[Editor’s note: We mistakenly ran an earlier, unfinished version of this piece. We regret the error.]
(Note: This is the intersection of some of my life experiences and Penny Arcade’s The Sixth Slave. It’s not meant to represent anyone else’s experiences/conclusions, just mine.)
It’s really very simple; I already have a long list of things for which I am entirely culpable. I’ve made a fragile peace with that.
It’s not something I generally talk about, these days, but I’ll provide you with a few examples.
Firstly, many years ago, my several, male flatmates sent me on a date with their friend. I went to see a show with the guy. Unfortunately, he was wearing the wrong sweater of the wrong color and the wrong texture. How can a sweater be so wrong? You’ll have to trust me. It was just wrong, very wrong.
After sitting down, and his sweater brushing my arm, I told him I was going to the bathroom. I wasn’t. Instead, I left the venue and sprinted several miles back to my flat.
The guy turned up on the doorstep shortly afterwards and my flatmates asked him to leave. (Even though he was their friend and even though they didn’t know what had happened. They were good like that. But, nothing had happened. He just wore the wrong sweater.)
Do I feel bad for running out on that guy? (Even though it happened many years ago?) Yes. Should I have offered my flatmates an explanation? Yes. Did I do something mean to a guy who just wanted to go on a nice date? Yes.
Here is an even worse example. I went through a promiscuous period around the same time of my life. There was a guy I got together with. It was consensual. I told one of his female friends that it wasn’t. Why? I wanted to know what it felt like to accuse someone of that. Neither of those two people ever spoke to me again.
Again, yes. I feel bad. Very bad. Still. (It’s partly how I know never to do it again.)
Then there’s drinking. I drank way too much for way too long. I did some stupid stuff when I was drunk. Once more, my fault, my problem to solve.
Also, I used guys who I knew liked me, while knowing I didn’t like them the same way. I got into an abusive relationship. I cheated on a partner.
I accept responsibility for all of these things. I did them. In some cases, I tried to make amends. Most of these things happened a long time ago, though.
Recently, I took the grand step of explicitly apologizing for something much more quickly. It’s not that I wasn’t sorry for all of the prior things, just that it’s really hard to admit fault when you’re so ashamed of your behavior. This incident involved a male friend, who I absolutely berated (that’s an understatement, but I really can’t find the right word) for making an innocent, but unfortunately-innuendo-laden joke. It was several months and a weird, lucky coincidence before he forgave me, though. I’m incredibly grateful that he did because he’s a really good person. Have I forgiven myself for that one? Nope. Will I? Can’t picture it.
No, I don’t have a great track record for behavior. What I can assure you is that I’ve spent many tens of thousands of dollars of my own, hard-earned money in therapy, trying to find other ways to express myself, trying to find peace, rather than hurt people.
There’s an elephant in my room. Maybe you’ve already figured that out, especially if you’re a bit like me yourself.
Do I feel responsible for the things that happened to me as a young teenager? That’s very difficult to answer. I wanted it, or some of it, at least to start with. I’ve also talked, at great length with therapists, about how this wasn’t my fault and how it’s very common to feel as if it was. It’s still hard to shake. What happened to me? None of your damn business.
But, when I found myself in a moment similar to the one depicted in The Sixth Slave, in real life, still young, asking a trusted friend to liberate me, my hero also refused. (I’ve since reconciled with said, real-life hero. He was out of his depth and I can forgive that. I can even forgive the, years later, investigating officers who so sensitively explained they couldn’t proceed due to a lack of corroborating evidence.)
It’s not the comic that worries me, particularly. I’m a gamer. I get it. Quest objectives are silly.
It’s my original point; I already have a long list of things for which I am culpable.
Penny Arcade received feedback about The Sixth Slave. I didn’t provide any, but my thanks go to those who did. (Did people abuse Penny Arcade in the process of providing feedback? I really have no idea. I’d be a pretty big hypocrite if I told anyone to behave better, or differently, though.)
I couldn’t care less about eliciting sympathy. I’m not saying I think I’m somehow better than the people at Penny Arcade because I endeavor to be responsible for my actions, either. I do my best. I have no idea if they’re doing their best. But, surely, if you have the guts to make the joke, have the guts to understand its impact.
I haven’t shared, in this piece, the damage (and subsequent healing) this current rehash of the situation caused me. Why? I don’t want them to know, not them, not now. And, I will handle it myself, like I handle everything myself. They can ask, if they want to know.
The whole sequence of events following The Sixth Slave suggests to me that, instead of this being an opportunity to gain a richer understanding into the lives of those affected by these kinds of things, it’s been easier for them to simply deflect blame mostly back towards people like me, or people who are concerned about people like me. Or, bizarrely, even back towards the people who want to “open the wound (they created) back up”, through demanding the right to buy shirts they made.
Quietly not enjoying any of this is not something that I’ve done wrong. They’re not things I, or people like me, or people who care about people like me, should need to add to a potentially already long, and very heavy, list of culpability. (And, I’ve done much worse things than not finding a comic funny, remember?)
I’ve been to PAX. I enjoyed it immensely. I also love games more than anyone I know. (And I know a lot of people who love games.) There are some things in life, however, that are more important than games and comics. This is one of them.