Scott Jennings

A Community of Dickwolves

Oh, hi, I have a blog. Sorry, been busy.

So, let’s talk about dickwolves. (Most of the links below came from this recap, which apparently is being updated in progress in case you just can’t get enough dickwolf.)

Penny Arcade a while back wrote a comic about the fundamental absurdity of MMO quests. Pretty familiar to those of you reading, I’m sure.

Pity the poor NPC, indeed. However, people who were raped (though presumably not by wolves, dickish or otherwise) were offended. Mind you, they would have previously had to have skipped the entire character arc of an animated fruit blender whos motivation involves, well, you know.

So, this is not a pair of cartoonists who are known for their political correctness. Or sympathy towards women. After all, this is the comic where one of the protagonists killed his wife and then replaced her with a bucket.

So – profane, surreal, funny. Got it. Someone didn’t.

The problem is, I just don’t find rape funny. Because rape survivors exist among us, and after being victimized by rapists, they are revictimized by a society that treats even real rape like a joke, forced to live in a culture that actually has a lot of rape jokes, including those about rape victims being actively denied justice for no other reason than because people don’t take rape seriously. I don’t find rape funny because rape victims are often doubted, mocked, and insulted openly.

This is why I avoid comedy. I don’t go to comedy movies, I rarely watch comedians, I avoid sitcoms like the plague. I’ve started to develop a Pavlovian response, cringing preemptively, to things I do find funny, because if somebody makes a dark joke, I’ve learned it won’t be long until the rape jokes show up.

This is why I’m a humorless feminist. Because rape jokes killed my sense of humor.

This is an overreaction. The writer admits it. She says she has no perspective on the matter. And that’s OK. We all have our areas where you know, you just don’t go.

So of course, the authors of Penny Arcade went there anyway.

Note well – this was not profane (tasteless maybe), not surreal (unless you consider total absence of an ability to hear emotional tone surreal), and – not funny. It’s defensive and churlish. As emphasized in the accompanying comment, helpfully noted as “Tragedy is when I cut my finger”:

For the most part I think that people are perfectly happy to laugh at offensive jokes until the joke offends them. Then it’s not funny anymore. There is no way we can know what each and every person who reads the comic has decided to find offensive.

In the end I just disagree with these people about what’s funny and that’s perfectly okay.

Which, you know, is fine. We’re all adults, Penny Arcade isn’t the moral arbiter of the cosmos, and people make tasteless jokes on the Internet daily. The world moves on.

Except Penny Arcade didn’t move on. They made a shirt commemorating the “Penny Arcade Dickwolves” sports team.

They drew a dickwolf at PAX. You get the feeling that someone really likes priapic wolves.

Or failing that, really likes insulting women.

Finally, someone had had enough.

Leaving aside the fact that I think it’s a little wrong-headed for people in the industry to get too tied into a fan convention in general, what I want to say is that as someone working in the game industry, I think the recent merchandising decisions of Penny Arcade have made PAX and PAX East into spaces that I don’t want my industry to align itself with, and I’m not going to give Penny Arcade content as long as they keep selling that merchandise.

Penny Arcade took down the shirt from their store two days later in response.

It’s true that we have decided to remove the Dickwolves shirt from the store. Some people are happy about this but a lot more of you are upset. You think we’ve caved into to pressure from a vocal minority and you’re not entirely wrong. let me at least break down why we did it though.

First of all I would never remove the strip or even apologize for the joke. It’s funny and the fact that some people don’t get it, or are offended by it doesn’t change that. People complained about the strip and that’s fine with me, my response as always is “if you don’t like it don’t read it.” It is very easy not to log on to Penny Arcade and read our bullshit. We’ve always made offensive comics and that’s not going to change anytime soon. If jokes about violence,rape,aids,pedophilia,bestiality,drugs,cancer,homosexuality, and religion bother you then I recommend reading a different webcomic.

PAX is a different matter though. We want PAX to be a place were everyone feels welcome and we’ve worked really hard to make that happen. From not allowing booth babes to making sure we have panels that represent all our attendees. When I heard from a few people that the shirt would make them uncomfortable at PAX, that gave me pause. Now whether I think that’s a fair or warranted reaction doesn’t really matter. These were not rants on blogs but personal mails to me from people being very reasonable. It’s how they feel and according to them at least, removing the shirt would make them feel better about attending the show. For me that’s an easy fix to the problem. I really don’t want to have this fight and if not having it is as simple as not selling a shirt then I’ll do it. Contrary to what they might think I’m not a complete asshole.

Now for some people removing the shirt isn’t enough. They don’t want to come to PAX or support PA because of the strip or because they think Tycho and I are perpetuating some kind of rape culture and that’s a different matter. First off it assumes a lot about us that simply isn’t true but more importantly it’s not something I can fix. I’ve gotten a couple messages from people saying they are “conflicted” about coming to PAX. My response to them is: don’t come. Just don’t do it. In fact give me your name and I’ll refund your money if you already bought a ticket. I’ll even put you on a list so that if, in a moment of weakness you try to by a ticket we can cancel the order.

