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'Diversity Lounge'? PAX has a lot of work to do Exclusive
'Diversity Lounge'? PAX has a lot of work to do
December 19, 2013 | By Leigh Alexander

With its "Diversity Lounge and Hub," PAX is finally trying to address some of its community problems. So why is everybody laughing? Leigh Alexander explores what it would really take to start healing.

The Penny Arcade brand, and by extension its multivalent PAX events, have suffered massively in recent years from community management problems. Ever since cofounders Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins first alienated audiences with their "Dickwolves" comic -- and moreso with Krahulik's troubled response to the ensuing controversy -- things just seem to be getting tougher for the team.

The fact PA runs the Child's Play charity, which gives video games to facilities for sick kids, hasn't been able to ameliorate the sting of stubbornly-transphobic public comments and an attitude that still reads to too many people like unrepentance and an unwillingness to engage.

Whether or not to attend PAX has become a personal and political issue for fans and developers alike -- including the Fullbright Company, which earlier this year stated it wouldn't show its critically-acclaimed Gone Home at an event with such problematic public views.

The game industry has begun to address how inviable it's becoming to tolerate a product culture strictly oriented around a traditional straight white male demographic. Earlier this year Electronic Arts held an LGBTQ event for developers and media to discuss diversity, and talks on how to welcome more women and minorities into the games space are increasingly prevalent at events, including this year's GDC.

We can only hope initiatives toward an equitable, respectful game industry continue. Prominent examples of bigotry in the player community are ongoing -- like the recent abuse and harassment campaign fielded by Depression Quest creator Zoe Quinn when she placed her game on Steam Greenlight. Or, in the same week, the "fan backlash" at the appointment of Mighty No. 9's Dina Abou Karam, for committing the sin of being publicly interested in social issues (and having insufficiently-hardcore "gamer cred," apparently).

Although the tide often feels like it's slowly shifting, the industry is still slow to regard marginalized audiences as important. Perhaps creating a medium and culture where everyone feels welcome to participate and enjoy isn't an exciting-enough objective for some. Yet these are business and cultural problems that should concern everyone working in games even in a mercenary way: Sometimes these troubling hatred spikes are the only time the rest of the world hears about what we do.

I've had outreach in recent weeks from multiple national news marquees who are putting together stories prompted by how they've heard video games are an unsalvageable hellhole of abuse and bigotry. That's no good, especially for an industry that continues to migrate into online spaces where it relies on long-term engagement and multiplayer dollars. The conversation needs to change, and there are people who can help who are waiting urgently for their turn, waiting to feel listened-to.

"What marginalized people want from games events is not necessarily to have special zones just for them, but to feel welcome"

In that light, the recent announcement that PAX would incorporate a 'Diversity Lounge and Hub' into future events should theoretically be a welcome step; the tone-deaf giant is finally acknowledging it's alienating a significant part of its community (or, cynically, its money). But the news was met with raucous scorn from social media spaces, gleeful punning, and even a hashtag called #DiversityLoungeDrinks, joking about what sort of cocktails might be served in a "specialty" space of that nature.

One can assume that any small initiative from an organization plagued with the issues PAX faces will (and arguably must) be met with skepticism. But the "Diversity Hub and Lounge" is vaguely insulting as a concept: What marginalized people want from games events is not necessarily to have special zones just for them, but to feel welcome, wanted and safe at the entire event, period.

And given that the Penny Arcade community has in the past taken to deriding and threatening rape survivors in what they must believe is a defense of the brand's value, designated social pods for marginalized people aren't going to make anyone feel like their needs are being highlighted -- they may even make some people feel as if they're signing up to have a spotlight shined in their face, a target painted on their back.

Robert Khoo has said the company's intention was to "celebrate...diversity-driven content," but this token-oriented conception of diversity is more afterschool special than real-world. Many people just want a ticket to have fun, play and show games at PAX alongside every other attendee, while feeling their identity will be respected and their needs will be heard -- in other words, the same experience of PAX the gamer demographic has taken for granted that it can expect from events for years. Why does Penny Arcade's pro-geek, anti-bullying stance protect only some people and not all?

But as much as PA has become the subject of public discomfort at best, disgust at worst, for its chronic mishandling of its community, heaps of dismissive snark do not help (even if they help us feel better -- full disclosure, I participated in the social media mudslinging with aplomb). If PAX truly wants to repair its mistakes and mend bridges, though, it should acknowledge the lessons of other events that have focused on safety and inclusivity.

