An exciting, malfulgent, even squirmesquent announcement about secret new developments at Penny Arcade Towers is being made on monday. To celebrate, our beloved new hire Ben Kuchera!
will be coming to our very own wretched hive of scum and villainy to answer questions about the new [REDACTED] and it's effects on our [REDACTED] and it's possible repurcussions for [REDACTED] and the Republican primaries.
This Q&A is going to be happening here in G&T, possibly implying that said announcement has something to do with an orbital ion cannon I'm just saying it could happen
. This thread will be unlocked on monday at 10am PST for the commencement of festivities.
edit: gonna throw in some more congratulations Ben and welcome to Penny Arcade!
Hey, awesome! I'm curious to know more about what your role will be, where it'll be shown (like, front page with the news or in another section?) and if you're planning on interacting with the forums at all?
We're still working out most of the details about where the content will be, but you can expect stories to be on the main page is some form. I'm hoping to interact with the forums, and I'll also be seeing everyone at PAX! My plan is to give you guys as many ways to get in touch with me as possible.
Congrats! What do you think will be the biggest challenge you'll face in your new role? What are you most excited about re: being a part of the PA family now?
I think one of the big challenges is going to be finding what content works well with the Penny Arcade audience. I have a bunch of ideas, and we'll be adjusting things as we go, but you never really know how things are going to be received until you jump in and get started.
The thing that most excites me about Penny Arcade is working with the team in Seattle. I've already been to the offices once and I'm leaving to visit again this week, and it's a magical place. It's rare to find an environment where everyone is so happy to be doing what they're doing, and I love everyone's enthusiasm. We're all here because we love Penny Arcade and want it to be the best it possibly can be. I'm honored to be a part of that process.
Can you dish dirt on anyone in the games industry RIGHT NOW?
Can I? Sure. Will I? I doubt it. They keep the real assholes away from us writerly types. But I look forward to holding everyone's feet to the fire in the future.
So is the intent to add additional periodical coverage to the site similar in vein to Ben's work at Opposable Thumbs? So we'd have the traditional comic+newspost, PATV, etc. plus new Kuchie-goodness?
That sounds about right. We're kicking around thoughts on how to organize the content, but to start you can expect great, in-depth stories every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. After that we'll think about what else we can do while keeping the standards high.
Will it be just you or a small team of highly-trained operatives?
For now it will just be me. I think it's going to stay that way for a good while until we get a better idea of how we want things to work. I did the majority of gaming writing at Ars by myself, so it won't be a huge change for me. Expect fewer, longer stories.
Hi Ben! I liked your stuff over at Ars so this should be fun.
Was a move to have more journalism coming directly from PA a response to the Avenger PR incident or were the gears already in motion before then?
The gears were in motion well before then. Watching how that unfolded give all of us a good amount of data about how people react to those sort of situations, and it clarified my place in dealing with them a little bit more as well. Everyone learned from it.
I was wondering how much (if any) focus you will be putting on independent games?
It's going to be a mix. I think indie games are often more fun to write about, just because they're different and the people behind them are more willing to talk about the creation of the games. I've always covered the indie scene rather heavily, and I don't expect that to change.
Congratulations, Mr. Kuchera. Welcome to the brotherhood.
As we are wont to know, one person cannot run a gaming site. Are you planning on headhunting some industry vets for full time or are you planning on utilizing mostly freelancers?
Here's the thing though, at Ars I usually covered shows like E3, GDC, and even PAX by myself. We're not interested in hitting every piece of news or even of operating like a traditional blog. I have no doubt that one person writing "news"-style content for PA is going to be enough for now. In a year or so, we'll revisit the question.
Did Robert/Jerry/Mike express what their "vision" is for what you will add to the PA megacorp? Care to share their and your vision with us?
It's all very much in active development right now, and I don't want to describe the baby while it's still being removed from its mother, so let me get back to you after my next trip to Seattle. We have a lot of ideas, but the main one is fewer, better stories. We want to tell the stories no one is telling in a way no one is doing. That's not easy, and it's going to take time to perfect our approach.
