Wired contributor Rachel Edidin has joined a growing contingent of writers and game developers that say they won't be attending PAX events in the future. Edidin says that a Q&A with Mike Krahulik (the artist of the web comic Penny Arcade and co-founder of PAX) this weekend was the final straw that broke the camel's back for her. She is not alone in that assertion.
The whole ordeal goes back to the 2010 strip about World of Warcraft and a mythical creature called a "dickwolf." As you may remember, the comic strip Arcade jokes about how the character is "raped to sleep by dickwolves." The strip was actually about the bizarre mechanics in World of Warcraft quests, but the rape joke was not well received by some in the community.
Critics, some of whom were rape victims, said that the strip could be a trigger for victims of sexual crimes. Krahulik and Jerry Holkins tried to smooth things over with a strip the next day and in a series of public posts, but critics described their response as flippant and unapologetic. Later in an act of defiance and possibly in the name of their right to free speech, they made and sold "Team Dickwolves" shirts and pennants, which further infuriated critics. Both sides claim they received verbal abuse through social media and death threats.
When some companies and speakers said that they were considering pulling out of PAX Prime that year because of the merchandise, Robert Khoo yanked the dickwolves merchandise from the store. At the time, Krahulik said that he objected to the decision to stop selling the merchandise, and would be wearing his dickwolves shirt at PAX to illustrate that point.
Eventually things quieted down on that front, but the wound was reopened this weekend when Krahulik said during a packed Q&A that the worst thing Robert Khoo ever did was pull the Dickwolves merchandise from the store. When word of this got out, a number of people began writing public proclamations that this year would be the last year they would be attending a PAX event.
Debacle Timeline's Tumblr, "The Pratfall of Penny Arcade – A Timeline," does a great job of showing how Penny Arcade and its critics have dealt with various controversies since 2010 – most notably, the whole "dick wolves" thing. You should read both Part I and Part II of the timeline to understand why this whole controversy just won't go away.
So now here we are with a brand new set of complaints from critics, but this time they are talking about never going to the PAX shows again. Among them are Loot Drop's Elizabeth Sampat, writer Leigh Alexander, Destructoid's Jim Sterling, Wired contributor Rachel Edidin, and many, many others. Even those who aren't calling for a boycott or saying that they will no longer be going to PAX events, say that they either don't feel comfortable or safe going there – even some who are trying to conduct business like game developers… (Janette Goering offers a unique perspective on the entire situation here as well).
After the show, Krahulik tried to apologize, or to "clarify" the situation, on Penny Arcade. The clarification offers profuse apologies about everything but continues to defend the original strip. It also seems to indicate that making and selling the "dickwolves" merchandise was done to target critics:
"There are people who were offended by or hurt by the joke in the strip and rather than just let it go we decided to make a second strip. That was a mistake and I apologize to this day for that strip. It was a knee jerk reaction and rather than the precision strike back at our detractors that we intended, it was a massive AOE that hurt a lot of innocent people. We should have just stopped right then but we kept going and made the merchandise. Had we left it alone, the ongoing tension about the whole thing might have subsided but Robert made the call to pull the shirts. In hindsight all this did was open the wound back up and bring on a whole new wave of debate. Any action we took at the time just dug us deeper regardless of what it was. What we needed to do was stop. just stop. I apologized for it at the time and I will still apologize for it. Everything we did after that initial comic strip was a mistake and I regret all of it." (emphasis ours -Ed.)
You can read Krahulik's entire response here. He closes by saying that he can't "blame people who still want to hate him" for the things he's said in response to this entire situation, and that the PA guys never wanted to be role models. Critics argue that, whether they wanted to be role models or not, they are to a large segment of the gaming community and they should be a bit more responsible in the things that they say which can inevitably lead to encouraging bad behavior in the community…