So there you go. It’s not a simple decision. No matter what we do we’ll have people mad at us. If you want to talk more about it we can chat at PAX.

I’ve quoted this in full for a couple reasons. First off, because this really isn’t an apology. It’s akin to the original comic that was done in response: surly, defensive, “we didn’t do anything wrong”, “if you don’t like it don’t read it”, “no matter what we do people will be mad at us”. This may be honestly how they feel (in fact, I’m pretty sure it is) but it’s also not helpful. It would have been better had the shirt quietly disappeared, with a note left for the hardcore forumgoers what happened.

But the problem is PAX. PAX, or Penny Arcade Expo, has fairly quickly become the primary go-to convention for gamer culture – what everyone who tried to sneak into E3 thought E3 was supposed to be. Lots of lan parties, game demos, 2nd tier science fiction actors, and Jonathan Coulton concerts. Geek nirvana, essentially. And game companies have embraced PAX because of that critical mass of success. So, in a very short time, one of the primary social and marketing events of the computer gaming industry is in the benign stewardship of two surly cartoonists who think it’s funny to crack jokes, and sell merchandise, at the expense of furious rape victims (and watching as fans attack said victims).

There may be one or two problems here.

I think Penny Arcade is a hilarious comic. I read it on a regular basis. I just don’t think it’s appropriate for the game industry to embrace them through PAX. There’s quite a difference between freedom of speech and subsidy of speech. (Edit to clarify/make perfectly clear: I am not ‘calling for an end to PAX’, as one commenter put it. I suspect strongly PAX would survive very well without advertising and marketing, for one thing. But as I said, joining in a marketing/advertising/demo partnership with them is endorsing content that many find objectionable. I would feel the same way if, say, EA advertised on Glenn Beck. Part of a responsible corporate citizenship is being aware of what you endorse.)

Or maybe the game industry is still so immature that we only market to 22 year old boys who make “teamrape” twitter accounts. I mean, really, get some perspective, people, it’s only words! It’s not like online gaming isn’t already a cesspit of a toxic environment which is actively hostile to pretty much anyone not currently in a fraternity. Maybe, after all, the dickwolf should be the mascot of online gaming.

After all, we’re all pretty much dicks.

A Sad Day For The MMO Industry

Yogurting has closed its doors.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=587Ex131-20
(disclaimer: this video has literally nothing to do with Yogurting)

This happened some time ago. But I just found out when I saw a facebook game called Yogurtistan. Yogurtistan is JUST LIKE Yogurting except:

– it’s on Facebook
– it’s from Turkey
– it’s nothing like Yogurting

But other then that, exactly the same. Which is good, because the world needs more Yogurting.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TLPC0-zUZro

A LOT MORE.

(By the way, the actual gameplay of Yogurting apparently involved Japanese schools and eggplants.)

Second Life Killer Killed

Well, you be the judge on if that may be a bit strong: Blue Mars, which until today was positioning itself as a Second Life-style virtual world with better graphics and less rampaging genitalia, announced that they were ‘refocusing’ on their iOS-based clients and halting work on their PC version.

The first versions of Blue Mars Mobile will be an extension to the PC client but over time, the mobile version will absorb many of the features found in the PC version. With our focus now clearly on mobile, updates to the PC version of the software will likely be restricted to bug fixes for the foreseeable future. With that in mind, we will no longer charge our current City Developers for the monthly city hosting service. The servers will remain online, city updates and uploads will continue, and shop and residence rentals will still function but technical support for the user client will no longer be offered.

Given the inherent limits of iOS as a virtual world platform (touch screens not being terribly efficient for moving around 3D spaces, and virtual keyboards being painful to use for communicating) it’s pretty easy to see this as good news for Linden Lab, whose primary competition remaining now appears to be third-party open source servers using the Second Life client.

More on this here from New World Notes, whose writer, W. James Au, was until recently a consultant and writer for Blue Mars’ developer.

Discuss: Who will save the cat people now?

The War Against Runes Of Magic

DATELINE: January 11, 2011. The following image is posted to the German home page of Frogster’s “Runes of Magic”, one of the most popular free-to-play MMOs with over 4 million users.

The image was quickly removed, and the Frogster community team posted the following to their forum (along with the pic):

Liebe Runes of Magic Spieler,

wie viele von euch bemerkt haben, wurde einer unserer Frösche schmerzhaft von einem Auto angefahren. Ihr müsst euch keine Sorgen machen, von diesem Frosch abgesehen waren alle angeschnallt.