What has your experience with the PATV crew been like?
I haven't met them! But I love the show, so we'll see how that works out in the future.
Is Gabe going to draw you up a custom avatar as part of your welcome pack?
I think that's something you have to earn. Let's wait until I mess up in a big enough way for them to mock me in a strip and I'll just use that image.
Do you think the next console generation will happen this year for Microsoft and Sony and if so, what do you want from them?
I want better games, that's all. If the only jump forward is graphical I'm going to be let down. Running RAGE on my PC in higher resolutions with better textures didn't make RAGE suck any less. For now I'm happy with my 360, PS3, and PC. And 3DS. And soon, the Vita. The idea of more hardware kind of makes my head spin.
Ben, how good are you at ping pong?
I've played like, two games in my life. I'm hoping you didn't hire me to be a ringer for your team.
What do you think of the recent shakeup in gaming journalism? (re: Vox media launching their game site with top writers from all around, and now your new opportunity) Do you think it is a coincidence that this is happening all at once? What does it say about the current state of gaming journalism?
I don't think it says much, other than the fact people are starting to really invest in good writing, as egotistical as that sounds. I think in every industry big shakeups happen every ten years or so, and this is ours. It's a good time to make big moves and try to change things for the better. Writing for Penny Arcade gives me freedom and resources I wouldn't have had anywhere else, and that's important to me.
Just to give us an insight on your views and interests (for those of use now hearing about you for the first time), what do you feel is the most influential game of all time and why?
Some of my favorite games of all time were Doom, Duke Nukem 3D, Super Mario 64, I was a huge Dreamcast fan, I like almost every genre, and if I had the choice between platforms I would go PC every time. I know that's pretty broad, but it's a big question!
Will your coverage include still going to those conventions you just mentioned (obviously you'll be at PAX but what about E3, GDC, et al)?
Yes, I'll be traveling extensively. I'm a big fan of getting out there and getting your hands dirty.
Who do you think would win in a fight; a bear with sharks for arms or a shark with bears for arms?
A bear with sharks for arms. The bear could swim well enough to keep the sharks alive for the purposes of combat. A shark would spend its time underwater and drown the bear, making it a useless collection of godless parts.
Did you go through rigorous torture interviews before becoming a member of the team? Or was this more of a merger of talents (rather than them... acquiring you)?
I traveled to Seattle to meet with the team and talk about the things we could do together before I was hired, but it was nothing like the grueling process you've seen on PATV. I love Ars Technica, and I wasn't interesting in leaving unless I thought I could do something really special with Penny Arcade, I'm such a big fan that my main concern was messing it up. After a few hours it became clear that it was a good fit, so we moved forward with the plans to bring my onboard.
If you were a biscuit, what kind of biscuit would you be?
Ben, did they promise to give you the antidote? Because they may be lying to you.
I've actually been slowly working up a tolerance, so I'll be just fine.
what should I name my soldiers in X-Com UFO Defense?
Name them after female cast members of SNL that didn't get much screen time. Then when they die, cluck your tongue about how sexist this world really is.
What will your presence be at PAX East? Considered doing a panel with Q&A about what sort of topics people want to see covered in this new endeavor? More importantly.... will you be in the autograph book Mike plans to create? ;)
It's going to be a mixture of a few different things. I'll probably be moderating some of the panels, and I'll also be covering the show just as I would for any other outlet. If there's an autograph book, I would hope to be included, right under Princess Aurora.
Ben, as a disabled gamer, I've always been a bit disappointed in the overall lack of...care? Inclusion? Consideration? Many game companies and publishers display towards disabled gamers. The lack of standard programmable controls, subtitles, color blind display options, and font/display size options all point me to the conclusion that publishers are either unaware of the issues facing disabled gamers, or that they just don't care*. While, on the one hand, the fact that these options exist is a step forward, they're often added as an afterthought, and haphazardly so.
