PAX is a place where "computer geeks" and "sci-fi nerds" don't have to feel marginalized. That's the theory anyway. As hard as the management at Penny Arcade may say they're working to make everyone feel included, comments from founding artist Mike Krahulik about rape, gender, and many other topics have put the organization in a near-constant state of backpedaling and apology. The common theme among Krahulik's detractors is that no matter how he tries to sound sincere and apologetic, he still doesn't get it. The more he tries to look like he gets it, the more we see that he doesn't.
PA plans to implement a "Diversity Hub and Lounge" fall in line with that theme. According to PA, these lounges "will exist as a resource for PAX attendees to find information related to issues surrounding women, LGBTQ, people of color, disabled people and mental health issues in gaming. The hub will also be a resource for industry professionals and fans to interface in a setting focused on diversity, receive diversity training, learn more about diversity and meet people from diverse communities."
It only took a few minutes for the mockery of PA's new initiative to set in, with #DiversityLoungeDrinks being among the more popular collection of jibes. While many were ready to laugh off and dismiss the thing, others were left genuinely frustrated at PA's latest attempt to up their cultural sensitivity quotient. By lumping every "not normal" group together under the blanket of "diversity", they've generated even more feelings of segregation and alienation among marginalized groups. With developers getting threatened and harassed because of their gender and crowd-sourced games having funding pulled by backers who can't tolerate the idea of a "feminist community manager", the need to diffuse fear and anger towards "others" in gaming culture seems more intense than ever. "Diversity Lounges" don't seem to be the answer to that, though we wont have to wait long to find out for ourselves. PAX East is just around the corner.
It would be interesting to see what would happen if Krahulik came out with his own "I don't get it" speech. I'm not sure that anything less than that would work to diffuse the years of animosity he's cultivated among some members of gaming community.
Neverending Nightmares is eerily evocative, and set for release on September 26
6:00 PM on 09.09.2014