Penny Arcade ads for ESRB unveiled

Web-comic creators design new campaign to convey to gamers how the ratings system affects them.

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Penny Arcade artist Mike Krahulik and writer Jerry Holkins last week revealed their participation with the Entertainment Software Ratings Board on an advertising campaign directed squarely at gamers. Today the ESRB officially announced the campaign, which will consist of five print ads set to roll out during the summer months, each featuring new characters created by Holkins and Krahulik that will correspond to a specific rating.

"In order for the campaign to resonate with the gamer audience, we sought to have a little 'edge' to the creative," said ESRB president Patricia Vance, "and let's face it, Penny Arcade comics give a whole new meaning to the term 'comic mischief!'"

Penny Arcade has plenty of "edge" to lend, having previously run strips that would likely fall into the M for Mature or even AO for Adults Only brackets of the ESRB's rating spectrum. Past strips have featured characters speculating on the possible incestuous antics of Saturday-morning cartoon stars, a robot that exists to crudely violate produce in a most suggestive way, and protagonists that have been known to kill each other in cold blood, with no resulting portrayal of real-world repercussions.

The ESRB ads will not make use of Penny Arcade's existing stable of characters, choosing instead to focus on original characters designed by the comic's creators. The first two ads (pictured) will depict E-rated audiences with Sarah, a pink-haired girl "around age seven or eight," and The Andersons, a father-and-son pair enjoying a game together.

Discussion

88 comments
Zaryus
Zaryus

Penny Arcade is doing a good job, I really think this idea can go places. I look forward to more of this.

mtncwru
mtncwru

As was pointed out on the PA website when Gabe and Tycho announced their involvement with this project, they support the presence of a rating system, given that both of them are now parents, and that their children will be gaming sooner or later. Given that this is a system that they both ostensibly support, I fail to see how this is selling out. Yes, the ESRB paid them for their time and effort, which is exactly what anyone would expect to happen for any professional services rendered. You think the guys at Rockstar get their ads pro bono? As for the idea of a rating system in general, I believe it's a good one for the same reason I believe that a film and television rating system is a good idea. Parents cannot be expected to pre-screen every iota of muti-media content that their children might be exposed to, but the existence of a rating system gives them another tool to help determine what is appropriate for their children. While it certainly isn't perfect (in TV, film, or gaming), it provides guidelines for parents, without causing outright censorship, as certain politicians would prefer to have.

Vi00
Vi00

Mad props to Gabe and Tycho for this. Its interesting that the phrase "sell out" has been uttered many times in this thread, but I put forth a question to all those people saying that: What are you doing to make the system any better? I'm sure that the resounding answer is nothing. Even if the PA guys are selling out (which I don't believe for a second) at least they are trying to make the rating system better insted of sitting around whining about it all the time. Besides these guys are dads now and have kids to think about. If I were a parent with their resources and influence I would like to think I would do the same in their position.

Corvin
Corvin

Theres no saying that these style of ads won't show up in more Parent-oriented magazines. It is certianly a good idea. Also any nay-sayers to ESRB, I would like to know what they think would really work better. Rating games isn't so easy as movies, everything in movie is there for you to see in plain sight. The idea that you could pick through every little bit of data involved in a game, is an unrealistic task, it would take forever. Proper rating of a game actually involves a bit of responsibility on the part of the devloper or publisher, or whoever it is that prepares the required data for review by the ESRB. If we had been seeing GTA games with T ratings, maybe it would be something to be upset about. The GTA stuff is really overblown in my opinion. I'd think it a bigger deal that a game with some pretty mature situations like Oblivion landed a 'T' rating and had to be re-rated. But that flies right under the radar because its not such a large foundation for pushing personal and political agendas, like those of Jack Thompson and HIllary Clinton.

stealth89
stealth89

...penny arcade selling out to ESRB?...gimme a break... thats the most ridiculous thing i have ever heard (aside from the whole G.W. Bush winning the election fare and square thing). they are just trying to make a difference, and trying and make parents and kids more aware of the rateings. i personally think this is a fantastic idea, although its a bit late in the game... maybe if they did this a few years earlier it would have made a much more of a noticed impact (ya know...before the whole GTA3 and all that horrific debauchery), so maybe parents would think: "hmm... maybe i shouldnt buy my 10 year old a game called grand theft auto...". and to all of those PA haters out there, what are you doing to help get parents and kids more aware of ESRB ratings? whats thats? your not doing anything? my, my... i would tell you to sftu and go wallow in your own self misery somewhere else, but i believe in letting people express their opinions (even if they are completely ridiculous).

panthols29
panthols29

I think this is a great idea, but it would be better if the ads were in more parent-oriented magazines. I don't think the issue is with people not understanding the ESRB, I think it is the fact that most parents are too oblivious to realise there is even a rating system in place. I know we have all seen a mother or father walk into a game store with their kids, and it's obvious the only thing they want to do is leave. So their kid hands them a game which they in turn hand to the cashier, without even looking at it. Those are the people who need to be educated on ESRB for the rating system to make a difference. The newer generations are getting better because more of us are gamers or at least have more exposure to video games, I know for certain that my kids wont be playing a game unless I am positive of the content. This is a good step in the right direction, and it's great to see Penny Arcade doing the adds, but this needs to be targeted at the parents who are too lazy to realise there is even a ratings system in place. That also requires, and I hate to have to say this, the parents to actually CARE what they expose their children to.