Sites like ablegamers.com do a great job of advocating for the disabled gamer community at large. The problem is that these concerns are still largely out of the mainstream gamer space. Out of sight, out of mind.
To get to my question, do you think this is something that PA Investigations (or whatever what you'll be doing will be named) should cover, in general? Or, similarly, gender and/or age issues both within the industry and user spheres? I know you probed a bit deeper than other game journalists over at Ars, so I'm wondering if that will continue, and how far.
*Obviously, there need to be some limits. A gamer can't expect to rejigger the entire UI.
This is a topic we'll be covering, although I can't say when or in what capacity. I do think gaming should be an inclusive things, and making gaming friendlier to people with disabilities is a huge part of that. It's a subject I've tackled in the past, and will continue to do so.
Where's home base for you? I imagine you are not relocating to Seattle and can write from where ever you live. I'm sad to admit that you (and Ars Technica) weren't really on my radar until now.
Edit: Welcome to PA btw
Thanks for the welcome! I live in Cincinnati Ohio, and will continue to write from here for the next few years. I just travel extensively. I'm hopping on a plane to head to Seattle to do some PA work tomorrow, in fact.
I've been a big fan of your work on Ars Technica. You haven't been afraid to confront issues in the gaming industry (e.g. Gran Turismo 5's horrid user experience). A couple questions:
1) Will we still get to see an occasional Nerf review?
2) Glad to hear you want to keep some indie games in the mix (I am a fellow lover of Adventures of Shuggy). How are you going to select what games (indie or otherwise) to cover? Is it based on personal interest? I am all for keeping coverage limited to legitimately interesting games (ex GIA staff, here).
3) Due to having played Dark Souls to completion beforehand, I couldn't bring myself to really enjoy Skyrim as it felt like a clunky 10 year old game in comparison. This isn't a question, I just had to throw it out there.
1) There is no way in hell I would stop doing Nerf and toy reviews. I get to shoot at my children with guns I get for free and it works towards earning me a paycheck. That's shit you don't just walk away from.
2) Deciding what games to cover is tough, but it's usually just what games interest me, or seem to be doing something different, or have a unique story in them or behind them.
3) Old Republic has taken me completely away from Skyrim, so don't fee bad.
Here's a tough one Ben: I just registered on PA, having followed you from Ars. I suspect this will be the case for many.
I can also seen by Ken's response at Ars, that your departure is understood and you're not getting a lawsuit for twitter followers, like Noah Kravitz http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-16338040
But I wonder what's your take on the value of your online persona - after all it is thanks to the exposure that Ars gave you, that you have been able to build your fame and following, also they have been paying for for that and now with your departure, they're losing traffic, subscribers etc
A genuine, tough question - perhaps a parallel from Holywood would be welcome
I think I had a great relationship with Ars, and we both gave and took equal amounts, and it was incredibly important to me that I go someplace they respect and enjoy reading themselves. I don't expect them to lose traffic of subscribers, because Kyle Orland is a wonderful writer who is going to do a great job. Gaming will continue to be a huge part of Ars, but it will also change with someone else steering the ship. It's a healthy shakeup for both of us.
I'm not sure if this is me proposing an idea or just asking you a question but...
You're a writer who is now working for a very popular comic strip. Admittedly I don't know if you have any experience in writing for a comic, but have you ever dreamed of, thought about or expressed interest in writing a PA guest strip at some point in the future?
No, that's not really my thing, and Mike and Jerry do it so well it would be silly for me to jump in. My job is to expand the site's reach with coverage of games and the industry, not to really interact with the strip. Besides, I love the comic, and I enjoy being surprised three times a week just as much as you guys do. I'd rather still be a fan and stick to what I do best.
In the time since Diablo 3 has been officially announced, I've gotten engaged, married, and now have a kid coming in about six weeks, probably minimizing my ability to play the game at all.
Can you find out who I need to sleep with at Blizzard so that they can put out a largely iterative game in under ten years?
Maybe just show up and start throwing the team some handies. Couldn't hurt!
