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the E A S T S I D E


Arts and Entertainment | December 2014


• The unauthorized history of Penny Arcade • The Eastside’s game development titans

PLUS • A conversation with Lachlan Patterson • A Christmas Story: The Musical returns home

141110 Crossroads Santa Photos Scene 9.5x11f.pdf

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8:32 PM

Table of Contents 4


Find out what’s hot in entertainment during the cold, cold month of December.

the E A S T S I D E


2700 Richards Rd, Suite 201, Bellevue 98005 For Advertising, call Jim Gatens 425.440.0437


Publisher William Shaw


How two Eastsiders built a gaming empire out of Redmond.

Editor/Layout Daniel Nash Production Designer Diana Nelson Contributing Writers Yekta Aarabi Bryan Trude



Lachlan Patterson discusses Last Comic Standing and overcoming stage fright.


The musical adaptation of A Christmas Story returns to Seattle.


ON THE COVER: Photo by Daniel Nash Model: Sam Boucher


City of Bellevue and Tateuchi Center

Find out more

Tell us what you think


Bring this community conversation to your organization or group. Learn how Tateuchi Center will benefit and enrich the arts and culture of Bellevue and the Eastside. 425-452-4105 or for scheduling

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The Don’t-Miss List


em Dec

DO | The Seattle Christmas Ship Festival

Dating back to 1949, the Seattle Christmas Ship Festival is the defining seasonal celebration for Puget Sound and Lake Washington waterfront communities. Led by the Argosy Cruises liner “Spirit of Seattle,” a parade of resplendent vessels sail the Seattle waters for an evening of caroling, dining, and fun with Santa as the procession stops in harbors for performances both public and private. Festivities kicked off in November, however the first sailing from the Kirkland City Dock will take place Dec. 6. For a full price and schedule table, visit www. Pricing: Varies by boat and event.

LISTEN | The Sammamish Symphony Orchestra Presents: “Holiday Pops”

PLAY | The Crew

The race is whatever you make it, and the United States is your racetrack. An ambitious entry in the open world racing genre, Ubisoft’s “The Crew” puts players behind the wheel in an open world representation of the United States so massive, it takes almost a real world hour to drive nonstop from coast to coast. Originally slated for a November release, “The Crew” will release for next generation consoles and the PC. Platform: Windows, PS4, Xbox One Release Date: Dec. 2

WATCH | The Nutcracker

It is a timeless story of Clara, who finds herself in a magical world on Christmas Eve when a gifted nutcracker comes to life. “The Nutcracker,” the Russian masterpiece of choreographers Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov, and composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, will be presented by the Evergreen City Ballet in two performance weekends in Kirkland and Renton. Kirkland will be presenting a one hour version for younger viewers, while Renton will present a full twohour version. Visit for more information Where: Lake Washington Performing Arts Center, Kirkland (Dec. 13 - 14); Renton IKEA Performing Arts Center, Renton (Dec. 20 - 21) Price: $14 - $25 Kirkland, $14 - $32 Renton.

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Since 1996, we’ve helped thousands of people receive the personal care and companionship they need to stay in their own homes. See if we’re the right choice for you. Seattle: 206.545.1092 Bellevue/Eastside: 425.455.2004 Tacoma/Pierce County: 253.761.8019 A Washington State Licensed Home Care Agency

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The Sammamish Symphony Orchestra will kick December off with a pop as they perform holiday classics both old and new. “The Sammamish Symphony Orchestra presents: Holiday Pops” will delight audiences young and old in two engagements in the Eastside, performing in Bellevue at the Meydenbauer Theatre, and in Sammamish at the Eastlake Performing Arts Center. Tickets are available online at When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 5 (Bellevue), 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7 (Sammamish).

