Penny Arcade Dickwolves Controversy
I’ll start by saying this – like many, many gamers, PA fans, and PAX regulars, I am more than desiring of this whole dickwolves fiasco to die down and go away. Many people have been hurt and an undeniable rift within our community has been widened. And despite Gabe’s very well written (and hopefully sincere) apology today, I am not confident it will, and for the very reason that I wish it would disappear – dickwolves have become the unintended symbol of a subculture that previously would have simply been filed away under “douche-bag central”, and has put a name and a “face” to the immense chasm of misunderstanding that exists between two groups of people within the gaming community.
Like many, I felt that the point of the comic was not about rape or rape victims – it was about a darkly humorous truth about MMO games. The concept was sound and not lost on me – the execution is where the controversy lies. A group of people were offended, or worse, hurt. Bad memories were triggered. There was an outcry of insensitivity and ignorance. That outcry caused an ugly backlash, and this war has been ongoing ever since.
I was not part of that group, so I was not personally affected by this and can’t speak to the feelings of those people. I however am not one to turn a blind eye to those who were. To say that our modern digital society and prevalent anonymity on the internet has lent to an increase of detachment and lack of empathy towards our fellow humans is just the tip of a very big, hulking iceberg true in Western society, especially the United States, that encourages self-entitlement.
And this right here is the very root and core of the dickwolves problem.
We’ve been conditioned to be selfish, insensitive, and hang on the idea of “if this doesn’t affect me, then it’s not a problem.” You see this every day in politics, international relations, and the back and forth between the privileged and oppressed in countless situations. The gaming community, despite its roots in nerdy camaraderie, is not, and never has been, immune to this seemingly innate human problem. The issue of misogyny and clash of the sexes has spiked dramatically in the past few years as female gamers have increased in numbers, power, and strength. Knowing we have a larger network of support, we are no longer the “one girl” in the group of guys who is simultaneously fawned over and resented and too afraid to speak out against either. And as our numbers swell and our voices get louder, the status quo and fear of the “other” swells as well.
The PA guys’ initial reaction and treatment of the situation is the outcome of this privilege and what turned what could have been a quick issue — gone in a few weeks with a simple apology — into a constant escalation of ridicule and harassment of victims and critics on BOTH sides.
Gabe was defending his art. I’m an artist, I get it. Gabe was angry at the harsh reception. He’s human, he’s allowed. We all get angry. But he is a figurehead of a community that is both large yet intricately intimate. To a lot of impressionable individuals who subscribe to hive-mind mentality, or simply look up to them, they are symbol of what is great and awesome about being a geek and a gamer. People take what they say and do to heart.
They don’t want to be role models, they never asked for that responsibility, but my answer to that is quite simply, perhaps harshly, “freaking deal with it”. They are living a dream many of us wish we could. They are making tons of money and along with it, fame, fans, and idolization by being nerds. It’s a fanaticism and passionate following that allowed them to quit their jobs and be full-time geeks and enjoy a comfortable life of semi-celebrity with exclusive access to top-of-the line content that I’m sure they enjoy the hell out of. You are a public personality. That comes with a lot of baggage.
Well with great power comes great responsibility, and I’m not going to feel sorry or take excuses from someone who is more than OK taking the good but then scoffing at the idea that maybe they just might need to take the bad, too.That bad includes the responsibility of being a voice that influences a culture, and that is looked up to and respected.
By being unwilling to step back from the situation and let it cool, and come at it in a mature, insightful manner to try and disengage, he fueled a flame that became an uncontrollable blaze. The issue of brodude gamers vs gaming feminism was already ripe, and the way they handled the situation — the snarky tweets, half-assed and later-retracted apologies, rubbing the victims and critics in the face with t-shirts — legitimised a very negative and harmful push-back on otherwise progressive change. Even after PA pleaded with their dickwolf “supporters” to back down on their rather nasty counter-push, it was too late. They set the ball going that would become an avalanche.
Pushback against critics of the dickwolves fiasco got violent and ugly.
Rape and murder threats happened. Victims were, as is all too common, questioned and belittled. PA pleaded for people to let the issue drop but at the same time made it a sort of inside-joke with a certain sector of fans who essentially manipulated the PA guys to think that they were right and it was OK. Social pressure’s a bitch, and all I see is a larger-scale gaming version of the brodude getting called a pussy by his peers for trying to apologize, and going back to make it worse cause “my boys” will approve. That’s what it honestly felt like.
Penny Arcade, thank you for your apology – it was well written and showed that you finally get where we’re all coming from. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you mean it. And I promise you we both want it to go away.
But you can’t take back what’s happened and what it’s become. Dickwolves will forever be tainted as the face of a still prevalent and harmful sub-culture that has stubbornly fought for their continued entitlement. It can never be mentioned or referenced without ruffling some feathers. This is a fight that existed before you guys messed up, still exists today, and will continue to exist for another generation or two before things get better.
Will they get better? Yeah, they will. But it’s going to be ugly, and those who fight the issues are going to be harassed, threatened, and belittled continuously so that maybe the next set of women, other oppressed groups, and their supporters won’t have to be. That’s why it’s important for communities and individuals who have a lot of klout to be responsible with that influence. You may not have asked for it, and it’s going to be frustrating, anger-inducing, and push your limits. But, if you’re willing to be strong and stick to your guns, which we can admit you have done in many other instances, you’re going to make this all a much better situation and better place for everyone.
Please stick to it.
Credits: All tweet images from http://debacle.tumblr.com/, great timeline following the problem from it’s inception a few years ago .