It hasn’t been that long since the last time Penny Arcade did something that cast the company in a negative light, but here we are again with another fiasco that’s been making its way around Twitter today. I thought it would be helpful to do a quick rundown of the events from today to make everyone aware of the situation and help answer some questions about why you might want to rethink supporting Penny Arcade, PAX, or anything affiliated with that organization.
It all started today when this panel was posted from PAX Australia, titled “Why So Serious? Has the Industry Forgotten That Games Are Supposed to Be Fun?”. The original screencap of the description is below.
“Why does the game industry garner such scrutiny from outside sources and within? Every point aberration gets called into question, reviewers are constantly criticised and developers and publishers professionally and personally attacked. Any titillation gets called out as sexist or misogynistic and involve any antagonist race other than Anglo-Saxons and you’re a racist.
It’s gone too far and when will it all end? How can we get off the soapbox and work together to bring a new constructive age into fruition?”
There is so much wrong with this panel description that I don’t even know where to begin. The idea that games as a medium are exempt from criticism because they’re “supposed to be fun” is ridiculous and immature. This complete and utter display of privilege and a total dismissal of the concerns by women and people of color is awful, but then conflating ‘a new constructive age’ with a time where we disregard the concerns of marginalized gamers is flat out embarassing. Naturally, the internet responded. As a result, the description was altered and the line about sexism and misogyny was removed.
“Does the games industry garner too much scrutiny from outside sources and within? With review score aberrations often called into question, writers are constantly criticised and developers and publishers professionally and personally attacked. Has it all gone too far? Can we just get along and we work together to bring a new constructive gaming age into fruition?”
This still-blatant disregard for the fact that criticism is an important part of moving media (TV, books, movies, prose, song) forward shows that this was clearly edited for the purpose of calming down the masses. Naturally, when people complain to him, Gabe (aka Mike Krahulik) says that “we don’t make the panels, they are submitted by the community.”
As someone who has submitted panels and talks to other conferences in the past, I am keenly aware that these submissions are reviewed, edited, and approved by the conference staff. They are not just blindly posting up any submission that is entered. This is a cop-out response in which Krahulik is pawning off responsibility to the “community” (which he is supposed to be leading).
But it gets worse. Cue the transphobic tweets.
After complaining a bit about how he’s receiving death threats and not wanting to antagonize people on Twitter, he posted up what was intended be a ‘resolution’ to the problem, by ‘proving’ that he’s capable of learning and that even his ‘trans friends’ are able to have civil conversations with him. Unfortunately, it’s proving to be offering way more harm than good.
To be honest with you I had no idea that you were not born a girl until just a couple months ago. When we met and hung out I always just thought you were a woman. Knowing your situation changed nothing about how I would treat you. I am happy to treat someone however they want to be treated. Wanna be a guy or a girl or a fox or whatever and I will be happy to treat you that way.
But I think that is very different from the physical reality of your human body.
I think you’re awesome and super talented. I have no idea what your body parts are and I don’t want to know. I will treat you as a woman if that’s how you present yourself to me.
I hate the idea that because I think boys and girls have different parts I am “transphobic” that pisses me off it makes me angry and so I lash out.
While it’s wonderful that he will treat someone as the gender they wish to be treated, perhaps it would be nice for Krahulik to actually view them as that gender and not worry about what sort of genitalia they have. His constant reiteration of the fact that he feels all women have vaginas, and his disrespectful comparison of gender identity being the same as asking people to call him Batman is at complete odds with the sort of ‘compassion’ he is trying to show his ‘friend’ Sophie in her email. You don’t get to say that you don’t care about genitals and you don’t want to know about people’s body parts, but then use the presence or lack of genitalia to define what someone’s gender is and make sweeping statements about the qualifications that have to be satisfied before you’ll think someone is a woman.
It reads as if he posted this response as a way of showing the world that a trans woman doesn’t view him as transphobic, so therefore he isn’t. Poor Krahaulik, being picked on by those humorless feminists again. I bet he has a lot of ‘black friends’ too. Anyone want to play bingo?
I will edit this as it continues to play out. I’m sure we’re nowhere near finished, unless Krahulik has decided to keep his mouth shut before getting into any further trouble.