After the latest PAX, it seems that the Dickwolves are rearing their ugly heads again. ( TLDR at the bottom of this post)
I am sure if anyone’s reading this, they’ll have a general interest in Penny Arcade and / or the whole Dickwolves debacle (which has been covered extensively by Social Justice Warriors, or SJWs for short).
I am only going to touch on the original Dickwolves debacle in passing, and instead I’ll write (a very little amount) about communication (as it pertains to this situation).
In the beginning…
Penny Arcade made a strip criticizing the “Save X amount of prisoners” quests typically seen in MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft. The obvious joke being, that nobody in these kinds of game will save more than the necessary amount of prisoners to complete the quest. It does not matter how nefarious the villain who keeps the prisoners captive, once the quest is done, it’s done.
Interestingly enough, I don’t recall many (if any) of this type of quest in an MMORPG which actually sees you save *all* the prisoners. There will always be a few still left in chains, begging for release (while you’re bunnyhopping towards the reward for your heroic deed).
The mistake Penny Arcade made in this situation was a) calling the villains “Dickwolves” and b) Explicitly stating that the prisoners not saved would be raped by said Dickwolves. Having studied SJWs for the past ~year over in /r/TumblrInAction, I am not sure even avoiding either of the terms mentioned above would have kept SJWs from being offended in some way, but that’s hard to change.
That said, here’s where things went wrong.
It’s all about the he said, she said
To any sensible reader (in my mind, and I’m sure, in Penny Arcade’s minds), the strip in question was about the quest system, and the obvious horrible practice of leaving prisoners behind, to be dealt with as the villains see fit. Due, however, to the inclusion of the word “rape”; this is not what that debacle was about.
While rape is not a laughing matter, I believe it’s important to keep in mind that that was not what the strip was driving at. If the strip had been about Murderwolves, or Horrible-Poetry-Wolves, the same joke about how horrible it is in these quests to leave behind prisoners would have worked…But nobody would have batted an eye.
Moving on: Trans* and Dickwolves and Communication, oh my!
Since the Dickwolves debacle, Penny Arcade got themselves some negative press over Gabe’s “A woman has a vagina” statement. While it may have been ignorant to say that, there are a few things I would like to say on that matter:
* Not everybody has trans* people in their daily lives. Speaking as LITERALLY HITLER (at least on Tumblr, as a white straight man), I am well aware of how ignorant I am on issues such as these…But that does not equate to transphobia, or hate, or what have you. If I don’t completely misrecall, Gabe went on to post a conversation between himself and a current/former stakeholder with whom he’d worked, who was/is trans*. The TLDR for this paragraph is this: While his statement about women and genitalia may have been ignorant, it is ignorant to believe that it was said in hate.
What we have here is failure to communicate…
I think what these situations boil down to is this: There is a tendency for a certain kind of online “activist” (or SJW) to react to anything they are offended by with instant OVERKILL 9000™ level vitriol. Some people are able to keep their head in this kind of situation, some aren’t. Most will probably react negatively to this kind of situation, in fact.
I honestly believe that Gabe saying “I believe that a woman has a vagina” was borne of ignorance of trans* experiences/lives/what have you, rather than malicious intent.
Why should this matter, you ask?
Because some people (and I believe Gabe to be one of those), would probably have apologized and changed his mind if the reaction had been “Well, that statement was incorrect, but here’s how it is..”. Of course, this pretty much rules out Twitter as a medium for conversation, as a topic such as that would fail over 140-character short messages, which would be cluttered up (the latest Twitter update to conversations notwithstanding) by other random Twitter interactions.
The reality of the situation was that Gabe’s statement resulted in him getting a lot of hate, and being labelled “transphobic” (instead of merely ignorant of the matter). Gabe admitted in the blog update after that, that his reaction was to go into asshole mode.
So the TLDR:
* Dumb shit was said
* People overreacted to the dumb shit
* People overreacted to the overreaction
* Everyone is worse off than when we started.
I will freely admit that I am not an expert on any matter (except perhaps communication; I recently finished my bachelor’s degree in that). I do believe we have a kind of Barbara Streisand Effect thing going on here, with both sides having riled each other up.
I personally enjoy Penny Arcade, though that does not mean I love every strip they put out. I will also say that as the company grows, having a communications manager be part of the team (and actively advising Mike and Jerry in cases like these, as well as in general) would probably be good for their company in general.
As for social justice, that is another matter entirely. I might write up a few posts about some of the issues with social justice enthusiasts interacting with other people on the internet, I don’t know.