PA's Khoo says the company brought on Benjamin Williams, co-founder of the LGBTQ-friendly GaymerX event, to collaborate on initiatives that might raise awareness in the historically-insular fanbase. But Toni Rocca, president and acting community director of GaymerX, says Williams has not been involved with her event since April of 2013, when he helped organize the involvment of stars like Ellen McLain and John Patrick Lowrie.

"GaymerX was not involved in the making of the PAX Diversity Hub and Lounge," Rocca tells me. "I was contacted about it earlier in December, and the biggest part of why we didn't just say 'yes' was that the trip wasn't really within our budget. For a flight, room and food, that kind of stuff can add up, and right now we're trying to keep all the GaymerX funds on GaymerX itself."

Rocca also says GaymerX was not involved ("nor did we want to be") with any aspect of the Diversity Lounge leak and ensuing media conversation. "It isn't that I don't think people should be held accountable for their actions, but I know that people make mistakes," she says. "Robert Khoo has since made his intentions known and while of course as many of us marginalized folks know 'Intent Is Not Magic,' at least we do know now what they were trying to do."

"I don't really think there's anything wrong with having a center where resources for marginalized people can be easily found," Rocca adds. "I feel like a lot of this media frenzy has essentially just come from poor wording."

Rocca does suggest it might have been better for the proposed hub to be inside the Expo Hall, and that it might have been helpful for PA to clarify the reasoning behind the announced "no promotion of products or services" clause. "Heck, it would be nice if they could offer people hotel rooms or fly them out like No Show, Different Games, IndieCade and some other conventions do," she notes, "especially since most marginalized people and organizations are statistically far poorer than their white-cis-het-ablebodied-etc counterparts."

Rocca says it's important to note that thus far the "Diversity Lounge" is only a concept in progress. "This is why I feel like the best thing to do is not to simply poke fun of the mistakes that were made, but perhaps instead suggest where the project can be improved," she says. "I think it's great that PAX is trying to work more with marginalized people and I hope that they use this opportunity to come up with a better, more effective and productive program."

"The entirety of PAX should be a safe space for all people"

Writer, designer and consultant Mattie Brice ran the recent Queerness and Games Conference at UC Berkeley, and is a regular speaker on advocacy issues. She also feels that in concept, a Diversity Lounge “isn’t bad, and should exist.”

“What needs to be worked on is making sure it doesn't become a ghettoization of minorities into a particular space,” Brice explains. “For one, the entirety of PAX should be a safe space for all people, not just the Diversity Lounge. There should be resources for all people all over the con.”

“Resources for diversity tracks and support should be included in every program, and not solely available in the lounge. All Enforcers in the convention should be safe-space trained be knowledgeable of how to deal with inclusivity issues, even if they aren't working the Diversity Lounge,” she adds. “If companies are both on the Expo floor and in the Diversity Lounge, they must have their diversity-related material on the Expo floor as well, not just in the lounge.”

The “lounge” may be better conceived as a safe space for people who feel at risk, Brice suggests. Safe spaces require procedures for reporting problem behavior and ensuring the safety of the victim, with dialogue as a goal, Brice suggests, where the ultimate result should be healthy conversation, not necessarily banning or shaming.

Brice wants PAX to publicly announce and share changes to its convention-wide policies that outline specific anti-harassment policies and a detailed inclusivity statement pledging to make the convention a safe space for all, with clear staff procedures to that end. All attendees should agree to such policies, she says.

“All staff will then have to undergo safe space training, not just the ones involved with their Diversity Lounge and track talks,” she says. “They will need to establish clear signage and policies for accessible and gender neutral bathrooms. Panels will need to be vetted more closely, one, for making sure there aren't only white men on it.”

Safety policies should cover not only the event, but any party associated with the event, with trained staff on hand and promotional partners closely vetted. Ultimately and importantly, PA’s figureheads, Krahulik and Holkins, need to personally and publicly address a commitment to inclusivity at the event and otherwise.

