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Do you remember the Jesse Thorn/Penny Arcade "feud"? "What Happened with those web comics guys…"

Allforce

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,980
It was my main hangout from 2003-2006. Still see a handful of old PA regulars here.
Yep I was around there for many years. Robert Khoo was even my Secret Santa one year and sent me a cake from Japan.

There are several people I recognize all around the net. Still friends with the zeboyd people, for example.
Yep, I remember you and your old handle. plagiarize too I believe is the same guy from PA, and I think he was with me at the treehouse forums that sprang off from their insane forum masters putting the screws to everyone.
 

Man God

Member
Oct 25, 2017
22,019
Remember when they basically ran off half the board? In favor of SE++??
Sure do. Banning treehouses instead of, you know, moderating them or opening a proper gaming community sub section. A blanket ban on discussion of all anime because some of it is vile smut that came directly from the top. Bans for even discussing the idea that a Wii game looked better emulated because it had better assets than 480p would show. I stuck around for awhile but the feeling of the old days just wasn't there. That along with all the mod drama over the years. I eventually had a moment of clarity where I realized I never went to the front page and that the comic hadn't spoken to me in a long long time. I drifted back from time to time to talk about the FF Job Fiesta or some Wii U thing that interested me and even looked there briefly when GAF exploded but my time there had come and gone.
 

MadLaughter

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
2,506
I never knew about this, though I've been a Maximum Fun listener for years at this point. Mostly the McElroy stuff, so not a ton of Jesse Thorn. The community experiences I've had with stuff on Thorn's network have been overwhelmingly positive, he's helped cultivate (miraculously) a pretty sincere, thoughtful and kind fanbase. There are exceptions, but they seem super rare.
 

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,097
Dedicated discussion threads were "too cliquey," yet they had a whole forum dedicated to shitposting lol.
There was legitimately a close community there for a whole minute and then they split it up and we all flung to the far sides of the internet. Kind of depressing in a way, but at least everyone recognizes each other and gives us all nods and winks these days. They could split everyone up, but we all remained in contact one way or another.

Yep, I remember you and your old handle. plagiarize too I believe is the same guy from PA, and I think he was with me at the treehouse forums that sprang off from their insane forum masters putting the screws to everyone.
I regret that handle so much now. I was like 15 when I made it. It was my attempt at self-deprecating humor, but as an adult, it was a pretty problematic and insulting username. I apologize for ever using it. Luckily I shed it over a decade ago. Damn time flies.

Sure do. Banning treehouses instead of, you know, moderating them or opening a proper gaming community sub section. A blanket ban on discussion of all anime because some of it is vile smut that came directly from the top. Bans for even discussing the idea that a Wii game looked better emulated because it had better assets than 480p would show. I stuck around for awhile but the feeling of the old days just wasn't there. That along with all the mod drama over the years. I eventually had a moment of clarity where I realized I never went to the front page and that the comic hadn't spoken to me in a long long time. I drifted back from time to time to talk about the FF Job Fiesta or some Wii U thing that interested me and even looked there briefly when GAF exploded but my time there had come and gone.
The last time I got banned from Penny-arcade was when Metal Gear Solid 4 released. There was a topic for the upcoming game, and posters had been posting in it for like 2 years at that point, but the game had leaked online and posters who admitted they never wanted to play the game were coming in to talk openly about spoilers. I asked the mods if they could make a spoiler-only topic to get them out of there, they said no. I said that someone would eventually get spoilered by accident, and they said people were using spoiler tags so it'd be cool.

Later the same day, someone was discussing a plot point from MGS2, and someone else responded with a retcon to that plot point in MGS4. Both posts were completely spoilered but the dude who was talking about MGS2 mentioned he was talking about MGS2 for those clicking the spoiler, while the dude spoiling MGS4 didn't indicate he was talking about an MGS4 retcon in his spoilered reply. It was actually a major spoiler. I wonder up having basically the ending of the game spoiled for me after trying very hard to avoid spoilers for like a year. I lost it and told the thread off and said that was exactly the type of thing I was worried about. They banned me for it.
 
