The PAX Prime convention is held in Seattle Washington, just a few hours' drive from The Fullbright Company's Portland, Oregon studio. Despite the proximity, and despite the developer having secured a booth at the event to show off its upcoming debut Gone Home, Fullbright will not be attending.
In a post on the company's blog today, co-founder Steve Gaynor said the company was withdrawing from its expected participation in the PAX Prime Indie Megabooth showcase. Gaynor said that the studio's four full-time employees no longer felt comfortable appearing at the show in light of recent comments made online by Penny Arcade artist Mike Krahulik.
In a series of tweets, Krahulik suggested that gender was determined solely by physical characteristics, saying, "If thinking that all women have a vagina makes me a monster, then yes, I am a monster," a remark seen as dismissive to the transgendered community. He also told people who use the word "cis" that they shouldn't tweet at him, telling one person, "If you use the word 'cis' I probably will hate you too."
Gaynor said the remarks were just the latest in a number of actions by Krahulik and Penny Acade writer Jerry Holkins that made them rethink their participation in PAX Prime. Among the others were the use of a rape joke in one of their comics (and their unapologetic response to outcry over it), a Kickstarter campaign they ran where people who contributed $7,500 or more were brought on as an intern for a day, and a scheduled PAX Australia panel with the following text in the description: "Any titillation gets called out as sexist or misogynistic, and involve any antagonist race aside from Anglo-Saxon and you're called a racist. It's gone too far and when will it all end?" (The panel description text has since been changed.)
"We believe that people's opinions and actions on social issues and business ethics are important," Gaynor said. "We believe that agreeing to pay the organizers of PAX over $1,000 for booth space, and to present our game on their show floor 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."
The developers took a vote, and when none of them felt comfortable presenting their game at PAX Prime, the decision was made to withdraw.
"We are a four-person team," Gaynor said. "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."
Krahulik addressed the uproar over his tweets in a post on Penny Arcade today. He didn't mention The Fullbright Company specifically, but he did say he didn't want to be the reason people didn't go to PAX Prime, or support Penny Arcade projects like the Child's Play charity.
"I'm very sorry about yesterday," Krahulik said. "There are very few things that someone can say to me that will actually make me lose my temper. All my buttons got pushed yesterday though and I snapped. I doubt that will change anyone's opinion but there you go. I'm not qualified to talk about the ambiguity of sexuality and frankly I don't give a shit about it. I like drawing comics and playing video games. I'll keep my mouth shut when it comes to all the other stuff."