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Eric: It's for reasons like this that I'm glad there's no real City of Heroes cybersex activity or community. *pause* Give me my denial, people. It's all I've got.

Penny Arcade

(From Penny Arcade! Click on the thumbnail for full sized Excellent Questions!)

Every so often, it seems like I should check in on a mainstay. And for those playing along at home, Penny Arcade's been on a run of good strips of late. I mean, don't get me wrong, they only rarely suck, but the last couple of weeks they've been firing on all cylinders. Look at any of the strips from last week and you'll see good stuff. ("How shitty is your system and all its games?" "So awesome!")

Today's, however, was just sublime. Because it's so easy to believe it could happen. My favorite part is the fact that Gabe clearly isn't lying, here. He honestly thought he was having cybersex with his wife in the game. So it's not that he's cheating... it's that he's cheating without even realizing he does it.

Insert any of the ten thousand jokes about fat hairy guys pretending to be sixteen year old girls we've all heard since, oh, 1985 or so here. Pick your favorite. I'll wait. All set? Snickering and eyerolling? Good. Let's move on.

I find myself wondering about how he extracts himself from the scene, now. Does he suavely say "hon, I have to run. I'll send you missives from across the land. No really -- it's not you. It's me." or does he pull the ethernet cord out of his computer and pretend he's lost net access. It's like High School all over again, only instead of sweating and fleeing across the dance floor to throw up in the punch bowl, you blame latency issues.

Anyway. They're funny. As always. Duh.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at January 24, 2006 10:48 AM


Comment from: larksilver posted at January 24, 2006 11:14 AM

ha! I laughed at this one hard when I saw it yesterday. There are days when I wonder why I read Penny Arcade.. so often, it's not for me. But I keep reading it, because of stuff like this, makin' it totally worth it.

I've never done that whole "cyber" thing, particularly not when I'm playing a game (too busy, y'know, playing the game).. but there was a time when my significant other thought someone was my alt, and was freakin' them out.

Then he realized that not only was I *not* in the living room, playing, but I wasn't even in the house... anyway, this struck a chord on several levels. Thanks for snarkin' it!

Comment from: John posted at January 24, 2006 11:19 AM

I like this one a lot, but there's something slightly wrong with the transition between panel 1 and 2. It really needs another "beat" in there where Gabe looks at Kara and has that moment of realization. We need to feel him having that sinking feeling. As it is, it's a bit too compressed; probably because Gabe and Tycho are a bit too committed to the three-panel format. (Why, guys? So it'll fit in the book later?)

Otherwise it's pitch-perfect.

Comment from: LessThanKate posted at January 24, 2006 11:28 AM

They break format enough so I don't think the timing on this strips is a format issue. It works for me though.

And did anyone else notice this is the second computer themed "wife catches husband in the act" strip in two weeks?

Comment from: John posted at January 24, 2006 11:34 AM

Like so.

Comment from: LessThanKate posted at January 24, 2006 11:59 AM

I dunno. It doesn't really make it any more funny to have that extra panel there. It adds unneccasary weight to it (and the "one panel of silence" contruction is over used in general).

Comment from: Joshua Macy posted at January 24, 2006 12:27 PM

I agree with LessThanKate, adding the extra panel weakens it--once there's an extra moment of realization, then Gabe's question is not just dumb but redundant.

Comment from: Ghastly posted at January 24, 2006 1:08 PM

The "Nothing you saw was illegal... in the countries in which it was filmed" strip absolutely slayed me. The art composition, the writing, it all came together for me in a way that perfectly tickled my funnybone. It was, for me, the funniest Penny Arcade strip I've ever read.

I love it when I don't have to know anything about current gaming trends to get the joke (old man, still play my Atari 2600).

Comment from: Archon Divinus posted at January 24, 2006 1:18 PM

I think the best comic recently was the Nerf one, just for the second panel.

"Killing me won't bring her back"

"Aint that a shame"

Comment from: Branitar posted at January 24, 2006 1:47 PM

I am reading PA regularily but more often than not they suck. This was one of the few strips that actually made me laugh, mainly because in 8 years of mudding I have seen a lot similar stuff. And don't you really wish you knew what happened next?
Anyway, I thought exactly the same as John. Somehow it just went too smooth, more like Gabe KNEW he wasn't cybering with his wife. But that wouldn't have been funny or even interesting. So: idea yeah, execution meh.

Comment from: exit posted at January 24, 2006 1:50 PM

The extra beat only works without the question... like so

Why I just spent 4 minutes remixing something that is already fine and also done by my betters is the real mystery.

