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 Gone Home  devs pull out of PAX Indie Megabooth
Gone Home devs pull out of PAX Indie Megabooth
June 21, 2013 | By Kris Ligman

June 21, 2013 | By Kris Ligman
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    49 comments
More: Indie, Business/Marketing



Gone Home developer Fullbright Company has announced it is withdrawing from this year's PAX Prime's Indie Megabooth, citing behavior from the convention organizers.

Penny Arcade founders Mike "Gabe" Krahulik and Jerry "Tycho" Holkins are no strangers to stirring up controversy. From 2010's "Dickwolves" debacle to statements made by Krahulik just yesterday regarding transgender critics, Penny Arcade has established a public image often at odds with its charitable outreach through organizations like Child's Play and its successful player-focused Penny Arcade Expo conventions.

Not all are happy with the cognitive disconnect, to be sure. Quite a few critics have elected to steer clear of PAX in recent years, but this may be the first time that an independent developer is withdrawing from a coveted spot at PAX's Indie Megabooth in protest of the show's organizers.

"This morning we stopped pushing those long-held reservations about Jerry and Mike into the back of our minds," writes Fullbright's Steve Gaynor. "We talked to each other and did a simple show of hands -- do any of us feel comfortable presenting Gone Home at PAX? No hands went up."

Gaynor cites multiple statements from both Krahulik and Holkins, including remarks where Krahulik said it "felt pretty good" to "support rape culture" and Holkins deeming criticism of Dragon's Crown's sexualized characters "censorship." The tearing point for the team was Krahulik's recent remarks about transgender people, in which he said in part:
Wanna be a guy or a girl or a fox or whatever and I will be happy to treat you that way.

But I think that is very different from the physical reality of your human body.

[...] I hate the idea that because I think boys and girls have different parts I am "transphobic" that pisses me off it makes me angry and so I lash out.

Gaynor writes that it is statements including these that drove Fullbright Company's decision to withdraw from Indie Megabooth at PAX.

Gaynor continues:
We believe that people's opinions and actions on social issues and business ethics are important. We believe that agreeing to pay the organizers of PAX over $1,000 for booth space, and to present our game on their showfloor for four days, provides explicit support for and tacit approval of their publicly demonstrated positions on these subjects. And we have finally come to the conclusion that we cannot support Jerry, Mike, and their organization by participating in this event.

[...]

We know that this will do them no harm; that's not the point. Another developer will take our slot at the Megabooth; they won't lose any ticket sales; we won't hurt their feelings. If anything, we're hurting ourselves -- our ability to reach new fans who might not have heard of Gone Home, to connect with players, sell stuff, meet with press and video crews, and so on.

But this is not something that we're doing for practical reasons.

We are a four-person team. Two of us are women and one of us is gay. Gone Home deals in part with LGBT issues. This stuff is important to us, on a lot of different levels. And Penny Arcade is not an entity that we feel welcomed by or comfortable operating alongside.


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Comments


Alex Boccia
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oh come on

Rob Graeber
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Was that really the quote that caused them to pull out? The quote was a bit insensitive given, but it makes me think the Fullbright is just really thin-skinned.

Christopher Casey
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I believe they made it clear in their statement that the decision is based on PA's legacy of behavior rather than one specific event.

Josh Griffiths
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Saying the feel good about support rape culture is only just "a bit insensitive" and Fullbright is thin-skinned for not supporting it? Grow up.

Rob Graeber
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@Josh Obviously that was not the quote I was referring to. And yes, Fullbright is probably thin-skinned if they're pulling out because of stupid stuff the founder said over twitter.

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Rob Graeber
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@Ronny I like your approach of trying to shame and attack people who don't share your point of view. And it's called overreacting. Heroic? Right..

Daniel Backteman
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I've never liked the creators of Penny Arcade, for absolutely no concrete reason. I respect and applaud most of what they do, but I never came to like them.

