"Gaming is something a lot of people do, a lot," she adds. "Daily. But we're just going to pretend like it's having no impact on anybody, and that there's really nothing here. It's all fake, all the marriages are fake, all the funerals held in-game are fake, none of that is a real human emotion? Really?"

I wish I could say that the media surrounding me has no effect on my emotions. I wish that now, more than ever, because then I would be able to tell you that I don't get a sick feeling in my stomach every time a friend of mine says, "Hey, did you read Tycho's blog post today?" And that happens to me, almost every day.

The best I can do is to hold them at arm's length, like an ex-boyfriend that all my friends still hang out with. It would be easy for Krahulik and Holkins to say that I could just stop reading Penny Arcade any time I like. But every gaming blog I read — hell, every video game I play — is influenced in part by these two guys and what they write on their Web site that 3.5 million people visit per day. Over the past decade, Holkins and Krahulik have defined gaming culture, and that includes gaming culture's irreverence, its dark humor, its immaturity, its unwillingness to say it's sorry.

After I talked to Stanton, I e-mailed Holkins and Krahulik to ask for their input into this story. I got a response back almost right away.

"No thanks," Krahulik wrote. "We really don't have anything to say."

Maddy Myers can be reached at  mmyers@phx.com.

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