But although she quipped on Twitter that PAX ought to hire her as a diversity consultant, Brice tells Gamasutra the organization has a lot of work to do before she’d consider working with it. “I don't think Penny Arcade has done enough to make up for its incredibly bad behavior, adding to the problems video games and geek culture overall already have,” she says. “Their past actions have left an incredibly bad taste in the mouth of the community, and there hasn't been any action to show that not only is there deep regret for what has happened, but it won't happen again in the future... they’ve done damage and they need to make it up.”

"Technically, it’s probably not productive to create an 'us' versus 'them' mentality"

This must start with the organization heads and extends to the values they expect of their community, and will take time. This isn’t something PAX can solve by cordoning off areas of its event (Khoo compared the role of the diversity lounge at PAX to that of the Indie Megabooth, which spotlights indie games against the ‘regular’ games) and deciding on the narrative for the people in those areas.

“Some of the criticism I've been hearing is that [the diversity lounge concept] isolates these groups and tries to shine an uncomfortable spotlight on them,” Khoo wrote in his public statement. “Although I can see how some might see it that way, the goal is to actually drive awareness and even celebrate the groups and their goals.”

That’s a sentence you could read as although we received criticism on our approach to this work which is new for us, we decided to keep pressing our own solution anyway. It’s a less than ideal place to start from, as is seeking credibility for diversity initiatives before accountability for past mistakes and future commitments have been clearly delineated.

There are also a number of events, such as those Rocca listed, that have been working to provide safe, inclusive spaces for speakers and attendees that could serve as models, if only the PA team took the time to explore rather than to exclaim. And many of those events, despite being much less-funded than PAX, manage to provide travel help or speaking stipends for contributors, rather than expecting they pay their own way for the privilege of supporting PAX’s diversity education.

Technically, it’s probably not productive to create an “us” versus “them” mentality toward the efforts of an organization that finally seems to be trying to begin the difficult work of addressing its community problems. But so far this Diversity Lounge thing’s probably not quite right -- and definitely not enough.

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Jeremy Helgevold
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Last I checked, the entirety of PAX IS a safe place for anyone that wants to join. Any changes to its format really come across as a lame PC reach-out to quell continued complaints.

Rob Wright
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Well there's "safe" and then there's "comfortable." In my experience with PAX events, yes, they're safe. I give credit to the organization for having a strong no-harrassment policy and diligently enforcing it.

On the other hand....I'm not sure what the comfort level of female or transgender attendees could be in light of some recent behavior/comments from the Penny Arcade brass. I didn't attend the most recent event with the "Dickwolves regret" episode, but I can't imagine that -- and especially the audience reception to Mike's comments -- made female attendees feel very comfortable.

As for the diversity lounge itself, like the author states: it's good PA recognizes it has a problem on its hands, but this hardly seems like the way to go about fixing it.

One step forward, two steps back.

K Gadd
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calling the entirety of PAX a safe space is a bit ridiculous, given incidents where sexual harassment (and worse) by Enforcers were kept quiet instead of addressed correctly by PAX staff.

Rob Wright
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@K Gadd
In my limited experience, they have been realtively safe. I have read several reports of harrassment, including the Tango episode last year, and not to discount those reports in any way, but I've never personally seen harrassment or innappropriate behavior at these events or know of anyone that has experienced it.

But I confess that, again, my experience is limited and I didn't go to the most recent PAX, and as a white male I've never been the subject of harrassment, sexual or otherwise. So I defer to your experiences.

Jindo Fox
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"Gamer culture" is seriously messed up. PAX is trying to approach their conference's reputation of being a bro-zone by making a special roped-off area?

They might as well just put a "NO GIRLZ ALLOWED" sign on their treehouse.

Lauren White
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Thanks for shining a light on this. Though I understand the sentiment to create the lounge to appease past problems, you brought up the point multiple times in this article: trying to overtly fix the problem is not the best approach. Subtle behavior of acceptance speaks volumes over the time and money it takes to create such a lounge.

John Trauger
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What Jeremy Helgevold said.

It *looks* like a shallow PR move from guys used to calling out other people's shallow PR moves. It looks like a stoploss strategy, not stepping up to address a problem.

Or worse, protection money being paid.

Rachel Preston
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The entire Dickwolves saga was both disgusting and frustrating. I've never been a reader of Penny Arcade, but I found out about the crappy chain of events a couple of months before I would be attending my first PAX. To say that it was dismaying would be understating things, particularly as I was going to be attending the con by myself and I'm female. I can't say that I ever thought about not going, but I did try to learn more about the event and got involved with the PAX-going community beforehand which helped my comfort level As it ended up, I had an awesome time.

