The Penny Arcade Conundrum
So we all know Mike of Penny Arcade has said some shit. If you happen to be oblivious to that shit, well, I’m not here to tell you what it is. Only here to talk about the shit surrounding that shit. But I’ll let you get caught up with things like Dickwolves, some tweets he made about women, PAX fallout, etc.
Okay, all caught up? Good.
I’m not here to say Mike is a monster. I’m not here to say Mike isn’t a monster. I’m here to say Mike has his opinions and no matter what they are, they ultimately reflect on Penny Arcade as a whole, and many times only hurt things like PAX and Child’s Play. And that is a damn shame. It’s like how I felt about the Chik-fil-a fiasco of last summer. Totally didn’t agree with the guy in charge, but goddamn if they don’t make a tasty sandwich. (granted, I also live in the sin-filled hellhole that is Las Vegas, and they will never bring a Chik-fil-a here, so they weren’t getting my money anyways) Did his views mean everyone on his staff felt the same way? No. Can he have is opinions? Sure. But he, like Mike, needs to deal with the backlash of these opinions, whatever form they may be.
Mike (and Jerry for that matter) has said many times he doesn’t want to be a role model, that he still can’t believe how much influence him and Jerry have on the video game world, and nerd culture as a whole. Honestly, if any of us were them, we wouldn’t either. Alas, being thrust into the public spotlight like this means everything you do will be scrutinized, and there will always be people mad about everything they do. Hell, I’m pretty sure there are people mad about Child’s Play, which I think most of us can agree is a delightful charity set to help out sick children. But I digress. Because he is part of the team in charge of the media conglomerate that is Penny Arcade, everything Mike says and does comes back to PA, PAX, Child’s Play, etc. I don’t think that’s quite fair, but that’s just the way it is.
I read Elizabeth Sampat’s Quit Fucking Going to PAX already (and I even set aside my mixed feelings about Leigh Alexander’s writings to read her thing as well). And well, I don’t think not going to PAX is going to fix things. Do you as a developer need to go to PAX? No, it’s rather pricey, and while it may get you exposure, there’s no guarantee of success. She did bring up the Fullbright Company. And as far as I’m concerned, their success and exposure for Gone Home is still linked to the fact that they publicly denounced Mike/PA, and pulled out of PAX. Had they done so quietly I highly doubt there would have been so much buzz around it. It’s almost like saying “You can make money on the app store, just look at Angry Birds!” Kind of a misnomer. You really need to compare PAX-going to pulling out of PAX to not going to PAX at all for whatever reason, and see what kind of press/sales/etc occur with each. Ultimately, PAX tries really hard to be by the fans for the fans. And by pulling out your panel or game that deals with inclusiveness/LGBTQ themes/anything else not only shuts down an entire section of a community that could be talking to other parts of the community, you only encourage people who are worse than Mike (because really, Mike’s small time as far as people with shitty opinions and high influence go) to attend instead, making it even more exclusionary than it already seems.
But that’s up to you. If you feel that not going and participating in these events are what you need to do, then you need to do right by you. But belittling people who do go, who do enjoy themselves, honestly makes you look like an ass too. A friend of mine has mixed feelings about PAX and PA in general. She feels that while Mike is an asshat, PAX is fun and feels inclusive to those who attend, and that it has its good points. It just sucks when something so wonderful gets taken down by some stupid things someone in charge has said/done.
I like Penny Arcade. I own merch. I bought the games. I, as a person who has been nearly sexually assaulted on several occassions, would own a Dickwolves shirt if I could. This does not mean that I agree with Mike. But I don’t think he’s a monster. I do think he doesn’t have much of a filter, and that sets a lot of people on edge. Especially with the kind of power and influence he and PA have. Great power, great responsibility, and whatnot. To be perfectly honestly, if you ever tweeted ‘cis’ at me, I probably wouldn’t like you either. Why? Never on twitter is ‘cis’ used in a moot context. More often than not it’s used in a DIE CIS SCUM sort of way. Context is important, and I feel a lot of people far removed from the events that occur cry foul because of lack of context. Does that mean having proper context makes his statements better or more acceptable? Not necessarily, but it might help some people remember that he is a human being living in a very turbulent time as far as LGBTQ issues are concerned after being raised in a conservative, Catholic home. I don’t agree with his views, but I also think the people screaming OH MY GOD YOU HATEFUL SACK OF SHIT I HOPE YOU CHOKE ON A BUNCH OF DICKS AND DIE SLOWLY FROM AIDS were pretty out of line as well.
The internet is a terrible place to conduct discussion. Twitter is the worst of it. 140 characters of knee jerk reaction and terse arguments, escalating quickly into something people use against you because it’s easily available to be seen. It’s hard to put things like that into context if you don’t get the whole picture (see Patton Oswalt’s brilliant two-part tweets). No amount of internet apology will make everyone like him again. (Although honestly, he could do everything some of his haters want, and it still wouldn’t be enough) I do feel he needs a face to face. A Mike is a Monster panel. I’m not suggesting this panel be used to hurl insults and threats and shitty statements towards him. I’d rather it be an IRL dialog between him, fans he may have hurt, devs he may have upset. A chance for these people to confront him in a calm and respectful manner, and where he could discuss his feelings with them. Where no one could hide behind the safety of their computer screen. Where no one on either side has to resort to short angry bursts of emotion, and can instead gather their thoughts. A discussion where rules can be set, like ‘no yelling’, ‘no interrupting the current speaker’, ‘no threats allowed’, etc. And it doesn’t even have to be at PAX. It could be a one time thing at a theater or something. With either free entry, or all proceeds going to charity, so people don’t feel like they’re giving a company they disagree with money. I’m not saying this would be a pleasant experience for anyone. No, there’d be crying. There’d be pain and hurt. But the realization on all sides of the conversation would be that everyone is still human, no matter what they feel. It could be used as an opportunity for all involved to properly discuss these issues face to face. And I think it’d be the best kind of eye opener.
Oddly enough, when I mentioned to Mike that he should have such a panel on twitter, he consequently blocked me. More than likely a knee jerk reaction to not wanting to start a fight with a complete stranger on the internet. A shame, yes, and also understandable. I did send him a lengthy email going into better detail what I meant, because lolololol 140 characters is too short to have a proper conversation.