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[personal profile] hummingbirdmadgirl
So I'm a gamer, which is no surprise to anyone ever. Pax East was this weekend and I was sad that I couldn't go and see my friends since I'm on the wrong coast for these sorts of things, but then I remembered all the rapey transphobic misogynistic stuff that PA has not been held accountable for and felt super conflicted. I went to the first PAX and had a lot of fun, I have friends in the gaming industry who had booths there, on one hand it would be a very fun time, but on the other I don't know if I could entirely get behind giving these guys any money, or as a female consumer, lend any sort of legitimacy that how they treat their female audience is even remotely ok by going.

these articles sum it up better than i could:
http://www.wired.com/2013/09/penny-arcade-expo-dickwolves/
http://elizabethsampat.com/quit-fucking-going-to-pax-already-what-is-wrong-with-you/
http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Dickwolves
http://debacle.tumblr.com/

the long and short of it is that they wrote a comic that used male rape as a joke. the premise of the comic itself was pretty funny, based around the idea that in a game you might get a quest to go save 5 people from a horrible fate, potentially leaving behind other victims because you've finished your quest, so fuck those people you left behind. you got your XP, so on to the next quest. however the fact that it needed to be rape, because rape is apparently the funniest or most horrific thing that can happen to a person, seemed pretty juvenile, but it's Penny Arcade, so what do you expect?

As a gamer, well I guess as a female gamer (a distinction I find tedious since at this point 50% of gamers are women, but whatever) the threat of sexual violence is pretty common both in games or whenever you step into the cesspool that is multiplayer gaming. I admit that I play a lot of bro type games and as a result, 9 times out of 10 at the end of a match, instead of hearing "good game" like my male teammates might, I end up hearing something about what a terrible and probably fat cunt I am and how I should play their team in a rematch where they will, inevitably, rape the shit out of me or that secretly my teammates are only playing with me because they want to fuck me and I probably really suck but I have my male teammates to hold me afloat. There are also the occasions where people on XBL will just start hitting on me, which is weird and awkward and obviously not appropriate since I'm playing Left4Dead, not Call of OKCupid or something. But after so many years of hearing verbal attacks on my gender, on my weight, and threats of sexual violence, you get used to it. Which really, really really really, is absolutely disgusting when you think about it.

I thought the need for the funny torture in the comic to be rape was unfortunate, but it also seemed like a total symptom of the source material of the comic. Gamers like to throw the word rape around constantly so it seemed like a no brainer that that would be the lowest hanging fruit that they reached for. What I wasn't expecting was their immature and completely hostile backlash toward fans who found the concept unpleasant. Instead of engaging in any sort of intelligent discourse with their female audience, they went and made team dickwolves t-shirts, one of the founders of PA said he planned on wearing his to the conn, quickly there was a team of people planning on having a team dickwolf flashmob. All of this was accepted if not encouraged by PA. Imagine being a rape survivor surrounded by people wearing shirts that condoned rape as a plot device or a joke (since I am well aware that the rape referenced in the comic was happening to cartoon characters and was being committed by fake mythical creatures). I'm not saying that it would be the most triggering thing in the world, but at the very least it would be incredibly uncomfortable and awkward. If you were female, not only is there the potential level of discomfort that you're trying to break into a boys club (since girl geeks either get hit on mercilessly or get their geek cred questioned mercilessly), now you're surrounded by a bunch of people who think that making a joke out of rape is a free speech issue or a political statement. It's kind of gross to say the least.

