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access_time September 11, 2013 at 8:26 AM in Culture by Andrew Kent

How Gamers Are Hypocrites


Hypocrisy, we’ve all done it at least once in our life. It’s not always easy living up to our own standards, I mean trying not to eat cookies and preaching about obesity is HARD. Although for the most part we try our best to not preach about what we’re not going to practice. Recently though, it’s come to my attention that there’s been a ton of preaching in my own community, and a whole lot of practicing…but not exactly in the right way.

My colleague Ryan Bates wrote a beautifully worded and well thought out piece over at Game Revolution. He talks about the necessity to do something about Penny Arcade and their behavior in regards to the well-known dickwolf “joke”. The dickwolf was an unseen character in a Penny Arcade strip that would rape slaves to sleep. One slave was hoping the hero in the comic would come and rescue them all, but his quest only required him to save five and therefore he was done at that point. Mr. Bates, and many others, are quite upset about this and the way that Penny Arcade handled the situation, and rightfully so. Rape is be no means something to laugh at. This being the gaming community though, aren’t there things we joke about that still aren’t right?

In the eyes of society, there are things that are right and wrong. Good and bad. Just and evil. However there are times where certain things can be in a “gray area” or where one thing is wrong while another similar action is deemed morally acceptable. Take for instance drugs. Alcohol is technically a mind altering drug. While it’s illegal to drive while drinking or intoxicated, you can still consume copious amounts in the comfort of your own home without anyone blinking an eye. However, with marijuana we have a whole different perspective. A lot of people are OK with it or even love it, but then you have the rest of the world that put it on the same level as cocaine or heroine. Yet it’s been shown that marijuana isn’t all that bad and can be quite helpful to people, unlike alcohol. I won’t go into too much detail, but you get the point.


This same thing happens within the gaming industry. We see one thing and praise it or hate it, while we do just the opposite for this other device or game that is the exact same thing. In regards to Mr. Bates’ article about rape, aren’t there other things that are morally unacceptable that we are being complacent about in the video games industry? What about violence? What about stealing? How about killing someone? Aren’t these all things that we as society, in real life, deem morally unacceptable? Everyone is saying Penny Arcade should do more to apologize to the community about their rape joke. If so, shouldn’t Bethesda not even have Skyrim on store shelves?

You see, it’s a matter of what the gaming community deems as acceptable within the digital world. Slaughtering someone in a virtual world is just fine, they are just bits and bytes and nothing more. These characters we mutilate or beat up are not real, they have no feelings. They just aren’t real people. We as a community struggle every time people outside of the community get wind of a murderer who plays Call of Duty. This community is full of well adjusted people who have played numerous violent video games. We aren’t degenerates who use Battlefield to train for combat. So how come violence is funny but rape isn’t?

If you take a look all of the violence out of Pokemon, then what would it be? Basically just one of those DS pet games I would imagine. Call of Duty wouldn’t even be a think without all of the head shots and killstreaks, etc. We wouldn’t have a lot of the video games we have today, and even back then, without some amount of violence or unlawful actions. They just would not be fun enough for us to play.

Everyone obviously has a right to their own opinion, I get that. I also get that rape is a really bad thing. It’s not something that should be taken lightly. Truly I hope that you don’t think that I’m doing that. It’s just that stuff like this tends to be overlooked. We break out torches and pitchforks for one incident, but totally accept and welcome another similar concept with open arms. Violence and killing is just as bad as rape, and neither should be taken lightly. However it seems that gamers are more lenient about violence in a digital/fantasy world than they are with rape.

Isn’t the Penny Arcade comic strip something that is not real? Are we getting to the point where certain topics are not acceptable, even in the digital world while similar or worse topics are  just fine for consumption? What is the difference between violence in video games and rape being talked about in a comic strip? Sign off below.


