Penny Arcade Artist: Pulling Dickwolves Merchandise 'Was A Mistake'

Penny Arcade Artist: Pulling Dickwolves Merchandise 'Was a Mistake'

The long-running Dickwolves controversy involving popular web-comic and convention organisers Penny Arcade took a new turn this weekend following comments from the strip's artist, Mike Krahulik. The artist said he regretted the pulling of shirts related to the controversy, a comment that stirred strong reaction for and against the Penny Arcade team, and also received a clarification from the group's business manager to Kotaku.

In 2010, the popular team at Penny Arcade ran an online comic where a hero is reluctant to save more slaves than a video game quest requires — even though the remaining slave mentions that every night, he is "raped to sleep by dickwolves". The comic caused controversy: some folks felt that it was insensitive, and some thought that it was fine because humour shouldn't have boundaries.

In response to the criticism by journalists and readers, Penny Arcade ran another comic that claimed that Penny Arcade did not condone rape, but also came off as sort of flippant. Two months later, Penny Arcade announced that they would sell dickwolf t-shirts in the Penny Arcade store (and later, Dickwolf pennants). This, too, drew criticism and support alike — much of which is chronicled in great detail here. Ultimately, Penny Arcade dropped the merchandise from the store. By the time that decision was taken, however, some of Penny Arcade's critics had undergone much harassment by some Dickwolves supporters as a result of speaking out against Dickwolves. Additionally, not all Penny Arcade fans were happy with the decision to pull the merchandise, including this supporter.


Penny Arcade Artist: Pulling Dickwolves Merchandise 'Was a Mistake'

The Dickwolves T-Shirt, image via siliconsasquatch.


"If jokes about violence, rape, aids, pedophilia, bestiality, drugs, cancer, homosexuality, and religion bother you then I recommend reading a different webcomic," Mike Krahulik, artist behind the Penny Arcade comic (pictured on the left on the picture up top), wrote.

"We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we've worked really hard to make that happen. From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees. When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause," he continued.

Krahulik drawing the Dickwolves beast, much to the crowd's amusement.

Despite that sentiment, this weekend, during a candid interview with Robert Khoo (the business manager for Penny Arcade) at the Penny Arcade Expo — Krahulik made it obvious that the decision to pull merchandise wasn't one he was entirely happy with.

At one point during the interview conducted by Khoo, he asks Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, the writer behind Penny Arcade, if there's anything that they wish Khoo would do better, or anything they resent him for.

"You know that I don't hold grudges, like I can be incredibly mad and then fine the next minute, as long as I get it out. And I feel like we got this out, so I'm not mad about it anymore, but, I think that pulling the dickwolves merchandise was a mistake," Krahulik said. The lament was met with audible praise from some of the crowd.

"Clearly it would have been better to just not say anything, and that's sort of our policy on all these types of things now, where it's just better to not engage, and in fact pulling it was a way of engaging," Khoo responded. Kotaku contacted Khoo about the interview, and he offered the following clarification:

It wasn't meant to be a comment supporting rape or sexual assault, but rather one about censorship and the shirt-pulling pouring gasoline on a sensitive discussion. I know we did a poor job of elaborating on that on stage, and as the guy moving the discussion along at the Q&A, I'm really sorry for that.

You can watch the original exchange below, at around the two hour 30 five minute mark.

Krahulik's admission has also been met with criticism on Twitter by game developers and game journalists, sparking some discussion of whether or not developers should attend PAX — particularly amongst some notable indie developers. Some critics feel that developers should stop attending the show, and there has been some talk amongst developers about what alternatives exist and whether or not alternatives to the show can be created. A few people have even boycotted the show. Unsurprisingly, the controversy has also brought supporters of dickwolves out of the woodwork as well, with some still supporting the idea that dickwolves is a harmless joke, or that the entire controversy has outlived its welcome (it's been three years since Penny Arcade ran the comic).

Last month, The Fullbright Company, a small studio behind the first-person exploration game Gone Home made headlines when they announced they would be pulling their game out of PAX due to rising discomfort with the show's organisers. The decision was a result of a variety of decisions, most notably the Dickwolves debacle, along with a more recent gaffe where Krahulik made statements that were exclusionary toward transgender people.

"I've never hated anyone for their sexual orientation or their gender situation. I don't hate people for superficial shit like that," Krahulik stated in response the controversy, also revealing that going forward, he wouldn't comment on similar issues around sexuality — lining up with Khoo's assertion that Penny Arcade's new policy was simply refusing to engage on such matters.

Although not many have taken a stand like The Fullbright Company did with Gone Home, but whether or not indie developers should attend PAX is an ongoing discussion that some developers have on social media around PAX time — the concern being that, despite Penny Arcade's repeated missteps when it comes to certain issues, the expo is too important, exposure wise, to miss.

It should be noted that despite these controversies, Penny Arcade not only hosts a variety of inclusive panels during the expo, it also founded a charity that organises toy drives for children's hospitals called Child's Play. Further, during the interview, Penny Arcade made it clear that they would not be bringing the Dickwolves merchandise back.

It's also worth noting that how rape is handled in jokes is an oft-debated subject, although even those that consider it to be a touchy subject say there are acceptable ways to make a rape joke.

Top picture: Wikimedia Commons


Comments

    I really never understood the whole dickwolves thing or why it was just a big deal.

      Well lucky for you there is a whole article about it right above your comment!

      Basically it's because a lot of people don't know how to just have fun with an idea, either because they lack maturity or perhaps they think themselves funny too. Personally, I'd just have a giggle to myself and let it slide.