I bring this up because I don't condone what PA and its big three have done in the past by far. But I am getting more and more disgusted with each outburst of indignant rage that spews out onto the net anytime this subject comes up. There was cause indeed for righteous anger in the beginning. The part that I find completely disingenuous and counter-productive is the failure to offer any constructive suggestions (short of "give us money or free stuff") combined with the deeply-rooted desire to nurture every drop of disdain for Penny Arcade until hell freezes over. I've long known that my personality had and still has to some degree, a not-so-lovely penchant for revenge and recognize the obsession. I've slowly learned that this hurts me as much or more than my target. On the internet, this process seems to have been sped up exponentially, so now the focus doesn't seem to be on what Mike Krahulik or Penny Arcade has done so much as the many ways people like to vilify them. The rage is now part of the problem and doesn't move anyone towards a solution.

The fact that a lot of this is fanned by internet writers, not journalists, has exacerbated things immensely in my opinion since they seem even more prone to write without always referencing all of the facts, or at least slanting them. This article has a prime example where it states that Penny Arcade brought on the co-founder of GaymerX, Benjamin Williams, but then goes on at length to point out that GaymerX confirmed not being involved in this initiative. The implication I picked up from this writing is that Penny Arcade lied about GaymerX in order to make themselves look better, which is something that would lead to even more page-clicking outrage. In fact, reading the leaked Penny Arcade documents and Khoo's statement shows that other than the mention of Williams, there's no other reference to GaymerX. So why feel the need to make it look like they lied? This is the counter-productive cycle of the self-righteous circle-jerks going on all over the Internet lately.

In short, if you're not trying to be a part of the solution, then you may well be part of the problem, especially if you're writing about Penny Arcade. I will say it is interesting to see so many people who are so truly righteous in that they've never committed any glaring mistakes in their own lives, rendering them so qualified to pass judgment on others.

Rob Wright
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I think you may be misreading the article. I don't see where author is suggesting that PA is lying about Williams being involved with PAX.

"But Toni Rocca, president and acting community director of GaymerX, says Williams has not been involved with HER event since April of 2013."

HER event. GaymerX. Not PAX. She is merely distinguishing between Williams and GaymerX as an organization. Williams is involved with PA, and GaymerX isn't. That's a clarification, not a suggestion or implication that PA is lying.

The article also has the following quote from Rocca: "I don't really think there's anything wrong with having a center where resources for marginalized people can be easily found," Rocca adds. "I feel like a lot of this media frenzy has essentially just come from poor wording."

So....not sure why you're so up in arms about this, given the nature of the article and the civility of the reader comments above. I'm not detecting any outbursts of indignant rage here. Or at least, I wasn't until just now.

Amir Barak
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I sort of see where Rachel is coming from since I originally misunderstood the sentence as well (had to re-read it).

I think the problem is that there's no mention of GaymerX involvement at any given point and so a clarification from Rocca that GaymerX is not involved seems superfluous at best.

Rachel Preston
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That is indeed part of it. I also question the omission of mentioning the donation Krahulik made to the Trevor Project after his transphobic comments or the extension of Child's Play to aiding domestic violence shelters or any of the other positive actions that Penny Arcade or it's founders have taken. Also, the grouping of the entire Penny Arcade community, however that's defined, as being complicit in harassing rape survivors is something with which I take issue. I understand that it's the in-thing in these discussions to paint Penny Arcade as wholly evil, but I follow the PA forums since I am going to PAX East again. Am I a part of that evil group now? It's just sloppy characterization.

I don't dispute in any way that Penny Arcade in general and Mike Krahulik specifically have done shitty things. But I think it's far past the time to move on and try to heal or fix problems. Instead, what I see is in my opinion a continuation of popular public flogging a scapegoat. It can feel good to come along and agree on how rotten Krahulik was or how inadequate Khoo is being, with the attendent self-righteous glow. Note that I'm not saying I've never felt it either, and in respect to these same guys. At some point enough is enough, and I think we should be far past that point now.

In the first part of the article, the author says, "The conversation needs to change, and there are people who can help who are waiting urgently for their turn, waiting to feel listened-to." Then the article turns to criticizing the Diversity Lounge which seems to me to be a starting attempt to do this very thing. What? And if there are so many people whom the author thinks could help, in light of the criticism for what Penny Arcade is trying, might it not have been useful to list those people and make concrete suggestions for what could be done instead? I didn't see any of that.