Comment from: PatMan posted at January 24, 2006 2:26 PM

Because it's so easy to believe it could happen.

I don't know, Eric. When I read that strip, (and after I stopped lauging) I thought, "why would he not know the names of all the alts his wife has that are level 52 or more?". Because that's the level you need to be to wear Wildheart spaulders. She also would have been frequently playing that character, and probably would have mentioned that she got a piece of Wildheart armor.

(There, I killed the joke for you. Nyah)

On a side note, the other day I popped in on a server I hadn't been on in months, and got a private message from someone asking, "Andy?"

(No, I didn't mess with his head. I told him I was a visitor from another server.)

Comment from: mr k posted at January 24, 2006 2:56 PM

Yeah, I have exactly the same thing with penny arcade- a lot of strips I just don't enjoy (the merch thing, for example, just completely lost me), and then they'll do something like this (or the giraffe porn), which will just make me laugh so hard I'll remember why I keep coming back.

Comment from: Wednesday White posted at January 24, 2006 3:19 PM

I loved it to death, and then I wondered why on earth Gabe would *want* to cyber when his wife is, like, over there.

Unless he's lazy.


oh, wait.

Comment from: Cornan posted at January 24, 2006 5:11 PM

Personally I'm of the contingent for whom Penny Arcade [i]is[/i], more often than not, for. So generally I find it perfectly entertaining and funny. However, both the giraffe and cyber strips recently have made me full on laugh out loud.

Eric, I love it when you Snark the strips I don't know, but I love it even more when you hit the ones I read on a regular basis. Thanks. :)

Comment from: Escushion posted at January 24, 2006 6:11 PM

I'm with Eric; I find Penny Arcade consistently funny. There's a reason it's the last strip I check on my morning run.

Of the past month's strips though, this was one of the best, second only to the giraffes one, which I had to read several times for its hilarity. And on that note, I have to go watch the Hostel Hijinx flash movie from Checkerboard Nightmare again.


Comment from: Chaomancer Omega posted at January 24, 2006 9:41 PM

As far as the timing goes, maybe it's just because I read a lot of comic books, where narrative flow generally mandates a certain amount of mental adjustment on the part of the reader, or maybe I'm just weird that way, but when I read a comic strip, I tend to insert the mental beats myself anyway. So I don't miss it when there's no "pause" panel. Maybe I'm just more forgiving on that than some people, though in this case, I think a "pause" panel might have given it too much of a stretched out feel.

The joke itself I found pretty funny, though I haven't ever been anywhere close to such a situation, thankfully.

Comment from: Imaria posted at January 24, 2006 10:00 PM

I'm still chuckling over last Friday's strip, so the fact that I enjoyed this as well was just fortunate.

There's always going to be someone who doesn't like PA; it's a matter of statistics when most of the 'net knows who you are. The mark of a success is that they are very much the minority, even though their fanbase is steeped in cynicism.

Comment from: William_G posted at January 24, 2006 11:10 PM

Wait, a third character in Penny Arcade?!

They keep pushing the envelope like this....wow.

Comment from: siwangmu posted at January 24, 2006 11:25 PM

Wow, look! Some girl with brown hair enters the strip!

Oh wait, that was the year 1999.

Hey, did you hear there's also some kind of millenium bug?

Comment from: William_G posted at January 24, 2006 11:29 PM

No matter how many times I get stung, I still always like to chuck rocks at the hive just to see how many drones swarm out to protect the queen.

It's just so fascinating to watch...

Comment from: Benor posted at January 24, 2006 11:45 PM

The bacon robots?

They attacked.

Why didn't you tell us about the attack, Mr. Burns? WHY DIDN'T YOU TELL US?!?

We...we lost good men that day. Maybe we wouldn't have lost so many...if we'd known.

Comment from: LessThanKate posted at January 24, 2006 11:58 PM

I think its more fascinating to watch the moment when you remember you're allergic to bee stings William.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 25, 2006 12:01 AM

Ahhh... the power of test balloons.

Comment from: LessThanKate posted at January 25, 2006 12:41 AM

Curse you Burns and your use of phrases that put me in a state of un-ease even though I can't find the meaning of the phrase no matter how I google it!

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at January 25, 2006 12:55 AM

Wow, so, like, there can't be a post about PA around here without shit being started?

That being said, despite everyone saying that PA's been having its BEST YEAR EVAR, I've been finding myself liking it less and less over the course of the past year or so. Maybe it's the fact that my interest in WoW is in the negative, or that comics with support characters like the Fruit Fucker, Mr. Period and the Merch use the same exact joke each time they appear with little or no variation, or that my taste in games has almost no cross-over with theirs (lately my friends and I joke that if they hate a game, it must be really really cool, because they always hate the games we dig). It's to the point that I have a feeling I might stop reading it sometime soon.