      I didn't know anything about this, leading in so I did some googling on the situation. If you're curious read: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Dickwolves which references a very nice piece of statistical data that someone compiled at http://superopinionated.com/2011/02/08/here-is-a-project-troll-data-analysis/

      After I read the latter article I feel that while I'm alright with the joke, I don't think it's something that should be capitalised on... It's an issue a lot of people are touchy about.

        It's not a matter of lackin maturity. Not knowing how to have fun with something that laughs at the conept of rape is sort of in the ballpark. But, given the disgustingly high number of women (and men) who are victims of sexual violence, I don't think "don't know how to just have fun" with the idea of something that's horribly traumatic really covers it.

        And, as mentioned in the first link, some people use other people's justifiable discomfort at a joke being made around their trauma as an excuse to harass victims of crime, including threats of rape. If we didn't live in a world where sexual violence, and harrassment of victims of sexual violence for daring to speak up, were so prevalent I don't think it'd be an issue. But, sadly, we do live in that world.

        On the dickwolves specifically, I don't think it was the most egregious example of rape jokes. The punchline is about how little players give a shit about the 'people' in games. Rape was just an obvious example of 'horrible thing that gamers don't care about when it's just an abstract in a game'. In that regard, not really a rape joke, per se, but a joke which, in referencing rape where something else would have worked, opens up wounds. Agreed, though, making tees after it became apparent what the (I assume) unintended effect of the joke was, that was a... dick move. >.>

        To clarify, I don't think it was necessarily about "lol, rape is funny" so much as "we need a horrible thing for this person to not care about" followed up by an ignorance of the problematic nature of using that in a joke.

    Stories like this just make me think "badonkadonk".
    Stupid things people get ridiculously offended by.

    The Dickwolves thing was not offensive to me, but Mike has gone out of his way to make it a big deal. People were offended and he said "don't read our shit then", and if it had ended there we would have forgotten about it.

    But no, he had to make shirts and encourage people to buy them. He's the one who dredges this shit up time and time again. It's a symptom of a larger attitude problem he has. I was a PA fan once, I was on his side when he schooled Paul Christoforo and publically shamed him. But since then I have grown tired of these antics.

    These guys live only to serve their own egos now. Their comics have stopped being witty and insightful commentary on gaming culture to being self-serving nonsense with no charm whatsoever. They decided they didn't feel like having ads on their site so they ran a kickstarter to run their site for a year. Then they ran another kickstarter for a few hours of podcast material, which was the point where I stopped reading their site - to say nothing of the self-satisfied stylings of the Penny Arcade Report.

    I was willing to put all that aside and still make plans to go to PAX Australia next year but now I just can't be bothered. I don't want to do anything that encourages these people to continue doing what they're doing they way they are currently doing it. I don't want them to have any of my money. Maybe that doesn't make a difference to them, but it does to me.

    Maybe PA and their humour just isn't for me anymore. Maybe I just don't belong in that community. And maybe that's ok.

      Well said. You summed up my feelings exactly. I think they should be able to do what they want, but personally, I'm out.

      As strange as it may seem, I agree with you wholeheartedly on all of this.

      Mike is definitely not the best (or good at all really) at handling situations regarding public controversy, case in point Ocean Marketing. One quote I remember him saying is "I will burn everything I have to the ground just to get back at someone like that (meaning the Ocean marketing guy)" That just seems like the DUMBEST and WORST thing anyone could ever do, I really don't understand how he is willing to sacrifice everything for some kind of revenge or scorn. I guess he likes stirring things up in a bitter kind of way, a lot more now than before.

      He definitely pressed the point with the dickwolves merchandise, rubbing salt into the wound, so that definitely didn't help, but at the same time it was humourous and an extension of the joke, but using it as a tool to further incite more ire isn't the best way to go about diffusing the situation. Although I don't think remaining completely silent on the matter is the best or most credible option either, it would probably do the most to quell the uproar. Simply stating that it is their right to do whatever they want, and offending people or trivialising subjects such as rape or murder is not their intention probably would have sufficed. It would have cemented their position as creatives and reinforced the notion that they do not condone acts of violence in any way.

      I too was once an avid PA reader and I too was turned off when the tone began to sour, the kickstarter to 'remove ads' really put a sour taste in my mouth and showed them in a completely different light. I cannot, to the this day, fathom why they would want to suddenly charge their audience for content when they clearly didn't have to. Why assert that we owe them any money at all? Did they just want to get MORE money through crowd sourcing than they knew they could through advertising? Why would they not want to HELP the community they are obviously a part of by spotlighting games they care about by letting them advertise on their site? It definitely seems to be like some kind of weird ego boosting exercise, one that has forced me to not go back to their site since.

        I wasn't paying much attention around the kickstarter but my understanding was that it was an attempt for independence/neutrality so that they didn't get into the awkward position of accepting advertising money from a publisher for a game that was absolutely awful, or look like shills for commenting on how much they like a game that they were getting paid to advertise. I assume that there were enough people that felt strongly enough about this to fund the kickstarter and get rid of the ads.

        And perhaps I don't read enough webcomics, but on your comment of them not wanting to help the community they are a part of; do you know of any other web comic that has done more for the gaming community? They've spotlighted several games in both their comics and commentary, set up child's play, the PA Scholarship.

          I kind of get it, but it just put me completely off PA altogether, just left a really sour taste in my mouth. Instead of just using advertising to fund the site (and by extension support the community in another way AS WELL AS childs play PAX etc) they were asking for their audience pay for content that up until then had been free. I'm definitely not against paying for things, i just don't like how they tried to justify it.

          Only once I'm aware of where they got into a situation with a publisher over disparaging remarks (surprise surprise made by mike) made about a game that was being advertised on the site. After then they always had a build of the game to play and dealt directly with the developers/publishers to make sure it was a game they endorsed. So that wasn't an issue.