LAUGH | Parlor Live @ Lincoln Square Presents: Aries Spears

A veteran of “MADTv” for eight years, Aries Spears has also appeared on “Def Comedy Jam” and as Tee Pee in the Tom Cruise film “Jerry Maguire.” Renowned for his quick wit and aggressive style of comedy, Spears will host five engagements at Parlor Live’s Lincoln Square comedy club in Bellevue. A 21+ facility, all engagements come with a two-item minimum purchase and an automatic 20 percent gratuity. Tickets begin at $25 and are available at When: Dec. 18 - 20.

DRINK | The Best Damn Happy Hour Ever @ Seattle Center

Seattle is a hard city. People work hard, they play hard, and once a month at the Seattle Center’s Armory, they play hard at the self-styled Best. Damn. Happy Hour. Ever. Anyone 21 or older is eligible to get in, no cover, to enjoy mingling and relaxation with some of the best food and drink Seattle has to offer. Once full and sloshed, partiers can take part in giant board games, cards and old-style video gaming. When: 5 p.m. - 8 p.m. every third Thursday (Dec. 18)

Credit: Argosy Cruises


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The history of Penny Arcade by Daniel Nash Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins at San Diego Comicon 2009. Credit: User Wikibofh on Wikimedia Commons


How do you determine the video game capital of America? Do you go by attrition, counting the raw numbers of game developers? If so, according to a 2012 study by measuring numbers of development studios, the Seattle metro area is the third leading region in North America producing video games, behind Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. Do you determine it as a measure of market share? As the home of the XBox and Nintendo of America, the Eastside lays claim to two-thirds of the home console market. The influence of software titan Microsoft in particular, through its dual foothold in console and Windows game development, is indisputable. Bungie Software conspicuously moved from Chicago to Bellevue after Microsoft purchased the developer in 2000 and made “Halo: Combat Evolved” the killer app for the first XBox. “Halo” became a multibillion dollar franchise of games, books and video (a digital-first miniseries launched on XBox Live this year and a Steven Spielberg produced televisions series is expected to debut on Showtime in 2015) that evolved beyond Bungie’s involvement. Since separating from Microsoft, Bungie continues to do business in Bellevue, Wash. and has most recently launched the wildly successful “Destiny.” And Microsoft’s late-‘90s largesse indirectly spawned Valve Software, the 800-gorilla of PC gaming. Early Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington used the millions they had made from their stock options to fund the development of the seminal first-

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person shooter “Half-Life.” Revenues from Valve’s digital retail platform Steam — which launched concurrently with “Half-Life 2” in 2003 and has 100 million active users today — have allowed the company to become a bit of an industry unicorn, offering developers job security in a think tank environment free of rigid deadlines or top-down management. Market share give us a starting point for anointing the Eastside the video game capital of America, but that metric only considers the economic side of the equation. Video games aren’t mere pixelated commodities — they haven’t been since the heyday of Atari. Modern games are cultural products, employing visual artists, writers and voice actors with as much aplomb as programmers and map designers. Fans, in turn, have made the references and in-jokes from their favorite games into a cultural currency with their peers. The Eastside may be called the video game capital of America but for reasons that have little to do with their makers and everything to do with two superfans and self-described JPEG merchants who turned a comic strip about games into a personal empire including merchandise, three conventions, a multimillion-dollar charity and a cultural cache normally reserved for rock stars.

Humble origins In November 1998, 10 days after “Half-Life” was released on PC, writer Jerry Holkins and artist Mike Krahulik published the first Penny Arcade strip on The early strips were crudely drawn,

