Why I no longer support Penny-Arcade

I was a long time supporter of Penny-Arcade.  Since high school (and possibly even middle school) I read Penny-Arcade on and off.  I found them funny and I thought they were clever.  When they launched the Penny-Arcade Report I quickly found that I greatly appreciated the way Ben Kuchera covered games news and that he covered the news that I was actually interested in (usually).  When I started my RSS feed Penny-Arcade was one of the first RSS’s added and checking my RSS feed usually started off by checking out Penny-Arcade and the PA Report.

Then I found out about this PAX Prime panel:

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? (via BorderHouseBlog)

There was a huge outcry and rightly so.  (I won’t be discussing why there the outcry was right, and if you’re unconvinced just reading it you should read the Border House Blog linked after the quotation)

While they later changed the description to no longer include lines with titillation, sexism, and misogyny the spirit of the panel was still clearly the same.

Then enter the transphobic tweets of Mike Krahulik (AKA Gabe of Penny-Arcade).

cwgabrial transphobic

All of the tacit support I had given Penny-Arcade was called into question.  I know that they made a few poor jokes here and there, but I never realized just how terrible they were in response to said jokes.  They refuse to apologize and when they do it’s a half-hearted dismissal which is clearly meant as some sort of “calculated” PR move for Penny-Arcade Brand and not because they realize any error of their ways.

At this point I had stopped clicking on anything related to Penny-Arcade.  Child’s Play Charity, PAX, Penny-Arcade Report, etc.  Anything which would create support for Penny-Arcade had become part of my temporary ban list.  (I call it temporary because I wasn’t sure if I would, I guess you would say, get over it and still think of them in a positive light).

Then I saw Dickwolves.  Somehow I had missed this whole debacle (probably because it started when I was still fervently studying in my isolated box filled with books written in the range of 100 and 2500 years ago attempting to graduate).  The Dickwolves debacle has been documented extremely well on debacle.tumblr.com.

The Tumblr post is long, and detailed.  Reading through just the post and not the source material took long enough, but reading through what had happened (and what was still happening) just made me realize what I had been supporting the entire time I supported Penny-Arcade Report.

Mike Krahulik, the face of Penny-Arcade, has been a constant voice against change that he doesn’t agree with.  He holds certain truths and then refuses to believe anything outside of it.  He has been lucky because some of those “truths” are considered socially progressive (such as his stance against bullying and the treatment of women).  However, when he is called out for something offensive he turns into the school-yard bully.  His Penny-Arcade thugs come out in droves, behaving like marionette dolls dancing to Krahulik’s offensive tunes.  They punish those who call Krahulik out (threats of rape and violence against them) and reinforce sexism, misogyny, and rape culture.

As such anything related to Penny-Arcade will no longer be getting my support.  I have removed Penny-Arcade and the Penny-Arcade Report from my RSS feed.  I no longer follow anyone related to Penny-Arcade on Twitter and will no longer be supporting anything related to Penny-Arcade.  Some may call it harsh (because Penny-Arcade has done some good).  However, I refuse to support a network which not only creates content which it knows is offensive but which also refuses to apologize and take responsibility for its actions.

Penny-Arcade I say this with no regret or sadness – Goodbye.

On Being a #Brony and How We See Life

Lately there has been a lot of talk about Bronies on game sites.  Mostly because the team behind the video game My Little Pony: Fighting is Magic, a fan game for the My Little Pony community, was handed a cease and desist order from Hasbro.  They were ordered to cease production and release of the game just a week before the game was scheduled to be released.

It’s very magical sort of story where several people, connected through this fandom, wanted to create something meaningful for their community.  This humorous contradictory idea of the My Little Pony characters fighting despite being about love, friendship, and magic united 3 men to create a fighting game.  It was a daunting task.

Lauren Faust, creator of the show’s first two seasons, saw the cease and desist.  She has been quoted remarking that she loved the humorous idea and what they were trying to do. She then offered to create completely new characters, detached from My Little Pony, for a new game.

Then the team was then offered a physics engine from the creators of Skull Fighters to be used for free.

On seeing all of this I decided that being a Brony was clearly nothing to be ashamed of and that there was clearly something bigger to it all other than the humorous idea of grown men like a “little girls show”.  If My Little Pony was about friendship, collaboration, idea sharing, and community – all things that I value greatly – the show was right up my alley.  Just because the show was intended for younger girls did not mean that I could not enjoy it.  Just because I wasn’t the target market didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy it.  And more importantly, being a strong supporter of abolishing gender stereotypes and rules which say what is acceptable and unacceptable for genders, meant that I would be a walking hypocrite if I refused to watch the show purely because of its intended audience.  All signs pointed to at least giving the show a try.  If I didn’t like it because I didn’t find it entertaining or meaningful then I could cite such reasons, I would not be a walking hypocrite, and I could be legitimate in my non-Brony status. Continue reading

Legitimate and Valid Success: In Defense of Video Games

Video games and video game players seem to often be met with hostility.  One friend has posited, on more than one occasion, that people who play video games should “think of what else you could be doing.” He is, of course, meaning that there are far more meaningful and powerful ways to spend one’s time.  A person could be out in the “real” world taking “real” world action, rather than sitting in front of a television screen playing video games (although it should be noted that he has a rather extensive collection of television box sets within his apartment).

