Penny Arcade Dickwolves Controversy – It’s not the dickwolves comic that’s the problem, it’s the subculture that got legitimized.

Penny Arcade Dickwolves Controversy
Now an unfortunate symbol of hate.

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.

Penny Arcade Dickwolves Controversy 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 Dickwolves Controversy

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, great timeline following the problem from it’s inception a few years ago .

To The Readers: What are your thoughts on the ongoing dickwolves controversy over the last few years? How do you feel PA handled the backlash? What would you have done differently (or the same) if you were in their shoes?

  • Greibach

    I agree with pretty much everything you said. It’s a lengthy and complex subject, and there are a lot of strings attached to any topic in which people have survived very personal trauma.

    I genuinely don’t think that Mike is a bad person deep down. I think he is profoundly ignorant, and has trouble walking away from things. I can empathize with both, having personally had to work through them both on some things.

    The recent issue with his trans-insensitive comments really highlight this to me. At first, he said a thing or two that were somewhat insensitive. Then he got jumped on by a ton of people, and reacted poorly to that because fundamentally he didn’t even understand what their complaint was.

    Literally the next day he wrote a piece up (which I saw nobody retweet) detailing his conversation with a close personal friend who was trans, and who explained why his words were hurtful. He made what seemed to be a sincere apology, and donated 10k of personal money to a charity I believe.

    Some (many) of these issues are very difficult to understand the significance of if you are a cis-hetero-caucasion-male, especially depending on your upbringing. Some people are never taught these things, about these concerns when growing up. That’s not an excuse, but it is a fact of life.

    Many have said that it’s not their responsibility to educate people who are ignorant assholes, and they are right. It’s not really anyone’s responsibility. However, coming from the other side of the fence, I personally have said, and thought, some things that were pretty insensitive in the past because I honestly didn’t know any better. Had there not been people there to expand my horizons, I likely would still be that way.

    So, while it isn’t anyone’s responsibility to try to educate the ignorant, I still feel it is important to try. I’m truly not pointing fingers at anyone here. Nobody has to try and subject themselves to that, and I don’t begrudge those who don’t want to, but I personally am going to try and be that force that helped me become a better, more informed and empathetic person.

    That’s why I will still be attending PAX. It’s not that I want to be supporting an asshole, it’s that I want to support those who know better, or who may know better in the future. At the same time, I 100% respect and support those who do not feel that it is the place for them any longer. As has been said, it is something of a gray area, which is what makes it so challenging.

    I see a lot of my former self in Mike, and while I feel I have come around faster, I also did not have the pressure of literally tens of thousands of people telling me I was a shitlord. I have a temper, a pretty bad one truth be told, and I work at it every day. I try to not expose it to people unless it’s harmless, like raging at the SAB in GW2, but I know that I have that dark part of me. Were I subjected to the amount of hatred Mike has been, even though he brought much of it on himself, I would have an incredibly hard time being anything approaching graceful, and ultimately getting angry at something is one of the fastest ways to dismiss the significance or relevance of the argument. If you are pissed off and feel attacked (right or wrong), you are very likely to dig in your heels, put your fingers in your ears, and say “fuck you” instead of listening and understanding where they are coming from.

    • izziebot

      Thanks for the comment, sorry I’m behind on answering.

      I think you’re right about Mike not being a bad person – but profoundly ignorant is spot on, as well as profoundly stubborn.

      He has a big ego. Not always a bad thing but he gets so defensive that it sometimes blinds him. It took him 2 years, basically, to get the point of the dickwolves issue. Like, really, really get it. I’m glad he did, but it shouldn’t have taken that long.

      And I also will continue to go to PAX becuase, as I said on twitter, the point is to play my part to make it better. PAX is never gonna NOT sell out. If I decide not to go, that just leaves a spot open for someone who is most likely not going to be aware of or willing to help work on these community-wide issues.

      I agree that isn’t shaming those who choose not to go. How we show our concerns and what we think is best way to remedy that will differ from person to person.

      Great post, and thanks again.