Then one of the founders came out with a TON of transphobic bullshit, the long and short of it was refusing to acknowledge that pre op transwoment had the right to refer to themselves by their gender since "only girls have vaginas" and then gave some halfassed apology after their fanbase made it clear that this was more fuckery on par with the dickwolves thing.

so for months on FB i've seen a lot of people discussing PA and how they're turning into a disgraceful corporation that clearly has issues with women, rape victims, and transgendered people. Like, if they were making the same comments about African Americans or Hispanics or something, I imagine the furor would've been a hundred times louder, but it's way easier to push women and transfolk off into the sidelines in the world at large, let along in a microcosm like gaming. but i saw people talking about all the things that PA were guilty of, and I was surprised to see that many people were opting -out- of going to PA. some of the loudest critics were opting -to- go to PA, which was confusing. I don't even mind that there are people who ignored the entire debacle, but the idea of being critical of the organization and then going to their conn seemed sort of perplexing. I think because all the previous criticisms of the organization felt like "Wow this person is an ally, they get why PA are shady and they're vocal about it" which seemed to get flipped on its head by then giving them money to attend their con.

Because really, I doubt that Jerry & Mike look into the throngs of people at the world trade center and think "yeah, those are the people who find our politics questionable". no, they just see dollar signs. they've managed to build a multimillion dollar comic and convention series based off of making misogynistic, rapey, and transphobic comments that they've never truly been held accountable for, and as long as their cons are sweeping successes, they will continue to do so.

and it's hard. one person I spoke to said that they went as a chance to be the change that they wanted to see. I think that is an admirable but potentially short sighted ideal. On one hand, yeah, going to PAX and making a political statement would be a great thing, however instead due to the way the con is set up, instead it sounded like it turned into like minded people discussing their feelings with each other, but with no platform. They weren't offered a panel, instead they had a "diversity hub" and unisex bathrooms. as a gamer i'd probably want to check out the wastelands or indie games booths before a "diversity hub" and as a woman i'm not sure i'd be too keen on unisex bathrooms, I don't know how a transgendered person would feel. Being the change that you want to see is a very valid argument for doing something, but in some circumstances it seems like a losing battle where a few small voices lost amongst the chatter will easily be lost. People go to PAX to discuss gaming, not gender politics. I've been vocally critical of the Church of Scientology, but there's no way in hell that I could affect any change by joining the church and giving them my time and money, and sadly the way that PAX is set up right now, going to the con and talking to people who agree with you seems about as likely for success. It's even harder though, because -going- to PAX doesn't seem to be any more or less effective than -not- going to PAX.

It sucks though, because if I were in Boston or Seattle, I can't even promise that -I- wouldn't go to PAX. because again, I have friends who go, friends who have booths there, and realistically they're the largest end user gaming convention out there. For me, they're also the most convenient since Seattle is close and I have a lot of friends in Boston. It starts to feel akin to raging against how corrupt the government is. You feel hopeless, powerless, or you possibly over optimistically hope that you can somehow affect some change from within. i'm not trying to imply that anyone who went to PAX is a bad person, I'm just surprised by the vocal opponents who went. Actually that's dishonest, there is some judgement, but i think it stems more from a place of hurt because as a female gamer who has had to put up with more than their fair share of rape threats in MP games, there is a part of me that would like to see stronger allies, though in the same respect I can't even say that -I- would be that stronger ally if PAX were in LA or I were in Boston. It's not an easy decision by any stretch of the imagination.

It's frustrating because I appreciate people taking the time out to post their feelings on FB, however I also feel like it's as useful as talking into an echochamber. On FB we're talking to our likeminded friends, people who mostly agree that PA has not really apologized for their use of rape culture as plot devices, misogyny and transphobia. That's the easy route to being an ally...and it needs to go further than that. But I guess I just feel that fun trumps politics in a lot of cases, and that's not good enough. Though as I've said, I don't even know if I could hold myself up to the same yardstick I'm measuring others, and that's probably the most depressing thing of all.