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zashga

Member
Oct 28, 2017
1,028
Having not read PA for several years, it’s weird looking back at it now. I can’t really understand how these guys ever appealed to me. The intense hostility they have towards just about everyone else is so off putting. I think hbomb is right: PA is just a marginally better version of CAD.
 

Man God

Member
Oct 25, 2017
22,019
Having not read PA for several years, it’s weird looking back at it now. I can’t really understand how these guys ever appealed to me. The intense hostility they have towards just about everyone else is so off putting. I think hbomb is right: PA is just a marginally better version of CAD.
It had a run where the art was really good for something that came out 3x a week and had a voice that went well with the time. But the art kept changing for the worse and as they got richer and richer with PAX they became more openly rude because they didn't have to play it safe. The type of money and internet credibility that allows you to really show your ass and have people back you up.
 

sonicmj1

Member
Oct 25, 2017
123
From what I gathered about the PA guys is that both were bullied growing up or had struggles, when they got popular they became the bullies. Not always nor to everyone but when they wanted to take a shot they did so with gutso. Some years back one of them kinda apologized for that and said he was going to do better. No idea if he did or not.
As far as I can tell (as in, I haven't seen PA headline a dumb news story in ages at this point), one of those apologies actually stuck and Mike stopped creating stupid, spiteful, wholly unnecessary feuds with random people online. Going back to look and I think it was the one he made at the start of 2014, about three months after the whole "dickwolves" fiasco (which was itself three years after the events in the OP). It was easy to think at the time that it wasn't sincere, but I do think there has been actual change. You used to hear about Penny Arcade abusing their massive platform to shit on smaller web people all the time in those days, but those stories have entirely dried up, unless I'm missing something major from 2014 or later.

As the original blog post implies, that doesn't necessarily mean they've done right by those who have been hurt in the past, but it does seem like there has been some level of learning, whether out of emotional growth, self-interest, or some combination of the two.
 
Oct 25, 2017
3,688
Toronto, ON
I remember following this and later issues with these PA guys as it became extremely clear that they are not good dudes. Pretty much indistinguishable from the assholes who they always claimed to stand up against.
 

plagiarize

To its ports I have been
Moderator
Oct 25, 2017
9,715
Cape Cod, MA
Yep I was around there for many years. Robert Khoo was even my Secret Santa one year and sent me a cake from Japan.



Yep, I remember you and your old handle. plagiarize too I believe is the same guy from PA, and I think he was with me at the treehouse forums that sprang off from their insane forum masters putting the screws to everyone.
I am indeed the same plagiarize from those parts. I still have fond memories of the megathreads, and in the early Xbox 360 days, we had a fantastic group of players who went together from one game to the next, until Gears hit and people started finding their other communities. Those early months of playing every demo and big release with the same twenty to thirty friends are something I still pine for.

I don't think it ever quite felt like home as this place does though.
 

ForgedByGeeks

Member
Dec 1, 2017
531
Woodinville, WA
So, I don't know anything about this and haven't really had much interaction with Mike and Jerry since the early 2000s in Seattle.

With that out of the way, in real life they are quite awesome and fun to be around. They used to host LAN parties in Seattle all the time at a place called Shady House. Even though they were broke, and it cost a fortune in electricity, they did it anyways because it was fun for everyone involved.

As they got popular and financially stable, they also got increasingly harassed and my perception from the outside was that they were about as prepared to deal with that harassment as almost every geek in existence is. In other words, they were not prepared at all. This undoubtedly led to bouts of anxiety and depression. As far as I could tell, Mike got hit hardest this way. Some of it is his fault, but a lot of it is not at all being prepared or truly understanding what it means to be a celebrity. Sure it comes with good money, but can you imagine never being able to go out in the public where you live? Not being able to go to your favorite burger shop or coffee house again? Sometimes because you don't want to be mobbed and others because you and your family are getting death threats and don't want to go outside at all.

