But I'm still stuck on the mythical creature that started this whole affair. Most commenters on the controversy are quick to dismiss the initial, off-color comic strip as a single slightly-bonehead flake in this big, ugly snowball of Internet outrage.Many guy gamers (myself included) are a lot like the wet-behind-the-ears Marines in the first part of Full Metal Jacket. Our games, our guns and our junk are all mixed up in our mushy heads. Because when no one would have us games were there for us. We slept with them in our bunks, spent Valentine's day with them and sometimes we even fell in love with them.
Call me immature, but I can't help but find the original creature somewhat intriguing. I'm a cheap date that way. Farts, pratfalls and privates all tickle my funny bone. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in this. If you'll allow me to get a little Freudian up in here I can't help but think that much of the gnashing of teeth and acting out among our more dickish gaming counterparts can be attributed to good, old-fashioned castration anxiety.
I'm sure I'm not the first person to posit that the 18 to 34-year-old gamer is eternally stuck in Freud's phallic stage -- that magical time when the novelty of the dingus is so magnetic that the young boy just can't stop playing with it. It's written all over our games. All of our rocket-launchers, Buster-swords and muscle cars are intertwined with this mess of nerves and hormones we keep in our pants.
When we fight for the acceptance of games as art, expression or worthwhile diversion we're battling this pre-conception. We desperately want the world to know that all the time we've spent playing video games has been more than jacking off. With the bathroom door locked and the sink running we've just about got the world convinced. But there's still that niggling doubt.
Those fears double when we stop fondling our sticks long enough to look around us. Playing Call of Duty on Xbox Live is like being thrown, naked into a steamy high school locker room -- one so sequestered from civilization that the boys have gone native. Sealed tight in an airless room full of their own sweat stink, their brains have atrophied. Who needs reason or empathy when you're Prestige 15? Like Mario strapped into his F.L.U.D.D. we lock and load, pray and spray.
The Penny Arcade Expo was supposed to be the antidote to all this. It's not co-incidental that Wil Wheaton's inspirational 2007 keynote centered on the admirable advice, "Don't Be A Dick." Wil's message then was that we're more than our joysticks. It's no coincidence that Wil is best known for playing the Star Trek character Wesley Crusher, the pre-pubescent kid who eventually evolved past the greasy kid's stuff of the Federation and learned to step outside of time and space with The Traveler.
That year was the first time I went to PAX. I have fond memories of that weekend, especially waiting in the long line to get in. Somebody had handed out pipe-cleaners for people to play with while waiting their turn to get their badges. And as the line began to move, twisting its way through the giant hall like serpent made of nerds I saw a multi-colored pipe-cleaner cock affixed to the wall. It was the first of many schlongs I'd see that weekend. I believe in my heart that each of those dongs was innocent, not a threat or a purposeful trigger, but a somewhat self-effacing celebration of the most comical of human extremities.
Like it or not those days are over. Because from here on out, as far as PAX is concerned, there's no such thing as an innocent dick joke. After all the ugliness that has passed around this issue there's no way to go back. To some of the more die-hard Dickwolves this realization must sting, as if the emasculating talons of harpies have torn into their tender crotch flesh.
But now we're presented with the opportunity to take on the challenge that Wil gave us and move beyond our perpetually arrested roots and become something better -- something more than a dick. Just as Wesley pulled himself out of time on Dorvan V and chose to rise above petty conflict so should the people of PAX. It is time to move on to another way of thinking and admit to ourselves that maybe there never really was such thing as an innocent dick joke.
Besides, we'll always have our tentacles.
Pretension +1 is a weekly column by Gus Mastrapa that probes the darkest recesses of video game culture.
Tags: Call of Duty, Dickwolves, Full Metal Jacket, Halo, PAX, Penny Arcade, Penny Arcade Expo, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Super Mario Sunshine, The Traveler, Wil Wheaton