As for where I'd even get the rights to produce a Penny Arcade film, I hadn't really thought that part out. "Tycho and Gabe are cool guys," I told myself. "They'd probably be fine with it." I pictured myself meeting them and handing them a DVD. We'd all watch it together; we'd laugh. Maybe they'd even host it on their site. Sometime after that, we'd become the best of friends.

I don't want to say I ever went all the way off the deep end and started deluding myself into the belief that Tycho and Gabe were actual friends of mine. Somewhere in there, I did start to realize that Tycho and Gabe were fictional representations of two real people. And I also began to realize that even the blog posts I read by Holkins and Krahulik were not adequate or complete reflections of these two men, either. But despite that I knew these facts objectively, I still had an emotional attachment to the comic that I did not want to let go, and that I still feel on some level to this day. This was a comic that I grew up with, a comic that defined the way I feel about the word "gamer" and the culture of gaming, and a place that I visited over and over in my darkest, loneliest days. When no one else was there for me, Penny Arcade was. It's desperately sad. But it's also true.

Since I wrote this piece, I haven't visited the Penny Arcade site. I don't think I'll be back.

When Penny Arcade founded PAX, the con's slogan was "E3 for everyone" — a knock at the fact that the gaming industry's premier event, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, was open only to press and game developers. At PAX, there's a standing ban on "booth babes" — the ubiquitous, scantily-clad street teams hired by gaming companies to pitch their wares at conferences — on account of Holkins's discomfort with the objectification of women. A precedent for respect had been set. No matter how far outside the norm you were, you could fit in here. Those were the rules of PAX and the community at large, if there could be said to be any rules at all.

Even though Penny Arcade the comic involves extreme slapstick violence between two white, heterosexual men, gamers across the diversity spectrum have found themselves relating to the characters. I was not the only woman who didn't feel as turned off by Penny Arcade as I did by other mainstream gaming sites like IGN and Kotaku, which still make avid use of the male pronoun in reference to gamers and post sexy photo spreads of booth babes. Penny Arcade didn't go out of their way to make non-white, non-male people feel welcome, but they were one of the few spaces that didn't purposefully make such people feel unwelcome. It helped that in the comic, Gabe's wife Kara and Tycho's niece Annarchy both identify as gamers. Both manage to be feminine and extremely hardcore gamers, and their femininity isn't seen as a negative attribute.

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Related: Responses to the Dickwolves Debacle, Review: New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Continuing education August 2010, More more >
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