I guess we can add this to my newfound multipart segment on “Social Responsibilities in a Connected World”, because I can’t seem to stop talking about it. So, remember when the Chick-fil-a owner made it public that he donated funds to anti-gay groups? People got mad, and so did I. I mean, not ‘lose my sleep’ mad, but I was disapointed. See, here we have a well-off and presumably well-educated man that feels that because someone is different, they don’t deserve the same rights. Everyone has opinions and they are entitled to them – but something like this doesn’t settle well with being a part of modern society. You can’t actively engage in disrupting the lives of others because of a harmless choice they’ve made. You just can’t. There’s no justification for it. In 2014, we have resources from every which way that can detail facts, for any human being, to bring their minds back down to earth to understand the choices of fellow human beings on any subject. There is no excuse – for either party. OK, I can go on and on with this, but this leads to my greater argument.
Penny Arcade, known for their crude and sometimes funny video game based comic, has been around for 15+ years. They’ve created wildly popular gaming conventions and the Child’s Play Charity foundation, which no one could deny its awesomeness. But the guys at Penny Arcade have done some controversial things. First, we have the “Dickwolves” comic. A line in the comic referred to getting raped by Dickwolves. Now, this was in context of a video game world. Since I can remember dirty, smack-talking in video games, ‘raping’ has been a term used. It’s not the prettiest word and can be offensive to some depending on historical traumatic events, but like anything else in the human language, we use words and adjectives to embellish scenarios with an obvious, harmless intent. This was the intent of the guys at PA. They weren’t being purposely harmful, like the owner of Chick-fil-a. They were making a joke within the video game subset. First response, which you almost can’t blame someone for, was a backlash at PA for the use of the word. PA was accused of promoting rape culture. I don’t know about you, but that is a rather far-reaching statement to make. Not only that, but to any normal human being, it is quite offensive to claim someone as being a promoter of rape. It’s not hard to be defensive of that.
The defense of those offended was then in turn used as defense of the PA guys. They don’t want to be called “rape culture” promoters. No one does. But now that’s how they were being painted. And knowing the online community, especially the seemingly self-righteous gaming community, we then have a tidal wave of emotion-driven backlash. Just like the offended were offended, so were the PA guys. Their first responses may not have been the most carefully crafted, but the exact same needs to be said for their detractors.
At a previous employer, I was having a discussion with a fellow employee – most likely something not related to work. I forget what it was exactly, but it ended with me saying, “he/she was born that way” in relation to homosexuality. I was looked at in a puzzling manner. I was told that people choose to be gay, and if people were born gay, animals would be born gay too. Instead of blaming him for being a bigot, my first thought was that it’s something he wasn’t familiar with. Growing up in the south, as a religious man, it’s possible he had no reason to come across these explanations. I just told him I’d find him some data. I presented him some articles on animals in nature found to be homosexual. After looking at this, he admitted to me he was wrong. We resolved an issue and I didn’t retaliate by assuming he was a bigot. Different than the scenario with the Chick-fil-a owner, using context, it was pretty obvious it was just ignorance. This is something everyone has and should not be ashamed to admit to.
So, we get to what has sparked me to bring this up again, and it was a few tweets made by Frank Cifaldi:
Now I go inside and I just feel gross, and it's just a terrible situation. I wish I could still have my PAX without supporting its owners.
— Frank Cifaldi (@frankcifaldi) April 13, 2014
He’s upset with the history of how Penny Arcade has handled past situations. The above referenced “Dickwolves” is one. But there is another that closely resembles the situation with my co-worker. There was a game proclaimed to be made for anyone with a vagina. Gabe took to twitter and mocked that, in traditional Penny Arcade sense. He basically said “vagina havers, being women?”, which was taken as an attack to the transgender community. Now, this dives into my previous Adam Orth article, where someone with a lot of influence needs to be extra careful about what they say on twitter. Though, with 15+ years of Penny Arcade, I saw this as Gabe being Gabe – but also being ignorant. There was quite the backlash to this. People were saying hurtful things and accused Mike (Gabe) of being transphobic. But is that something someone wants to hear? Is it okay to just label someone as being hateful? I harken back to my previous life experience. I educated someone with information that they wouldn’t necessarily come across, but politely as possible (without coming across like I think they are dumb) let them know how society generally feels about an issue. I avoided claiming bigotry and spouting off in a hateful manner. I won’t call you lazy if you don’t use it, but context is a powerful tool and it is a responsibility given to our cognitive nature to use when dealing with societal issues. I use this context when I read anything from Mike and Jerry. My thoughts were Mike was being the vulgar gamer that he is and he’s ignorant of this specific subject. Because this was all done online, the odds of everyone peacefully educating one’s ignorance are very, very low.
The Fullbright Company, which created Gone Home, publicly pulled out of PAX. Which doesn’t solve a problem, but rather, allows it to fester. By proximity, puts the blame on those that want to be a part of PAX, or for dramatic effect, the Child’s Play Charity. So, everyone jumps on the bandwagon. They hate on Penny Arcade. Mike made many apologies, yet the hate was too heavy and few listened. Penny Arcade still has their large gaming conventions where small developers can show off their latest games, gamers from around the world meet to partake in discussions about their favorite hobby. And we still have the Child’s Play Charity that donates millions to hospitalized children. In that context, the detractors are the ignorant ones. Instead of educating or trying to make a difference, they instead distill anger. Letting it boil up inside and still talk down to others – in public mediums. An example:
@mobilesworking how many times do you call the cops on your abusive spouse before you stop forgiving and just break up? I'm done with them.
— Frank Cifaldi (@frankcifaldi) April 13, 2014
Physical violence is a serious issue and not one to compare to the use of words from another. This is where the anger takes over and where anger should be absent. We need to be bigger than this and it will take the responsibility of the influencers. It may seem silly, but I can compare these influencers to Batman, Spiderman, or Superman. They are given a power – it is a responsibility, not choice, to use it for good. Mistakes will be made, but as long as we work together, educate, and enjoy our hobby, we will work closer to ensuring our hobby, the gaming culture, continues to promote positivity. If we dwell on the negativity without educating, then we’re only stopping ourselves from moving forward.