Is the problem possibly that they aren't good with people? I've seen the Dickwolves debacle, but that felt like Tycho and Gabe just sticking to their guns on what I also believe they are correct on. And that was related to the rape culture accusations, where the phrase from their comic was "Every night, we are raped to sleep by the dickwolves".

Who in their right mind would ever actually say, especially after those circumstances, "felt pretty good" to "support rape culture"? Smells of irony.

I don't believe that Gabe and Tycho are at fault for anything else than lacking a bit of extra empathy to understand people. Still, yeah, I don't like them and I still can't explain why.


Edit: Here's the comic, for anyone looking: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/8/11/

Kris Ligman
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Part of rape culture is, in fact, trivializing rape. When you turn rape into a punchline, it defangs it, and makes it harder for rape survivors to be taken seriously and get the support and justice they deserve. See also: today's CAD comic that compares the Xbone's DRM scheme to anal rape. (You'll forgive me if I don't link it here.)

So yeah, whether or not Krahulik was being flip with his "felt pretty good" to "support rape culture" comment, he was still, arguably, doing exactly what he said.

Daniel Backteman
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Point taken, but what about every other issue? Drug relapsers, PTSD from war, satires of war criminals. All of which has been poked fun at. Personally for the latter subject, I chuckle at silly graffities of Gaddafi I see on the streets, but I feel that the humour overshadows all the actual, horrific deeds committed. At the same time I don't want the pictures removed.

The disconnect for me is that I can't properly justify being on the side of "censoring" rape jokes when I look at all the other subjects allowed. I understand avoiding the sensitive issues as a way of making a point, but not entirely on attacking another person for making an insensitive joke.

Not a very enjoyable subject to talk about, rape, and I'm not trying to imply that you are wrong. If anything, I would love for you to enlighten me more on what you believe is right and how. I believe that if I'm uncertain about something, then I'm absolutely not the only one. If I'm corrected on being wrong, the knowledge is spread around.

P.S.: Apologies if considered promoting to link the comic. I figured that it'd be easier to get into the issue.

Kris Ligman
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This gets brought up a lot, sadly. The thing is, there is no "murder culture" the way there is a "rape culture." We recognize murder, drug abuse, etc are wrong and will net us some pretty heavy repercussions. But look at the news reports from the Steubenville case, for instance, where so many were worried how a young woman getting raped would affect the RAPISTS' lives, not hers. And now the hacker which exposed the rapists is facing longer jail time than the rapists themselves.

Really, you can find literally thousands of examples of disproportionate treatment of rape versus other crimes in our society. Steubenville isn't an isolated instance in the least. It isn't that rape is somehow worse than XYZ and thus requires that we tread lightly -- it's that historically, culturally, and in everyday life, rape is trivialized where other crimes are not, and that trivialization causes real-world damage.

Dark and edgy or gallows humor has its place, definitely. We make fun of people like Gaddafi in part because it defangs him, makes him seem less threatening in our minds. Rape doesn't deserve to seem less threatening, not when it's so prevalent.

Actually, Kotaku did a good piece that puts into context the sort of persistent level of feeling like a target this sort of jokey attitude creates in women professionals, at events like E3:

http://kotaku.com/the-creepy-side-of-e3-513484271

This one by a male rape survivor on The Escapist is also recommended:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/features/9766-The-R
-Word

And this one by our own Patrick Miller, of course:

http://gamasutra.com/blogs/PatrickMiller/20130620/194763/5_Gender
_Moments_from_E3_2013.php

Rebecca Richards
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Thanks for that link to The Escapist - I'd read the other two articles, but this one slipped past me.

Also, well said.

Daniel Backteman
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See, it's things like this that makes me feel worthless. My heart bleeds for the people who've been affected, and that goes for anything unjust that they've been affected by. I want to help, but in this case I don't see this approach as being the optimal solution. I want to help, but at the same time I disagree with some of the victimised's side's arguments, most likely just spiting the very people I want to side with.

