Mike Krahulick, Dickwolf Bully?comments powered by Disqus
Posted on Friday, September 13 2013 @ 12:43:34 Eastern
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Is Mike Krahulick a dickwolf bully?
For those not in the know, or are like me and barely cared when this occurred because you find Penny Arcade to be unfunny, back in 2010 Penny Arcade got into some hot water over a strip titled The Sixth Slave. The comic, lampooning the silliness of game mechanics asking you to rescue X amount of people, included a throw-away line which involved a slave talking about being raped by dickwolves. Whether the line itself is offensive is honestly irrelevant, since this does boil down to one's taste in humor to even be funny or not.
That didn't stop several people to express their disgust with Penny Arcade, so much so that a comical apology was issued to quell the anger that rose from the strip. The problem, some argue, is that Krahulik has taken "dickwolf" too far.
Let's be very clear for a moment, and state simply that this is no longer about the issue of rape. Even Penny Arcade has stated that they are against the notion of rape, and Krahulik has time and again pointed this out. That, of course, doesn't mean it could be funny. Comedians have discussed taboo subjects time and again because it should be tackled, as anything can be in art. As George Carlin once said though, "You can joke about anything; it all depends on how you construct the joke."
In the case of dickwolf, that is a bigger point of contention. Sicnce the 2010 PAX Prime, Krahulick has brought up dickwolf time and again, from free-drawing the dickwolf during the make-a-strip demonstration, to selling "Team Dickwolf" t-shirts for a time at the Penny Arcade store. Much of this controversy can be tracked by this handy timeline, titled The Pratfall of Penny Arcade that chronicles the responses, twitter posts, articles and strips that are both for and against what occurred.
The dickwolf merchandise was removed after several companies and speakers threatened not to attend PAX Prime, with Krahulick protesting this decision by wearing the shirt anyway at PAX that year. Fast forward to last week, where Krahulick once again brought up dickwolves and how the removal of the shirts were a major regret.
This flew some writers into a major tizzy, such as Rachel Edidin of Wired magazine. Penning an editorial titled Why I'm Never Going Back to Penny Arcade Expo, with Edidin expressing her disgust with the dickwolf snafu, accusing Krahulick of being a de-facto schoolyard bully.
In Krahulik’s mind, he’s still the underdog rebelling against an unfair world bent on keeping him down. Despite decades of success and influence, he’s never learned to distinguish between criticism and censorship or understood the relationship between power and personal responsibility. He’s an angry teenager with the clout of an industry baron, and he’s cultivated a horde of followers who respond to criticism with death and rape threats. These are the sorts of people Penny Arcade courts when it digs in its heels and goes to the mat in defense of its right to punch down.
Edidin is not the only one haranguing over the return of the dickwolves. The outspoken Elisabeth Sampat blasted Krahulik on her blog over his lament for pulling the dickwolf t-shirts by calling the creators the "problem," and urging people to never attend PAX again. Accusing co-creator Jerry Holkins and business manager Robert Khoo as enablers for Krahulik's destructive behavior, Sampat goes over a laundry list of complaints against Krahulik and Penny Arcade, from an alleged cover-up story regarding the sexual assault of a woman by a PAX enforcer to Krahulick's transphobia comments.
Before we go back to Krahulik, I need to address something quickly. Both Edidin and Sampat, while their opinions are noted, are also completely biased. Sampat's editorial reeked of sour grapes based upon her own problems with the behaviors of Penny Arcade, to the point of being almost sanctimoniously righteous that Penny Arcade and PAX are a cancerous problem in the gaming industry due to their creators. Edidin inferred in her article several aspects that are clearly formulated by her own opinion on the matter, echoing Sampat in believing that Krahulik was wrong in raising the specter of dickwolf once more.
In many ways, we wouldn't even have this conversation again if both Sampat and Edidin didn't voice their disdain for the dickwolf. Since then, the story has once again taken a life of its own, making the rounds on the blog-sphere for all to copy off in support of or against Penny Arcade. If one flaw in this method of spreading the word can be said, it is how filtered the message is. Inferrence and presumptions aside, you can't fault either of their opinions, but you can question their validity as fair interpretation of what was said. In this case, I feel both women are out of line in their current accusations.
That doesn't mean Krahulik is off the hook. Despite the fact that Penny Arcade as a comic has had several references to the taboos of rape, pedophilia, bestiality, death threats, and even implied murder over its near fifteen year run, it was the dickwolf in 2010 that became the straw that broke the camel's back. Or rather, the response after the fact. While the dickwolf comic itself can be seen as a catalyst because of the use of rape in the joke, ultimately the response by Krahulik is his biggest failing in this whole debacle, from the flippant responses to his critics, to his somewhat incredulous defiance towards many who felt uncomfortable because of dickwolf.
In a position of power, which Penny Arcade has within the industry, it is difficult to maintain professional decorum. Time and again we have seen rampant abuse performed by many within the industry, be it intentional or not. From journalists to developers, commentators and critics, no one is immune to criticism regardless of the subject at hand. Krahulik is no exception to this, and his responses to the dickwolf controversy, even in the style fans of Penny Arcade is accustomed to, has only snowballed into a negative stream of comments and complaints. It is to the point where even admitting regret over a possible t-shirt sale has become a hotbed of controversy, a toxic asset for Penny Arcade.
I think Krahulik has realized this too. Mere hours after Edidin's editorial was posted, Krahulik issued another apology, this time directly, regarding the dickwolf incident.
"So let me start by saying I like the Dickwolves strip. I think it’s a strong comic and I still think the joke is funny. Would we make that strip today? Knowing what we know now and seeing how it hurt people, no. We wouldn’t. But at the time, it seemed pretty benign. With that said I absolutely regret everything we did after that comic. I regret the follow up strip, I regret making the merchandise, I regret pulling the merchandise and I regret being such an ******* on twitter to people who were upset. I don’t think any of those things were good ideas. If we had just stopped with the strip and moved on, the Dickwolf never would have become what it is today. Which is a joke at the expense of rape victims or a symbol of the dismissal of people who have suffered a sexual assault. the comic itself obviously points out the absurd morality of the average MMO where you are actually forced to help some people and ignore others in the same situation. Oddly enough, the first comic by itself is exactly the opposite of what this whole thing has turned into."
So much of the vitrol does boil down to this, even moreso than the charges that using rape in the comic was offensive. Humor has always been difficult to criticize, because it's often brutally honest when discussing what many find harsh or controversial. We have seen famous routines, from Lenny Bruce sniffing glue, to George Carlin uttering seven words, Chris Rock pointing out the absurdities of his own race. All are controversial but do reveal how humor can be subjective in taste, yet poignant in its message. But again, this stems from how the joke is crafted, and who is saying it.
In truth, we can play a zero-sum game over the dickwolf controversy, but in the end, the controversy itself has been blown out of proportion. Krahulik is no bigger a bully than the people who lionize their cause against him for using the joke. Krahulik is no saint, but he is far from a sinner in this situation. The real question now is what do we do about this the next time something offensive is said? For Krahulik, it should be the promise for a more tactful approach against the rabbit hole that is the internet. For his detractors, it should be analyzing the issue at hand, instead of promoting a cause. For all of us, it should be to simply judge what is said by how it's said, but to not lose ourselves in a fervor of emotion.
All of this is hard to do, but this is how we, as an industry, prevent ourselves from becoming the very bullies we fight against.
The opinions expressed here does not necessarily reflect the views of Game Revolution, but we believe it's worthy of being featured on our site. This article has been lightly edited for grammar. LinksOcarina provided the image links. You can find more Vox Pop articles here. ~Ed. Nick Tan