ZebulonPi
ZebulonPi

I love how, if you're popular, and then you do something that's condiered "not popular" by someone in your fan base, you've suddenly "sold out", like suddenly Gabe and Tycho won't be doing their own strip any more, it'll suddenly be done by outsourced Indian screenwriters and drawn by South Korean Anime sweatshops. These poor guys can defend video gaming with their very freedom (I'm looking a you, Mr. Thompson), can start an incredible charity which generates a ton of money for some very needy kids... yet the moment they do some art for the ESRB (which is ON OUR SIDE, people... they're the only people between us and CONGRESS telling us what we can buy), they're selling out. Gimme a $#%@ing break, people. Mike and Jerry, you guys rock, more power to you. Hell, I hope Apple let's you do their next ad campaign...

beorntheold
beorntheold

The day Tycho & Gabe sell out will be a sad one... But nothing indicates it will come anytime soon. When it comes to games and gamers PA are an institution. And if you ask yourself why that is I'm sure the word integrity will come to mind soon enough.

ICEman_Morgs
ICEman_Morgs

"Jack Thompson's preparing a statement for this one too, I'm sure... " Jack Thompson fears PA after they made a fool of him in that Charity Donation issue. He even got their web address wrong in his supposed "report to Police" for some BS issue. He's a pussycat with no claws.

Ikthog
Ikthog

The thing I like about Penny Arcade is that they are talented and successful, but they remain humble and genuinely honored that a group like the ESRB is interested in working with them. They're just doing their thing, and they actually have made quite a mark on the gaming world, but in the end, they don't think they're anything so amazing... and as such, they're not going to sit around pondering whether creating some ads for an industry organization, or making banner ads and comics to promote specific titles, or putting on a convention, or creating a collectible card game, are "selling out." They have opportunities to do cool things, and they take them. Sounds pretty much like the definition of success to me.

blargh123
blargh123

Well done to PA. The rating system by the ESRB needs to be brought to parents attention. If this is another step towards showing parents that, Hey, your 7 year old kid shouldn't be killing hookers with a chainsaw, then more power to them. The people who complain about PA selling out are probably just 13 year olds that know their parents won't buy them the next M rated game if they see these adds.

Jason_Carr
Jason_Carr

I think what PA is doing here is a great thing. Granted the ESRB system isn't perfect (who is, though?), but i do think that it does a pretty good job. I feel that this new ad campaign will really help the ESRB's effectiveness. After all, it's not really ESRB's fault if an idiot parent goes out and buy GTA for their 8 yo. As for the selling out all you guys keep going on about...it's bull*$. The guys at PA have yet to 'sell out' as far as I'm concerned. They're a site that posts a webcomic that's pretty much devoted to poking fun at the gaming industry. If they ever 'advertise' any product it's because they liked it and feel that their fanbase might enjoy it as well.

Iz-GOod
Iz-GOod

PA is not just a webcomic, their site is still very entertaining and interesting and I'm happy that they get to help the video game industry in their own way.

Strifeseer
Strifeseer

I'm a big fan of the PA guys and the work they are doing here. They are getting older, the gamers are getting older, and the industry is getting older and coming under attack by legislators and activists. In other words, the best thing we can do to protect our hobby is publicize the ratings system, and that is exactly what they are trying to do. If parents feel empowered to make the right choices, they won't be easy prey for anti-first amendment demagoguery.

R3last
R3last

Love the work, but I have to agree with mrblah00, my 7yr olds understand the ratings systems. It's the lazy use the tv for a babysitter parents who don't take active interest in what their children are doing that these ads should be targeted to. The system would work if the collective masses would pull their head out for a minute read the ratings and stop blaming everyone else for their lack of parenting skills.

nitzerebb6
nitzerebb6

Note to PA: Less political grand standing and getting on your soapboxes (ie regular 3 page daily blogs) and maybe try working on being funny again. I swear its like South Park, or worse... the last few seasons of Roseanne...

theshoveller
theshoveller

Jack Thompson's preparing a statement for this one too, I'm sure...

retroactively
retroactively

It seems to me that the majority of people who dislike the ESRB are the underaged gamers who have to shoulder-tap to get an M rated game. As for sell outs? They both agree with the ESRB, they both have kids, and somebody please name an instance when Penny Arcade ever charged people to view "premium" content?

Karjah
Karjah

Now this is far better then anything Jack Thompson has ever done and is FAR more productive. Way to make a good stand for gaming Penny Arcade.

foxhound421
foxhound421

looks good. not that the ESRB system should need explaining to anyone old enough to procreate, but whatever.

