I’m a pretty easygoing guy: I might disagree with people, I might even make fun of those who disagree with me, but I’ll never deny anyone the opportunity to speak his or her mind on the Internet, regardless of how crazy that person may be. Sure, I’ve mocked the petition to change Mass Effect 3’s ending, but I still believe that people have the right to make a request for a new ending, just as Bioware has the right to decline that request (a right that the developer should probably exercise). Mass Effect 3 is still a hot seller; the worst that this petition has done is that it has hurt a few people’s feelings. No big deal.
But when words turn into real, tangible action, suddenly, they’re not so harmless anymore. The people behind the petition, known as the Retake Mass Effect movement, have started a campaign to donate funds to Child’s Play in order to bring positive attention to their efforts to get Mass Effect 3’s endings revised. Yes, you read that right: these people have started a charity fundraiser in order to deflect criticism of their ridiculous campaign. WHAT. THE. FUCK. It’s time for me to come out from behind the veil of satire. Brace yourselves for one of the angriest, most invective-filled tirades that I’ve ever posted on this blog.
Child’s Play is a wonderful organization, providing toys and video games to sick children in hospitals, bringing smiles to their faces in times of great stress. In an era of rising health care costs, hospital administrators simply can’t justify allocating large portions of their budgets to kids’ entertainment, so charities like Child’s Play step in, cognizant of the fact that prolonged illness or serious injury can wreak havoc on a child’s emotional well-being. Playing a Kirby or Mario game to pass the time can help take a child’s mind off the fact that he or she may be facing a lifetime with a reduced quality of life, or even death.
Unfortunately, over the past couple of years, Child’s Play has come under fire for being the “gamer’s charity.” It’s the go-to charity for any video-game-related event, and there’s a perception that video game players reflexively donate to the charity simply because it has to do with “gaming” and not because they truly understand or agree with the organization’s aims. I’ve always opposed that criticism, because I’ve always believed that people are smart enough to understand the causes that they choose to support financially. Not anymore. The fundraising campaign organized by the Retake Mass Effect movement is arrogant, manipulative, and disrespectful towards Child’s Play.
You might have noticed that at no point in the foregoing description of the charity did I mention Mass Effect. That’s because Child’s Play has fuck all to do with the Mass Effect series. For crying out loud, Mass Effect is an M-rated game! Child’s Play would never dream of donating it to a children’s hospital! Yet somehow, a link has been formed between the petition to change the endings of Mass Effect 3 and a charity that donates games and toys to hospitals.
Nowhere in Child’s Play’s mission statement does it say anything about the quality of narrative in video games. Never has Child’s Play taken an official stance on video game writing. Child’s Play has always been about helping kids through a difficult time. It is completely unrelated to any and all gripes that people have with how Mass Effect 3 ended. So why, then, have petitioners started this campaign? It doesn’t support their actual arguments in any way. All it does is to serve as a shield against criticism, to bolster the Retake Mass Effect movement’s public image. It becomes harder to argue against the petitioners when you run the risk of belittling donations to a worthwhile charity in the process.
Now, any time that someone accuses the petitioners of being entitled, they can arrogantly reply that they’re not, because they’re donating to charity. I’m sorry, but that is one of the shittiest defenses that I have ever heard. Charitable donations do not make the petitioners’ demands any less indicative of entitlement. That Retake Mass Effect has chosen to exploit Child’s Play in this manner sickens me to my very core. The charity has been reduced to a mere tool in the movement’s fight against Bioware.
I have to wonder: do the petitioners really even care about Child’s Play? If they thought that Child’s Play was such a worthwhile cause, why didn’t they start their donation campaign sooner? If they believed that Child’s Play was worthy of being supported on its own merits, why did they set up a campaign page that prominently featured their petition?
I also have to wonder if the petitioners have stopped to think about the possible adverse impacts of their campaign on Child’s Play. Sure, in the short run, they’ve raised $50 000 US, a substantial sum of money that is going towards a worthwhile cause. But have they considered the impact that the campaign could have on Child’s Play’s public image? The organization has already taken a lot of flak for being the “gamer’s charity.” Now, it will forever be associated with Retake Mass Effect. How many potential future donations will it miss out on because people may not want to give their money to a charity that they view to be making implicit statements about video game narrative? On the other hand, if Child’s Play chooses to refuse the money, then it runs the risk of being labelled an organization of elitists who won’t accept funds from generous donors unless their donations meet a set of impossible standards. Either way, Child’s Play could lose, and sick kids could miss out on entertainment that would brighten their otherwise dark days in the hospital.
Either the petitioners are too blind to see the possible negative impact of what they’re doing, or they do see it and they just don’t give a fuck. But that doesn’t seem to matter to them. They know that starting a charitable fundraiser means that people will have to write positive things about them. Video game journalists will have to grudgingly acknowledge that the petitioners are donating money to a good cause. Bioware’s PR will have to respond with something more substantial than a symbolic “Good for you, gamers!” Retake Mass Effect has attempted to make itself immune to criticism by hiding behind a veil of charity. However, respect and legitimacy can’t be bought, and no matter how worthy a cause Child’s Play is, the petitioners aren’t gaining the respect and legitimacy they so desperately seek, because Child’s Play has no relevance to their petition whatsoever. They might even inadvertently be dragging Child’s Play down with them.
So, to the petitioners behind the Retake Mass Effect movement, I have this to say: you’re not just whiny, entitled brats; you are actually bad people. Either that, or you’re fucking stupid. The fact that you would risk throwing a worthwhile charity – a charity that is irrelevant to your arguments, at that – under a bus for the sake of changing five minutes at the ending of a video game is despicable. You have every right to bitch about Mass Effect 3, to draw up silly petitions, or to say as many idiotic things as you want on the Internet. But don’t pretend that what you’re doing here is a sincere charitable effort; it’s nothing more than a shameless ploy to boost your public image. By all means, continue in your foolish efforts to get Bioware to change the ending of their game. But leave Child’s Play out of this.