In case you have been living under a rock, on Mars, with your fingers in your ears: Penny Arcade, the owners of the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX), have a problem. Or rather, they are a problem. I say they, despite the fact that most of the poison comes from Mike “Gabriel” Krahulik, because Jerry “Tycho” Holkins and Robert Khoo support and enable Mike, which makes them part of the problem.
This shit has been going on (and worsening) for three years, so I will give you the high-level list of issues, with links.
Mike and Jerry posted a rape joke. They were respectfully called out on it. Mike lost his shit. People continued to try to reason with him. Rape survivors who called out the joke were harassed, threatened with rape and murder, and Penny Arcade responded by printing T-shirts for people who were in support of the rape joke and selling them as merch.
Due to public outcry, Penny Arcade took down the merch. (They continued to make rape jokes.)
Mike publicly supported a Kickstarter that was removed because it was a game about raping schoolgirls.
An Enforcer was accused of sexually assaulting a woman using the Enforcer network as a way to get closer to her, and Penny Arcade covered it up and did not address it publicly. When asked, Mike said he would not have done anything differently, and that not releasing the name of the assaulter or the fact that the assault took place was the right call. (The PA forum thread where the survivor brought the attack to light was quickly closed by a moderator who found it “irrelevant.”)
Mike publicly denies the gender identities of trans men and women, doubles down with bullying, and is eventually cowed into making a donation to a non-trans-specific, but otherwise worthwhile charity.
And today, on stage at PAX, Mike publicly stated the one fucking thing that PA ever did right— removing the Dickwolves merchandise— was a mistake. And the crowd went wild, and the men who own PA with him agreed soberly, and that is the convention that everyone says is best and most inclusive. A place where the owners can say “We should have continued to profit off of the suffering of others” in the biggest auditorium the convention offered and the crowd went wild.
Look. People are allowed to make their own choices, but part of making your own choices is that you’ve got to live with the choices you make and their consequences. And sometimes, the consequence of a choice you make is that people won’t want to give you time, money, or energy. (Looking at you, Penny Arcade.) But sometimes the consequence is that people will think less of you. People who would otherwise care about you and think that you’re an okay person will look at you in a different way because of the choices that you make in your life, and that’s okay. And if you choose to continue to go to PAX, that will happen. So here’s a quick FEB for you.
Frequently Exclaimed “But!”s
But it’s not like this Dickwolves stuff bothers ME!
Divide the number of women in your life that you care about by six. That’s probably about the number of sexual assault survivors you know: one in six women, and one in 33 men, are survivors. How do you think those people feel? If you don’t believe me, if none of the people in your life have told you that they are sexual assault survivors, it’s probably because they didn’t feel comfortable telling you. You may ALREADY be alienating the people close to you. Do you want to be the kind of person your loved ones can feel safe around, or open up to? Then maybe you should start being bothered by things that aren’t all about you.
But all my friends and I go to PAX and we just hang out in a bubble and it’s fun! It’s not even about PAX itself!
So why do you need to give American dollars to these men-children who refuse to learn a lesson? Why can’t you hang out in Seattle and go to the parties and NOT GIVE PAX YOUR MONEY?
But PAX is a totally different entity from Penny Arcade. I don’t read the comic, I just go to the convention.
Not consuming a free product, and continuing to shell out for a product that costs money, is maybe the shittiest most backward way to possibly try to boycott something. PAX is not a completely different entity. The money still puts food on the table of someone who apologized for voicing his opinion that trans women aren’t women without ever acknowledging their gender identities. The pass you purchased helps a rape apologist sleep a little better at night.
But it’s a really good convention. What happens in the comic has nothing to do with PAX!
Were you not paying attention before? Look, even if you divorce money from the whole thing, the most popular panels and activities at PAX are all about the Penny Arcade guys and how great their comic is. PAX is a convention that, at its heart, is about celebrating Penny Arcade. It’s the PENNY ARCADE EXPO. Please stop being willfully ignorant.
But I didn’t give them money! My company has a booth, or I’m just speaking on some panels.
THAT IS EVEN WORSE. You are giving them something more valuable than money: legitimacy. You are providing the content that people are giving Penny Arcade money for. QUIT DOING THAT.
But isn’t refusing to attend the coward’s way out? Can’t we reform PAX from within?
See also “But PAX and Penny Arcade are not the same thing!” They ARE the same thing. They’re hopelessly intertwined. There’s no “reforming” the parts of PAX that are bad, because the parts of PAX that are bad are the owners of PAX. And again— PAX is not some public-works project that will always exist. It’s a money-making commercial conference. If you want to do all of that work, why not do it at Geek Girl Con or GaymerX or make your own thing?
But I have to go for work! PAX is mandatory in the game industry or you fail!
That is total bullshit. If you are the person deciding to bring your game to PAX: the game industry existed long before Penny Arcade and it will exist for a long time after. You can be successful without PAX, just ask The Fullbright Company. And if you’re an employee being told to go to PAX: does your company know how shitty the Penny Arcade guys are? Maybe tell them. If you’re afraid it will sound too personal, you can just link them to this article where the Financial Post compares Mike to Chris Brown. That’ll sound plenty official.
But there are no other cool conventions to go to!
But I really think Mike learned his lesson this time.
It’s been three years, my friend. He is playing you like a fool. He’s not going to learn a lesson until someone makes him.