RuminaX
RuminaX

Anyone upset at Penny Arcade about this or calling them sell-outs really doesn't know Penny Arcade all that well. The esrb is (usually) a good system and you may want to stop and think about what gaming would be like if it wasn't there... a horde of Jack Thompsons would be incharge. Penny Arcade has taken oppurtunities at every turn to thwart Thomspons insane propaganda and this is just another step towards a GOOD solution.

Javier
Javier

so people are that dumb to notice that "E" means "everyone" and "M" means mature? If this is directed to the "gamer audience" then is pretty useless because this audience knows the difference between Pac-Man World and GTA. It should be emphazised towards non gamers or parents. I

takua4
takua4

This is a great move by PA, Gabe's art is some of my favorite. To those who say that PA is just a webcomic, you're very wrong. PA is by far the most popular webcomic on the internet, with a readership of millions. They are translated in numerous languages, the've raised almost a million dollars over the three years they've done Child's Play. PAX had 9,000 attendees last year. Their book sold out on Thinkgeek overnight. And as for selling out, that's just bull. If they were selling out, you'd see the PA logo on these ads. The characters would be from PA. Their web address isn't even on the poster at all. They're just supporting the ESRB rating system. Like with the PA Presents comics for UbiSoft and BradyGames, this is showing support, not selling out. There is no reason at all here for you to hate PA. These ads have nothing to do with their strip other than Gabe's art style.

maa4208
maa4208

I like this. Kudos to PA! :D

BadFortuneAndre
BadFortuneAndre

Never did like Penny Arcade much. Ctrl-Alt-Delete is 100 times more funny.

skullkrusher9
skullkrusher9

Nothing wrong with this, I like it, makes Jack Thompson look like an idiot.

ReyWing
ReyWing

uhmm... that took too much effort to read what was around the drawing, i'm sorry, i dont think a whole lot of people will take the effort to read that. drawing and writing is great though... but the placement and layout is just wacko!

dwmorrow
dwmorrow

Why target these ads at gamers? Parents are the ones who need to be aware of ESRB ratings, so they'll quit blaming software developers because their kids are playing inappropriate games. Then again, parents don't pay attention to movie ratings or explicit lyrics warnings on CDs, so maybe it's a hopeless cause.

killjoi
killjoi

Sexcellent. (S.uper Excellent).

SalenStormwing
SalenStormwing

I'm sure this will make Jack Thompson even more festive, or something.

DarkGord
DarkGord

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

DarkGord
DarkGord

This is so typical USA! If we (ESRB) can't get something done right, let us just put cash into ads that gloss over our failures and every thing will be good...

mretipi
mretipi

I don't get why people are hating Penny-Arcade for doing this. They should be commended in my opinion. Nice job to Gabe and Tycho for fighting the good fight for all video gamers!

FelixAndrews
FelixAndrews

...there's a hair in the scanner XD. I hate it when that happens. ._.

ShiroSirius
ShiroSirius

I'm not a huge fan of Gabe's art style, but the PA guys have to be commended for this. Hopefully this will cut down on the people instinctively calling censorship on every form of rating, and moaning about the system when they obviously don't understand it. Though the ratings system occasionally causes the larger developers (EA is one of the biggest culprits here, if I'm not mistaken) to self-censor their games to lower the rating, none of this is forced and it's important to remember that some of the most popular games series at the moment are ones with higher ratings. The way the text wraps around the characters is horrible though.

diablusx
diablusx

Ithink it is great that they did the advertisements showing what people should have already known. If you have kids you actually have to raise them.

J1nn
J1nn

lets hope this works or else every state is going to be fining young kids 25$ for buying a cool video game

Otacon84
Otacon84

If they do a comic for the AO rating, they need to have Jack Thompson in a rain coat with and a crazy deranged look in his eyes!

pathknyght
pathknyght

I have never understood how it is that anytime anyone that has a limited fan base, does a big project they are then sell out. These are bright colorful ads that do attract your attention. Which is far better then the bland posters that are out now. They just seem a bit limited, since they are only targeting gamers. Seriously these need to be in store posters, in non-gaming magazines, even an animated comercial running in more primetime slots. Working retail, I'm sure these ads would work better then the bland ESRB signs that say "Is it ok to play?"

MichaelMorbid
MichaelMorbid

so the penny arcade guys draw five drawings for the ESRB and it makes headlines? how does that change anything? now illiterate gamers will have a picture to go by? come on, the ESRB rating system is arbitrary and subjective in the first place. who the hell cares?

Goze
Goze

Yeah, good stuff... Both ESRB and PA will benefit, as well as gamers and their image in general. It's a win-win situation =). Thanks PA for supporting the industry.

StupidFox
StupidFox

Makes sense. The board was set up so that parents would understand the media their kids are picking up. PA's making sure the ESRB gets the chance to actually reach parents, while most parents of gamers probably don't even know what the ESRB is, currently. Video games need to be seen as a legitamate entertainment sector, and this'll help raise awareness of the industry's responsible nature.