Date: 2014-04-14 09:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fudjo.livejournal.com
I hadn't been inclined to go to PAX mostly because it it didn't seem like the kind of convention that would interest me, but I used to read Penny Arcade regularly. After the dickwolves thing and after the anti-trans comments, I've been and will continue to be completely opposed to going and I've stopped reading Penny Arcade entirely. If I want to support the efforts of my friends in the industry, there are myriad other options and other communities. I can buy their games. I can go to other conventions. I can playtest their games. I can sponsor their kickstarters. Oh, and everyone should support Anita Sarkeesian: http://www.feministfrequency.com/

Date: 2014-04-14 11:05 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xaotica.livejournal.com
Yeah, I stopped reading penny arcade and would've considered going to PAX but am not interested anymore. The "rape is a joke" thing that started the whole incident is something that I found lame but unsurprising. But there's a difference between making a lame joke where you meant no harm and are just ignorant vs responding with anger at the very thought that some gamers have had different life experiences (including being raped in the real world, or having a different view of gender / sexuality, etc) That's beyond teenage boy humor and into the realm of "get out of our club, we don't want your kind here."

I don't feel like a diversity panel really addresses people who just want to be viewed as a individual who's a respected part of the group vs a special snowflake weirdo. The gamers I know in real life (including teenage and 20something young men) don't have the attitude that those jokes couldn't possibly hurt anyone.

There is http://www.gaymerx.com in SF... I haven't been but I <3 SF and would be much more into that than PAX.

Date: 2014-04-16 09:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brigid.livejournal.com
there are a couple gaming conventions out there that seem like sound alternatives to PAX (gaymerx looks awesome) but people don't seem aware of them or want to pretend it's either PAX or getting passes to E3 to justify going vs not going. PAX doesn't have to be the end all be all of gaming cons, but it will be as long as we let it be and as long as they make all the shitty comments they want about various demographics without getting any real backlash.

and it sucks because, yeah, the way they act on social media speaks far more about their real ideals and their real views on their female/rape survivor/trans audience than throwing up a diversity up or a unisex bathroom does. because yeah, after years of hearing about how hilarious the dickwolves are, i totally want to share a bathroom with some dude who might feel that way, or i totally want to stand off by myself at the diversity hub trying to make a difference to an indifferent audience. completely makes sense

Date: 2014-04-16 09:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brigid.livejournal.com
see PAX is something that is totally in my wheelhouse. i love gaming and i'm far more onto the console/pc end of things, so it seems like it would be great. i didn't love the first PAX East but that was mostly due to logistical errors on the venue's part than on PAX, so I was curious about seeing it at the world trade center but then i moved so that didn't happen.

so it's frustrating because on one hand that is a culture that i very much relate to, on the other hand it's a culture that isn't inclusive and welcoming to women and i don't see that changing either by going or by not going. the one thing i do know is that currently i don't feel like giving rapey misogynist transphobics my money

Date: 2014-04-16 01:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crystalns.livejournal.com
The thing that confused me about PAX's diversity hub thing is that PAX itself has been fairly open about giving people platforms to talk about diversity topics in the past. They already have an anti-booth babe and anti-harassment policy in place. They hosted Fat, Ugly, or Slutty panels and have had a top female game characters of all time panels and all kinds of stuff. From what I had heard prior to this, PAX, unlike PA, actually has a decent reputation, other than the Dickwolves comments during that one panel. And when I looked at their schedule from last year, I saw, without actually delving into the actual descriptions, like twelve events that were directly stated to have been about some marginalized group or discussion thereof, and like five other events where diversity topics were more than likely brought up. So it's not like PAX is a horrible horrible place, it's that the Penny Arcade guys trend toward douchiness, Gabe moreso than Tycho. Like I kind of see PAX (and previously, PAR) as being separate from PA itself, though obviously they're related. I mean if you go you're still giving them money so you can't really separate them, but at least in theory, it doesn't seem like Gabe or Tycho have much to do with how the convention itself is run.

But yeah, I don't know that I would ever feel comfortable going to the convention anytime soon. The biggest problem is that Gabe doesn't learn from his mistakes. Like after the dickwolves thing you'd expect that maybe he'd learn to shut up about things he's never had to deal with, but no, let's make some awful comments about people who identify as trans. Fantastic. At the same time, if all the people who think they're shits leave, that leaves an echo chamber where these people don't get challenged. It's a weird situation where honestly I'm not sure anyone wins.

