In a welcome show of personal maturity, Gabe of Penny Arcade apologized for his responses to criticism over the years which have made him "a bully" at times.
In his New Years resolution on Penny Arcade, Gabe(Mike Krahulik) explains how a young man who stood up to bullies failed to see how his quick defensiveness had made him a bully as he grew older. Instead of seeing that others merely felt differently, he treated others as enemies if they felt differently from him, and he now acknowledges how that led him to unnecessary anger, meanness, and immaturity in his responses to criticism.
"So what am I? As a young person I imagined myself a sort of vengeful spirit. A schoolyard Robin Hood who attacked the strong and popular on behalf of the social outcasts. I’m 36 years old now though and I realize what I am is a bully. I may have been the one who got beat up but I sent plenty of kids home in tears. I also realize that I carried those ridiculous insecurities into adulthood. I still see people who attack me as the enemy and I strike back with the same ferocity as that seventh grader I used to be. I’m ashamed of that and embarrassed. The crazy thing is I don’t even necessarily believe the stuff I say a lot of times. It would probably be more noble if I did. The truth is I just say them to be mean. I say them because I know they will hurt. It’s pretty fucked up."
I know that many here on Giant Bomb don't believe he has ever acted out of line or has any reason to apologize, but Gabe seems to believe differently. Like many of us at this time of year, he appears to have taken stock of himself and found an area where he can improve in the year to come. Most importantly, while initial reasons for criticism may be debatable, his responses to that criticism were what truly became so problematic. As he says, his reflex to defend himself was greater than his desire to understand what others were really saying, and it led to far more of a conflict than was at all necessary.
That kind of response is not unusual online, and we are all susceptible to it. As spoken to in his resolution, people are often more interested in "beating" someone than sincerely standing for something. A chance for understanding is lost when all we want to do is defend our views to the death while not acknowledging the person behind the other views. We think we'll "lose" if we're willing to give an inch in understanding or compromise. Not everyone that disagrees with us is an enemy that needs or deserves to be crushed, and very few of us are mere caricatures or boogiemen out to get anyone else or ruin someone's fun. Arguments are naturally going to occur, as we are all different, but we don't have to let our frustrations out on others and ruin any chance for reasonable discussion or understanding.
"I’ve learned a ridiculous amount this year. About myself and about other people. It’s been a difficult year, probably the hardest in my life and I realize I brought most of it on myself. That’s a sobering realization. I also realize that I’ve made it harder for the people I care about, my friends and my family. I can’t be this guy anymore. I have every intention of taking the things I’ve learned this year to heart and changing. I’ve said I’m sorry for the things I’ve said but I’ve never apologized for who I am. I need to separate the busted kid from the man I am now. I guess that’s my new years resolution. Might be harder than losing ten pounds."
If Gabe is sincere in this and truly pursues improving how he interacts with others that may feel differently than he does, this is something we can all celebrate. He is a man who has resolved to do better for himself, and that's great to see. Personal improvement, perhaps even on this very issue, is a fantastic thing for any of us to consider as we face a new year. May he follow through on this resolution and his many fans benefit from a better man at the helm of Penny Arcade.