Another person I know, while not a friend but an acquaintance, once remarked to me: “I don’t understand [how my daughter knows angry birds so well].  I only let her play five minutes of video games a day.”  She seemed worried and confused.  She couldn’t understand how, or why, her daughter was so familiar with the video game characters from Angry Birds.  (It is worth noting that her daughter was home schooled).

These sentiments seem to be broad and overwhelming at times and video games themselves are never more controversial than in the wake of violent events like the Newtown shooting.  But while the video game violence is often the subject of debate and controversy I will not be talking about the violence to be found in video games.  Rather I’m going to talk about the success and achievement made possible in video games.  More so, the success that is to be found in both violent and non-violent video games alike. Continue reading

Playstation 4 and Women – The Problem is Systemic to the Industry not the Press Release

Playstation revealed their new console, the Playstation 4, on February 20th and they revealed lots of new features.  The system looks well and good, but one of the things that was concerning for a lot of people was the fact that there were no women on stage during the entire press release.  The event was filled with tons of middle-aged men developing new software and games for the Playstation 4.  Game studios like Media Molecule (makers of Little Big Planet 1 & 2), Quantic Dream (makers of Heavy Rain), and Bungie (makers of Xbox’s famed Halo franchise) all presented what they can do with the power of the new Playstation 4.  With all of these big names presenting what we saw was a representation of the industry and a representation of who the industry focuses their marketing towards – middle aged white men.

The problem is that video game studios have neglected women in more ways than one.  Their focus in marketing has almost always been on men who play games.  Women in the industry tell stories where they are assumed to be peripheral rather than active in the game industry at conferences like GDC and E3.  Game studios also very infrequently make female protagonists for their video games.  While women make up nearly half of all gamers they are underrepresented in nearly all aspects of the video game industry.  Female gamers don’t have female role models in the gaming industry to look up to and don’t have female characters to relate to. Continue reading

XBox Live and Verbal Abuse

*trigger warning: harsh, violent, and derogatory language follows in the following article*

Verbal abuse and verbal harassment is very common online.  In fact I would call it pervasive.  The things that spew from some people’s mouths would make you think that they’re a garbage compactor and not a person.  If you happen to land in the wrong match you can hear people throwing slurs like they had an actual impact in the game, as though calling someone a faggot is going to improve how one performs during a match.  It can be extremely overwhelming and it wasn’t until recently that I had my first true experience with online harassment to this kind of extreme.

My parents bought me Black Ops 2 for Christmas.  I have played plenty of “War Games” online such as Halo and previous Call of Duty games.  However I never paid any attention to the chats that were going on.  Often times I would mute anyone and everyone who was in my lobby so I could listen to music or something else.  As well, I played on my PS3, where the problem (while still pervasive) isn’t as widespread.  I played Black Ops 2 online in some casual matches, but it wasn’t until I started playing Hardcore matches that I came face to face (or should it be ear to ear?) with the extreme end of online verbal harassment. Continue reading

Chris Kluwe is Writing a Book – Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies

I stumbled upon this today – retweeted by They Might Be Giants from Boing Boing’s twitter account.  It’s quite the fantastic 19 second video clip that quickly states nerds are dangerous because we’re bitter that we weren’t jocks on high school.  It’s amazing that he thinks that we’re all bitter because we were unpopular in high school – despite the fact that our culture is now so popular (although costuming for a midnight release still gets you the occasional strange look).

Also Chris Kluwe, kicker for the Minnesota Vikings, announced on twitter today that he’s writing a book, and it’s going to be titled Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies.  For those who don’t know Chris Kluwe also owns a miniature gaming store and is quite vocal about his love for all things nerd, geek, and game related.  Clearly no one told the man above about Chris Kluwe, or any of the other pop-culture icons that have been coming out of the wood work as huge nerds.

Here are the tweets about the book:

Anyone else find it hilarious, and kind of awesome, that Kluwe refers to most sports as sportsball?

I’m debating about pre-ordering Kluwe’s book.  There’s a chance to get a signed copy of the book as well, but I’m not a big enough fan (YET) of Kluwe’s to pre-order a signed copy.  You can pre-order Kluwe’s book here on Amazon.

EDIT: I properly embedded the tweets.  (Apparently all you have to do is paste the URL… who knew?)

Role Playing and Fantasy Football

A lot of people talked about how I should have mentioned that sports fans are just as fanatical, if not more fanatical, than us geeks. However, Rather than just talk about that (because most people seem to realize this point) I wanted to talk about something that is deeply important to a lot of sports fans – fantasy football – and how it represents a shift in mentality where long term role playing games are becoming more and more acceptable.