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September 3
2013

PAX Honesty Time: Pulling Dickwolves Merchandise Was “A Mistake”

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mike23
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The 2013 Penny Arcade Expo took place this past weekend! And, as fate would have it, there is once again controversy surrounding Mike Krahulik as he fires another bullet into the Penny Arcade Dickwolves timeline.

For those not up-to-speed with the debacle: back in 2010, Mike and Jerry, the creators of Penny Arcade, posted a comic called “The Sixth Slave”, featuring a character talking about “dickwolves” and some grim allusions to rape in an attempt at “dark humour” (trigger warning for discussions of rape: “The Sixth Slave“). And ever since, they’ve been attempting to defend and justify their comic – most significantly by creating women’s T-Shirts with a “dickwolves” logo on the front, which was pulled almost two months later. And now, the controversy has been reignited – surrounded by a number of other controversies that highlight problems with Penny Arcade’s management, including Mike Krahulik’s recent transphobic comments.

mike23

At Monday’s panel, Robert Khoo asked Mike and Jerry if they had any regrets over the years at building up Penny Arcade:

Robert Khoo: I mean, speaking of, I know the three of us have like, a really great working relationship, like, probably the best given the circumstances that we were thrown together in, given our personalities, it really is sort of a dream scenario, I couldn’t have written any better. But, is there anything you wish I would do better, or anything you resent me for doing or saying, or um… besides this panel. Outside of this panel.

Mike Krahulik (Gabe): This is honesty time?

Khoo: Honesty time, yeah. Absolutely.

Gabe: I… You know that I don’t hold grudges.

Khoo: Alright

Gabe: Like, I can be incredibly mad and then fine the next minute, so long as I get it out.

Khoo: Okay.

Gabe: And I feel like we got this out, so I’m not mad about it anymore.

Khoo: Alright.

Gabe: But…I think that pulling the Dickwolves merchandise was a mistake.

Khoo: Clearly, had I known the falling steps that would follow after that move, I would never have brought it up to you. Course I wouldn’t have, because I did not know… I mean, I don’t wanna say “Alright, well, because of this, this happened, people said this, I said this, you said that, clearly it would have just been better to just like, not say anything. That’s sort of our policy on all these types of things now where it’s like, it’s just better not to engage. And in fact, pulling it was, in a way, enga-

Gabe: – engaging -

Khoo: – A way of engaging. And then, then you actually engage. That was a direct result of pulling. And I totally agree. I totally agree.

Gabe: Okay.

Audience Member: Bring it back!

Khoo: No, that’s a terrible idea.

The full video can be seen over at TwitchTV, with this particular segment found at 2h, 35 minutes onwards.

Mike’s statement is more contentious in light of his previous outright dismissal of trans* people over on Twitter, his hurried justification, and both of his dubious apologies that seemed to suggest he was done talking about the issue – a sentiment echoed on the panel itself.

Robert Khoo mentions that it’s PA’s policy to not engage, but doesn’t state exactly what it is they refuse to engage with – one would imagine it would be a refusal to engage with critics, considering that by hosting PAX at all, they’re very definitely engaging – with creators and with fans.

It does make a strange sort of sense that the policy of the folks at Penny Arcade would be one of refusing to engage , especially in light of the recent discussions online about the ubiquitousness of harassment of creators and developers, where not engaging can be the only way to prevent an escalation of hostility aimed at the developer. On the other hand, there’s a line between harassment and genuine critique – and an inability or outright refusal to engage with critics just looks like the guys at PAX want to avoid accountability for their actions.