          It just felt like a straight up cash grab. They have a massive audience to exploit and they did that and not by offering any new content (at first) it was just simply 'remove the ads'. Didn't sit right with me.

      The thing you don't take into account, and what pisses me off about most of these discussions on the internet is that it is a free and open platform (in most ways). Nobody forces you to go to a website and to click on links and read articles or comics.

      If it offends you, just go away. People seem to think that being offended entitles them to some booming voice of god that everyone has to listen to, but it doesn't guys.

        Actually I completely took that into account, but instead of noticing that you decided to employ a very tired argument that says the internet is an open platform, therefore the PA guys can say or do whatever they like and I can just choose not to partake - which a literate person would see I actually agreed with.

        Of course what you failed to consider is that, just as the PA guys can say or do whatever they like on their own site, other people are free to express their offence and in a free and open internet their opinions are equally valid.

        No one is asking for special treatment because their feelings got hurt, but even if they were, they're allowed to be offended if they want. They're pointing out that the behaviour of the PA guys in regards to their joke and their handling of the criticism, was quite poor. Even the PA guys admit that.

        Furthermore, this stopped being an "open internet" issue when Mike Krahulik took it offline. They started a convention which was supposed to be open and welcoming to all fans of gaming. Then they made an offensive joke. Then in response to criticism of that joke, they turned their show floor into a warzone by selling and encouraging the wearing of t-shirts bearing the joke that they knew to cause offense because Mikey needs to have his way and prove how many fucks he doesn't give.

        And now there are people who no longer go to PAX.

    I'm guilty of white-knighting, but I never got this one. The 'rape' wasn't the punchline, it was player apathy to the horrors befalling MMO NPC's. The whole thing wouldn't have worked if it wasn't tacitly acknowledging that rape is a horrible thing. I never saw how it was somehow making light of rape.

      It was never the joke, it was the response that was the problem.

        Yup. Their creation of merchandise to promoting this fictional 'dickwolf', an animal used as a rape/torture agent as a thing to support, rally behind and laugh at and drawing penises on wolves is not only insensitive but shows their agenda of being a family friendly, culturally inclusive company is false.

        Last edited 04/09/13 10:16 am

          Their first comic involved one of the characters attempting to shove a bloody corpse into a wardrobe and asking for a hammer when it didn't fit.

          When have they ever marketed the comic (or themselves) as "Family Friendly"?

          Last edited 04/09/13 6:16 pm

        Are we talking about the dick wolf shirt here? It was immature, but I saw it as more of a calling out of unreasonable criticism that straight out offence.

        Point of order: Strictly speaking, it was their response to the response to the joke that was the problem.

      Exactly.

      I actually think the point would've been lost if the strip had victims "just" brutally tortured to near death every night, because excruciating death and non-sexual violence are more socially acceptable - death and non-sexual violence are just "things that happen". Choosing rape as the fate of victims gives the biggest highlight to the moral dissonance - that you can still feel heroic after condemning a never-ending group of "helpless" characters to a horrible fate, as long as you saved a specific number of them (i.e. heroism has quotas).

    The question came up in my head "if rape is so bad to joke about , then why isn't murder met with the same criticism? Surely you can't say murder isn't as bad as rape?".

    I thought about it and realized that murder happens to anybody, all kinds of people get murdered every day. Rape however, is nearly always targeted at women. It's this specific nature of the reference that makes it so sensitive, as rape is not about sex, it's about horribly enforcing power over women. That's why women find the casual jokes about it so offensive. In that respect, it's on the same level as racism. Most white guys wouldn't be personally offended if PA sold shirts with a joke that was racist, but they would at least understand why it was offensive and why it shouldn't be sold.

    I understand PA's need for creative freedom with their creations, but the joke, and more-so their treatment of it afterwards just didn't need to happen. It shows a total lack of respect for almost half of their audience, so if they wanted their convention to be as open as they say they do, then they should have tried to be more considerate of how their fans felt about their actions.

      And to be clear, this whole issue is no longer about the fact that they made a rape joke, it's that they refused to back down and even belittled the people who were offended publicly, rather than simply apologize or just let it go. If PA had respected people's opinions and left it rather than going out of their way to make a tshirt to deliberately offend people, then we wouldn't be reading about any of this crap right now.

        Why the fuck should they apologise? Whatever happened to creative freedom? Who are you to say what people are allowed to do or say? or even deem what is and isn't offensive?

          Well who are you to say that DanMazkin can't say they should apologise? Circular logic is circular.

            I never said he can't, I was asking why, because protecting creative freedom and asserting that some jokes 'didn't need to happen' is contradictory.

          They don't have to apologise, but if they are so set on creating an atmosphere which is open to everybody like they continue to claim, then its more that they should apologise, or at least try to understand why their jokes seem so offensive to other people in the first place.

          Also, there's a big difference between someone speaking their mind, and them just being a self-righteous dick.

      Although I agree with this generally, I don't think it applies in this particular instance. It's not a joke about rape, it just mentions it. They certainly aren't making light of rape, but how easily people dismiss horrific acts in games.

      I think that its far more offensive when someone uses the word rape to describe a trivial inconvenience.

        The joke itself is forgivable - sometimes humour causes offence. The problem is that the fallout from that has been mishandled completely. Instead of trying to move on, Mike pulls out the controversy each year to try and articulate why he wasn't wrong to make the joke and everyone should just deal with it and stop complaining already.

        No one is telling him what he can and can't joke about. But if you upset someone by making an off-colour joke, and they tell you that, what's the appropriate response?