I apologise, but at the moment I picked The Escapist's article to read, as I've read so much about general, subtle sexism that I need variety, however morbid that sounds in the context. I will read the other articles tomorrow though.

What resonated with me the most in his text was concerning which comments provoked him(3rd page): "...'you're ruining our fun's and the 'you're just looking to be offended's. They made me angry until I realised that they came from a lack of understanding, and sometimes a lack of straight-talk from those of us who are upset".
Ironically, I believe that avoiding the subject will do more harm than good to the cause. If people don't laugh at it, if they don't show their conflicting opinions and if they don't momentarily allow the subject into their minds, how will we confront these opinions? And if there is a ban on rape jokes, more energy will be put into fighting the ban than the cause.

I joke with my friends about everything (after explicitly making it clear that I don't mean to insult but instead to mock stereotypical slurs, and they tell me if they find it uncomfortable). They being gay, black, a "wigger", walking weird, about politics, general thoughts everyone think but never say, about me not having any friends growing up and being a nerd. All of this, because not only do I think it's healthy being able to laugh at everything, but it also gives them a safe environment to speak about their feelings, instead of obtusely bringing up the subject in some awkward, unnatural way.

Your argument regarding how the hacker is getting prosecuted more severely than rapists - I agree, it is terrible and wrong. But I don't see that relevant to this specific topic. I also don't think that rape and failure to see the seriousness is the "disease", but rather the symptom of something deeper. In some cases, misogyny - so why put the foot down at rape? What about condescending remarks, butt slaps and such that might lead to a desentisised and objectifying view?

Sorry, my point is that if we really want to tackle the roots we should encourage the conversation, not stifle/derail it. Penny Arcade could have helped by sternly talking about the subject after the comic.

Kenneth Blaney
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Rape wasn't the punchline here. The punch was that we act differently in video games than we would in real life. In real life the person would (hopefully) save someone living in such horrid conditions, but in a video game they don't because there is no gain within the game to do so thus creating pretty callous monsters out of characters who, in the fiction of the game, should be seen as heroes.

This is not to say that there is no rape culture or even that it doesn't exist in video games and webcomics. The mentioned CAD, an older VGCats, E3... it is all over the place... the important thing is to figure out who the real bad guys are and who the generally good but currently misinformed people are. Otherwise potential allies get alienated or event end up supporting the wrong side.

Arthur De Martino
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The punchline of the originsl "rapewolves" joke was actually the fact that this supposed player was letting the villagers end up on a horrible fate just because he already finished his arbritary quest.

You could rename them to "murderwolves" and the joke would be the exactly same. The punchline wasn't rape; Rape was portrayed as this horrible destiny that the villagers want release from. The punchline comes in the form of the so called Hero moving on anyway.

I can relate with the idea of not trivializing rape however I wouldn't say this is the case here since rape is portrayed as this awful thing and the comedy comes from the fact the hero will stop saving people from it because he dinged his quest.

Dane MacMahon
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1) There are no sacred cows in comedy.

2) Dickwolves wasn't a rape joke, as explained above.

Brandon Lee
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1. Exactly right.
2. When the Dickwolves "controversy" happened, I had no idea that was about a rape joke, even though I had read the comic. I just assumed people didn't like the word Dickwolves. But everything we perceive goes through our own personal lenses, and we focus on the bits that seem most relevant to us. So, I can see how it was taken for a joke about rape, but it certainly doesn't seem like their intention.

Vaidotas Staugaitis
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First time posting here - hi :)
I read this response from Gabe about this situation and I think its very relevant to this article.
http://www.penny-arcade.com/2013/06/21/well-that-escalated-quickl
y

To me as a gay male the best reaction someone can have about my homosexuality is being so cool with it that they don't even feel the need to be politically correct. I feel that folks at penny arcade are so uber cool with it that they even put it on their front page. I can appreciate it but it's probably bad business practice because it makes them sore thumb.

