Quit Fucking Going To PAX Already, What Is Wrong With You

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!

I already linked Geek Girl Con and GaymerX. There’s also GenCon, Dreamation, DexCon, DragonCon (who successfully ousted their gross owner!) and a million others. You can do this. I believe in you.

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.

25 Responses to “Quit Fucking Going To PAX Already, What Is Wrong With You”

  1. Nick says:

    Mike Krahulik should definitely have left well enough alone & never brought the Dickwolves controversy up again.

    I think the whole thing got blown way out of proportion from the very beginning, though. You say that opposition to the comic was polite. I don’t remember it being that way at all. It wasn’t like “Hey, I realize you’ve never been a victim of sexual abuse or assault, so this wouldn’t be obvious to you, but jokes about rape can trigger very intense anxiety for survivors. In the future, you should try to be more sensitive.” No, instead, the Social Justice Warriors of the Internet had a full call-to-arms & all but accused Mike & Jerry of actual rape. I’m not saying Mike handled the situation well, but this type of shaming would make anyone angry.

    All I’m saying is that the Internet tends to overreact to things & organize witch hunts which does nothing but hurt your cause. When people get angry they say things they don’t mean. It’s human nature.

  2. If you are looking for woman-owned conventions with a strong harassment policy check out Intervention in Rockville, MD (http://www.InterventionCon.com) – we were one of the first cons to have a policy like this:

    More info:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/comic-riffs/post/intervention-2013-co-founder-oni-hartstein-says-maryland-convention-is-my-way-of-giving-back/2013/08/27/f3a658dc-0f87-11e3-85b6-d27422650fd5_blog.html

    http://www.themarysue.com/comic-con-harassment-policy/

    If you are ever in the area, I’d love to offer you a free pass to check out out next event in August 2014! :)

  3. Oops, here is the link to Intervention’s harassment policy: http://interventioncon.com/registration/attendee-policies-and-information/

    We also are having training twice yearly this year to make sure our staff knows how to handle things with confidentiality and respect. :)

  4. fluffy says:

    Thank you SO MUCH. For me it’s frustrating because I live just a couple blocks from the convention center and I see this ravenous pack of… well, wolves invading my home turf, and some of them are wearing “the shirt,” and while I’m not a victim or survivor of assault I do have this thing called basic human empathy and it sickens me that there’s this gigantic media empire built on these shitty people and their ability to exploit the worst in a very vocal fanbase with collectively deep pockets.

    And when I see the crowds at PAX I see all the families that are cosplaying together and I see the kids who are having a great time and I see all the friends who are seeing each other in person for the first time and I wish that they could be doing this in a way that isn’t supporting such terrible people.

    I’m pretty forgiving of mistakes, but the people who make the mistakes need to actually realize they ARE mistakes, and not only does Mike keep on making the same mistakes over and over, he makes it everyone else’s problem for not embracing his shitty attitudes. And in this case they think that the mistake was “engaging” with the detractors, by pulling a shirt — which they’d made in order to engage with the detractors in the first place. They hypocrisy, revisionism, and lack of thoughtfulness is absolutely astounding.

    Their horrifying panel presence was the last straw that made me stop reading any of their ancillary properties; they neither write nor draw The Trenches, but I can’t support that comic anymore. They neither write nor edit Penny Arcade Report, but I can’t support that news source anymore. Child’s Play does a good thing (I spent a lot of time in the hospital as a kid and I wish I’d had that sort of thing) but I can no longer support that charity either.

    I’m still not sure how I’ll deal with Katie Rice’s new comic. I love her stuff. I hate the people she’s working with. Maybe I’ll wait a year until she’s (theoretically) no longer part of the PA network. At least PA doesn’t own it, they just support it (or at least that’s the stated arrangement).

  5. Ken says:

    Great Article! GaymerX was so good! I backed the kickstarter and then went as a volunteer. It was especially inspiring that the first experience I had there was an in depth training session led by a social worker about how to be respectful of everyone at the con. They went over proper pronouns and how to intervene if someone is being disrespectful and how to go about acknowledging when you find out you yourself have been disrespectful. It just set an amazing tone for the rest of the convention. I’ve never met a more friendly, kind, outgoing, and respectful group of gamers.

  6. Daryl Surat says:

    I will never go to PAX, I never read Penny Arcade, they will never receive any of my money or page views, but I just want to make a point that may not necessarily be the most repeated in this ongoing discussion:

    The fundamental problem with these sorts of essays is that any appeals to emotion or humanity, the ones often intended to be rhetorical, are just answered by “nope” or “not really” by the people whom it’s trying to reach. For example:

    When you ask “Do you want to be the kind of person your loved ones can feel safe around, or open up to?” the answer the people you’re trying to address will often give is “nope” or “not really.” When you ask to “divide the number of women in your life that you care about by six,” the resulting number is fewer than 1. For the people you’re trying to persuade, this scenario is largely as designed.