Brendan Vance
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I too am put off a bit by the whole 'Penny Arcade is crappy and must be destroyed!' internet mob phenomenon, although I would not suggest Leigh Alexander or anyone mentioned in this article are members of that mob. To me, it all kinda feels like a big weird slacktivism party.

If this is a civil rights issue (which it is) that stems from a complicated mess of overlapping and invisible systems of oppression (which it does), then why are we wasting time bickering with Penny Arcade's public relations arm and placing painstaking emphasis on whether or not we pay and/or make money by participating in PAX? If the system is aligned against you and mostly just wants you to go away (which, again, it is and it kinda does), there are two surefire ways to lose: One, play by the systems rules, and two, go away. The idea, therefore, should not be for marginalized groups to boycott PAX; it should be for them to march on it.

Mark Sivak
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Have you been to PAX? These events were from Seattle four months ago (

Extra Credits: Diversity - a film viewing and Q&A Session
Top Women Game Characters of All Time
Gays in Love (With Their RPG's)
Hey Vasquez, you ever been mistaken for a man? A discussion of military servicewomen in Video Games
Everything We Know is Sexist. Now What?
Creating & Building Inclusive Communities in Tabletop/Board Gaming
Achieving Gender Diversity in Gaming: OK, Now What?
Press XY Presents: Right Before Your Eyes: Transitioning Within a Game Community
You Game Like A Girl: Tales of Trolls & White Knights
Political Correctness in Gaming: Let's Talk
Queers in Gaming: Gamer vs Gaymer
Women & Tabletop Gaming
Gender Diversity in Games: Where Are All The Believable Female Characters?
Playing Across Boundaries

Why would any group need to march on PAX when they have been invited previously and now will get free space and more publicity.

Brendan Vance
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It is indeed cool that talks like that exist at PAX, and that PAX makes some effort to attract them. When I talk about the system, though, I'm thinking bigger than just PAX or the PA organization; I'm referring to the whole culture in which PAX exists (game culture especially), which regrettably is hostile to groups like women and is likely to remain that way regardless of any measures PA decides to put in place (although, again, I like that they're trying harder than any other giant convention of which I am aware).

I don't like that people are looking to PA to solve these problems, since they aren't problems PA can solve. I think that if people want to create a safe space at PAX they are going to have to create it themselves. Currently people tend to look at PAX as a sort of product that they can choose to purchase, and some believe that not purchasing this product (or sending angry tweets at its Twitter account) represents meaningful action, but I doubt that stuff will have any significant impact; instead, the best way to make the games community safer and more beneficial to groups like women is to march into PAX and claim a place for these people in every way possible (and that means not waiting on Penny Arcade to fix it). It is important that every different kind of videogame person is there, and that their allies defend their presence; how eloquent Robert Khoo is about inviting them (or whether he invites them at all) seems relatively unimportant.

Rob Wright
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I think you are projecting. It feels like you are replying to an entirely different article and different set of reader comments. I'm not sure who you think is painting PAX attendees with a broad brush as a bunch of Dude Bros harrassing rape survivors or who exactly is exhibiting the "self-righteous glow" as you call it.

Kyle Redd
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"And given that the Penny Arcade community has in the past taken to deriding and threatening rape survivors in what they must believe is a defense of the brand's value, designated social pods for marginalized people aren't going to make anyone feel like their needs are being highlighted -- they may even make some people feel as if they're signing up to have a spotlight shined in their face, a target painted on their back."

Notice that Leigh did not say "a few members of the Penny Arcade community" but simply "the community"? That's where PAX attendees were painted with a broad brush as a group that harasses rape survivors.

Rachel's criticism is very relevant to this specific article and this set of reader comments.

Rob Wright
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I didn't read it that way -- obviously -- but that's a fair point. I have to say, though, it's hard to start segmenting out an entire community based on online activity. Per your suggestions, I certainly think it was more than "a few members of the PA community." At the same time, I don't think it's fair to say "most" or "the majority of" because we don't know how many PA fans silently objected to the offending behavior.

Kyle Redd
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I would like to see the time when anyone from the Penny Arcade community "cheered when its leader regretted not harassing rape survivors enough." That might have happened, but I have a feeling you either misread or are misrepresenting whatever event you're referring to.