        1) Acknowledging the offence then making a mental note not to do that around them anymore; or,
        2) Visiting their house every few months wearing a rape joke t-shirt to tell them that your joke wasn't really so bad, and you'd appreciate it if they could go ahead and move past it because you've got some great rape zingers lined up that you think they're going to love.

        Last edited 04/09/13 10:03 am

          I think your being terribly one sided in this. They copped a lot of abuse straight off the bat, and to this day I can't see the basis for the offence. Boycotts were called for PAX and their Child's Play. People massively over reacted, they called them out on it (admittedly fairly abrasively).

          They then sold shirts, which they claim (and based on sales) were heavily requested. To this day it's one of their

          "No one is telling him what he can and can't joke about. But if you upset someone by making an off-colour joke, and they tell you that, what's the appropriate response?

          1) Acknowledging the offence then making a menntal note not to do that around them anymore; or,
          2) Visiting their house every few months wearing a rape joke t-shirt to tell them that your joke wasn't really so bad, and you'd appreciate it if they could go ahead and move past it because you've got some great rape zingers lined up that you think they're going to love."

          Matthew, judging from your past comments, you seem like a reasonable guy, but this is a silly comment. People were telling them what they could joke about. That is exactly what this is about. The real question is whether it is justified.

          Second, you can't acknowledge it and not do it around them anymore because its the Internet. You don't choose your audience online. They arguably did the closest to what you suggested in point one and two by telling people not to come to the site.

            You're right in that you can't choose your audience when it's the interent. Your audience chooses you.

            As I said above, if this matter had been allowed to blow over, it would have. Yes, people complained, and they put PA in a difficult position, but I think a reasonable person - especially one who runs a child-oriented charity - would have the self-awareness to pull his head in a little bit. Instead he deliberately and maliciously used the joke as a basis for a t-shirt and pennants, literally flags people could purchase and wave, that repeated the joke. He specifically encouraged people to wear the shirts and bring the pennants to his show, so as to show people who disliked the joke where they could shove their precious sensibilities.

            As others have pointed out, PAX is meant to be a friendly, inclusive show where people can feel comfortable. Then he did something to make people feel uncomfortable. Then he blamed those people for feeling bad. The mighty Krahulik can do no wrong!

            I do not believe in censorship. But I also don't have to support people whose behaviour I don't condone. Mike and Jerry are not beholden to me, or anyone who visits PAX. But if they want people to continue to enjoy their products and visit their shows, they need to be mindful of the impact their behaviour has on their audience, because there are parts of their audience they are going to alienate completely, and that is eventually going to affect their bottom line. They employ like 25 people. They can't afford to be this irresponsible.

            I found the dickwolves joke amusing. This behaviour, I do not.

            Last edited 04/09/13 10:37 am

              I think the key thing here is that he believed (as do I obviously) that this was manufactured outrage and that those 'bad feelings' were unjustified. Hence, the promotional items that were basically an 'f-you' to the critics. It was immature, but I don't think either side in this debate was being reasonable by that point.

              All of that said, I have to agree that you can't have a inclusive show if people are walking around in shirts with the word 'dick wolf' written on it.

      "Rape however, is nearly always targeted at women"

      Actually rape is about half and half for both genders.

        I expected this point to come up. It is true that there are cases where men get raped by women (or by other men), but I'm certain the number of Male rape victims vs Female rape victims would render the argument pointless.

        We can acknowledge the fact that that men do get raped, but it shouldn't be used as a way to invalidate what is a perfectly reasonable argument.

          If the argument is 'only women get raped' than it kinda should invalidate the argument.

          You wouldn't acknowledge that cats are a 4 legged pet but then still argue that dogs are the only 4 legged pet, would you?

        Actually, according to the ABS, in 2012, 83% of sexual assault victims were female (there's a lot of under-reporting among men, to be sure, but nowhere near enough to get to 50/50).

        If it's any consolation, men are more likely to be victims of every other major crime except kidnapping/abduction (but are surprisingly close in that category, too, at 43%).

      Plenty of guys get raped too. Especially in times of war.

      You do realise, though, that in the comic, the rape victim was a man, right?

        Yeah totally, but it's not the comic's content itself that caused the offence, it was the disregard of the topic after the fact that made it into such a drama. If PA made a racist joke, then after it was brought up with them, they made tshirts to directly tell their detractors to get stuffed, you'd see a lot less people jumping up to defend their actions.

          Except that this wasn't a racist joke, nor was it even a rape joke. The only usage of Rape in the comic is that it's something terrible happening to the NPC. The joke is that the Big Hero doesn't care, because he's reached his 'being heroic' quota.

    If you or someone you dearly love have not been affected by things like rape, suicide or cancer, chances are you'll find them hilarious topics. If you have however had these horrible things affect your life, a single flippant joke can fuck up your entire day or set off waves of anxiety.

    I believe in freedom of speech, but these are also real issues that painfully affect people and even destroy lives, so before an entertainer wants to makes jokes about them, they should take some responsibility for the huge pain they could cause.

    Last edited 04/09/13 9:58 am

      Some sobering words. Trigger content can be an issue for some and it's something to be mindful of.

      I've only dealt with cancer in a personal context and having gone through that and past it I never saw the need to stop making cancer jokes. My thoughts were if I let cancer jokes upset me then cancer wins and f#ck cancer so the jokes can keep on rolling.

      True, but that's the risk they take, So I'm sure they're aware of it.

      What if someone was run over by an ice cream truck? Ice cream is now out of bounds?

      Choked on a rubber ducky? Can't talk about them anymore?

      Was eaten alive by a crazed pack of rabbits? Rabbits are no longer to be discussed at all?