PAX-Prime-Logo

Budding off from this is a discussion (or an argument, depending) where the question of “Why doesn’t everyone just avoid PAX?” is being floated once again. Proponents of distancing from, separating from or outright boycotting PAX have made it clear that attending and supporting PAX is still implicitly supporting an unsupportive, unsafe and exclusivist environment (as well as PA’s Gabe and Tycho) – and that refusing to associate with PAX is the best way forward; others feel that, while a noble and laudable idea, this solution may also hurt people dependent on showcasing their work at PAX – as Christine Love said on Twitter, “Being unable to pay rent is not a revolutionary act”. Boycotts are only effective if affordable, accessible and amenable alternatives can be found, and there are many already in existence that build inclusivity and support into their framework – such as GeekGirlCon, 9Worlds, GaymerX, NoShowCon, and many others. Still, as one of the biggest gaming conventions in the world, those showcasing games at PAX may find that they experience a dip in income until these alternative conventions attract more attention.

Nonetheless, some companies have already made the difficult decision not to show at PAX, including The Fullbright Company, behind the recent indie game Gone Home. Whether this will be the event that pushes others to help build a more inclusive space for gamers and creators remains to be seen.

 

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About Mitch Alexander

(Writer) Mitch Alexander is a Game Design graduate, designer and critic from Glasgow, Scotland. who usually talks about things you get into deep discussions about at 3am, like Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem, The Mothman Prophecies, The Invisibles, or how creepy monkeys are. They're so, so creepy.

11 Responses

  1. avatar leap says:

    Why has Penny Arcade become the whipping boy around here? It just feels mean spirited at this point. What do they have to do to satisfy people? Mike even donated $20,000 out of his own pocket to The Trevor Project.

    I’m just tired of this hate fest aimed at people who at the very worst are neutral to the LGBT cause. Why not focus it on people who are doing actual damage?

    • It’s not that PA is the “whipping boy”; its that the folk at PA keep doing and saying things that a lot of people – especially LGBTQ+ people – find difficult to justify. The fact that he threw money at the Trevor Project doesn’t mean that everything’s cool and groovy now – especially given the furore that the “Dickwolves” comic & merch created. Not everyone feels PA are neutral to “the LGBT cause” either, as demonstrated recently by their handling of Mike Krahulik’s transphobic comments – they may not be meaning to do any harm, or they may not have anything against queer folk, but that doesn’t mean that we should ignore the voices of queer folk who feel their actions are damaging in some way.

      Further to that, there’s no reason we can’t focus on the problems people have had with Penny Arcade as well as/in addition to bigger issues; http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/04/12/faq-why-are-you-concentrating-on-x-when-y-is-so-much-more-important/

  2. avatar Michael says:

    I do not follow penny arcade, I never liked their comics. They just weren’t funny to me. But I hear of them all the time. Rather, the wrongs their creators do. Yet I can’t figure out why. I’ve reviewed the material condemning him and found nothing wrong with it.

    We attack him because he was trying to defend himself against an attack? That “recent transphobic comment” was him defending himself against someone attacking him. Not meant as an attack on the many. He worded it very poorly. As everyone has done before and will do again. He’s apologized. Profusely.

    No, he’s not sorry for dickwolves. He shouldn’t have to be. This needs to stop. I’m sick of hearing about this guy. Not for any dislike of him. But because every time I see his name in an article, it’s being attacked without just cause. He’s trying his hardest to do good. He’s not some punk sitting at home trying to find ways to hurt people he has a bigoted problem with. He has no problem that I can see, with either gays or women.

    He’s not doing things your way? You may not think that his way is right, but it’s not wrong. What is wrong is to think of someone else as wrong because they are different. What is wrong is to continue to attack someone over and over because they are different. The people attacking him are the ones who should know that better than anyone..

  3. avatar Shin Gallon says:

    I was a long time fan of Penny Arcade for years until the trans-phobic shit Gabe brought up. I’m not transgendered, but I know dismissal of LGBT issues when I see it. I stopped reading about a week after that, and have no plans to ever attend a PAX.

  4. avatar lorewise says:

    Is it just me or have their egos just completely blinded them to just how immature they are? I felt like at first some of the community reaction to that comic was an over-reaction. But then PA started responding, and that didn’t help them, and then they decided, “hey since we’re already digging this grave, why not deeper?” So they made the dickwolves t-shirts.