And if you want to consider me to be "part of that group" simply for not speaking out against Penny Arcade, then go right ahead. Though if you're trying to build support for your argument, that's really not a good approach to use.

Katy Smith
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I'm still glad they are trying. It's a good thing to see that PA is acknowledging there is a problem and trying to do something about it. I don't know if "diversity lounges" are the best way to do that, but I have a hard time judging intent when the only thing I know about it is from leaked convention plans. If it turns out to be a "diversity zoo! free admission!" then I'll pour on the hateraid, but I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt until they give me a reason to think this is a terrible idea.

Amir Barak
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I read the IndieStatik article, including the screenshots they posted from the document. I fail to see the problem.
As far as I'm reading this (the document not the article), and correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears that they mean that these lounges have specific information regarding diversity issues; not a place to herd minorities or marginalized groups. They also seem to be a place where people who need help over specific issues can always find someone trained in handling sensitive situations (and yes, people need to go through training for that) instead of trying to locate someone over the floor in a random manner - because in the end not everyone may have the time to go through specific training and would I really want someone that's only there to break up fights handling my situation?

Kind of like having all the brochures about the police in the police booth and having all the brochures about voting in the government booth (or whatever). Where IS the problem here?

As for the original IndieStatik "article", Jared Rosen seems to really like putting quotation marks on words.

As far as this article;
"the tone-deaf giant is finally acknowledging it's alienating a significant part of its community (or, cynically, its money)."
We're really going to have to come up with some actual numbers because it seems like sometimes the marginalized community is a minority and sometimes it's a substantial part.

"That’s a sentence you could read as although we received criticism on our approach to this work which is new for us, we decided to keep pressing our own solution anyway"
Or it could read; look you've not understood the concept of what we're trying to do, hey wait for it and judge it on its own merits. But I guess that's such a far-fetched assumption since no one on the Internet ever misunderstood or judged things too early ever... right?

The most important thing at any convention is to make it a safe environment for the participant community. But it's also a very very very very very hard thing to do when attendance levels are quite high and the audience itself is quite diverse (in opinions and intelligence if nothing else). GaymerX is not really a good comparison for PAX given that the focus of its audience is very narrow (and before anyone responds to this with, everyone is welcome, in the end the event is called GaymerX not InclusiverX).

I'm not purposing a defense of racist, sexist or any other type of idiot-based opinions which someone vomits but laughing at the other side, knee/circle-jerking and twittering "witty" (here are those lovely quotations again) quips is neither constructive nor professional.

Quick edit, Robert Khoo does mention that the central space is used as a replacement booth for free. Doesn't that not only acknowledge that minority/marginalized groups are less financially able as well as offer a solution?

Terry Matthes
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Im not buying the whole "marginalized groups are less financially able" thing. Personally I find it insulting. Where is it even coming from?

Katy Smith
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Generally speaking, minority groups have a significant wage and achievement gap. This doesn't speak to individuals, but as large groups:

Emory Myers
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It was a mistake for Penny Arcade to start talking about gender and sexual preference and now they're trying to make it better at the expense of floor space which could otherwise go to game developers. Hopefully whoever is occupying that space fills it with something relevant, otherwise the wrong people will be paying for those mistakes.

Jed Hubic
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It's unfortunate that no matter what they do at this point they'll crapped on. I guess people still need a jump off point for tirades that go nowhere. We have countries like India passing laws to criminalize homosexuality, yet an event's attempt to try and be more diversity friendly is getting picked apart. This is getting borderline ridiculous/humorous at this point.

Simone Tanzi
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I think both the Penny Arcade situation and other examples of "bigotry in the player community" have been blown way out of proportion.
The dickwolf joke was ok. the response to the criticism they received somewhat questionable, some of the things they made later plain wrong.

The criticism some women inside or around the industry have received is understandable.
(I'm talking about people like Dina Abou Karam, or Jennifer Hepler people that demonstrated and/or admitted a lack of interest for the industry they are working in.)
The sexism that accompany that criticism is sadly to be expected on the internet.
Not excusable, but the bottom line is, they are not criticized for being women, they are criticized for what they do, then some idiot piles on with stupid sexism.