Through all of this, they have both continued to interact with their fans at every PAX, albeit guarded. Mike mostly seems to take a "I come out for the Q&A and to trade my pins and nothing else" while Jerry runs things so he is around a bit more, but always has other staff with him and mostly avoids doing other stuff that work at PAX.

I could tell how unpleasant some of this was for Mike a couple years back. I ran into him near the merch booth with his kid just sitting casually by a table. I walked up and asked to trade for one of his pins and he said sure but then his kid pointed at a pretty expensive pin on my lanyard and asked if I would trade it. The look on his face was one of horror. It was clear he had seen many a con goer react poorly to him in that kind of situation and here was his innocent kid. I just said "sure" and gave his kid the pin and asked if he wanted to give me Mike's pin himself in trade. Then took the pin from his kid, thanked them both and walked off. Mike literally started to cry as he said thank you while I walked off.

On the other end with Jerry, just because I was making a board game that used a video game license he loved, he got a large part of PA together to playtest my game in mid-beta stages. No charge, no conditions. Gave me and my business partner a tour of PA offices in Redmond, played the game, and gave feedback that far exceeded anything we received from over 1000 other play testers. It fundamentally changed our game for the better. Even though we were only supposed to have 1 hour of their time, he personally stuck around for an extra 90 minutes to talk with us. I can pretty much guarantee you that almost no one else in their positions will do that kind of stuff with zero financial interest, and nothing to gain personally.

I guess the TLDR is its easy to hate on people for stupid crap they do. But it's much harder to ask why and to also ask if maybe it's behaviors like a lot of the toxic stuff in this thread that is directed at them from people who do not know them and have never really met them that has made them so defensive and toxic in their public personas themselves.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but that applies to both Jerry and Mike as well as a lot of the people who bandwagon when attacking them.
 

Flutter

Member
Oct 25, 2017
6,237
I still read Penny Arcade.

It's something I grew up with. I dont find their jokes funny anymore, but it's nice to see them mellow up throughout the years, after getting married, having kids.

So, I don't know anything about this and haven't really had much interaction with Mike and Jerry since the early 2000s in Seattle.

With that out of the way, in real life they are quite awesome and fun to be around. They used to host LAN parties in Seattle all the time at a place called Shady House. Even though they were broke, and it cost a fortune in electricity, they did it anyways because it was fun for everyone involved.

As they got popular and financially stable, they also got increasingly harassed and my perception from the outside was that they were about as prepared to deal with that harassment as almost every geek in existence is. In other words, they were not prepared at all. This undoubtedly led to bouts of anxiety and depression. As far as I could tell, Mike got hit hardest this way. Some of it is his fault, but a lot of it is not at all being prepared or truly understanding what it means to be a celebrity. Sure it comes with good money, but can you imagine never being able to go out in the public where you live? Not being able to go to your favorite burger shop or coffee house again? Sometimes because you don't want to be mobbed and others because you and your family are getting death threats and don't want to go outside at all.

Through all of this, they have both continued to interact with their fans at every PAX, albeit guarded. Mike mostly seems to take a "I come out for the Q&A and to trade my pins and nothing else" while Jerry runs things so he is around a bit more, but always has other staff with him and mostly avoids doing other stuff that work at PAX.

I could tell how unpleasant some of this was for Mike a couple years back. I ran into him near the merch booth with his kid just sitting casually by a table. I walked up and asked to trade for one of his pins and he said sure but then his kid pointed at a pretty expensive pin on my lanyard and asked if I would trade it. The look on his face was one of horror. It was clear he had seen many a con goer react poorly to him in that kind of situation and here was his innocent kid. I just said "sure" and gave his kid the pin and asked if he wanted to give me Mike's pin himself in trade. Then took the pin from his kid, thanked them both and walked off. Mike literally started to cry as he said thank you while I walked off.

