Video games have become a huge part of practically everyone’s childhood, but very few people have mastered the art of turning a childhood hobby into a fruitful profession. Creator Jerry Holkins is among such ones. He has turned a passion for games into a wildly successful webcomic, profitable children’s charity, gaming convention and more! As Holkins turned 43 on Wednesday, February 6, now is the perfect time to trace his exciting history.
Keith Gerald “Jerry” Holkins was born on February 6, 1976 in Washington, DC. Since he was a young child, Holkins was very interested in comics, video games, and the idea of becoming a writer. Eventually, Holkins partnered with illustrator Mike Krahulik to create the webcomic Penny Arcade. This comic initially debuted in 1998 on the Loony Games website, but has since evolved into its own website. Penny Arcade centers around Krahulik and Holkins’ cartoon alter egos, John “Gabe” Gabriel and Tycho Brahe, respectively. Although the strip occasionally draws from the authors’ personal experiences, the main focus is topical video gaming news. Primarily, the main characters spend their time either playing or commenting on computer and video games. The strip also has its own theme song, “Penny Arcade Theme,” written and performed by nerdcore artist MC Frontalot.
Outside of the webcomic, Krahulik and Holkins also produce a “fly-on-the-wall” style podcast. This podcast, entitled Downloadable Content, offers listeners a behind the scenes look at the creative process that goes into creating Penny Arcade strips. Through a partnership with Sabertooth Games, a collectible card game on the Penny Arcade franchise was released in 2006. Since then, Penny Arcade has ventured onto YouTube with a multi-season documentary series based on the the Penny Arcade company and its founders. Along with the the episodic video game Penny Arcade Adventures: On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, produced through Hothead Games and Zeboyd Games. Around the same time, in an effort to “refute mainstream media’s perception of gamers as violent and antisocial,” Krahulik and Holkins launched their charitable organization – Child’s Play.
As of 2017, Child’s Play had processed $40,292,852 in donations since its inception. The success of the organization inspired Krahulik and Holkins to sponsor a three-day gaming festival called the Penny Arcade Expo. Initially created as a small event dedicated exclusively for gaming, this show has grown into the series of gaming culture festivals known as PAX. These shows feature tabletop gaming, arcade gaming, video gaming, game-culture inspired concerts, panels on game topics, exhibitor booths from game developers and so much more. Today, PAX shows generate over 80,000 in attendance in annual events held in Seattle, Boston, Philadelphia, San Antonio, and Melbourne.
Holkins has managed to turn a passion for video games into a comic series that has 3.5 million readers, a multimillion-dollar charity, and a popular video game, card game, and gaming convention. All before the age of 45. Talk about a superstar.