  • Riza Sabino September 11, 2013 at 10:45 AM

    If you look at it, as children we are taught that violence is funny. It’s funny because we are prompted when Mo pokes Curly in the eyes. There is upbeat music to tell us it’s funny when Bugs Bunny gives Daffy Duck an exploding cigar, causing his beak to spin to the other side of his head. Oh! Look at that! Two socially frowned upon subjects in one scene and it’s presented to a young audience (smoking and violence). And if you argue that those characters never used guns, take a look at Yosemite Sam and Elmer Fudd. Even Disney puts violence in a upbeat catchy song (“Every Little Piece” in Pete’s Dragon).
    However, we are not taught that physically taking power from someone and subjecting them to sexual abuse is funny. As a child, you are taught to not let anyone touch your “no-no” place. So suddenly it’s okay to make jokes about someone or something coming around and forcefully making someone have sex. Can you name a cartoon, comedy movie or actual main stream published game where rape is treated as a joke? As I recall, even in Grand Theft Auto, you pay for consensual sex. Even those NPCs aren’t programmed to do whatever you want.
    I’m with Mr. Ryan Bates on this. Rape is not funny. It’s never funny. It’s not funny because physically stripping another human being of personal space and power through sexual abuse doesn’t fall in the humor category. It falls in the category of “Things That Are Really Not Okay. Ever.”

  • valdamor September 11, 2013 at 12:57 PM

    Honestly, I think this article is missing the point and conflating several issues.

    First, it makes the assumption that the people who are critical of PA are not critical of other aspects of gaming. Commenting on and reacting to the most recent event in gaming is not the same thing as ignoring other issues.

    Second, it brings up the whole “why aren’t you mad at x?” defense. Well,there are some major differences between what is going on with PA and the issues you cite. PA’s inability to control their comments and fans has direct real world implications. It affects how safe some women gamers feel in the community. It sends the message that male gamers are not interested in treating them as equals. The link between violence and video game audiences is tenuous, at best. I have seen several reports argue for and against. Right now, it is not understood well enough to be certain that violence in games directly causes violence in real life. Conversely, the actual mechanics of how power is used in society to control the access of women is documented.

    You almost had a valid point, but the issue is not really violence. The issue is power. More than just sexism in games, there is plenty of racism and homophobia. Instead of asking why is no complaining about violence, ask who is the victim of violence in games? Why are prostitutes a healing item in Grand Theft auto? Does that send any messages to the gaming community about who has power in society? I would agree that there are questions not being asked often enough, I just don’t think this article asks them. If you want to find patterns in gaming to get upset about, there are plenty.

    Third, it assumes that the people who are angry and/or disappointed with PA right now have the some opinion on the matter. Some feel rape is never acceptable. Some, and I am more in this camp, feel that in the hands of a truly deft comedian it can be done well(For example Wanda Sykes). There is a valid debate to be had here. PA has shown they really aren’t up to that debate. By making the second strip and allowing some of their fans to run riot against critics, they basically tried to harass their critics into silence. Then they decided to make money off the debacle, only to pull them later. Disappointment with PA stems from their inability to concede that anyone could be hurt by their statements, and the continued tone deaf provocation.

    Fourth, the article misunderstands the issue many people have with PA at this point. Honestly, if PA had stopped doing bigoted crap 3 years ago this would be a different story. The fact of the matter is that they have apologized before. There is no reason to believe their sincerity if they have to keep making the same half-assed apology. If they had the insight to admit that the comic could be seen as offensive, and apologized for it right away-I don’t think we would be here. Instead, they adopted a double-down then accuse everyone of intolerance of free speech angle, while trying to silence their critics. They continued to make things worse by making the shirts, they continued by making comments about transpeople, then continued by bringing back this stuff at pax. The issue is well beyond a comic they made 3 years ago. The issue now is that they keep digging in and making similar mistakes. After a while, it hurts their credibility when they issue yet another apology.