      My question is, where do you draw the line? Who is allowed to say what can and can't be discussed anymore? Everyone experiences tragedy in some way, some more bizarre and obscure than others (just check out the darwin awards), so you are always going to 'offend' someone no matter what.

        You shouldn't draw any lines. You should be able to make any jokes you want and let your audience decide if they consume your content. But that's not even what this is about. You've missed the point.

          No I didn't miss the point at all, I elaborated on yours, please read it again.

          To clarify: my point was that everyone experiences tragedy in their lives in different ways, so if you are going to make jokes about ANYTHING (ie not just topics like murder, rape etc) you run the risk of offending someone, somewhere, GUARANTEED, so you absolutely CANNOT make any judgements about what is and isn't ok to joke about.

          As I said in the very first line in my response about the PA guys (and people who make jokes for a living):
          "that's the risk they take, So I'm sure they're aware of it.

            The problem isn't the fact that they're not allowed to make offensive jokes. I'm ok with that. It's their inconsistency in how they present Penny Arcade, acting like the sheriffs of the Internet, calling people out, banning booth babes because they objectify women, talking about making everyone feel included, running a charity etc. Then they stir the pot and condescend people who offended and make merchandise of a sports team who's mascot represents rape and is named after the male genetalia.

            There's plenty of media out there that I find distasteful but I don't have a problem with its existence. Live and let live. But PA attempts to frame their values in a way and this is simply hypocritical.

            Last edited 04/09/13 3:57 pm

        You know, if my brother was run over by an ice-cream truck, I'd like to think my friends would at least stop making jokes about people being hit by trucks for a while. especially if I said "hey, sorry, I really need you to not tell jokes like that for a while".

          Yeah true - but the expectation that everyone, everywhere should stop making jokes about it is unreasonable.

            Yeah, but that's the responsibility that comes with having a multi-million view webcomic. If their comic got 5 hits an update from their mates, they'd be free to make whatever jokes they wanted as long as they didn't offend their friends. Once you start getting into million-dollar Kickstarter territory, though, there has to be some sort of responsibility to acknowledge that your audience is broader and more diverse, and may have life experiences you're not aware of.

              ...And thats where I'll call bullshit.
              "Yeah, but that's the responsibility that comes with having a multi-million view webcomic", It is their comic and they can publish whatever they want, that's what artistic freedom is about. If YOU don't like it, then don't view it. If too many people don't like it they'll have the 5 hits site you mentioned, but this is THEIR decision, what they want to publish. The original joke was a statement about how NPCs where treated in games, the shirt was a joke about how people complained and where offended because they went to a website and found the joke offensive enough to start a big contraversy.
              All these people complaining because someone said something that they found offensive... should artist need your okay to publish work? Should we just shutdown all artist as their work may offend someone, sometime?
              Why do people feel entitled to have artist they usually like only produce works they like? It remids me of the whole ME3 fiasco and all the nerd rage on the web because people didn't like the ending and demanded it to be changed. FFS If you want something that you always like, the only way you'll do it is to write it your danm self (then wait for others to complain about what they find offensive).

          But i noticed you said 'your friends' and 'for a while', so what about the PA guys? Would you call for a boycott of their charity projects because of that? And what about after 10 years your friend let slip a mention of ice cream? Would that be ok? Where do you draw the line? Who is allowed to talk about ice cream and when?

        Isn't the line where rape, murder and torture come into it?

        Just thinking out loud here, but that makes sense to me, so by that basis, they crossed a line. But I think the joke was somehow leveraged at "it doesn't matter because they're not real people, they're npc's and as players, we know that"

        But I'm just thinking here, I might have it all wrong. But I agree with the main consensus, that it wasn't the joke but the response to the response. I mean, in this day and age, if you read the papers, widespread outrage is the appropriate reply to almost any issue.

      I've also met people who have been raped who make rape jokes themselves, as to not allow such a topic to control their lives.

        That's good for them. But not everyone is that strong. Some people certainly use humour as a way of healing, but some people make jokes about things from which they've suffered in an attempt to evade or repress, which can be unhealthy and stop you from genuinely growing stronger and eventually moving on. You can't be sure if their humour represents a genuine conquering of one's suffering, or an unhealthy band-aid.

        Last edited 04/09/13 3:59 pm

    That whole 'controversy' is absolutely RIDICULOUS. The joke is about the game and it's mechanics, NOT rape. They were using it to exaggerate a point.

    The white knights and over zealous feminists completely missed the point and took it completely out of context. Not Penny Arcade's fault at all. They are a humourous comic strip, they make jokes, the end.

    Robert is right, it's not about trivialising rape or anything like that, it's about censorship. I think it's ironic that most of these keyboard morale warriors were probably campaigning about SOPA, but then they turn around and kick up a shit about a joke when it offends them, making complaints and protesting/promoting boycotts etc.

    I'm a firm advocate that NOTHING should be out of bounds when it comes to humour, people, religion, tragedies, they should all be fair game (within reason of course), if it offends you: GET OVER IT, the world doesn't revolve around your opinions.

      How many times does it have to be said: it's not the joke that was the problem. It was the way they handled the criticism.

        Then how come people complained BEFORE the responded with the criticism???

          Futhermore, they make jokes, in a humourous comic strip, so when the explained themselves they made light of the fact that it isn't meant to be taken seriously. It was an imaginary animal in an imaginary context.

          It's clear from the original comic that they don't condone rape, and aren't trivialising it by down playing it, if anything they use it as a hyperbolic device to show that the 6th slave is in a REALLY BAD position, effectively EMPHASISING the horrible act of rape and that it isn't good in any way.

            Perhaps - to me, it felt a lot more like "well, this strip sucks... throw in 'rape' for some shock value."