But Gabe's art is cool, I'll give them that (and quite frankly, I think the funniest comics in the past few months where the ones that Gabe wrote while Tycho was away). Thought I do think that the gag strip talking heads format isn't really the best use of his talent.

Comment from: larksilver posted at January 25, 2006 1:02 AM

There was shit? Oh, I'm so glad I didn't step in any. Or smell it. My diaper-changing days are oooover, and as such I try to avoid the poop-flinging.

Comment from: Meagen Image posted at January 25, 2006 1:31 AM

IMO, adding extra beat panels or removing dialogue doesn't really help the humor, it just removes the distinct PA style from the comic.

This made me laugh a lot. From the "apologising softly for breaking your set bonuse part" (oh my, that Gabe is such a charmer), right up to "that is an excellent question".

I think this strip is a bit of a followup to the one a while back where Gabe sent Kara that e-card with the bear ("I did not mean to aggro those mobs."). Those two vignettes together give us a really good insight into the many problems a RL couple can run into when they start playing the same online game. Since it's something I have experience with, it makes it that much funnier.

Comment from: William_G posted at January 25, 2006 3:04 AM

I think its more fascinating to watch the moment when you remember you're allergic to bee stings William.

Oh, how can I ever argue with your adorable superiority? C'mere you little scamp and give us a hug.

Comment from: GiannaM posted at January 25, 2006 4:59 AM

Eric, I have to admit that generally I don't care about or don't read most the comics that you talk about, because we have different tastes (I like gag-a-day lowbrow humour and you like strips that make you ponder about Life, Universe and All The Rest) and I come to Websnark for your writing (or because you occasionally talk about something that I discover and love thanks to you, like Copper) - but when it comes to Penny Arcade I agree. Whoa, was that a long sentence or what? *DEEP BREATH* The best thing of that strip, IMO, is the cyber-dialogue in the first panel, "apologizing softly for breaking your set bonus" is just perfect.

Comment from: miyaa posted at January 25, 2006 6:29 AM

Saddest thing about MMORPG-ish games: online weddings.
Followed by online children. Yes, I've seen the future! You will have more children online than you will in real life!

I don't know who to blame for the marriage trend. I do blame The Sims 2 for online children.

Comment from: Godspiel posted at January 25, 2006 11:30 AM

Adding the beat panel ruins the strip.

Penny-Arcade draws a lot of it's humor from the execution. I don't mean that it's funny because it's well executed (thought it has that going for it), I mean that it draws humor from the choices they make in executing their... execution.

Joe Zabel and Mike Meginnis nail it in that Examiner round table that Eric and Wednesday took part in a while back. I'm afraid you'll have to scroll down a bit for the relavent parts. (T Campbell's comments on their characterization also strikes me as dead-on, and actually reminds me of an old idea for a TV show....)

Now, Gabe and Tycho have used beat panels in the past, but in this case at least, the insertion takes away a specific type of humor, in exchange for making the strip more palatable for a wider audience.

Liking the specific humor quite a lot, the change pretty much ruins what could have been an OK strip for another comic, and turns it into a sub-par Penny-Arcade. "That is an excellent question." isn't supposed to be a punchline, but the beat turns it into one.

Comment from: Ghastly posted at January 25, 2006 1:04 PM

Comment from: miyaa

Saddest thing about MMORPG-ish games: online weddings.
Followed by online children. Yes, I've seen the future! You will have more children online than you will in real life!

By golly I'm going to make myself a mint when I set up my Online Vasectomy Clinic.

Comment from: DarkStar posted at January 25, 2006 3:33 PM

And the very next day... Penny Arcade "transcends the panel". And pokes William G. Sometimes internet response is faster than most other physical phenomenon. :-)

Comment from: Ghastly posted at January 25, 2006 4:55 PM

God damnit! I've got to seriously start making myself more artsy and pretensified if I want to start getting some hate linkage from Penny Arcade. Somebody teach me some freakin' art words before I get my ass handed to me again in a Comic-monkey knife-fight.

The imbeululent essence of that comic trandictions the internal conflicts of the post-dualdelium man in a pre-cosmicolian society... and shit like that... art...

Comment from: William_G posted at January 25, 2006 11:40 PM

At least he provided a link.

Comment from: vark posted at January 26, 2006 12:45 AM

Did you catch the bit where slashdot linked to a PA interview at MIT in which they said nice things about Websnark?

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at January 26, 2006 12:51 AM

...no... no I didn't...

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