On the other end with Jerry, just because I was making a board game that used a video game license he loved, he got a large part of PA together to playtest my game in mid-beta stages. No charge, no conditions. Gave me and my business partner a tour of PA offices in Redmond, played the game, and gave feedback that far exceeded anything we received from over 1000 other play testers. It fundamentally changed our game for the better. Even though we were only supposed to have 1 hour of their time, he personally stuck around for an extra 90 minutes to talk with us. I can pretty much guarantee you that almost no one else in their positions will do that kind of stuff with zero financial interest, and nothing to gain personally.

I guess the TLDR is its easy to hate on people for stupid crap they do. But it's much harder to ask why and to also ask if maybe it's behaviors like a lot of the toxic stuff in this thread that is directed at them from people who do not know them and have never really met them that has made them so defensive and toxic in their public personas themselves.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but that applies to both Jerry and Mike as well as a lot of the people who bandwagon when attacking them.
Yeah, from what I've seen Mike has severe anxiety problems, and I can understand that, I'm married to someone who just clams up in public. Jerry's stories about his kid was always heartbreaking too.

Man, I really do visit it for the articles.
 

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,097
I am indeed the same plagiarize from those parts. I still have fond memories of the megathreads, and in the early Xbox 360 days, we had a fantastic group of players who went together from one game to the next, until Gears hit and people started finding their other communities. Those early months of playing every demo and big release with the same twenty to thirty friends are something I still pine for.

I don't think it ever quite felt like home as this place does though.
For all the guff the moderation and adminstration gets here, they're a billion times better than the asshole nature they had at PA. I could not stand how up their ass their admins were. The admins were the most caustic members of the entire site. At least the moderators here are friendly and approachable, even if people don't agree with every decision.
 

MadLaughter

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
2,506
So, I don't know anything about this and haven't really had much interaction with Mike and Jerry since the early 2000s in Seattle.

With that out of the way, in real life they are quite awesome and fun to be around. They used to host LAN parties in Seattle all the time at a place called Shady House. Even though they were broke, and it cost a fortune in electricity, they did it anyways because it was fun for everyone involved.

As they got popular and financially stable, they also got increasingly harassed and my perception from the outside was that they were about as prepared to deal with that harassment as almost every geek in existence is. In other words, they were not prepared at all. This undoubtedly led to bouts of anxiety and depression. As far as I could tell, Mike got hit hardest this way. Some of it is his fault, but a lot of it is not at all being prepared or truly understanding what it means to be a celebrity. Sure it comes with good money, but can you imagine never being able to go out in the public where you live? Not being able to go to your favorite burger shop or coffee house again? Sometimes because you don't want to be mobbed and others because you and your family are getting death threats and don't want to go outside at all.

Through all of this, they have both continued to interact with their fans at every PAX, albeit guarded. Mike mostly seems to take a "I come out for the Q&A and to trade my pins and nothing else" while Jerry runs things so he is around a bit more, but always has other staff with him and mostly avoids doing other stuff that work at PAX.

I could tell how unpleasant some of this was for Mike a couple years back. I ran into him near the merch booth with his kid just sitting casually by a table. I walked up and asked to trade for one of his pins and he said sure but then his kid pointed at a pretty expensive pin on my lanyard and asked if I would trade it. The look on his face was one of horror. It was clear he had seen many a con goer react poorly to him in that kind of situation and here was his innocent kid. I just said "sure" and gave his kid the pin and asked if he wanted to give me Mike's pin himself in trade. Then took the pin from his kid, thanked them both and walked off. Mike literally started to cry as he said thank you while I walked off.

On the other end with Jerry, just because I was making a board game that used a video game license he loved, he got a large part of PA together to playtest my game in mid-beta stages. No charge, no conditions. Gave me and my business partner a tour of PA offices in Redmond, played the game, and gave feedback that far exceeded anything we received from over 1000 other play testers. It fundamentally changed our game for the better. Even though we were only supposed to have 1 hour of their time, he personally stuck around for an extra 90 minutes to talk with us. I can pretty much guarantee you that almost no one else in their positions will do that kind of stuff with zero financial interest, and nothing to gain personally.