            It added nothing, not even a guilt laugh - that's the difference between it and George Carlin's rape joke.

              "well, this strip sucks... throw in 'rape' for some shock value."

              Unfortunately I think that's how they operate nowadays, hence why I don't read anymore. But I'll still defend their right to do that, even if I don't like it all that much, because as a creative person myself I am completely against any type of censorship.

        Thats an incredibly one-sided, post-hoc narrative. There was a huge, completely unreasonable uproar before they made any sort of response. The expectation was that they apologise and remove the strip, but its very debatable that the joke was offensive. Could they have handled it better, yes. Personally, I agree that they shouldn't have engaged with it at all because the whole complaint was unreasonable.

          They had it right when they said that removing the merchandise was pouring fuel on the fire, because it put them in a position where they gave in to people's taking offence, and weakened their 'freedom of creative expression' position by making them look like they were second guessing themselves or ashamed of their work.

          By simply ignoring the outspoken claims they could have quelled at least some of the uproar by effectively dismissing these claims and not acknowledging it and getting on with making comics.

        Until it warps reality to the point where that argument actually makes sense, I guess.

      This post is a great case study for the textbook I am writing for a class on how to miss the point.

        This post is a great case study for the textbook I am writing for a class on how to add nothing to a discussion.

        I would be so mad if I was a student and I had to buy a textbook about 'how to miss a point'.

        That would not feel like a good use of my student dollars.

          True story, once I had to buy a textbook that was almost completely useless and provided no useful content for the course I was doing, but it was on the reading list because it was written by the unit co-ordinator and lecturer.

            I've been there. Not quite as bad, there was a lot of course content, but it was written by the lecturer. Nice little stipend for himself.

            2nd degree I learnt to go in waaaaay before uni started and get the textbooks out from the library. Saved hundreds.

              Tried that this year. Not only did a new edition come out a few weeks beforehand, but the library recalled the old version a week into semester via sms.

                All you can do is try dude. I've gone through a few courses with old edition text books. 90% of it is the same info.

            I've had many expensive Text Books be out of date, or not used by a course. And in one case simply out of stock at the only place that stocked them.

            The lecturer complained non stop we didn't have it, and frequently called the store to get it in. We somehow finished the whole course without ever referring to it or it being referenced. And when they finally got it in there a 2 days to go and we didn't need it for the next course.

    Regardless of your position on the whole dickwolves debacle (I thought it was a potentially insensitive joke that could have been much less of a deal if it hadn't kept becoming a big deal, if that makes sense), it's unfortunate that they said what they said without any chance to qualify, because what they're saying right now is completely reasonable.

    They're not saying "we shouldn't have pulled the shirts because we support rape", they're saying "the act of pulling the shirts made the thing news again and that just brought it back and I wish we hadn't done that because it became A Thing again." That's an understandable sentiment, even if the original solution would have been to not make the shirts in the first place.

    (The Penny Arcade people have always spoken about PAX being bigger than them, and hoping that it would one day grow to a point where it no longer needed them to be so heavily involved. I wonder if now is that time - the convention itself is a pretty big deal, and I think it could continue to be so without needing them any more.)

    They need to realise they can't have their cake and eat it too.
    They seem to want to make PAX an inclusive event where all types of gamers can feel safe and comfortable, but they also want to be able to say and joke about whatever they want. It doesn't work like that.
    The dickwolves thing was never so much about the joke itself, it was more about the fact that Krahulic acknowledged there are people who are disturbed by that kind of thing but he didn't care, he was going to say what he wanted anyway. Which is a dick move, but his to make. He can't then say he wants PAX to be inclusive, though.

      But you can't please all the people, all the time, try as you might.

        I dunno dude, I'm a personal trainer so I work with the public. Some people are pretty awful to deal with, but you can at least try to please and be likable.

        It seems like Mike likes the battle and stirs it up on purpose. That attitude just makes your life more difficult.

          Yea he's definitely not very good at keeping a level head...

      Your own argument contradicts itself though. There isn't any good way of having an environment in which all types of gamers can feel safe and comfortable without creating an environment in which no one feels safe or comfortable. You would have to remove all games that could potentially offend someone, you would have to remove all games that could potentially deal with topics that upset or make people uncomfortable, and you would have to remove games that present viewpoints that people don't agree with. Conversations would need to be monitored and all panels censored for content that may offend any one group, minority or person. Essentially it becomes a police state.

      It sounds extreme, but people can take offense at or be upset by things that aren't even of concern to another group. For example, most Western society eats beef, but throw a Hindu in the mix and you suddenly have to tread carefully when talking about meat products. Do you suppress people's ability to eat and talk about beef, or do you ask the Hindu to suppress their views about the sanctity of cows?

        The solution is to not serve steak to the Hindu people at dinner. Also, perhaps do not sell t-shirts and flags that have pictures of a cow being fed into a meat grinder on them, then the following year make a big deal about how you can't sell those shirts anymore because some Hindus complained about it.

          I see what you're getting at but you've angled your example to further suit your view point and it isn't a correct analogy.

          "The solution is to not serve steak to the Hindu people at dinner"

          The misconception is that PA are forcing their comics on people who they know will be offended by them. This is not true. Their comics are there whether you look at them or not, and there is no way to tell who will be offended by what. If you are talking about the response to the criticism then this is somewhat true, however nothing is being forced onto anyone, as in: people having food served to them, with presumably no alternative, which is not the same scenario. The merchandise was there (because apparently people were asking for it, not sure if that's true or not) but it's not the ONLY clothes people can wear, there are alternatives. It is not being forced on people at all, if they don't want it they don't have to buy it, and if they're worried that they'll go to PAX and on the off chance see someone wearing it then they don't have to go to PAX (or leave the house for that matter). It is the Penny Aracde Expo after all, so people complaining about how PA run their own event is some self entitled nonsense. They can run it however they want, no one has to attend, there are even alternatives in other expos if you feel you reeeeeally need to go to one. So again, not accurate.