Diversity seems to be all the rage in the industry and kudos to it about that, but lets not go scorched earth - it's counterproductive to diversity.

Also your pulling out from PAX in this way does them harm, don't be humble. :)

Randall Stevens
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I want to believe that Penny Arcade shares the same philosophy that South Park has presented, that either everything is okay to joke about, or nothing is. Anything else is you imposing your morality on someone else (obviously my words, not theirs). You are telling people what they are allowed to say, because you are right and they are wrong, an argument that if presented by any gay hating religious fanatic would have you all up in arms. I think that is what Penny Arcade is going for, but they just aren't as clever as Matt and Trey.

Backing out is exactly the right action here. You don't like what they have to say, so you don't associate with them. That's awesome. I wouldn't associate with someone that I morally disagree with either. I would still argue for their right to say those things.

Christian Nutt
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Think this link pretty much covers it:
http://jezebel.com/an-open-letter-to-white-male-comedians-4975033
34

It also isn't about their jokes or the comic -- almost at all. It's about, in particular, Mike's attitude and speech, not in character and not played for laughs.

Dane MacMahon
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Linking to Jezebel as a barometer for social behavior makes me a little queasy.

Not that I really disagree here.

Daniel Backteman
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@Dane: Can't help but to agree, though that's hopefully for another debate so this all doesn't just get off topic.

In the defense of the link Christian posted though, and if you like me really don't like Jezebel, just understand what the topic is and ignore, ignore and ignooore the whole article right down to the comment section. Lindy West responded to the comments, in a long post starting with this:

"I also want to share some stuff that awesome female comics said to me during the writing of this article. (Their comments don't = an endorsement of anything I wrote above, obviously.)"

I think what those three comics said is a good read.

Dane MacMahon
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I don't like to give Gawker hits but I read those comments on your suggestion. They are a lot better and all three make a ton of sense. I especially loved Karen Kilgariff's statement. Going to have to look up her stuff later.

Sergio Rosa
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For whatever it's worth, I've learned that getting mad of other people's senseless comments only makes you a bitter person. Ignoring such people is the best thing to do.
Or maybe, living in my country has made me get more used to dealing with idiots because I don't come to expect people to be respectful about certain subjects...

On the other hand, personally I wouldn't skip the chance to show my game to hundreds of people in a single event just because someone said something I didn't like (and acted like an idiot, thus my comment above). However, I guess more recognized and famous developers have the luxury of skipping tradeshows and still get attention, which is not my case.

Kenneth Blaney
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From a purely business perspective, it makes sense not to show your product to any number of people if it is being done in a way that harms your brand. In fact, if your brand is being harmed by some action it would be better if fewer people saw it. The suggestion here is that Penny Arcade and PAX are both personally insulting to the developers AND harmful to the brand of the company. (Although I disagree with that, I don't really know the brand or topics covered in "Gone Home"... it might very well be the truth.)

It would be similar to a game like "Little Inferno" going FTP and all but requiring people to pay or spend countless months grinding to finish the game. It is completely antithetical to the message of the game.

James Yee
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Having just come from Penny Arcade and Gabe's rant about how he "went off" yesterday I can see how some folks could be offended.

Then again, it's kind of his JOB to offend people. Seriously, he's a comic artist, making satirical and insulting comics, it's what he does. He admits he shouldn't have gone into "jerk mode" but then again, we all get days like that. He just happens to have WAY more followers than most of us.

So if the company want to pull out of PAX, fine. The spot will be filled by some other company no problem while the Devs gets some positive PR for "taking a stance."

Daniel Backteman
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It's always interesting when people go so hard into defending something that they just fall into the other side of the extreme, judging by the response Krahulik said he got.