cruder in their sense of humor, often surreal — recurring characters included an alcoholic DIVX player, a producemolesting fruit juicer and Jesus — and absolutely inaccessible to anyone who wasn’t familiar with “gamer problems” like long “SiN” load times or the perilous development of “Daikatana.” The main characters, Gabe and Tycho, were perfect analogs for the average gamer in the late ‘90s: roommates who bonded and bickered over their shared hobby, while often finding themselves baffled by an outside world that hadn’t yet accepted video games into the mainstream. The characters would eventually become online avatars for their creators — Krahulik as Gabe and Holkins as Tycho — but for the time being they merely resembled them. Holkins was three years ahead of Krahulik when they met in a journalism class at Mead High School in Spokane, in 1993. Holkins was a staff writer for the campus newspaper and Krahulik wanted to publish his drawings. “I didn’t really grow up reading comics,” Holkins told WIRED’s Chris Baker in a foreword to the book The Splendid Magic of Penny Arcade. “I mean, I was a total dork, don’t get me wrong. But I didn’t have a tremendous amount of exposure to the comic book medium. Still, I knew that what I was looking at was good.” They connected over their shared love of video games and their social outcast status but, personality-wise, they were complementary opposites. Holkins had grown up with a doting single mother who loved indulging his interest in the written word and delighted

at receiving her son’s poetry for Christmas. Consequently, he didn’t place much stock in other people’s opinions of him and reveled in playing the role of the eccentric. He was a drama geek and a lead singer in two bands — despite his instinct to cultivate an off-putting personality he was, for all intents and purposes, an extrovert. Krahulik, on the other hand, was painfully shy and loath to break rules or social norms. He had grown up in a religious household and was traumatized by the untimely death of his brother. “My brother overdosed when I was still in high school,” he wrote in a 2013 AMA on Reddit. “Watching him and his struggles had a big effect on me. I was scared to death of all drugs not just the illegal ones. I tried not to take aspirin or even vitamins. I didn’t drink or use anything I thought might be addictive.” Krahulik’s father wanted his son to pursue a more practical career than comic book artistry. Holkins was one of the few people Krahulik would readily show his drawings. After Krahulik graduated high school, the two men rented an apartment together. Holkins had a well-paying job in the IT department of a local school district and paid the lion’s share of rent in order to keep his gaming buddy and creative partner close. They had collaborated on comic strips in high school and continued to bounce ideas for superhero comics off of each other. But it was in their shared apartment that they began to believe they could make a comic about video games.

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continued from page 6 Becoming a business Penny Arcade began in the early days of the dot-com bubble, when retailers were just beginning to feel out the potential of online sales. For creative work, the Internet was still the Wild West. Artists could make their work available to the public easily. But making a living off that work? That was a horse of a different color. In 1999, they sold the rights to Penny Arcade to eFront, a web-hosting company that promised advertising revenue to the web masters in its network. It would prove to be a bad move. eFront was hemorrhaging money and making greater and greater demands on its web masters to run ads. Krahulik encouraged other web masters to protest the company’s directions, leading to bad blood on both sides. They regained the rights to the Penny Arcade name after eFront folded and began living off of reader donations and advertisements sold at well below market value. Holkins and Krahulik took home thousands while readership grew to the millions. Robert Khoo, then the lead business analyst for a market consultancy, took notice. He offered two months of free labor to whip Penny Arcade into a sustainable business. Today, Khoo oversees every aspect of the brand that would otherwise distract Holkins and Krahulik from what they do best: making the comic. Under Khoo, Penny Arcade opened an online store and began selling ads under more favorable terms. As Penny Arcade became financially strong, Khoo organized the first Penny Arcade Expo — a gaming convention for fans, as opposed to the press-oriented Electronic Entertainment Expo — at the Meydenbauer Center in 2004. PAX moved to the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle in 2007. Demand eventually led to additional conventions in Boston and Australia. At the first Seattle PAX, during a packed question-and-answer panel with Holkins and Krahulik, a fan asked the Penny Arcade creators how much they were making off their comic. The two men hemmed and hawed for a few moments before Krahulik answered. “Let me put it this way,” he said. “I drive a f***ing Mercedes.”

