Why I’m Still Attending PAX
I thought a lot about whether or not it was ethical for me to return to PAX this year. I’m not a huge fan of misogynistic bro-dudes that use their status to bully already marginalized populations, and I’m starting to think that Penny Arcade has an internal mission statement that reads “Make Money, Fuck bitches”.
Penny Arcade has a history of socially problematic behavior. Over the years they have been (rightly accused) of rape apologism, transphobia, and bullying. I believe strongly in the idea that gaming culture can become a welcoming place for all kinds of people, but it seems like Penny Arcade sets that ideal back every time they let Mike Krahulik open his mouth.
I was in the airport waiting for my flight home from last year’s event when I heard what had happened during the Penny Arcade Q&A, when Penny Arcade stated that they regretting discontinuing the “Dickwolves” merchandise. The idea that they would regret taking an action that made their events less hostile towards women didn’t sit well with me, and I struggled over the decision to attend again.
The thing is, I really like PAX. It’s my favorite convention; I see a lot of people there that I don’t get to see otherwise, and I get introduced to all kinds of games and toys I would never have heard of. I get to interact with cosplayers and admire their craftsmanship.
I find PAX exciting and inspiring. I find Penny Arcade’s attitudes troubling. I want to attend the show, but I don’t want to support their actions. It was important that I made a decision that was ethically comfortable to me, but I struggled heavily with the apparent conflict between what I want and what I believe in.
Ultimately I did decide to attend the convention, and I’ll be honest: the bottom line is that I am going because I want to. I have filed PAX firmly under the “It’s Okay To Like Problematic Things” category.
I am also going to be visible. A lot of women that I know are avoiding PAX, not because they don’t like the show, but because they are voicing their displeasure in the most effective way they have available: with their wallet. If Penny Arcade wants their money, then Penny Arcade needs to make sure that PAX is a safe space for all kinds of people.
I don’t think that’s the best way to affect change in this situation. If there are no women at PAX, Penny Arcade has no motivation to make their convention a safe space for women. Considering the fact that PAX badges sold out in about an hour this year, I’m not sure that they’d even lose that much money. Sure, there’d be no women, but that just means the convention would be absolutely brimming with men.
Men who would look around the convention and say to themselves and each other, “See? Women don’t play games.”
That’s not what women need. We need to be visible in male-dominated spaces. We need to confront the ideas that the gaming community clings to: that women don’t play games, that we don’t care about games, and that targeting us for marketing or development is an unwise financial strategy.
We need to claim our space, not surrender the field.