I guess the TLDR is its easy to hate on people for stupid crap they do. But it's much harder to ask why and to also ask if maybe it's behaviors like a lot of the toxic stuff in this thread that is directed at them from people who do not know them and have never really met them that has made them so defensive and toxic in their public personas themselves.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but that applies to both Jerry and Mike as well as a lot of the people who bandwagon when attacking them.
It's cool that your interactions with them are positive, but there are plenty of people who have anxiety or depression that don't treat others like sub-humans. If you read the Jesse Thorn letter, your experience with them being generous with their time is very much not a universal experience.
 

Krejlooc

Indie Game Dev
Verified
Oct 27, 2017
20,097
So, I don't know anything about this and haven't really had much interaction with Mike and Jerry since the early 2000s in Seattle.

With that out of the way, in real life they are quite awesome and fun to be around. They used to host LAN parties in Seattle all the time at a place called Shady House. Even though they were broke, and it cost a fortune in electricity, they did it anyways because it was fun for everyone involved.

As they got popular and financially stable, they also got increasingly harassed and my perception from the outside was that they were about as prepared to deal with that harassment as almost every geek in existence is. In other words, they were not prepared at all. This undoubtedly led to bouts of anxiety and depression. As far as I could tell, Mike got hit hardest this way. Some of it is his fault, but a lot of it is not at all being prepared or truly understanding what it means to be a celebrity. Sure it comes with good money, but can you imagine never being able to go out in the public where you live? Not being able to go to your favorite burger shop or coffee house again? Sometimes because you don't want to be mobbed and others because you and your family are getting death threats and don't want to go outside at all.

Through all of this, they have both continued to interact with their fans at every PAX, albeit guarded. Mike mostly seems to take a "I come out for the Q&A and to trade my pins and nothing else" while Jerry runs things so he is around a bit more, but always has other staff with him and mostly avoids doing other stuff that work at PAX.

I could tell how unpleasant some of this was for Mike a couple years back. I ran into him near the merch booth with his kid just sitting casually by a table. I walked up and asked to trade for one of his pins and he said sure but then his kid pointed at a pretty expensive pin on my lanyard and asked if I would trade it. The look on his face was one of horror. It was clear he had seen many a con goer react poorly to him in that kind of situation and here was his innocent kid. I just said "sure" and gave his kid the pin and asked if he wanted to give me Mike's pin himself in trade. Then took the pin from his kid, thanked them both and walked off. Mike literally started to cry as he said thank you while I walked off.

On the other end with Jerry, just because I was making a board game that used a video game license he loved, he got a large part of PA together to playtest my game in mid-beta stages. No charge, no conditions. Gave me and my business partner a tour of PA offices in Redmond, played the game, and gave feedback that far exceeded anything we received from over 1000 other play testers. It fundamentally changed our game for the better. Even though we were only supposed to have 1 hour of their time, he personally stuck around for an extra 90 minutes to talk with us. I can pretty much guarantee you that almost no one else in their positions will do that kind of stuff with zero financial interest, and nothing to gain personally.

I guess the TLDR is its easy to hate on people for stupid crap they do. But it's much harder to ask why and to also ask if maybe it's behaviors like a lot of the toxic stuff in this thread that is directed at them from people who do not know them and have never really met them that has made them so defensive and toxic in their public personas themselves.

Two wrongs don't make a right, but that applies to both Jerry and Mike as well as a lot of the people who bandwagon when attacking them.
Look, I can very much understand that they get a lot of crap. I was in the ventrillo chatroom the night that Bagel decided to start cold calling them at 4 in the morning despite everyone saying it was a bad idea. I remember not being a bit surprised when they shut the forum down the next day.

