So, PAX Prime 2013 is now over—and man, what a terrible, shit-tastic way to end it.
Although it wasn't my favorite PAX, there were definitely some high points like seeing people whom I would otherwise never run into, and getting the chance to play games that I had been looking forward to. Some good times there, for sure.
However, things really ended on a sour note once I got home.
I wasn't aware of it while I was at the show, but as soon as I walked in the door and got on my computer, I found out that Mike Krahulik (the artist for the Penny Arcade strip) had made some intensely distasteful comments in regard to the "dickwolves" situation which occurred a few years ago. A lot of people are understandably pissed off about it, and many have been calling for a boycott of PAX and Penny Arcade altogether.
I've been asked what my opinion on the whole situation is, and it wasn't something that I could easily get across on Twitter. So, here it is…
To start with, I'm not a fan of rape jokes in general and I don't think rape is something to be made light of. In no way do I condone anything having to do with rape, jokes or otherwise.
Aside from that, I think most would agree the dickwolves incident (and how PA handled it) was probably one of the lowest points in Penny Arcade history.
It was supremely disappointing to hear that Krahulik had not only brought the issue up again, but was actually regretful about having the related merchandise removed from the store. I have a hard time understanding how he doesn't "get" what a big deal this whole thing is (and maybe he does now? He just issued an explanation on his comments yesterday) but it's not the issue I wanted to address in this post. Bottom line, he came off like a world-class, thoughtless asshole. That's pretty simple.
What's not simple is the issue of whether or not people should boycott the PAX event itself. At first blush, it seems like the obvious answer should be "of course we should boycott it!" but I don't think it's as clear-cut as it seems.
The way I see it, PAX is far more than something that's directly connected to Mike and Jerry. I mean, when you walk in the door, it's not as though the two of them are right there, exchanging a secret handshake with you and welcoming you to their personal club. In fact, I would imagine that quite a few people who attend the show have absolutely no idea who they are. I'm sure many haven't ever read the strip, and may not even know it exists.
Rather than something that's a celebration of Mike, Jerry, or of the Penny Arcade strip itself, I think many people see PAX as an amazing gathering where gamers don't need a press badge to get in, and they can spend a weekend meeting people just like them.
For at least three whole days (four, this year!) gamers of all stripes can walk, talk, eat, breathe, sleep and play games in a place where they've got more in common with the person right next to them than they probably do for the vast majority of their daily existence. This social opportunity for game-oriented people is incredibly valuable to many of those who attend, and has nothing at all to do with condoning dickwolves. My guess is that the a large number of attendees don't even know what one is, or what happened. Hell, if not for Twitter, I wouldn't have known it had happened.
PAX is also a place where education occurs, thanks to some amazing panels and presenters who come to share their viewpoints. Just this year, people could have sat in on: achieving gender diversity in gaming, the top women game characters of all time, community organizing, gays in love (with their role-playing games), military servicewomen in video games, and more. I don't know of any other place where so many important panels are accessible to so many average gamers. Again, this content has nothing to do with Mike's pre-clarification comments—in fact, much of it flies in the face of them.
Also of value is that PAX is a great place for struggling indie developers to show off their work and be seen by a huge number of people, both press and public. Although it's nice to have the big companies show up, getting up close and personal with the indie devs is by far my favorite part of the show. I get to meet so many incredible creators in one place, and so many connections are made! It's fantastic, and again, these fabulous people aren't there in support of Mike's personal views, whatever they may be.
I'm definitely not defending Mike or how any part of the dickwolf situation was handled, and I can totally understand how some people would not want to support the show in any way, shape, or form. I can respect that, and for those that choose to avoid the show in the future, I support you. On the other hand, I see PAX itself as something that is now far more than what it started out as, and giving all that up over one guy who has no discernible effect on the positivity the show brings feels a bit like using dynamite to kill a roach.
You might get him, but what else are you losing in the process?