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Editorial: How We Got The PAX Post Wrong

Another member of this odd profession of games journalism made a point to me yesterday. He said that in RPS’s statement about PAX, we had caused ourselves to become the news. Well, we’re okay with becoming the news, but it’s true that the statement misdirected the story, and what should have been the 2,500 words of arguments primarily in favour of attending PAX became a single sentence against at the start. The discussion was lost.

We fucked up. We said what we wanted to. We said it at the wrong time. We said it in the wrong place.

The discussion over Penny Arcade and PAX is a very complicated one, as Nathan’s excellent piece demonstrated well. In adding our editor’s note at the top, we destroyed that nuance, and it’s entirely understandable that most people stopped reading there. It created an unhelpful discussion, polarised readers, and wasn’t productive.

The reality is, Penny Arcade and the people who run it are complex. They are responsible for the millions of dollars raised through Child’s Play, they advocate a number of forward-thinking matters. They also say and do incredibly stupid and spiteful things, and add negative voices to the already shouted negativity toward women and trans* people in the gaming community. Yes, they also apologise between incidents.

RPS, as a site, is routinely criticised for allowing our opinions and feelings and anger and joy to be seen on the site. But that’s our policy. It’s how we’ve always operated, and will continue to operate. Our editorial line is the line of the individuals who write the words. When RPS writes that we don’t want to go to PAX any more because we find it too icky, we’re some guys expressing our personal feelings. But of course what we’re perceived as is Major Gaming Site RPS Boycotts PAX.

It’s vital to us that we never lose the core of honesty that runs through RPS. We’ve never given a shit if telling our truth loses us readers, and we know we’ve driven people away with our occasional posts on political matters within the gaming world. We’re okay with that. We’d rather lose readers than not fight for what we believe in. FAR rather. And yes, we’re barraged with mad conspiracy theories, accusations of all manner of elaborate corruption far too complicated for us to even consider, and told that we should sit down and shut up and just post the trailers. We’re not going to, we will always campaign for equality, and that’s okay.

But yesterday’s introduction to a great article by one of our brilliant writers didn’t achieve our aims. It made a complicated, difficult issue into something black and white, and of course alienated people in doing so. Worst of all, it led people to not read Nathan’s article, which presented both sides of the discussion in detail. That was not our intention.

To be clear: We’re not going to go to PAX, because as a bunch of people, we just don’t want to. To us, it doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. It’s not “declaring war” or anything else so hyperbolic. It’s not a fight we’re taking to their door. We’re just doing what we think is the right thing, as we usually strive to do. We aren’t going to ignore gaming news that happens to come out of PAX – we’re just not going to be going there for RPS, we’re not going to take part in, be a part of, the event. Declaring our position regarding PAX felt like the thing we should do when publishing that article, but it turns out that wasn’t helpful at all.

And here’s a crucial thing: Our opinions change. We’ll keep listening to people, be argued with, and hear people point out why they think we’re wrong. When we make an opening sentence statement like yesterday’s, we not only set ourselves up to look like fools or hypocrites if we change our minds, but we also make a statement saying we’re not prepared to. And that’s not okay. It’s crucial that we constantly keep our minds open to arguments, and are willing to change, and are open and honest about doing so.

So sorry for handling it so badly. As Nathan’s piece said, the important thing is that you take time to consider your own position in the matter, not ours.

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Who am I?

John Walker

Senior Editor

One of the original co-founding robots of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, I'm now a senior editor and hero of humanity. Old and special.

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