Friday, February 4, 2011

Of Penny Arcade

Normally I confine the blog to matters of AGS, but this is important and possibly some who read this blog have opinions on the matter.

Penny Arcade is a web comic. Not one I follow regularly, but they achieved some fame in the adventuring world by having a couple of somewhat-adventurery games created by Hothead Games (they who used to employ Ron Gilbert).

Also Penny Arcade expo (PAX) has become a popular place for games to be presented with attendees like AGSers Deirdra Kiai and Dave Gilbert.

It's a long story what has happened. In short: Penny Arcade offended a rape survivor and then mocked them and fans of the comic made death threats to the people who said this was bad. It has all escalated and got very nasty and Penny Arcade have made a number of grudging non-apologies, of which the last was the closest to an actual apology.

The problem isn't really the original comic, its the response and the rape culture that surrounds it, belittling rape as a joke, using it a a metaphor. To maybe give some idea of the deal: its would be like a politician calling a Jewish person a Nazi.

Over on IGN there's a blog from a presenter at PAX who has decided not to go because of this. I think there will be perhaps a very different atmosphere at future PAXen because of all this, and I'd encourage anyone who looks at Arthur's article to consider their own position if they are thinking of attending PAX.


  1. I think it's sad that two guys who have done so well for themselves, and have become such iconic figures in the world of gaming, have put themselves in this position.

    Penny Arcade is pretty well known for their dark sense of humour, it's no surprise that it was them who got caught up in this thing. However, if something like this leads to the mockery of rape victims, then that's really going too far - even for those of us like myself who believe political correctness is pointless.

    However, I don't want PAX to die out as a result of this. I love that we have established video game culture now as something that appeals to more than just nerdy teenage kids and guys drinking beer on their couch and shouting profanities. Expos like this are pretty important to me, and PAX is a big one.

    I doubt there's an ideal solution to this mess, but hopefully peace can be made and we can go back to focusing on the real issue PAX is about - namely, the creation and appreciation of games.

  2. I don't think the comic itself was a mockery, and pretty much no one believes that it was intended to be offensive in that way. But what disappoints me is the actual behavior of the PennyArcade dudes. It just makes me go a little :/ to be honest. I can't go to PAX anyhow, but it just puts a great deal of thoughts in my head, if anything.

  3. This argument has long surpassed the comic itself, or even the issue of making fun of rape or the victims is right or not (although rest assured it isn't). Penny Arcade made one tasteless joke out of thousands, people got upset, and that should have been the end of it. Instead, they just made the situation worse by acting like jerks.

    Penny Arcade isn't just some webcomic. It's a charity, a community organizer, and the cornerstone of a huge majority of gaming and gamer culture. They build this foundation on the promise of "anybody is welcome." The Dickwolf debacle isn't about promoting rape. It's about dismissing and trivializing the victims of rape. It's no surprise that this makes people kind of uncomfortable.

  4. I didn't fully realize it at first, but the moment PA behaviour genuinely becomes creepily disturbing is the moment when they start selling t-shirts celebrating rapist characters for people to run around with at their expo. And it gets even worse when they later mock trigger warnings.

    It's like they don't care (or believe) real rape situations happen in life. It's all just a source of jokes for them.

  5. Your summary simplifies things.

    PA may have offended some, but the offendees accused them of supporting rape culture, a term they had probably never heard of, and their response was to mock an accusation they saw as baseless and absurd.

    Then original objector did a horrible job of explaining how a comic depicts rape as the worst thing ever can still support rape culture.

    This does a better job of explaining the failure to communicate than I can:

  6. Actually, the original complaint doesn't use the phrase, but even if they did communicate badly, why does that make it more acceptable to mock rape survivors?

  7. I am pro-PA on this issue. While rape is indeed a terrible crime it is no worse and no more immune to satire than murder or slavery and I can name *dozens* of cases where they are so described without incident. It would certainly be inappropriate to satirise an *individuals* rape but that is not what PA did (you can't count the cartoon slave as an individual). It's the height of hypocrisy to enjoy a medium just fine providing it doesnt insult your particular demographic. In summary this all just seem defenseless.

  8. Do you think that logic or a desire to be consistent has any bearing whatsoever on a rape victim's gut response to reminders of their trauma? Would you go up to someone in person having a PTSD episode and tell them they're a hypocrite? Why is it ok over the internet? Are they still a hypocrite if they were only raped after they were a fan of the comic? And all that aside, pax was supposed to be female-friendly and yet they created an anti-feminism atmosphere amongst their fans.

  9. Nothing new, but I'll try to define the problem created by PA better as some are quick to dismiss there is one. And maybe I was too at first.

    The way I see it, jokes can be mean-spirited, based on awful things happening to a fictional characters, and even made at the expense of a real person and still be more or less tolerable or even funny. But to persistently belittle rape and celebrate rapist characters especially in a situation when you can come across actual rape survivors is plain creepy and hardly a joke. There's no reason to sue, fine or do anything to PA because of it, but it's only natural many find their way of thinking (or "not thinking") off-putting and don't feel comfortable visiting their expo anymore.

  10. Maybe they should aim their "satire" at murder victims instead. I bet THEY won't complain so much.

  11. Correct me if I'm wrong but the slave in question was a *male* slave. To attribute rape victims as exclusively female is far more offensive to me than a hypothetical raping by some fictional *Dick Wolves*. Further more it is important to be consistent regardless of 'gut reaction' when considering media and the backlash associated with it. You can't complain about generalised rape if you dont complain about generalised murder, or violence, or drug abuse, or racism (ever seen an elf be racist to an orc?). Otherwise we would live in a society in which media was entirely unoffensive to all and i find the idea of a 'disney-utopia' kinda disturbing.

  12. Calin, you use so many fallacies in your argument there, its not worth responding. Go and look up strawman, slippery slope, false equivalence, etc, etc


Please keep comments clean: foul language means your comment will not get published. Sorry for the captcha, was getting to much spam.