Gamers are people too You might guess Penny Arcade is

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foulmouthed. Occasionally, it’s violent — cartoonishly so, in the vein of Tom and Jerry (or, more accurately, The Simpsons’ Itchy and Scratchy). In an old recurring gag in the strip, either Gabe or Tycho would murder the other, the survivor taking possession of a coveted Pac-Man watch. In other words, it’s not the type of comic a content-conscious parent might let their child read. But Holkins and Krahulik bristled at the negative attention gamers received in the mainstream media following the 1998 mass shooting at Columbine High School. Senator Joe Lieberman had already made a name for himself earlier in the decade by holding hearings on violent games like Mortal Kombat, which led to the creation of the ESRB. In the wake of the Columbine massacre, Lieberman connected Eric Harris’ and Dylan Klebold’s violent tendencies to the first-person shooter Doom. The senator decried what he called “a culture of carnage” brought about by violent media. Florida attorney Jack Thompson — disbarred by the state Supreme Court in 2008 — was perhaps the most vocal opponent of violent video games, often referring to them as “murder simulators.” Holkins and Krahulik would butt heads with Thompson in 2006. The prior year, Thompson wrote an open letter to the Entertainment Software Association — titled “a modest video game proposal.” In it, he proposed video game producers create a game in which the grieving father of a child killed by a computer gamer takes vengeance by murdering members of the gaming industry. If someone made that game, Thompson wrote, he would donate $10,000 to the charity of Take-Two Interactive chairman Paul Eibler’s choice. Someone did make that game. A team of five designers working under the name Thompsonsoft released “I’m O.K. - A Murder Simulator” not long after the letter was published. His bluff called, Thompson backpedaled and claimed his offer was nothing but a joke. Holkins and Krahulik decided they would make a $10,000 donation in his stead. It arrived at the office of the Entertainment Software Association Foundation with the memo, “For Jack Thompson because Jack Thompson won’t.” The Penny Arcade creators founded their own charitable organization, Child’s Play, in 2003 in response to a column, “Violent video games are training children to kill,” by Bill France of the Daily Herald. Child’s Play provides toys and games to hospitalized children. In 11 years, it’s taken in more than $25 million in donations. More online at

Gaming Mecca

Seattle has long been promoted as a major center in the gaming industry. No more so than the Eastside, where developers and publishers great and small make their home.

343 Industries Located in Kirkland, this studio was founded by Microsoft to take over development and production of the popular “Halo” franchise following the separation of Microsoft and Bungie Studios, beginning with “Halo 4.” The studio is due to release “Halo: Spartan Strike” for Steam and Windows platforms this month, followed by the release of the Xbox One’s first “Halo” title, “Halo 5: Guardians” in 2015.

ArenaNet A subsidiary of Korean MMO developer NCSoft, this Bellevue company founded in 2000 is the developer of the “Guild Wars” series of MMORPGs. The company was founded as Triforge Inc. by former employees of Blizzard Entertainment who led development of the gaming network.

Bungie Inc. Founded in Chicago in 1991, Bungie is most known for the creation and development of the “Halo” franchise before the IP was left to Microsoft during the two’s split. Before being acquired by Microsoft in 2000, Bungie is also responsible for the “Myth” and “Marathon” franchises.

DreamBox A mid-size studio located in Bellevue, DreamBox develops online educational games, particularly in mathematics. DreamBox is also the developer of an intelligent adaptive learning engine that develops customized learning paths based on student choices and decision making.

Valve The developer behind the immensely successful “Steam” online retail platform, Valve Inc. began in 1998 with the release of the original “Half-Life” shooter. Other titles developed by this Bellevue developer include “Portal,” “Counterstrike,” “Team Fortress 2,” “Left 4 Dead” and “DOTA 2.”

Wizards of the Coast Headquartered in Renton, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) is not a video game developer moreso than a developer of tabletop titles whom have licensed their properties for video game development. Franchises in the WotC stable include “Dungeons and Dragons,” “Magic: The Gathering,” and the “Pokemon” trading card game. - Bryan Trude

Conversations with Funny People

Lachlan Patterson Lachlan Patterson finished the the most recent season of Last Comic Standing in August, making it to the final episode before being voted out in favor of Atlanta comic Rod Man. But he’s not done with the show yet -- not even a month after the season finale Patterson was swept onto the series’ comedy tour, which he was still traveling with at the time of his interview with The Eastside Scene. Patterson, who will perform at Parlor Live Jan. 1-3, discusses sudden fame, overcoming fears and the details publicists don’t want their clients to share. by Daniel Nash Hey Lachlan, thanks for talking with me. How’s Indiana?

