But it was what the Penny Arcade authors did next that set the stage for the most explosive act of the debate yet.
In October, a new item appeared in Penny Arcade's online store — a T-shirt designed to look like it supported a sports team. The name of the team? The Dickwolves. So much for siding against the rapers.
NOT PLAYING Courtney Stanton received death threats after she objected to Penny Arcade’s “Dickwolves” meme.
Although the shirt, and the tone of the debate, continued to deeply offend a growing number of Penny Arcade's fans, its creators went on as if nothing had changed. The preparations for 2011's PAX East were underway. One of the game-industry professionals that PAX staffers approached to appear on a panel was Courtney Stanton, a project manager for Boston-based game developer DINO Interactive, a rape survivor, feminist, and advocate for marginalized groups in the game industry. She said no. Her explanation was long. It involved Dickwolves.
Stanton found herself repeating this explanation to many people who asked why she planned not to speak at — or even attend — PAX East. So in January, she decided to catalogue her thoughts at her blog, kirbybits.wordpress.com. By that time, she'd already become well-entwined in the Dickwolves narrative. Back in October, after the Dickwolves shirt appeared in the Penny Arcade store, Stanton had responded with a satiric gesture of her own: she created a counter-T-shirt with a picture of a Phoenix rising above a dead wolf and a legend that read, "Dickwolves Survivor Guild." She earmarked the profits to charities that benefit rape survivors.
Now, months later, she weighed in with what she thought would be a little-read post: an explanation of why she was boycotting PAX. Her explanation had much to do with the Dickwolves T-shirt specifically. In the post, she wrote, "The idea of being in a room full of mostly men (if the demographic holds true to last year, anyway), where some of those men are wearing it, feels like a threat against me. (Which, given the shirt basically says, "Team Rapist!" on it, doesn't seem too far-fetched.) Penny Arcade has gone out of their way to make sure that the floor of PAX East is no longer a safe space for me."
She published the post on January 24, 2011. Two days later, the Dickwolves shirts quietly vanished from the Penny Arcade store.
Stanton's post about her refusal to speak at PAX had already caused some rumblings, but after the Dickwolves shirts disappeared, her post's pageviews picked up speed at an alarming rate. "It hit gamer and feminist blogs," Stanton recalled, "then the Penny Arcade forums, then Reddit, then Metafilter." Within days, her post had accumulated over 400 comments, tens of thousands of hits, and a tsunami of vitriol.
Stanton and other rape survivors were harassed repeatedly on Twitter, blogs, and forums all over the Internet. Dickwolves advocates created Twitter handles like @teamrape, @DickWolvington, and @rapefatchicks (that last one using Krahulik's dickwolf drawing from PAX Prime as an icon), and used these accounts to post pictures of mutilated women, to demand that Stanton provide "proof" that she had been raped, and to track down a police station near her house to report her rape for her.