          Depends on whether or not said "Hindu people" got stuck into me about my steak eating before hand. If said group complained about me serving steak at my house during an open invitation BBQ which they chose to attend, and then accused me of being morally reprehensible for doing so, and started being pretty offensive about it, and telling everyone around them how terrible and insensitive I was, I don't think my response would be measured and reasonable - those t-shirts would look pretty good at that point.

          Justifiable? Maybe not, since I'd be unfairly offending people who weren't responsible for the original issue. But I'd like to thing that those offended by my reaction, after listening to the arguments from both sides, might feel that those who made the original criticism were unjustified, too, and be a bit sympathetic regarding my behaviour.

        What a great point. But for the sake f polite debate, I think if you're a gamer with sensitivities attending a convention you'd have an understanding of particular games that you found offensive and you'd have the nous to avoid or deal with them, after all you'd have to enter a gamestore at some point in your life. But I think it's the hosts of the convention that need to show some responsibility to be inclusive. You can't provide an environment in which several thousand people can all escape offense, but that's different from being the one creating or promoting potentially offensive material.

        The hosts have a different responsibility/role.

        Last edited 04/09/13 11:07 am

    “Clearly it would have been better to just not say anything, and that’s sort of our policy on all these types of things now, where it’s just better to not engage, and in fact pulling it was a way of engaging,”

    Ah, good. So the lesson we learn is that when you have a view that differs from what a vocal and aggressive group express, the best decision is to stop talking about it. I'm sure critics would accept that as a victory with no sense of irony or hypocrisy whatsoever.

      I'd say the lesson is "the right to be vulgar and stupid isn't really worth that much effort."

      I'd hope nobody really bemoans the inability to wear said shirt, but "welcome to the Internet" and all that.

        Ah. Someone should probably let the producers of El Bernameg know about that. I'm sure Bassem Youssef (who has frequently been described as vulgar, and frequently describes his show as stupid) would be happy to hear about that.

          Does he go on about a poorly-received sketch for 3 years, or does he accept it comes with the territory?

            That's true. I guess we just amend Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the (Mostly) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, because Article 19 clearly shouldn't apply all the time. A kind of pragmatic Voltaire, because I should really only defend the things I agree with and matter to me.

            Last edited 04/09/13 12:01 pm

              True... but is cheap shock value really the best thing to wave the banner for, as opposed to imprisoned journalists or something?

                I think so. The erosion of rights and freedoms always starts small - as does the gaining of them, quite often. If you can get people to agree with one kind of censure, it becomes much easier to get them to go along with the next.

                Look at:

                ... [the] more recent gaffe where Krahulik made statements that were exclusionary toward transgender people

                I don't agree with his views on gender, but I 100% agree that he's allowed to have them and say them out loud. I don't think they were exclusionary - Mike made it quite clear that they were his views and that they were fallible - he did defend them vigorously, and apologised for being overly vigorous at times. The conflation that Patricia (and Mark and many others) seem to be making is that because he has an archaic view of gender and sexuality, it confirms that his earlier statements were really just a subtle way of endorsing rape and rape culture. There's a dog whistle to this article and some of the comments that makes me very, very uncomfortable - all the more so because it wusses out on actually explicitly making the connection (which is how dog whistle statements work).

                Ultimately, I'd much rather the PA guys be able to express (and potentially argue) any "disagreeable" or "offensive" views, and people choosing to boycott or whatever. That to me is much better than them not expressing those views, and have it be a potential hidden agenda. It offends me more, I guess, that on appearance, many of the people taking the moral high ground on this would be happy with forcing someone to censor themselves and as a result degrading one universal human right, as part of arguing that their opponent is degrading a different one. It's probably ironic and hypocritical for me to say, but I get incredibly offended by that sort of hypocrisy.

                  I can't argue your point, but I do feel people should at least think about what they're putting forward first.

                  If that's self-censorship, so be it. My grandmother called it 'personal responsibility'.

                  Reminds me of when gamers kicked up a huge stink about the bloody sexualised zombie torso statue for the Dead Island collectors edition. I found it really repulsive but I was disappointed that the developer eventually withdrew the statue die to the outrage.

                  Why can't people just avoid it and not buy it? I don't like people coming in to my hobby and telling me what I can and can't play so I don't want to do that to others.

                  It was a bunch of people who didn't want the statue making sure that nobody got it which is hypocritical because most gamers get their hackles up when a Christian politician tries to get the latest GTA banned.

                  If someone wants a grotesque zombie torso ornament, that's great. It doesn't hurt me. As long as I don't have to see it on display at EB where my kids can see it I'm all for freedom and choice.

                  Censorship is a really dangerous thing.

      I actually think that IS the most appropriate response when dealing with these sorts of people. Everything you do and say will inflame them more, so just, stop giving them targets and don't engage.

      Because you really can't win with some people. It's not even worth trying against the truly rabid. They just drag you down to their level, and then beat you with experience. It's better to keep your self respect and take the high road.

        That's true. I think Khoo's statement is probably one of the most appropriate and adult responses about the issue. I just don't like that they have to effectively silence themselves against (potentially) unfair criticism, because some people criticise how they criticise that criticism (and now I've gone cross-eyed).

          YES! I thought I was the only one that still used that Austin Powers reference. It's such a corker.

    I made a new account to write this because I don't want the attention on my account and this is hard for me to talk about.