on the Last Comic Standing tour and we’ve just been traveling nonstop. We drive through the night and then we get to the hotel in the morning and I go to sleep in the morning. I just woke up and I don’t know where I am. I’m not sure what state I’m in, even. I know there’s a giant water tower outside my window with “Effingham” written on it. So I just assume that’s the name of where I am.

Did you go right from Last Comic Standing to the tour?

LP: It started a month later. We had a month to get prepared

to get a few shows in and get ready. I had weekends in a few different cities that let me warm up. I’m actually really excited to go to Bellevue. I’m from Vancouver (British Columbia), so I’m a native of the Pacific Northwest. Any chance I get to get up there is great. They’re my people. What has it been like to go from performing comedy before Last Comic Standing to performing after you’ve had network exposure?

LP: Yeah it’s been amazing. I never had this before. People

would come to my shows and say “you’re going to be great” or “you’re the funniest comedian.” But then there’s only been 40 people in the audience of the clubs. Now shows are sold out, people are complaining about not getting tickets on time. It’s been a huge boost for me and it’s really exciting. It’s very new so I’m still a little bit... I don’t know what the word is. You performed for the first time when you were 19. What possessed you to try standup at that age?

LP: Well I think that early on I was a bit of a- I don’t want to say a bit of a daredevil. I was tired of being afraid of things so I started to challenge myself in different areas. And one of my greatest fears was talking to people. When I was 16, I had a job pumping gas and my supervisor asked me to engage more with the customers driving in. Just “good afternoon sir or ma’am” and I couldn’t do that.

It was always a difficult thing for me, talking to people. I was tired of being afraid, I couldn’t live with it. So I called up a comedy club, asked when an open mic was and found out I could get on stage the next Thursday. I got up frightened as hell, drunk -- I’m sure I was wasted -- and performed a set that probably wasn’t very funny. But I overcame the fear. When exactly did you realize there was nothing to be afraid of?

LP: I think after the first joke. I think most comics will say the same thing. We’re all still afraid when we get up on stage. Every night I go up and wonder if this audience will like me. But after the first laugh that all evaporates. So you started when you were 19. How old are you now?

LP: I’m not supposed to tell you according to my publicist. Really.

LP: Yeah, apparently. It’s one of those things publicists don’t want people to know about their clients that I would probably be, I don’t know, I guess ignorant enough to share if left to my own devices. (chuckles) But I can tell you I have been doing comedy for a long time now. Let’s see: I did that first show when I was 19, I took a break and I started to pursue it as a career in ‘97.


LACHLAN: Is that where I am? I’m not even sure. I’ve been

So you weren’t pursuing it as a career immediately?

LP: It was more something I felt I needed to conquer, the speaking. And I was like, “OK, fear conquered. On to the next thing. And I tried a few things -- graphic design was one, I tried to be a graphic designer for a while -- I kept trying all sorts of things and nothing seemed to work out. I went back to college -- I wasn’t enjoying college, but I went back to college. But I had a lot of space between

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A Christmas Story comes home