He already has an response on Penny Arcade, for anyone interested in reading it: http://penny-arcade.com/2013/06/21/well-that-escalated-quickly

Brandon Lee
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Mike and Jerry are artists and comedians, but more importantly, humans. They have opinions about things, and one of the main draws to their site are those expressed opinions. The whole reason a subject is deemed controversial is because people have varying views about it. Those expressed views are the conversation we are having about an issue. By withdrawing from the event Fullbright has basically said that Penny Arcade's creators don't deserve to be in the conversation. But really, Fullbright is the one out of the conversation now. They walked away instead of presenting their side, and threw out a few comments out as they left. That's not brave and it's not doing their cause any good.
Frankly, what Mike did, by presenting his views on transgender issues, was far more commendable than just walking out on the conversation. Penny Arcade isn't always the most tactful source of opinion, but at least they aren't afraid to present themselves openly in the public forum.

Ted Brown
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The folks at Fullbright are taking a principled stance, and they're sacrificing something valuable in the process. So, more power to them, right?

I'm not so sure.

What's missing from both sides is an absolute inability to recognize that people see the world differently. We all know people like Gabe / Mike, who haven't come to grips with a world that no longer has hard divisions between something seemingly concrete, like the concept of "male" and "female."

But to cast shame on him for that does not solve the problem. The folks at Fullbright don't seem to understand that most others live without any exposure to transgendered people. And while more and more people are able to be openly homosexual, that doesn't mean they've become common. They're not common! (or, if they live in a small town, they might have to hide behind a facade, which sucks but is hopefully getting better) All of this means your average person really hasn't considered the issue, because they haven't been exposed to it on a personal level.

So have some compassion for those who are still in the dark. Start a conversation if they're interested, or just ignore them if they're not. But be polite, please. Sooner or later, they'll have to sort out their feelings on the subject, and a holier-than-thou vibe from "the other side" only makes it harder to reach across a very real divide.

Personal anecdote: A father at my children's school is undergoing hormone therapy and (I think) surgery to become a woman. From the way he dresses and talks, I simply assumed he was an effeminate man, but I discovered ... dangit, I said "he" didn't I? I discovered she wants to be identified as a woman now that the process has begun. That is a very difficult concept to understand when she looks like a man. In fact, it is extremely difficult to do, because it literally breaks what had been a hardwired constant in my life: looks like a man, talks like a man, five o'clock shadow, made babies with a woman by using his penis: man. To not have compassion for those trying to grapple with what to them is an alien concept, to push and poke them while they are trying to re-balance their view of the world, well... that's not helpful. That's condescending.

People like Mike are human, and grew up with certain constants in this world. We now live in a time where people can (almost, in certain cities) be openly gay without risking reprisals (and thank God for that). We also live in a time -- the first ever in human history -- where a person can change their gender. That takes some adjustment, and opinions given before there's time to process that are not prejudiced: they are ignorant. Open your house to them, help them across the threshold, and welcome them into a bigger, more diverse world.

TL;DR - You can't change the world by rejecting it.

I wish Fullbright had taken this issue on by creating a "safe space" at PAX instead of walking out, or used it as an opportunity to educate people about this subject. That might have been more effective than an internet firestorm, which incites many, but changes nothing.

That said, I wish Fullbright and Co. nothing but great success with their game, which does present LBGT issues and, ironically, will do more to promote change than their recent action will. Peace!

Dane MacMahon
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Great post. Thank you for your input.

adam anthony
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Well said, Ted. I think this is all that really does need to be said on the matter.

Amir Barak
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Hear hear for a point well served and served well.

Jed Hubic
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Beauty of the world is people are free to have opinions, and choose to do what they want. You can't please everyone. I'd say Fullbright did the right thing for themselves, regardless of what anyone's take on it is, they didn't like the guys putting on the show or what they said so they left. If someone I don't like is throwing a party I probably won't go. I give both side some cred for not making a big deal out of this, or holding a massive open letter to the X community or some other BS that people with nothing better to do usually do.

It's really everyone BUT the two parties making a big deal out of this.

