Where to begin? When the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ ChipIn website went dark, many like myself assumed it was because Child’s Play was being attacked for its connection to the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ movement. I even wrote a post expressing my anger over the idea that someone would even dare to attack a children’s charity. I mean, who would do something so immoral? It didn’t make sense. The problem was that we weren’t being told the full truth about the situation.
For those who didn’t know, the Child’s Play was founded by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, artists for Penny Arcade. Why is this important? Because everything that follows returns to this point. As I stated in my first article on the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ movement, an employee at BioWare had retweeted comments made by Penny Arcade’s Ben Kuchera, mocking Mass Effect fans who are upset with Mass Effect 3’s endings. From this point on, Penny Arcade continued to take shots at ‘Retake Mass Effect’. For example, Krahulik, who goes by the online moniker “Jon(athan) Gabriel” or “Gabe”, wrote an article saying that upset fans “shouldn’t pretend [they’re] the author” as it was BioWare who wrote the story (I know, the nonsensical “games are art” defense, but let’s not get into that here). Despite this, many assumed that they would at least be happy that this movement was raising money for their charity. The problem is, they weren’t.
When it came out that Krahulik and Holkins were trying to shut down ‘Retake Mass Effect’ efforts to raise money for Child’s Play, Actinguy1 went on Twitter and started asking the two why. Only Krahulik responded and what he said was pretty damning. Here’s the full conversation and a link thread at the BioWare Social Network (BSN) where it was originally posted in. Actinguy1 goes by @TheFroats on Twitter. Pay particular attention to the bolded statement.
@cwgabriel @TychoBrahe We say, here, free money to go buy sick children toys…and you say NO??? Have you guys lost your God Damned MINDS?
@cwgabriel @TychoBrahe CP used to be about helping kids and combating negative gamer stereotypes. What changed? You forgot your mission.
@TheFroats I don’t know what to tell you man. If you read what Jamie said and still think that way I’m sorry.
I did and I do. If someone says “Support child’s play if you like Kiddie Porn”, shut that down, totally. But a blanket policy?
@TheFroats Child’s Play is not a tool to draw attention to your cause. Child’s Play is the cause. That’s our feeling on it.
@cwgabriel It was not a tool to draw attention. It was a tool to fight a negative stereotype…which is why you guys created it, remember?
@TheFroats it’s not your tool to fight your negative stereotype. you can not use the charity as a shield.
@cwgabriel It was a tool to fight “our” negative stereotype…the one you created the charity to fight. Gamers. Not ME3 detractors. Gamers.
@cwgabriel Maybe I can’t change your mind. But you were one of the good guys…and you broke my heart tonight. We wanted to help and we did.
@TheFroats I’m sorry man. I hope me taking the time to talk with you about it at least shows you that I care about it.
@cwgabriel I don’t doubt you care, I doubt that you’re making the right call. Who’s helping the kids, who’s hurting them? Thx for your time.
It’s clear from this exchange that someone is using Child’s Play as a shield, and it isn’t ‘Retake Mass Effect’. Despite having raised nearly $80,000 for Child’s Play, Krahulik wasn’t happy that a movement he disagreed with was getting positive media coverage because it was donating money the charity he co-founded. How else does anyone explain this kind of behaviour? This kind of irrational stubborness is mind-boggling, but that’s not the point is it? He put his own feelings above the needs of the charity. This isn’t the first time he’s done this either. According to his Wikipedia article, Krahulik has a history of using charities as shields.
Krahulik has been in press online, thanks to hostile phone calls from Jack Thompson regarding an email Krahulik had sent. The email was in response to an offer Thompson had made to video game creators about creating an ultra-violent game based on a man whose son was murdered by a supposedly video game-influenced teen. Thompson claimed he would donate $10,000 towards a charity of former Take-Two Interactive chairman Paul Eibeler’s choosing if the game was made (which it eventually was). Krahulik, in the email, said he and fellow gamers had raised about half a million dollars toward charity. According to Krahulik, “Jack actually just called and screamed at me for a couple minutes. He said if I email him again I will ‘regret it’. What a violent man.”
Mike Krahulik, along with the rest of the Penny Arcade staff, later opted to “step in” for Jack Thompson. Thompson refused to donate $10,000 to charity because he considered the game put forth to meet his challenge subpar. He also claimed that his proposal was satirical and not a serious offer. Penny Arcade donated the money in his stead to the Electronic Software Association Foundation with the note, “For Jack Thompson, because Jack Thompson won’t”.
So inappropriate behaviour is acceptable as long as you donate to charity? Regardless of what your opinion of Jack Thompson is, Penny Arcade’s behaviour during their fight with him was far from aceptable. During that scuffle, Krahulik used the Electronic Software Association Foundation like a shield to deflect legitimate criticism over his inappropriate behaviour. To falsely accuse ‘Retake Mass Effect’ of doing the same thing now is blatantly hypocritical.
This story should have ended there. Child’s Play should have released a statement clarifying Krahulik comments on Twitter, apologized for any misunderstanding he caused and thanked ‘Retake Mass Effect’ for raising as much money as it did. Instead, Holkins, who goes by the online moniker “Tycho Brahe,” decided to weighed in, and by doing so, made matters worse. Here’s his statement in full.
You have almost certainly heard of “Retake Mass Effect” by now. One of many grassroots efforts to get a new ending to Mass Effect 3, it’s part community, part online petition, and part (here is where things get complicated) Child’s Play Donation Drive. They have stopped taking donations now partly because they basically won and partly because we don’t know how to feel about this use of the charity.