Date: 2014-04-16 09:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brigid.livejournal.com
they have an anti harassment policy in place but apparently there is some whole case going on where a volunteer sexually assaulted another volunteer and PA is doing all they can do hide that under the proverbial carpet. I also have a hard time seeing PAX and PA as separate entities since the money all goes to the same account in the end, and they did encourage the whole dickwolves thing which was solely going to happen at PAX East last year.

but all that said, it's conflicting because on one hand, you can not go and know that you voted with your dollars and that you made a difference. on the other hand, it's not like your absence is going to be particularly noticed (unless you're in the industry) so maybe there -is- more of a chance of making a difference from the inside. it's just that i have low hopes of many people going to PAX being interested in learning about inclusion vs checking out Occulus Rift or something

which is why i think it's currently lose/lose. people want to go and have fun and not have PAX politicized. I tried talking about it with someone who had been a vocal ally but went and they shut down about the topic pretty quickly, which honestly i'm assuming a lot of people would do because clearly there's going to be a lot of dissonance.

Date: 2014-04-20 09:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] crystalns.livejournal.com
I hadn't heard about the volunteer harassment, that's super unfortunate. Sigh.

But yeah that's where I'm at too. I mean no one is going to care that I didn't go to PAX, and I don't buy PA merch anyway, so they don't really care about catering to me. But if I did go, some of that money would go to the very people I dislike. So your options really are a) go, and give money to them, b) don't go, and don't have your voice heard, or c) bitch about them on the internet, which will get you tons of hate anyway because how dare you oppress these men, or something.

Date: 2014-04-16 08:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catkick.livejournal.com
I read about the Dickwolves history on Tumblr towards its end. Two things it taught me: Penny Arcade guys using monikers such as 'rapedtosleep' are sociopaths and I've always believed many online gamers are. Second: That the legends are true. Nerd boys really don't know about and are scared of girls Period. Despite what 19 years in the Mi fandom community has tried to show me otherwise.

My response to the Dickwolves: Animals in this society belong in two places. One: In a cage or Two: on my plate. So are you my pet or my food?

Date: 2014-04-16 09:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] brigid.livejournal.com
i hope i am a non sociopathic online gamer ;)

but that said, that's almost part of the problem, it's -so- easy to write off online gamers as sociopaths or basement dwellers or whatever other loser-y type adjective, that what -they- are saying about women or rape survivors or transpeople goes under the radar. if a CEO of a company with a more diverse audience than gamers came out and said the things that PA has about rape/trans/queer issues, it would be a veritable shitshow. but since their audience is "just" gamers, they get away with it because probably half their audience agrees with them anyway and women are too weary to speak up about it after a point (because holy shit, as it sounds like you know, gaming is a hostile environment for women. at first it was shocking and appalling and now it's just tedious and while i'm glad i grew a thicker skin about it, it's also not OK that anyone should have to grow a thicker skin about being the subject of online rape threats, that's fucked up!)

but yeah it does nothing to help the image of geek/nerd guys either because going to the con seems to automatically open you up to either being hit on by everyone because you game OR everyone assumes that you're there with your male SO who is the true geek in the family OR some other degrading concept.

it's just lame because i play games as a form of escapism and more and more i'm just getting tired of how it seems like you either have to politicize it or you just have to accept that rapey stuff is becoming a more common trend.

Date: 2014-04-17 11:26 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] catkick.livejournal.com
Not all gamers are sociopaths or basement dwellers (not the same thing either) but I've known enough gamers to see plenty of both.

I even lost my best friends to online gaming. I had a group of girlfriends and it was great. then they all got into Everquest and only wanted to be friends with those in their guild I had no interest in online gaming. I got cut out of the group.

but watching them throw up on themselves and keep playing (at 500 pounds) or the hideous example with the tampons.....it was creepy

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