By Josh Stilts, Bellevue Reporter Brandon Ivie had no idea so much of his life would be devoted to Christmas, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. The Eastside native and Newport High School alum, has spent the last five years working on various iterations of the Broadway smash hit musical “A Christmas Story,” the story of young boy bound and determined to get a Red Rider carbine action BB gun as his present. After serving as the shows casting director during its first production at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre in 2009, Ivie was hired as the assistant director when it began its Broadway tour. Now he’s returned home to direct his own version of the show, which opens this month back where it all started at the 5th Avenue, and he couldn’t be more thrilled, he said. “This is the perfect show for our Seattle talent pool,” Ivie said. “Broadway directors are always blown away by the talent of our kids, and our adult actors work perfectly as ensemble casts. This show has a lot of kooky characters that pop in and out of the show.” Based on the life of radio legend Jean Shepherd, who wrote and narrated the 1983 film of the same name, and the book, “In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash,” the inspiration for both, follows Ralphie, a child in the 1940s who is trying to convince anyone and everyone the BB gun is the only gift for him this year. Played by Mark Jeffrey James Weber, in his return to The 5th Avenue following his performance of Oliver Twist in “Oliver!” Weber had exactly what Ivie said he was looking for. “The kids in this show are real, wideeyed, honest kids,” he said. “They’re not glossy, they’re just really talented … there were so many good kids, it was hard to whittle them down.” And while the show’s primary focus is Ralphie’s quest, Ivie said there’s a deeper,

continued from previous page classes and I saw a standup class at the night school. I took that class and it was the first time ever I thought I found something I was supposed to do. Which comedian’s album is on your playlist right now?

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more meaningful story at the core of the movie and the musical. “What I think is really lovely about the show is that it’s about family, and slowing down to appreciate the time we have with them,” Ivie said. “This show is really about a child trying to connect with his old man. In that way, this show is universal. Everyone can find something in this show to relate to their own holiday traditions. The themes are just as universal now as they were back then … they carry through generations.” In order to convey the importance of the family dynamic in the show, Ivie said it was paramount he find the right man and woman to play Ralphie’s mom and old man. He didn’t have to look far, or for long, he said, turning to real life husbandand-wife duo Dane Stokinger and Jessica Skerritt. “Finding the family group that was going to be most dynamic, Jessica and Dane already had that built in connection as a married couple … They’re honest, sincere, as opposed to slick and polished,” he said. “They’re real, heart of America people who also happen to be great singers and dancers.” But Ivie isn’t the only Newport-grown talent performing in the show. Sarah Rose Davis, who attended the school at the same time as Ivie, was cast in the ensemble, playing various roles including one of Ralphie’s friend’s mother, and an angry minion elf during the scene at the mall when Ralphie goes to visit Santa. Rose Davis said Ivie, like the show, has developed and matured. In his late teens and early twenties hosting various musical gigs, she said Ivie was more nervous, often bantering more than he needed. Now, he, his bantering, and the show are polished, streamlined, she said. Instead of overdirecting, trying to control every moment, Ivie takes a relaxed approached, allowing the actors to develop the scene themselves, Rose Davis said. “He lets the moment evolve,” she said.

LP: Let’s see: I’ve got Gaffigan, I’ve got Daniel Tosh (Lachlan was a performer on Tosh.0), I’ve got Bill Burr. I’ve got Louis CK … John Mulaney … Norm MacDonald. So a lot of acerbic comics. Well, maybe not Mulaney, but a lot of comics with some bite in their act.

“He always makes it comfortable, and provides a good reference or image when he’s trying to describe what he’s going for. He helps us find the strength that’s already in us and stretches us to find new things

LP: Yeah. They’re sarcastic, they’re very observational. What I like about them is they really let the joke kind of speak for itself. They don’t oversell it, they like good writing… it’s just so polished and every word they say, sometimes you go, “Oh that’s the perfect word for that.” A lot of comedians are born with the gift or the voice and

we didn’t know we had.” “A Christmas Story” opens Nov. 25, and runs through Dec. 30. Tickets start at $29. For more information visit

others have to go to the drawing board and really write a joke so that it can stand on its own. They don’t have the natural funniness to entertain by themselves, so they have to work harder behind the scenes. Which type of comic do you consider yourself?

LP: I don’t put myself anywhere near those comedians although I do aspire to be like them. I don’t feel I’m a funny looking person or a funny sounding person. I can’t do fat jokes, I can’t do “I’m such a dork, I’m such a nerd.” So I’ve really found myself having to write material that has to be funny in and of itself.

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theEastside Scene - December 2014  


theEastside Scene - December 2014