Sunday, April 13, 2008


Fame among internet gamers was the last thing I had on my mind a decade ago when I left parish ministry to return to University. Indeed, I would have been foolish to think about it. Leaving a job in mid-life to go back to school is impractical enough; to do so with the hope that some day you will be cheered in the Bloor Cinema would be downright foolish. Like so many good things in life, it came about by accident. (But there are no accidents! you say. I'm not sure. There are things that sure act like accidents, and this was one of them. Whether you say accident or providence makes little difference, as long as you say "Thank you".)

I was a Junior Fellow of Trinity College. I was quite happily occupied with the study of what James I was up to on 12-18 January 1604 (scholarship has a narrow focus these days), the life of the Senior Common Room, and finding enough Church gigs to keep body and soul together. Out of the blue, it seemed, Geoff Lepaire, the Physics Don, asked if I could say “Coming soon”, the way they say it in cinematic trailers. So I said “Coming Soon”. I had no idea that Geoff and his friend Jarett Cale were just then taking the first steps towards a phenomenon.

A little later Geoff had me record “Coming soon”, and some lines about “Pure Pwnage,” whatever that was. (It’s pronounced “Pure Ownage” by the way … if that helps at all.) Then I just recorded the words "Pure Pwnage", then a strange series of questions. After that, from time to time Geoff would have me come and record some strange words. By this time, of course, I knew that Pure Pwnage was an internet TV series that tells the story of the pro-gamer Jeremy though the camera of his brother Kyle. I'm not going to give a synopsis; that's what the Wikipedia article is for.

My understanding of the series grew every time Geoff asked me to toddle along and record some lines. In episode 2, “Girls”, the questions I had recorded made sense, though to this day I insist that I had to learn one of them phonetically. In Episode 4, “Pwn Or Be Pwned” the character of “The_Masterer” appeared. Geoff played him on camera; I did the voice. Once I was even on camera (Episode 5, in “Kyle’s movie”, Strong Man, Angry Man). I love the appearances of Teh_Masterer (even though he sometimes sounds like a refugee from Hallmark - "It's the decisions you make when you have no time to make them that define who you are"). In the opening credits of each episode, that’s my voice saying "Pure Pwnage".

Financed by the sale of t-shirts and other paraphernalia, Pure Pwnage continued and became more and more famous. (But why have I never heard of it? I hear you ask. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that.) What all this meant never hit me until the first premier of an episode in the Bloor Cinema; but this calls for a digression.

I suppose I should have realized that people rented movie theatres to show their own films; if I had thought of it, though, I might have written it off as somewhat Florence Foster Jenkins-ish. Now I know better; some friends of mine seem to do it all the time. During the rise of Pure Pwnage, Geoff asked if I could record something for a friend from Massey College. For the premiere of his film Yellow Ninja Six: Sword of Sochi, Davin Lengyel wanted a real trailer (for a non-existent movie). This led to the wonderful moment of hearing myself say “If adventure had a name, you could find it in the phone book. Indiana James and the Campus of Doom.” Back to the main point.

The premiere was crowded and exciting, and showed me the effect of toddling along and recording a few words. I heard my voice boom out in a cinema again. Most amazing of all, a large number of pleasant young people seemed very glad to see me; several wanted pictures or autographs. I am grateful for their interest – even the ones who stop me in the street, look confused, and say, “You’re …. that guy … from that show!” I've been to a few premieres now, and I'd like the fans to know that their interest and kindness still surprises me a bit and definitely makes me feel good.

Pure Pwnage is up to sixteen episodes now. There have been premieres across Canada, in the States, in the UK and in Australia. Nonetheless, most people have never heard of it. Although I keep hearing that the world is “becoming one”, it seems that at the same time it is becoming more stratified. Thousands of people are fans of Pure Pwnage, but it has made barely a ripple in the parts of the world I usually inhabit. This would be fine, I suppose, except for one thing. Geoff and Jarret and the rest of the people who make Pure Pwnage are clever, talented, and inventive young Canadians, and deserve recognition in the wider culture. This series is mostly filmed in Toronto - particularly around U of T amd the Annex - and is seen all over the world.

Perhaps the most surprising thing - and the best thing I can say about the quality of the work - is that I, who haven't much interest in internet gaming (I even gave up pinball in about 1979), think it is odd enough to be interesting, well-written, and funny. Try it.
Of course, watching all sixteen episodes of Pure Pwnage might be too much of an immersion in the world of gaming. So if you have to choose, just watch the ones with Teh_Masterer!

Clicking on the title of this posting takes you to the Pure Pwnage page. You migt also like to check out the Indiana James Trailer:

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