending a hand.

You can read the editorial, along with Scott Kurtz's (PvP Online) rant on it here. I'm not exactly sure what Mr. Vederman is trying to convey in his editorial. First off, it is poorly written from a structure perspective. He talks about Garfield for close to, if not over, 50% of the editorial. He says he enjoys some of PA's comics, but then roundhouses them by saying he blows it off when his friend asks him whether the comic is funny or not when he points it out.

The key problem with his editorial is that he is comparing something from his (and my) childhood and comparing it to a webcomic that is 20 years younger than Garfield (it debuted in 1978, PA debuted in 1998). With 20 years of experience under his belt before PA even debuted, chances are good that the eyes of an adult are going to be far different than the eyes of a child.

I'm going to guess I am around the same age as Mr. Vederman. Gabe (Mike Krahulik) is a year younger than me and Tycho (Jerry Holkins) is a few months older. Fact is all 4 of us grew up in the same pop culture lexicon. I know I can sit here in 2007, go to On Demand on my cable box and watch some of the cartoons I used to watch in the 80s. I remember how awesome they seemed back then, but watching them now through adult eyes makes me wonder what the heck I saw in them. A perfect example is I recently watched the Transformers Movie again and it just wasn't as special as it was when I saw it in the theater. Doesn't mean I'm any less excited about the live-action version coming on my birthday (July 4th) though.

Mr. Vederman's editoral simply has a disconnect when trying to compare things that are 20 years apart. I know I also loved Garfield in grade school and I remember picking up the combined strip books (I think I have Books 1-21 or something of Garfield) at my local bookstore when I was young. I would spend hours reading those along with my comic books and playing video games. I probably liked Garfield longer than Mr. Vederman given his words in the editorial, but much like him I eventually found out the strip just wasn't as funny as I got older. I still read the strip today, but it is more out of habit than anything else.

I think I've been reading PA since the beginning or very near to it. So, I've been reading it for almost 9 years; chances are that is longer than I religiously read Garfield, but I'm not positive. I will also continue to read PA until it is no more. Mike and Jerry have built a successful company from nothing. They even went through a time where things were so bad that they had to ask for donations and gave back to their donators by sending out exclusive prints and other items. They made bad business decisions before Robert Khoo came on and took over that side of things.

Since then they've created PAX, a convention I'd love to go to one of these years. With the classic E3 gone, PAX has become one of the biggest conventions around. It is so big they had to put it in a new building this year. They also created Child's Play, which made over $1 million last year in donations to many Children's hospitals around the world. Of course Mr. Vederman makes no mention of that last part, only about the "fanbois" that follow PA like a cult. Thing is PA really isn't a cult, it's a cultural phenomenon.

Penny Arcade IS the trendsetter in webcomics. They have connections with many companies; and unlike the game magazines out there they don't have to say a thing about the products they are sent. When a product is talked about it's free hype (or free death if they are negative) for the product maker that can reach out to millions of people per day that check out the site. When we contrast this with PC Gamer's latest known subscriber base (250,147 as of Jan-Jun 2006) my question is how can millions of people be wrong?

Then again, maybe Mr. Vederman is trying to strike the fire in us with his editorial. He should be careful though because he could find himself out of a job if people cancel their subscriptions or enough of an uproar is unloaded upon this editorial. As was pointed out in the comments section on PvP Online, you wonder if he will have the same sort of nasty editoral based around StarCraft II, which is next month's cover story. Chances are good he won't since Blizzard and Vivendi are probably big advertisers for the magazine whereas PA is not.

The fact is many people will pick up all 5 covers of PC Gamer and his job will probably be saved for the moment. The editorial was just a bad idea, he probably should have had a second version of it without the Garfield comparison. Heck, he could have just talked about how he is not a fan of PA, but understands there are a legion of people that are fans and still find the comic funny even to this day. It does put a sour taste in people's mouths when the people behind their cover story are being outwardly hated by the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine. Maybe he should have just stayed quiet.

Chances are Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness will be a good game. Both Mike and Jerry have said on multiple occasions that they wouldn't allow it to be released if they thought the game sucked and with Ron Gilbert helping I can't see it not being above average at best. It's just too bad this major cover story is brought down by an EIC that is not a fan of the webcomic. Trust me Mr. Vederman, PA is going to last for a long time after you are long gone as EIC of PC Gamer...that I can promise you.