The small studio behind the upcoming first-person exploration game Gone Home say they're pulling their game from the next big PAX show because of their rising discomfort with the show's organisers. "This morning we stopped pushing those long-held reservations about [Penny Arcade founders] Jerry and Mike into the back of our minds," writes Steve Gaynor, head of The Fullbright Company — a four-person indie studio.
"We talked to each other and did a simple show of hands — do any of us feel comfortable presenting Gone Home at PAX? No hands went up."
PAX is the thrice-annual gaming convention that has become the most popular gaming-centric showcase of new big-publisher and indie games in the US. Everyone from Nintendo and Ubisoft to the smallest indie developers regularly show their new works at the Seattle, Boston and, soon, Australia-based events to tens of thousands of gamers. Gone Home was accepted to the "Indie Megabooth" earlier this month, which is a showfloor area dedicated to indie games.
The objectionable behaviour Gaynor cites includes the "Dickwolves" debacle of 2010, Mike Krahulik's more recent statements that were exclusionary toward transgender people, as well as a number of other controversial statements and stances. The expo itself, however, has had a number of inclusive panels in the past — and it's also banned booth babes.
It's the more questionable incidents that came together to make The Fullbright Company uncomfortable operating with Penny Arcade. Gaynor writes:
We believe that people’s opinions and actions on social issues and business ethics are important. We believe that agreeing to pay the organisers of PAX over $US1,000 for booth space, and to present our game on their showfloor for four days, provides explicit support for and tacit approval of their publicly demonstrated positions on these subjects. And we have finally come to the conclusion that we cannot support Jerry, Mike, and their organisation by participating in this event.
We know that this will do them no harm; that’s not the point. Another developer will take our slot at the Megabooth; they won’t lose any ticket sales; we won’t hurt their feelings. If anything, we’re hurting ourselves– our ability to reach new fans who might not have heard of Gone Home, to connect with players, sell stuff, meet with press and video crews, and so on.
But this is not something that we’re doing for practical reasons.
We are a four-person team. Two of us are women and one of us is gay. Gone Home deals in part with LGBT issues. This stuff is important to us, on a lot of different levels. And Penny Arcade is not an entity that we feel welcomed by or comfortable operating alongside.
We've contacted Penny Arcade for comment on the situation and will update this post if we hear back. Incidentally, Mike Krahulik posted a blog in which he laments the current controversy, apologizing over his recent tweets about sex and gender.
"I’m very good at being a jerk," Krahulik wrote. "It’s sort if my superpower. When it comes to Penny Arcade it has served me well but it’s not OK when I make a bunch of people who are already marginalized feel like shit."
He said he is not the "bigot" others have made him out to be. "I hate lots of people it’s true. But I’ve never hated anyone for their sexual orientation or their gender situation." He added: "I don’t want to be the reason people don’t go to PAX or don’t support Child’s Play or don’t watch the shows on PATV." He's promising, going forward, he'll be keeping quiet about topics like these. He did not address the Fullbright Company's move, but if and when Penny Arcade does, we'll update this story.