Apr. 13th, 2014

hummingbirdmadgirl: (Default)
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.

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