Drawing toy-like figures that crack wise about child molestation, acting disabled and mentally ill in order to secure a job, eating a friend's cat and drowning babies with testicular sweat.
Just another couple of days at work for Christian Fundin and Pontus Madsen, the two Swedes (though Pontus is part Dane) who personally oversee their hilarious and immensely popular videogame webcomic Little Gamers, which first hit the web on Dec 1, 2000:
The comics are tight and punchy, rarely more than three panels and with a clear, uncluttered art direction that accentuates the dialogue. The comedy is reminiscent of Sacha Baron Cohen and South Park; foul mouths, no taboos, and no topic left off the table; be it Wikileaks, The Pirate Bay, The Pope, public healthcare or ninjas. It's difficult to get offended though, when the jokes are coming from little circle faces with dot eyes.
I got in touch with Pontus Madsen(writer, illustrator) and asked him frankly about ten years in the webcomic business, the videogame and webcomic industry as he sees it, and his take on the secret to Little Gamers' success.
Firstly, you guys have recently moved office. How did the move go?
The move went fine, though weíre not all done. We canít move our actual electronic apparatuses until we get the alarms installed, which leaves me working from home, and Christian from our old offices.
What inspired you to get into the webcomic scene?
Oh man, nothing special. It was more or less just by coincidence. See, me and Christian both have this weird thing we do where we see something that we like or enjoy, and we both go ďThis is great... but, we can do it better... letís tryĒ. So, after reading a few Penny Arcade strips back in the year 2000, Christian drew up a few characters and we were off.
Little Gamers recently celebrated its 10 year anniversary. How do you account for your staying power in keeping up a 3-times-a-week gaming webcomic?
Actually, I updated the comic 5 times a week up until we started our new company 2 years ago. And well, I donít know. One big key to being able to keep on updating the comic is the fact that I donít have to update the comic. Let me explain:
As soon as you have to do something, it will become work, and it will suck the fun out of it. Imagine that I was financially reliant on the comic to feed me. Sure, that might have made me think through stuff and expanded the comic more, but it would also have turned in to work, and slowly be something I did to get food, and not because I loved doing it anymore.
This is also called ďThe Metallica paradigmĒ. Artists doing it for the love of music, get big, and rely on it for income, and thus starting to be dicks and cheap bastards... and suck.
(left - right) Christian Fundin and Pontus Madsen's 10th anniversary photo
Those familiar with your work would be aware that you do not shy away from controversial topics. Have you had to deal with any serious backlash from any of the topics you have addressed?
Not really. A few idiots email me, bitching, and posts a few rants in the comments on the site, but other than that, nope, nothing.
Despite both being Swedish, you have always written your comic not only in English, but in leet speak. What was your motivation behind this?
English = Wider Audience. Itís as simple as that. The l33t-sp34k, well, that was just because it was something we were all about at the time the comic was started. Most people didnít understand it, and it was a way of standing out; being a bit ďundergroundĒ and having your own language that speaks to your followers.
You need to remember that when we used this back in the day; ďlolĒ, ďstfuĒ, ďafkĒ and mainstream abbreviations like that were actually included in the l33t-sp34k genre, and were not understood by most people.
What is your take on top European developers and publishers such as DICE, Crytek, Rocksteady Studios, Rare and Eidos and their acquisition by videogame development and publishing giants such as EA, Time Warner, Microsoft and Square Enix?
We all need to bring home the bacon. Some by selling their souls, some by selling a pig in a poke. Thatís more or less all I have to say about that.
Do you have any heroes in the videogame industry?
My friends in the industry, that still believe that they matter when it comes to how the game ends up. Poor naÔve fuckers. I admire their blissful ignorance.
What webcomics do you subscribe to?
None. Generally I donít read comics, never have. Probably never will. Of course I pop by Penny Arcade, Bunny, Weebl & Bob, Overcompensating, White Ninja, Boasas and Edible Dirt, but I donít have a feed.
You're no strangers to conventions. What are your favourite ones to go to and how do your fans react when they meet you in real life?
Favorites are SDCC and Otakon. We havenít been at any conventions now for 2-3 years though, which makes me sad, but, if you donít have the time or the cash, what are you supposed to do? Fans usually are totally normal, speaking to you like youíre just an old friend. Of course we get the occasional basket case, but thatís pretty fun too.
You have gained a cult following and have introduced forums and social media interaction on your site. To what extent do your fans drive your content?
They donít. Sure, people comment on the comics, but the forums are pretty dead. Mostly due to multiple server moves, and loss of the forum database a couple of times. As far as the fans controlling what is made into a comic, thatís not something that happens. The only thing is when they find spelling errors and shit like that, which I change fast!
Many webcomic creators have supplemented their work with video diaries, animated comics and even their own spin-off videogames. Do these elements interest you now or in the future?
Well. we just do the things that people approach us about more or less, if itís a good idea, weíll run with it. We actually had a game out on Xbox 360 a couple of months before Penny Arcade did (\o/). The guy who did that, LoÔc Dansart, also made our iPhone apps.
New things to do with the comic is nothing we actively look for; we have enough projects running anyway; our own design business and as of next month, an IRL design store too.
We made a couple of video diaries a couple of years ago, but only since we were out on the road in the US and because a couple of fans asked for it.
Finally, what games have you guys been playing?
I started FFXIV, since Iíd been looking forward to it a lot. Turned out it sucked ass, so now itís Dead Space 2, Starcraft 2, FFXIII (It sucks a bag of dicks, but I have to finish it) and Lux for the iPhone.