    Would the average person respond that way? No. But then, we are not dealing with average people. We are dealing with what is, generally speaking, a relatively small group of people (relative to the total population, that is) that are statistically few. However, this is the Internet. That same incredibly small amount of people are more likely to spend more time on the Internet than others, and they’re more likely to each post thousands of times and spend larger sums of money on the things they’re interested in.

    Certainly, not everybody who attends PAX is of this disposition. But even if all of the people who are not that way who currently attend PAX took your advice and went to the alternative conventions you cite…the people I’m talking about would still be there in the thousands, and this issue would persist. How then, do those people get reached, per the objective of this post?

    “Continue spreading the message”? Perhaps, but that’s been the plan for several years now. The message is out there, across all of the major “gamer” outlets. I think the people have received the message and are now actively rejecting it. I have no answer for how to remedy this, but the conventional wisdom of “if they hear it enough maybe they’ll have a change of heart” doesn’t appear to be working.

  7. Dara says:

    I didn’t write this post on PAX 2013 in response to your post (which I’ve seen echoed all over the place); I was writing it last night, as the latest Gabeshittery hit the fan.

    I’m not even saying you’re wrong on anything. But I’m still coming down to a… slightly different answer. I think men should boycott PAX. But if women leave, then Gabe gets the same amount of money regardless, and also a homogeneous audience that agrees with him.

    Think about that. These things create self-reinforcing spirals if allowed to do so, and this is a case where it’s primed and ready. If nobody is calling that shit out on the floor, then that will happen.

    So Gabe is going to get X dollars, regardless, and isn’t going to reconsider any of this on his own, regardless. At which point it becomes like arguing on the internet. Am I (one-sidedly, of course) arguing with Gabe? Yes. Am I doing it to affect Gabe in any way? No, I’m unable. So I argue as performance, for the audience. And I do call that shit out on the expo floor.

    The misogynists want women to leave. For them, women leaving is a plus, not a minus; it’s the goal. I don’t want to give that to them. So I’m thinking if someone wants a PAX boycott to have an effect, they need to get men and game publishers to do it, and then pack the hall with gamer women who are willing and ready to call that shit out.

    I’m not saying you’re wrong, though. I’m not even sure I’m right. Maybe it’s some kind of two-pronged approach that’s needed here, and yours and mine will combine to create success. But as someone directly affected by all of it, it’s where I’m landing. At least, for now.

  8. Bryan says:

    I personally feel that Dickwolves are not enough of a negative for me to stop supporting a convention that has brought the entire industry many miles toward greater inclusion than E3 ever did. None of the cons you mention are close to the same scale as PAX yet, and while I certainly support them and hope they grow each year (I work for one of them), PAX is still a dominant industry event. Instead of comparing PAX to much smaller cons who get more right, let’s keep the scale relevant and compare PAX to E3, where I think we can all agree it’s really brought a refreshing alternative to the table. There’s really a lot of effort to focus on negativity here and so might that’s been done right being ignored.

  9. Marny Ramirez says:

    Most game devs are there to promote games because of economic reasons, not to engage in ethical debate over gender politics. Game conventions aren’t exactly intended or function as fora for sociopolitical issues. As economic factors are the primary driver in said parties’ attendance, simply getting a sizable public audience to pay attention to their product is the fundamental goal. Appealing specifically to minorities or making some kind of ethical stand (assuming the developer even shares the given position on the issue,) isn’t something most are interested in, as it would distract from promotion of the product. Better to stay out of it and focus on hawking the product than to risk alienating any potential customers, presumably.

  10. Tashi says:

    Followed this here from Facebook, and I basically agree with everything you got up here.

    There was a time where I would have defended Mike and Jerry, but as more and more of their shit gets out I just can’t do it anymore.

  11. Christian says:

    While I believe you have every right to disagree with PA and its owners over whatever views they may have, I don’t understand your view that people are wrong for their views if they are different from yours. Yu label PA as dishonest and disingenuous for belittling those that disagree with their viewpoint, yet you go on to cast a blanket generalization that those who don’t see it the same as you are categorically wrong. We need to continue to have discussions and debate on subjects such as these, but any type of fundamentalist, absolutist views like it seems, in my opinion, that you are arguing against by presenting your own serve no good to the greater discussion and only disengage those who might want to come involved and move the situation forward.

  12. Fauxreigner says:

    “DragonCon (who successfully ousted their gross owner!)”

    DragonCon did apparnetly eject the Skepchick booth with little cause, so I’d be cautious about giving them too many kudos here.

  13. Kiki Lewis says:

    What a great article. I haven’t been to PAX in years and it makes me feel gross to know how excited I was to meet them in 2006 and introduce my son to them. Their sense of humor has strayed into a scary place with so many impressionable people watching and listening.

  14. Chris Weekly says:

    +1 to this post. Thanks for bringing this good fight to my attention.

  15. Amber Love says:

    STANDING OVATION!!! Well said!