I don't really have much to say about Gabe and Tycho directly, never met them, never really interacted with them. But that's kind of the problem, they were completely no-shows on the board. Which is why it felt extra awful when they'd come in and demand big changes to the way their site was being handled without realizing how it affected discussion from their fans. Because, one way or another, everyone on that site came there first because they read the strip and wanted to stick around.

I met Khoo a few times in Austin when he'd do the penny-arcade meet ups before they had PAX going, he was a really nice guy. I just always got the feeling that, if you weren't part of this big inner circle, they treated you as an outsider. They just weren't approachable, and that trickled down to their forums, and interactions with other sites.
 

rcd2

Member
Oct 25, 2017
15
I'm willing to give the Penny Arcade guys the benefit of the doubt as far as the inciting incident, the awkward recording experience. I've certainly got my own anxieties and could see myself shutting down in a situation like that.

...

It's the spending the next 10 years being shitheads about it that really makes them seem like, well, shitheads.
 

Robin

Restless Insomniac
Member
Oct 25, 2017
2,096
They're bad people and have always been outed as shitheads over and over again. I liked them as a teenager but it became clear pretty quickly in adulthood how lame they are and also how transparent their facade is. Camp Weedonwantcha was probably the only killer thing to come out of PA.
 

ForgedByGeeks

Member
Dec 1, 2017
531
Woodinville, WA
It's cool that your interactions with them are positive, but there are plenty of people who have anxiety or depression that don't treat others like sub-humans. If you read the Jesse Thorn letter, your experience with them being generous with their time is very much not a universal experience.
Ohh to be clear I am not excusing their bad behaviors, but I do think it's a valuable skill for people reacting to have some introspection themselves.

I find some of their actions toxic and things like the Dickwolves comic really frustrated me. I personally stopped reading them after that.

But things are almost never black and white. While it's easy to imagine that you would react better to the situation they find themselves in, it is impossible to say you actually would (you in the general sense of any reader of this, not directly the person I am replying to).

Getting hordes and hordes of negativity, harassment, and threats thrown at you and your family can cause major issues. If a person is not prepared to handle it, it can destroy them and/or make them lash out in ways that frequently only exasperate the issues causing an endless spiral of more harassment and more lashing out. How anyone can deal with that is beyond me and I have streamed to upwards of 2500 simultaneous viewers on Twitch half of which were calling me a neckbeard, saying I should die, that I shouldn't have that many viewers, and many other things that would get me banned if I posted them here. That affected me for days afterwards. Imagine that flood of feedback, 1000x fold, and never ending. Now imagine it targeting your family as well. Pure nightmare fuel.

Would you say stupid stuff as a result? Lash out? Occasionally treat other people poorly?

For most people the answer is "most certainly" even if they are afraid to admit it publicly.
 

Zeouter

Member
Oct 27, 2017
408
Ireland
There have been a few incidents like this with PA over the years and it's hard to fully trust them, they come off as overly abrasive.

I was a big fan as a teen.
 

werezompire

Zeboyd Games
Verified
Oct 26, 2017
3,045
I don't know anything about this fight, but when we were working on the Penny Arcade RPGs, Jerry was always nice to us and fun to talk to and Robert Khoo was a total gentleman. Don't know much about Mike since at that point, he didn't really want anything to do with the PA games; he wasn't mean or anything, he just didn't want to be involved.
 

InsaneTiger

Avenger
Oct 25, 2017
4,421
Do people still read PA? I stopped a long time ago when the jokes got stale and they joked about some truly awful things.
 

BigDes

Member
Oct 25, 2017
1,695
I went back there a couple of weeks ago to check on the comics forum cause that was the forum that originalky got me into comic books. The forum seems to have died a bit. Oh well.
 

Birdie

Member
Oct 26, 2017
7,045
The writer had some of the most elaborate prose I recall in the updates...felt smart when I was younger but came off as needlessly wordy looking back.
 
Oct 27, 2017
3,630
Was it Penny Arcade that created a Kickstarter so they could go to a convention but then someone else created a Kickstarter so they could also go to the convention to beat them up? Sounds like it would be.