“The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade: The 11 1/2 Anniversary Edition” by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik (Del Rey, 2010)

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Approximately 11 ½ years ago, two four-eyed nerds decided to start a web-comic about video games.  They met in high school, in journalism class: Jerry Holkins had a penchant for putting words together, while Mike Krahulik liked to doodle.  They found common ground in their nerdage and enjoyment of video games.  After a couple of comic book attempts, they settled on a web-comic involving two guys talking, bitching, ridiculing, and loving video games, video game systems, and the whole world of video gaming.  What began as something fun eventually turned into a voice for the fan to fight back again a terrible game or badly created system.  Over a decade later, Penny Arcade is now one of the most popular and longest running comics on the Internet.

When asked why they didn’t do a 10th anniversary book like everyone else, their excuse was they simply didn’t have time, because Jerry and Mike are very busy guys.  In addition to churning out a webcomic three times a week – as well as copious blog entries – there is Child’s Play: a children’s charity that donates video games, video game systems, and toys to hospitals; started in 2003, it has gone on to generate millions of dollars in toy donations for hospitals worldwide.  Then there’s PAX, the Penny Arcade Expo, which began as an intended small gaming convention in Seattle, and brought in over three thousand people the first year.  It has since gone on to become one of the largest conventions in the county, and in 2010 for the first time there will be a PAX East taking place in Boston.  And then there is the Penny Arcade podcast, as well as PAX TV, showing you behind the scenes of Penny Arcade.

The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade is a great compendium of all things Penny Arcade, as you learn about and hear the stories from Jerry and Mike about how they first became friends, how Penny Arcade started, and the many blunders and pitfalls they’ve made along the way.  You also get to hear from the people who work with and for them, who do their everyday jobs so Jerry and Mike get to play video games and make comics for a living.  The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade is a required book for any fan, to go right next to the collected Penny Arcade comic books.

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Originally written on March 25th 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.