  16. Mike says:

    PAX is about as inclusive as it gets with panels about all manner of subjects. The crowd didn’t ‘go wild’, in a crowd of hundreds, you had about 10 to 20 people cheer. They’ve worked to make the show inclusive, notably getting rid of boothbabes and when companies try to wiggle around that, asking female cosplay spokespersons to cover up. Not that it matters, hit any show and the amount of cosplay skin borders on the softcore.

    The question here is why Mike felt it was a mistake to pull the merchandise. The comic from day one has been filled with violence and immaturity; I can’t understand why or how anyone would expose their kids to it.

  17. Well said. The platform these guys use to spew their hate from should be dismantled.

  18. Chris Chinn says:

    1. Here is a group of people who profiteered on mocking rape victims and REGRET that they’ve STOPPED doing so.

    2. You can give them money to go to their convention for your squee and funtimes. / You can give them money to be a company at their convention for your profits.

    3. Or you could go elsewhere.

    I dunno. I mean, all the arguments I see basically boil down to, “But I have fun there!”/”We make sales there!” which says a lot. I guess there’s a bribe price for heinous shit, and it’s not that high after all.

    Or, really, so many ways people can echo “Fuck rape survivors, who cares about them anyway?!?”

  19. Andy H. says:

    I feel like it’s worth giving particular attention to the case of the assault by the PAX enforcer, in the context of this larger pattern of institutional behaviour. There’s a lot of sexual assault and harassment at conventions, but there is less of it at conventions with an articulated and seriously enforced anti-harassment policy. Penny Arcade apparently has the opposite of that, and this is another serious reason for avoiding their convention, beyond the logic of boycotts: this isn’t just a space where people belittle assaults that took place elsewhere, but a breeding ground for new assaults by and of people who paid to be there.

  20. Joe says:

    Saying that pulling the dickwolves shirt was the one thing that they ever did right seems unnecessarily hyperbolic. The PA staff put on Child’s Play (http://www.childsplaycharity.org/) and publicizes/supports tributary fund raising from sites like http://desertbus.org/
    Also, wouldn’t the PAX ban on booth babes be considered a good thing that diminishes the objectification of women? This in no way absolves them of other bad behavior, but there are intentional, tangible steps taken to increase the accessibility of PAX to a wider audience.

    I completely agree that Mike says dumb stuff and then goes over the top in defending it (he concurs, see this Q&A from Pax Prime 2013 at around the 2:43:53 mark http://www.twitch.tv/pax/b/455394585 ). I think he spoke from ignorance but with the trans comments. Eventually, he seemed to legitimately recognize his ignorance and apologized for speaking out on something that he doesn’t know anything about. The original dickwolves comic didn’t seem to promote rape culture or make light of its victims (but the ensuing discussion got dark and went to some bad places, to be sure). I’d agree that the PAX org should have spoken out about the enforcer abuse situation.
    These are serious issues and should be openly discussed. But are they sufficient to make supporting PA in any way a morally indefensible position? For me, the answer is no. I’ll do my part to make any PAX I’m at a welcoming place but PA and PAX are run by people that are fallible. We need to keep them accountable and they can do better.

    Finally, the comment from PAX Prime ’13 about pulling the shirt being a mistake seemed to have more to do with “don’t engage the trolls” than anything else. Khoo also immediately shot down bringing the shirt back, saying that would be worse yet (discussion of the shirts starts at 2:35:50 in the previously linked video).

  21. Mopalia says:

    The best thing about PAX was that there were never any lines to the women’s rest rooms. Bet they’ll be even freer next year. I won’t know, because I’m not going.

  22. fluffy says:

    Forgot to mention earlier: my 3DS picked up a lot of StreetPass tags from PAX this weekend (even when it was just sitting on a shelf in my home). Two of them included the words “dickwolves ftw.”

  23. PCo says:

    “the game industry existed long before Penny Arcade and it will exist for a long time after.”

    That isn’t really the point. It doesn’t matter that the industry existed before, nor does it matter whether or not the industry will outlive PA. What matters is where we are at right now, and right now PAX is a major part of the industry and a great way for people to boost their careers. WE need jobs, and people who go are effected more directly by that than they are by comments made by the dick who started it. Stop harassing them for it already.

  24. Dan says:

    Everyone who has taken the time to read, comment and reshare this post understands that Gabe’s actions were grossly inappropriate to say the least. What I would like to see from the community at large is action aimed at the aspects that promote misogyny. Promoting alternative events is a great start but the flip side of that is the segregation of the community at large instead of the elimination of the behavior.

    Maybe this is an uphill battle, but we should be calling everyone out who promotes this behaviour at any time and any place.

  25. Joe says:

    Gabe posted a blog where he expanded on what he meant when he said that pulling the shirts was a bad idea. It’s worth reading but the short version is he does not think pulling the shirts itself was wrong (he says he regrets ever making them) but rather that when they pulled the shirts, it reignited the discussion and caused a lot more hurt: http://www.penny-arcade.com/2013/09/04/some-clarification

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