Why Pure Pwnage Pwns


Pure Pwnage is a mockumentary series about gamers and gamer culture that started as a joke by two guys from Toronto and eventually grew out into an Internet sensation with millions of fans. Although the show has a large and dedicated following, it’s not as well known outside of that group, and that’s why I wanted to give you guys an introduction to the show.

Pure Pwnage (pronounced “pure ownage”) is centered around Jeremy, better known online as “teh_pwnerer.” Jeremy spends most of his days sleeping and his nights playing RTS online. His brother Kyle, a film student, follows Jeremy around and documents his life. Because Jeremy spends most of his time on his computer, encounters with the real world are usually somewhat awkward. He sees everything in gaming terms and often needs Kyle to put things into context. Kyle is not proficient at games but prefers movies and is often the subject of ridicule from Jeremy.

Jeremy’s best friend is the somewhat unstable Doug, an FPS player that occasionally has trouble distinguishing the gaming world from real life. He runs around outside with a knife because he thinks it makes him run faster, like it does in Counter-Strike and other FPS games. The character is responsible for popularizing the phrase “Boom Headshot!” Other major characters are Jeremy’s MMO playing girlfriend Tagi, the stoic Dave and the cool and laid-back T-Bag.

It all started in 2004, when Geoff Lapaire (Kyle) and Jarett Cale (Jeremy) created a trailer for a fictional show as test footage for Geoff’s editing software. Jarett came up with the character Jeremy, based on the stereotypical loud-mouthed gamers he encountered online. They shared the trailer online and after it got lots of positive feedback, they decided to shoot an actual episode. After that, the audience only grew and Jarett and Geoff invested more time and effort in the show. By the end of the first season of twelve episodes, the show had gone from grainy 10-15 minute episodes shot with a borrowed university camera to full-length episodes shot with semi-professional equipment. The viewership went from a few hundred for the earliest content to millions for the final episodes, with episode premiere screenings in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.

What I love about this show is that it understands gamers and gamer culture more than any other show or film I’ve ever seen. When gaming is featured in mainstream films and TV shows, it’s usually cringe-worthy, and painfully obvious that the people behind it aren’t real gamers that “get” the culture. The opposite is the case for Pure Pwnage, and it translates into every aspect of the show, from the subjects of the episodes, like MMO addiction and misconceptions about gamers, to the jokes throughout the series. I think this explains the major following the show has. It’s all very relatable.

It’s interesting to note that the amazing success of Pure Pwnage probably would not have been possible without its innovative business model. The creators of the show distributed their content for free using BitTorrent and started selling merchandise on
their website to increase the budget for subsequent episodes. This way they remained independent but were still able to keep improving the show as more people from around the world started watching and buying from the site to support the project. You often hear accusations that the internet is destroying culture because online sharing is allegedly taking away artists’ livelihoods and incentive, but projects like this illustrate that the opposite can be the case and the internet can be a wonderful way for content creators to get their material out there.

After eighteen web episodes, a Canadian TV network picked up the show in 2009, and eight new episodes were shot and aired in 2010. The TV show was not a continuation of the web series, but a reboot of the story, with some differences in the cast and plot. It was a bit dumbed-down and felt a little childish compared to the web series, probably to reach a wider audience, but overall it stayed true to its online roots, so I still liked it a lot. Despite the fact that the TV show was well received and even won a Gemini Award (a Canadian Emmy), it was discontinued after the first season. Although the show is not officially dead, no new plans have been announced and the creators have indicated it’s highly unlikely that there will be new content.

Even though it’s probably over, I feel the show deserves some extra exposure, since I think there are still a lot of people out there that are unfamiliar with Pure Pwnage, but would enjoy the show immensely if they came into contact with it. During the initial run of the web series, when it would take months before a new episode was released, I checked the site daily hoping to see an update. Now that the show’s run is over, I go back and re-watch the entire series every few months. For me it never gets old, and I hope the show can have the same impact on some new fans.

You can watch the web series for free on the official Pure Pwnage website here, and the TV series is now available on Hulu in the United States. If you are a gamer or have any affinity for gaming culture, I heartily recommend you check it out.

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Guest Nerd