The PA guys (Jerry and Mike, or more widely known as Tycho and Gabe) are doing another “reader poll” to see which side-project they should spend effort on, and I was reminded again why I think Penny Arcade is so sweet. If you haven’t read them, you can find them at http://www.penny-arcade.com/ – they have two interesting one-page treatments of two possible side projects (Sand and The New Kid) up, and of course huge archives of their primary gaming webcomic. I recall starting to read PA in college, and I know Todd and Garrett and I attended the first (and subsequent) PAX expos after I was in grad school. I own all of their books, and read them fairly religiously. So, maybe I am biased, but I think I can still render some opinions in reviewing their material.
One: Penny Arcade is a comic by gamers for gamers, and they aren’t assholes (to their audience). They also happen to fit the profile of your “growing up gamer” and so they happened to be perfect for me as I passed through college and into working life. (Not so much now that they are family men, but their in-comic avatars are still basically bachelors.) This is kind of a drawback if you haven’t previously read their stuff, because reading through archives is not quite the same as associating life experiences of the time with reading, but it’s still an interesting aspect to my “relationship” with PA. Penny Arcade is really much more of a blog in comic form than most other webcomics I have read, and it gives it a much more authentic feel. Because of that, they have a lot of currency/capital to spend when they do go off a little and do weird things (Cardboard Tube Samurai, Twisp and Catsby, these reader-directed projects, etc.)
Two: Penny Arcade doesn’t make any apologies. It doesn’t skirt around issues in the gaming world that Jerry and Mike believe are relevant and important to tackle, and it doesn’t censor itself for the sake of protecting reader’s… eyes? Ear-analogues. They are able to infuse their opinions with humor, and to me that’s a big win. They can tend to ramble, or focus too much on topics that seem small on a global scale but are quite relevant to them personally, but I don’t fault them much for this – it is their comic/blog after all!
They also were the genesis of the Child’s Play charity, which I think is really amazing at directing gamers (generally generous people, in my opinion) toward spending for greater good. So brownie points to the people for that!
Humor: B+ (rises if you know the specific games involved at any one time)
Variety: A+ (no other webcomic I know treats so many different topics/games within the sphere)