I don't think the Diversity Lounge and Hub will be the solution to PAX criticism, but quite frankly, what choice do they have?
I cannot see a solution that will be received as a 180° turn on their perceived image, some people will see PAX as the devil, no matter what they do.
I would say they are trying, probably in the wrong way, and maybe for all the wrong reasons.
But at least the mere fact that they are trying is the acknowledgement that no matter if they are xenophobic or not, at the very least xenophobia is something they do not want to be publicly associated with.

Brandon Kerr
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Does the discussion around the diversity lounge announcement strike anyone else as a straw man argument? I am reading a lot of opinions about how alienating groups or coralling them into a zone is harmful, but the announcement just said the diversity area would be a place to collect information and discuss the topic. How is that different from the rise in articles, conversation, and works that address the issue of a predominantly white, heterosexual male perspective in videogame culture? It sounds like you are accusing PAX organizers of creating some kind of fishbowl or people zoo. I see it as trying to encourage people to discuss an uncomfortable topic.

I suggest helping efforts like this take a good shape instead of mocking or demonizing them.

Jennifer Ho
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A few observations:

1) Because I haven't seen it mentioned elsewhere: The AbleGamers charity has also since released a statement (
e-diversity-hub-and-lounge-at-pax-e) regarding their involvement and consulting on the Roll for Diversity space, noting in particular:

"For full disclosure, the people behind the idea for the diversity hub and lounge reached out to many of the largest organizations representing various gamer groups, including AbleGamers. We knew about and had talks with the originators before the idea was leaked onto the internet."

While acknowledging this statement was posted the same day as this article, I find it curious that no mention in this article is made of any attempts to contact Robert Khoo or Benjamin Williams regarding the their implementation of this idea or the involvement of external groups. Given it appears there are actually multiple organizations involved, this appears to warrant further query or at least an acknowledgement of such an attempt.

2) Because I've also seen this underreported: the PAX Safety and Security policy ( was updated earlier this year to be more comprehensive and encompassing. Individuals can consider this in their critical evaluations of this event and the surrounding issues.

3) I agree that the part of this article that confirms Benjamin Williams is collaborating with the diversity space and then goes at length to specify he is not currently involved with GaymerX is superfluous and somewhat loaded. Phrasing it as "PA's Khoo says the company brought on Benjamin Williams, co-founder of the LGBTQ-friendly GaymerX event" and then adding the "But" attempts to negate the previously stated qualifications. That Benjamin Williams is no longer active with GaymerX does not change his actions as a co-founder of the original event. Nor did Robert Khoo state that GaymerX itself was collaborating with PAX.

A more objective statement might have been phrased as "PA's Khoo says the company brought on Benjamin Williams, co-founder and former organizer of the LGBTQ-friendly GaymerX event." I wonder why the original article phrases it as it does.

4) In a similar vein as #2, I it seems disingenious for the author to state something like this:

"That’s a sentence you could read as although we received criticism on our approach to this work which is new for us, we decided to keep pressing our own solution anyway."

And then go on to end the article with this:

"Technically, it’s probably not productive to create an 'us' versus 'them' mentality toward the efforts of an organization that finally seems to be trying to begin the difficult work of addressing its community problems. But so far this Diversity Lounge thing’s probably not quite right -- and definitely not enough."

Which appears to follow a format of although x is negative or needs work, person y (that being the person being referred to or the author) is going to proceed with the action or sentiment anyway. And specifically in the second instance where the first sentence refers to an internal action with negative consequences (the creation of an 'us' vs 'them mentality) that the author or community at large might want to avoid, while the second sentence provides an external justification for doing so. There's nothing "technical" or "probable" about it. It is not productive *full stop* to create an 'us' versus 'them' mentality toward the efforts of an organization that *is beginning* (seriously, "trying to begin"?) the difficult work of addressing its community problems.

5) I've considered this issue from multiple angles. I too have many questions, and am of a mind to contact Robert Khoo directly myself because I don't see the critical questions being asked that I'd like answered. The article brings up many good points about the potential logistical issues of delineating a safe space (which does have an actual defined usage in women's and LGBTQ movements and events and isn't just a sarcastic implication that the rest of the event or location is unsafe" - within such a large convention, and that inclusivity training should be provided to all PAX staff. However, this particular article does not read as objective in any capacity and there seems to be a lack of due diligence in reporting, and I find it really off-putting that it is presented as such.