    This article is very insular, makes assumptions about the critics, and doesn’t really engage with the larger discussion. It is not really about a single rape joke. It’s about how through their own mistakes they have, at the very least, given the appearance of being sympathetic to the contingent of sexist gamers who egg them on and keep asking for dickwolf shirts. It does not matter if PA is directly sexist, or merely tolerates sexism within it’s base because that sexism undercut much of the good work they try to do with making an inclusive PAX and running a noble charity when they are unable to present themselves well in society. Honestly, I think they should spin off Child’s play and PAX as separate corporate entities. If they don’t want to be role models, or at least keep their foot out of their mouth, they should step away from positions of authority.

  • Allyability September 11, 2013 at 10:19 PM

    I think I can answer your question, Andrew.

    In our culture (and many around the world), sexual assault is treated differently than things like murder or theft. It’s unique in four ways: there are widespread myths about what it is and how it happens, it usually goes unreported and is poorly prosecuted (or not at all), victims are frequently shunned and abused by the community, and it follows gendered power structures. This is rape culture. It’s in the context of rape culture that rape jokes are unique from jokes about murder.

    One myth that’s relevant here is the myth that men have an uncontrollable urge to rape. As one article put it, “Feminists don’t think all men are rapists. Rapists do.” Studies have shown that almost all rapists believe this to be secretly true.

    Another relevant myth is that some or all women secretly want to be raped, that they enjoy it. “No means yes,” that sort of thing. Of course that’s completely impossible, by definition: you can’t want something that you don’t consent to. But rapists believe this, as well.

    There are many other myths: women cry “rape” when they really just regret consensual sex, women cry “rape” to get at someone they don’t like, the absence of “no” is consent, a drunk person can consent, rape is done by strangers (it’s usually done by acquaintances), rapists are poor or Black (like drug use, it’s evenly spread across race and class), it’s not rape if the victim doesn’t fight back, it’s not rape if the victim and rapist are married, etc. Naturally, all of these myths lead to rape occurring. Many rapists do not believe they are rapists, and are people who wouldn’t commit other violent crimes.

    A joke about murder is told in a context where everyone is on the same page. It’s wrong, and there’s not much gray area. Rape, on the other hand, has all of these myths surrounding it. Regardless of how they’re intended, rape jokes often affirm these myths that widely enable rape. Culture shapes us. Many who believe that rape is natural, that all men do it, and that women secretly want it, are confirmed in those beliefs when rape is made light of. This connection is not merely deduced, but supported by empirical data.

    That’s a rough outline of how rape jokes contribute – indirectly, and only in the context of other factors – to rape happening. They also trigger survivors with PTSD, and contribute to the shame and self-hate many survivors experience.

    It is tragically common that survivors who bring charges are harassed and threatened by police and the community, and even doubted or blamed for their own rape by their friends and family. Of course, rape myths contribute to this: what were you doing out alone at night? Why did you get so drunk? Why were you dressed scantily? Why didn’t you fight back? Why didn’t you say “no?” Survivors may find that the justice system does not support them, either. Our communities, and the justice system, are both powerful authorities about right and wrong.

    Imagine you’ve suffered a grievous and traumatizing assault. You go to the community for support, but they not only blame you for it, they also defend the person responsible. They even turn it around, as though you’ve done something wrong by accusing your rapist. The justice system does the same. You can see how that might lead to self-hatred, guilt, and mind-numbing emotional suffering. You’d feel alienated and exiled, a pariah. You might become suicidal (many rape victims do, as with the recent case of a fourteen-year-old girl raped by her teacher, who for his part was given thirty days in jail by a judge who said the victim was “older than her age” and “equally in control of the situation”). When rape victims call themselves “survivors,” it’s not metaphorical.

    In that context, how would rape jokes affect you? When your whole culture is against you, how will you be affected by those items of culture? This is light years beyond “being offended.”

    Finally: something like 90% of survivors are women, an 92% of rapists are men. It’s already the case in the US that women are paid 30c less on the dollar than men for the same work, take on much more of unpaid domestic responsibilities, etc. So all of this is not merely a crime epidemic, but part of a system of sexist oppression.

    So that’s the difference between fictional violence and fictional rape.

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