If I'm not exactly a videogame news/opinions junkie and haven't really read your stuff, what articles of yours would you link me to so I could get a taste of Ben Kuchera's heart/soul/squishy innards?
My question is regarding games now and what they have become. What do you think is really missing from most games nowadays that causes them to be incredibly unmemorable.
Human stories, full stop. The games that we remember are the ones with great characters, stories, or dialog.
Welcome, Ben. Best wishes for your success.
You mentioned working on solid content on Monday/Wednesday/Friday. Out of curiousity, was there talk about adding content on or for Tuesday/Thursday? I check this site routinely, and having more reasons to do so on off-days (apart from the clickthrough to Trenches) would be an interesting step forward.
Also, you mentioned watching PATV - do you get around to watching Extra Credits, by chance?
Again, welcome. We hope you find the crazies here... manageable.
There is definitely talk about Tuesday Thursday content, but it may not be coming for a while, if at all. I want to get the base schedule running very well before we begin to expand. It's definitely something we've talked about though, and we have some thoughts for regular, ongoing content.
Yes, I've watched Extra Credits, and not only do I like it, but my wife was very taken with it as well. She's not really a gamer, so when something gets her attention I know it's something special. I'm a big fan.
What was your favorite 2011 game, and what game are you most looking forward to in 2012?
Do you share any other intrests with the PA guys (reading, D&D, Minatures)?
I loved Old Republic and Bastion, and Human Revolution, but picking one favorite? Unpossible. I can't wait for Mass Effect 3 and the new Metro title.
I'm a huge reader, I play in a regular Pathfinder game, although I don't paint miniatures. We share a good amount of interests. :-)
Ben, are you more or less likely to pick random PAX goers up off the street and give them shelter for the night?
Equally likely, but that worked out fine that one time, right?
How did you end up landing the role? What's the story there?
That may be a question for Robert or one of the guys. They actually came to me, and I flew to Seattle to talk about it, and it just seemed like a really good fit, so I took the leap.
Curious about question 6: How does the N-control/Avenger PR Fiasco have anything to do with your position? They went after Penny-Arcade, Mike responded, Situation solved. Are you implying that you would have spun the thing from PA's perspective differently like some type of studio whore?
Here's the thing: that situation brought a ton of eyes to Penny Arcade, and it would have been great to have used that attention to talk about what the Avenger controller hoped to do for disabled gamers and to give some of the attention to THAT issue. There are mods, devices, and hardware that help gamers with different needs play games, and working on a story about those issues would have been a great way to turn that whirlwind into something more positive.
Mike and Jerry are grown men, and I'm not interested in defending them, apologizing for them, or spinning anything they say. What I can do is use those issues as a jumping off point for some other interesting discussions.
If you could have any superhuman ability (excluding ones you already possess), what would it be?
I would want to fly. There's no snark there, I think that would be the best. The Rocketeer is one of my favorite movies, just for that reason.
A lot of "curating" is looking backwards and using the benefit of hindsight to analyze what's important and what's fluff. Will you be covering things that have had/will have significance for the future of gaming, or covering current events? I guess what I'm asking is how resistant you feel to the hype train of major releases.
I feel like I'm pretty resistant to hype, and I've laid a few big games low in reviews. We're going to looking at the past, present, and future for coverage. It's going to be all over the place, but in a good way.
Will you promise to tell us the truth, the whole truth, no matter how much it may hurt?
ESPECIALLY if it may hurt.
My congratulations to you good sir.
My question is about access. The guys over at PA have some reputation for "keepin it real" (Ocean Marketing and whatnot). Are you concerned at all that said reputation might hinder your work, specifically access to news items or sources?
If they don't like our coverage, fuck 'em. I have the budget to buy my own games and hardware, so I'm not scared of companies closing us out. I think after a time our work will speak for itself and more doors will be open than closed, but there is no way to do this job well without bruising some egos. It was the same way at Ars. I don't do much to censor myself, and I don't plan on starting, so I think the different sides of the site will get along just fine.