Er wurde sofort auf die Rettungsstation gebracht und hüpft auch schon wieder.

Hier eine kleine Aufnahme seines momentanen Zustandes:

Eure Accounts sind von dem Unfall nicht betroffen. Es gab einen unbefugten Zugriff auf unser Content Management System. Betroffen sind damit nur die Zugänge der maßgeblich an der Webseitengestaltung Beteiligten, insbesondere also dem Community Management Team.

Die Straße zu dem Unfallort ist vorerst gesperrt worden, wir wünschen dem Frosch eine gute Besserung.

Euer Runes of Magic Team

(Bad machine-assisted translation:)

Dear Runes of Magic players:

As many of you have noticed, one of our frogs was painfully hit by a car. You have nothing to worry about, apart from this frog everyone is fine.

He was immediately taken to the medical station and now jumps again.

Here is a small review of his current condition:

Your accounts are not affected by the accident. There was an unauthorized access to our content management system. The only parties affected were ones working with the website design, ie in particular the Community Management Team.

The road to the accident site has been blocked for the time being, we want the frog to have a good recovery.

Your Runes of Magic Team

DATELINE: Several hours later, Runes of Magic official forums (click for full size image:)

The post concludes with a long list of usernames and passwords for the forum.

DATELINE: January 13, 2011. The Runes of Magic community team responds, a bit more seriously.

An anonymous attacker has threatened to release log-in data unless his terms are met. He is demanding that forum communication practices and technical aspects of Runes of Magic operation be changed. To support his claim, the attacker has already posted the log-in details of approx. 2,100 accounts to the forum. To protect the affected players, the posts in question were naturally removed immediately and secured as evidence. The attack constitutes a serious criminal offence, and we immediately informed the German State Office of Criminal Investigation and pressed charges.

It is important to note that the data released was outdated log-in data from 2007, long before our comprehensive password reset initiative. Nevertheless, we immediately blocked the relevant accounts (account management, forum, and game access) of the affected players for their protection. Accounts changed by you after the password reset have not been affected thus far.

We promptly assembled a task force and are of course making every effort to get to the bottom of this incident. We are utilising every means at our disposal to minimise the damage and to prevent such threats in the future. We have already implemented additional security measures today. As soon as all the necessary steps have been taken with regard to operational and criminal processes, we will inform you of further developments on this matter.

This incident is very distressing to all of us. It is targeted not only at Frogster as a company, but also at Runes of Magic as a virtual biosphere and at you as players. We are always open to constructive suggestions. However, giving your opinion on blackmail and extortion is surely not the correct approach.

DATELINE: Today. The hacker, calling himself “cptz3r0”, uploads an Anonymous-style video to Youtube with new threats.

Right now we have more than 3 Million and 5 hundred thousand accounts. 5 hundred thousand of them are already hacked and verified. Your other Games like Bounty Bay Online and Tera are affected too. So you better dont mess with us. Take this serious. Change your mind. Become a valued member of the community and stop abusing them.

After two weeks we will coming back.

For any MMO, this is, in terms of security, the worst case scenario.

Discuss: Implications?

What’s The Worst That Can Happen?

In Reid's defense, no one involved in the development of Rift is likely to be shot into space this year.

David Reid, marketing VP at Trion, on Rift’s new finger-in-the-eye advertising campaign targeting World of Warcraft:

If you’re an MMO gamer, Azeroth might as well be Kansas.

Reid in 2008:

I hope that for folks who are fans of these giant triple-A games, these big investments in the MMO space with high production quality, there should be no confusion: this is good news for that game. We are going to get back to doing this all day, every day, in a world class way. The lighter side of the business, the free-to-plays and things like that, those are great businesses, but there will be other companies who will be delivering that form. It won’t be NCsoft so much, going forward.

Reid in 2011:

In my mind, you see a lot of big publishers that have retreated from the subscription model and have gone away from the AAA business and approached the genre like a free-to-play casual, but they aren’t the business that harnesses the gamer with a capital G.

So there you go: David Reid, strictly for the Gs.

Anytime you make a campaign, you want to appeal to your core audience, but if you’re not annoying or confusing someone you don’t have a very good campaign!

To be fair, David Reid is well on his way to building a successful marketing career based on being annoying and confusing.

(Obligatory disclaimers: I’ve been quoted being annoyed and confused at David Reid before and currently work where he used to cancel my projects.)

Discuss: Your turn to be annoying and confusing here.

With Me, It’s Really Only Two Moves Ahead

As some of you know, I have interests in gaming that go beyond the killing of orcs for their pants. Earlier this week I filled in on the well-respected “Three Moves Ahead” wargaming podcast discussing the new monster “War In The East” wargame from 2by3 Games. Hopefully the podcast survived with its well-respected status intact!

If you want to hear my incredidorky voice, tune in here!

Discuss: Then, heckle me here.