Ian Welsh
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Yeah, so how about this, http://www.penny-arcade.com/2003/06/02/haha1

"I am in a really good mood right now. There was a good sized protest last night in Seattle and it’s all over the news today. They are running video of it on all the local news channels. There is nothing I love more than watching hippies get the shit kicked out of them by cops on TV. I’m not saying I like cops or that I think one side was right and the other wrong. Honestly I am too apathetic to care about it either way. All I know is that for me it just doesn’t get any better than some as clown in a gasmask and a pair of Birkenstocks getting a face full of pepper spray. Now that is good television. Cops even used something I had never heard of called “sting grenades” and judging by the reaction of the hippies I saw they lived up to their name. They could just show protests and animal attacks on TV 24/7 and I’d be a happy camper. Like that one lady who tried to take her picture with the polar bear and got her leg chewed off. Oh God…that one still cracks me up.

-Gabe out "

No, Gabe's just an asshole. When you get off on people being in pain, you're a prick.

Dane MacMahon
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Wiki "America's Funniest Home Videos."

Daniel Backteman
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Well, the fact of Schadenfreude aside as Dane points out, maybe an irony detector really is needed online.

Dane MacMahon
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Dry humor and sarcasm are notoriously difficult to pull off in conversational writing.

Dane MacMahon
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Disregard.

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Amir Barak
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@Ronny
Get off your high-horse mate. I doubt you'd wish "constant, consistent, personal persecution, insults, and subtle bigotry that many people face every day" if you truly experienced it. No one here is trying to belittle, dismiss or minimize the issues of persecution; we're debating a reaction to something stupid that someone said, then repeated and then realized he made a mistake and apologized.

Also, excuse you me here for a second but "They probably know how to deal with descrimination better than you ever will." is a loaded sentence. Loaded with misconceptions and assumptions that is. Just because someone has been persecuted doesn't mean they know how to deal with it nor does it imply that person would be anything but the persecutor when the chance arises (I've seen enough evidence of that). People who are gay and/or transgendered are neither saints nor saviours; they're human, for all the good and bad that that implies.

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Daniel Backteman
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Gamasutra doesn't seem to treat links nicely. The two spaces after "joke" (when copying) caused by the line break sent me to their home page instead.

Thank for the link, either way!

Edit: Yup, good read. Well, it supported my side of the argument at least.

Patrick Haslow
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Kudos to the Fulbright Company!

@Ted Brown:
TL;DR - You can't change the world by rejecting it.
Really? You read about Penny Arcade's behavior and you think its useful to play devil's advocate for them?

Your proposed alternative solution basically amounts to the bulk of energy and effort being shifted to FC to dance around Penny Arcade's ignorance. Why should their time be wasted dealing with every ignorant fool who walks in their path? They have a game to make which will no doubt amount to a lot more than a bunch of hack comic strips.

Ted Brown
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I don't think you understood my point. I apologize if I was unclear.

Fullbright came to the conclusion that going to PAX to promote their game was not worth their time, and this was compounded by (what they see as) a regular violation of their principles by the two men who founded Penny Arcade. (it's not just two guys in a room anymore BTW)

Since Fullbright had already spent the money on the space (and presumably materials, etc), I think they would have made more of a real, tangible difference in the world if they had gone to PAX and shown support for the LGBT community there.

This not only subverts the message they see Penny Arcade espousing, but puts the issue in front of 50,000 people (IRL as opposed to LCD) and provides a safe space for (God help us but it happens) LGBT people who have been threatened and don't feel like they have a place to turn.

Here's the important part: it gives the Penny Arcade people a chance to own up to their ignorance, build bridges, and generate positive support all around. Of course, they've already done that -- to the tune of $20,000 -- but some folks prefer to see them as trolls that will never grow up. So be it.

I understand and respect Fullbright's decision. I just think it was made reflexively, like a reply on a message board. That's not how you change the world.

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