There have been a lot of assumptions about what I meant or thought at the panel last Monday. I wanted to clear that up, so get ready, let’s talk about Dickwolves.
Robert had the idea to host a panel at PAX this year that would be him interviewing Jerry and me. The thinking was that there’s stuff only he can ask us because only he knows about it, or if anyone else asked us we would tell them to fuck off. He got us to talk pretty openly about some very private stuff, from our finances and how we spend our money to our wives and details about the times we’ve been approached to sell Penny Arcade. It was a super intense interview but the one question that is getting the most attention is when Robert asked us to name a time when we thought he made a mistake.
That’s a hard question because honestly Robert makes very few mistakes. Although if he asked me that same question today I’d probably say “the time you asked us to be brutally honest in front of three thousand people.” So I had to think really hard about it and the only time I could remember really thinking he made a mistake was when he told us we had to pull the Dickwolves merch. I didn’t really get a chance to elaborate on why that was though, and unfortunately by not doing so it created a bit of a firestorm on the Internet.
So let me start by saying I like the Dickwolves strip. I think it’s a strong comic and I still think the joke is funny. Would we make that strip today? Knowing what we know now and seeing how it hurt people, no. We wouldn’t. But at the time, it seemed pretty benign. With that said I absolutely regret everything we did after that comic. I regret the follow up strip, I regret making the merchandise, I regret pulling the merchandise and I regret being such an asshole on twitter to people who were upset. I don’t think any of those things were good ideas. If we had just stopped with the strip and moved on, the Dickwolf never would have become what it is today. Which is a joke at the expense of rape victims or a symbol of the dismissal of people who have suffered a sexual assault. the comic itself obviously points out the absurd morality of the average MMO where you are actually forced to help some people and ignore others in the same situation. Oddly enough, the first comic by itself is exactly the opposite of what this whole thing has turned into.
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.
If you saw the panel you know that someone in the audience shouted out and asked us to bring the merchandise back. Both Robert and I immediately said no way. We have worked very hard to make PAX a safe place. We have an incredible anti-harassment policy, a “booth babe” policy that you will not find anywhere else in the industry,and panels that cover all the social issues facing gaming today in a meaningful way. That’s the heart of PAX and that will never change.
I certainly can’t blame the people who still want to hate me. In that same panel with Robert he asked us how we feel about being role models. We don’t aspire to be role models, just normal people, but we try to do what’s best with the platform we have. I can’t promise I won’t piss you off again at some point. In fact I suggested to Robert a header at the top of the page saying “it has be x days since our last fuck up” but he shot me down. What I can promise is that we will continue to be honest with you. There’s no bullshit, no PR, this is just Jerry and I and we’re doing the best we can. Hopefully we will keep getting better.
I sort of see PAX like I see my children. Yes I helped make them and yes they have a lot of me in them but they can be better than me. They can take the good stuff I have and leave out all the bad. Like my kids, PAX makes me want to be better.