    Earlier this year, my wife of 12 years was raped by a stranger. The rapist has been charged and we are awaiting court. Needless to say the impact on our lives has been devastating. Her self esteem is no longer exists, we are no longer sexually intimate. Although my children don't know about it, this will be a scar our family wears for the rest of our lives.

    I went to PAX Australia this year. And I enjoyed myself a lot. I was planning on taking my 2 sons there next year too. But not anymore. See, I don't read pennyarcade.com I just went because I know it's a convention that is welcoming to people of all walks of life and their values seem to celebrate diversity. But having found out about this exclusionary attitude that prioritizes freedom to offend over respecting their audience, I cannot support Penny Arcade in any way.

    How could I take my son to a convention that has merchandise glorifying a humorous animal that rapes people? How could I take my wife to a panel in which an artist gets laughs by replacing an animal's appendages with instruments of rape?

    I don't feel included one bit. I feel excluded. Which is fine, some media, like Southpark, is purposefully offensive and I choose not to watch it and I don't make a fuss about it because we should all choose what we consume and not try and ruin other people's fun.

    So anyway, now I know that Penny Arcade is not a company that feels any obligation to appeal to people's sensitivities I won't be going to PAX.

      That's just terrible mate. I'm so sorry you were both the victims of such an insidious act. People can come back from this, but it takes time.

      My thoughts are with you both.

    If they'd only realised this then instead of now (the non-engaging thing).

    I think people are connecting too many dots.

    I understand the controversy and all the poor management of it and how it's offensive and also how those who it doesn't offended feel censored.

    What i don't get is the ability to connect the dots between what IMO is a trivial but notable issue (not rape as the issue, but the poor humour as the issue) and letting that affect all dealings. People and Independent Developers boycotting a social/media/business event over something like this? To me that's petty.

    Also what happened to humour being a part of social criticism and progression? Just like for some Racism issues, we should find ways to transform "laughing at someone who got raped" into "laughing at that damn dirty rapist."

    If this comment ever gets approved I'd just like to let people know that now all my posts are getting held back for moderation, so a lot of my carefully worded and straightforward replies to some people are getting held up for whatever reason.

    I made no threats or insults to people, but others have been smart asses towards me, yet their comments go up fine. All I'm doing is contributing to the discussion with what i see as a view point steadfastly rooted in the protecting the creative freedoms of everyone.

    I am no troll.

      While I have no opinions one way or the other, I've noticed that quite a few of your comments on this particular article appear to have negative ratings due to people voting them down. I wouldn't be surprised if there's is some auto-moderation for accounts if this occurs too frequently.

        Yea there's definitely some people on here who constantly down vote me, even though others are saying the exact same thing. Whatever.

    You're free to get offended, just like im free to make a joke / statement / artistic endeavour.

    If this is where the line stopped, we wouldn't have such a problem in society.

    Probably worth reading the article Patricia linked to about boycotting from respected gaming blogger Leigh Alexander - which in classic Internet echo chamber style, algins itself with another blogger's poetic insight into tolerance called Quit Fucking Going To PAX Already, What Is Wrong With You.

    I don't object to people boycotting - that's a reasonable thing to do when the event and/or its organisers make you uncomfortable - but boycotting and then loudly and angrily condemning everyone who doesn't and/or feels differently and says so as "militantly self-righteous" seems to be, well, militantly self-righteous.

    I've been trying to reconcile this statement:

    When you have the opportunity to make a huge difference as respected figures in a community, do you use it to broadcast your own self-righteousness, or to teach people to be better to one another? Do you learn from the mistake, or do you keep making more, with such stubbornness and consistency that people begin to suspect you’re probably either deeply troubled or at worst, a terrible ass?

    With this statement:

    I personally don’t understand how the founders of the PA organization can sleep at night without having admitted to a massive wrong turn in its relationship to its community and without having expressed a commitment to change, learn and re-earn trust. Probably all the money they make from the convention helps. I would rather it wasn’t our money.

    All I can come up with is a classic Homer-ism:

    But when I do it, it's cute!

    UPDATE: On reflection, that same Homer-ism might be applied to Mike, as well. I'm not sure if that demonstrates that two wrongs don't make a right, or that pointing out that someone is else being as arse doesn't make you immune or excuse you from being one yourself - a lesson posters on this this very blog have taught me on the odd occasion (and to be fair, I'm sure at some point in the future I'll need to be reminded of that, though I'll try not to create the need).

    Last edited 05/09/13 11:39 am

    Just read a horribly sad article about a twin whose twin sister spiralled downwards into drugs, self abuse and finally suicide after an ideal childhood... after being raped by some coward, and the struggle she went through to adjust after losing her genetically identical sister.

    I'm sure she would just piss herself laughing at some shrivledick f#ckwit telling a rape joke to her.

    Here's a question...
    Why the fuck is someone kicking a stink up about it three years after the event occurred?

    As George Carlin said, every joke needs one exaggeration.
    They were using Dickwolves as the exaggeration, not rape.

    Last edited 04/09/13 11:38 pm

    So, what I got from this:

    1) Some people voiced an opinion and can't deal with the fact that Mike doesn't agree with them. I feel very sad for them (not)

    2) After reading Mike's supposedly "exclusionary" comments and finding the charges completely bogus, the makers of "Gone Home" are not getting a single red cent of my money. Which is a shame, because after reading reviews and a developer interview in PCPowerplay I was going to purchase it. But hey, boycotting works both ways.

    Too many so called controversies have been blown out of proportion recently that I'm now infinitely more likely to dismiss future legitimate ones.

    Cards against humanity a card game that plays on words.
    If you haven't played go play if you have you know its just a game.

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