    The problem is they have blindly loyal fans and I don’t think they even realize just how vicious and stupid their supporters can be. But again, this comes back to the fact that they’ve basically encased themselves in an echo chamber filled with teen boys (yeah sadly some of them should be grown men but they don’t act like it) all giving high fives and congratulating each other on how insensitive and immature they can be.

    Then there’s the fact that the gaming industry and community as a whole continue to support them reinforcing their belief that they are the courageous heroes of this tale, bravely combating the beast which is the social justice movement.

    Sigh.

    It’s never going to end, and I think this should be a good lesson to everyone. Even people who could be allies, should be allies, aren’t and never will be.

  5. avatar leap says:

    Well there’s a difference between focusing on a problem and calling for a boycott of their convention. I just feel they are receiving more hate than is justified. Maybe it comes down to the fact that I just don’t see what everyone is so mad about.

    • avatar Radiant Sophia says:

      Let me tell you how sub-human you are, or that you don’t exist, or that any harassment yo receive is your own fault, and you may start to understand.

  6. avatar lorewise says:

    There’s an update to this story that makes me feel a little better. It seems as though they get it now, and I actually agree with his points. The original comic in my mind wasn’t as much of the problem as how they acted when confronted by people who didn’t like it (for valid reasons).

    I’m undecided how much the joke itself hinges on rape, could you insert anything horrible in there as they and other people suggest? I don’t think so but anyway that’s why humor is subjective for the most part.

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/2013/09/04/some-clarification

    • avatar The_french_guy says:

      But you do realize the controversy is more then just the comic strip right? I mean the comic itself and the humor in it can be considered harmless, everything that happened afterward is completely different.

      The PA boys need to understand now that this issue is getting too big and really needs to stop. No, i do not mean it need to stop being mentioned, i mean they have to stand up, face their fans and say enough! They went an entire year not mentioning the “dickwolves” and after they utter that word, CROWD APPLAUDED AND CHEERED! If you ask me, they reason for that outburst was because with no mention from the creators, the crowd thought they sided with them. Maybe thank them for their passion but they need to tell that crowd they are the one ruining everything. The only thing Mike has realize in his apology there is that there were people who got offended by this. He did the wise thing to ask for an apology but he needs to change his attention from the offended, and look at the offenders who will always attend PAX and will always high five each other when one of them will shout “We don’t care about rape culture!”. Those guys are the problem and Mike needs to wake up and realize this, and stop defending them. They don’t belong in PAX, they don’t represent the PA fanbase. If the PA boys won’t act upon that issue, expect less and less support for PAX from indie developers or people trying to make the gaming community a better image and expect more and more bullies who dare call themselves fan to “show them support” and scare away folks like us.

      Why i want them to do this? It’s not that i am a rape survivor nor that i got offended by mike’s behavior, it’s cause as much as i like PA but i refuse to see another page of this:
      http://debacle.tumblr.com/post/3041940865/the-pratfall-of-penny-arcade-a-timeline

      • avatar lorewise says:

        Yep, that’s why I said the original comic wasn’t the problem but how they acted afterword. In his own words from the article I linked:

        “Everything we did after that initial comic strip was a mistake and I regret all of it.”

        Would I prefer that people not hinge their humor on certain topics? Yes. I mean I love How I Met Your Mother but trans people, especially transwomen are too often the punchline of many of their jokes. And that’s a show that has a gay man on the cast and quite often handles GLB issues with enough grace to get a passing grade.

        Which brings us to the point of your comment, which I agree with. They have a huge audience and they’re rarely consciously aware of how their actions reverberate through the gaming community. I forget who but it’s been brought up in a few discussions and posts that they have become the bullies they hated in high school and that sounds fitting, sadly. Given how quick they are to sick their own fans on anyone they dislike or agree with.

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