As the main point of contact for Child’s Play, Jamie has been buried under mail about this situation. Apparently some of the people giving to the cause seemed to think that they were paying for a new ending to Mass Effect. She’s been asked what the goal is, and how much they need to raise in order to get the ending produced. We’ve also been contacted by PayPal due to a high number of people asking for their donations back. This is in addition to readers who simply couldn’t understand how this was connected to Child’s Play’s mission. We were dealing with a lot of very confused people, more every day, and that told us we had a problem.
We have policies in place to deal with direct abuse: we don’t allow companies to use Child’s Play in order to sell more stuff. To that end we do not allow deals like “1 cent of every dollar goes to Child’s Play!” or whatever. But this isn’t anywhere on that continuum! This is a passionate community that formed around one thing, and some of that passion was expressed in charitable giving. I actually support this cause, but I am a pessimist, and I’m thinking about the next time something like this happens – when someone attaches Child’s Play to something we can’t get behind, or leverages your history of generosity and fellow feeling for their own weird bullshit. So, we need to have something like a policy on this. This is the best way I can think to say it:
Child’s Play cannot be a tool to draw attention to a cause. Child’s Play must be the Cause.
Nothing like this has ever happened in the almost ten years the charity has been running, so it kind of threw me for a loop. Thanks for listening.
Where to begin with this? Does Child’s Play or Penny Arcade not have a public relations expert? Do they not understand that by forcing ‘Retake Mass Effect’ to stop raising money for the children’s charity that they are drawing attention to the movement’s cause? This stupidity on the part of Krahulik and Holkins is mind-boggling.
As for the statement itself, who thought releasing it was a good idea? It’s a mess from start to finish. Firstly, Holkin states that since ‘Retake Mass Effect’ “already won” (it didn’t), donations to Child’s Play from the movement have stopped. This is a despicable lie. The “Clicks” section of the “My Stats” page for this blog shows that visitors are still clicking to the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ ChipIn webpage link to donate. Not only this, but as indicated by Robb’s statement, they were told by Child’s Play to shut down the webpage, not the other way around.
Why lie about this though? Because Holkins, like Krahulik, doesn’t like the fact that ‘Retake Mass Effect’ was getting positive media coverage because it was donating money the charity he co-founded. How angry must he and Krahulik be at the idea that ‘Retake Mass Effect’s donations to Child’s Play helped the movement achieve “victory” (once again, it isn’t) by getting BioWare to “change” (actually “clarify”) Mass Effect 3’s endings? Why else make mention of this in the statement if this is not the reason, or at least part of the reason?
UPDATE: Just an addition to this part of the post. Holkins mentions in his statement that “[w]e have policies in place to deal with direct abuse: we don’t allow companies to use Child’s Play in order to sell more stuff.” If that’s the case, how does he explain the charity’s participation in marketing campaigns? This from Child’s Play Wikipedia.
…During 2008 Penny Arcade Expo, Harmonix announced that three songs from the Expo will be made available for download for the Rock Band video game. The proceeds of these three songs will go to the charity…
…In 2010, Epic Games held a vote-by-purchase event between July 29 and September 6 to determine the fate of a character, Clayton Carmine, in their upcoming game Gears of War 3. Gamers voted by purchasing Xbox avatar T-Shirts through Xbox live, or real life t-shirts at the San Diego Comic-Con, with all purchases counting towards the vote. The voting campaign raised over $150,000, all of which was donated to Child’s Play…
In both cases the charity raised money while assisting a video game promotion. I’m not saying it’s inappropriate, it isn’t. Child’s Play was able to raise fair bit of moneny, while Gears of War 3 and Rockband, through Harmonix, got positive media attention which resulted in more game sales. Everyone benefits from that kind of arrangement. My problem is the blatant hypocrisy in saying that the charity he co-founded doesn’t operate a certain way when it clearly does.
I also find hard to believe that many of those who donated did so because they were under the impression that the money was being raised to “buy” new endings for Mass Effect 3. Is there any truth to this claim? Not that I can see. I can’t find anything that suggests ‘Retake Mass Effect’ was being dishonest about their motives for setting up the ChipIn webpage to raise money for Child’s Play. In fact, here is what the “About” section says is the reason for raising the money.
The Retake Mass Effect – Child’s Play donation drive is a community driven effort to bring positive attention to our petition for an alternate ending to the fantastic Mass Effect series. The Child’s Play charity was chosen as a charity started by gamers to provide video games for the patients at Children’s Hospitals all over the world.
We would like to dispel the perception that we are angry or entitled. We simply wish to express our hope that there could be a different direction for a series we have all grown to love.
Thank you for your interest in our project!
Does that sound dishonest to anyone? I don’t think so. As for the amount of money that has been refunded, I can’t find any information about that either. I can say that, at the time I wrote this post, the ChipIn website has raised $79,944.16 from 4112 people. If Holkin wants to claim that “a high number of people asking for their donations back,” I demand that he provide evidence to back up that claim. So is he lying about this as well? I don’t know. I’m willing to believe that there were a few people who were confused as to what they were donating to, but only a few.
Secondly, read the comments from the thread Actinguy1 started to discusses his conversation with Krahulik on twitter. Because of Holkin and Krahulik demanded that the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ ChipIn page be shut down, there’s confusion over whether or not the money they donated is even going to Child’s Play.
Cody211282 – So he is refusing money for a charity because he doesn’t agree with us? WTF
recentio – Wow. PA uses CP to fight negative gamer stereotypes. PA rejects gamer donations intended to fight negative gamer stereotype (specifically: “entitled whiner”). That’s Starchild logic right there. Seems to me it’s okay for them to use it to fight negative gamer stereotypes but not for others. How noble.
Meteor_VII – I’m still confused did they give the money back? If not does it really matter that he ended it. He can’t throw away the fact that money was donated to that charity via the reaction to the ending of this game.
nhcre8tv1 – WHAT? Do the kids still get the help and money, though? That was the number one (and probably only) reason I jumped on this “movement” was because it was actually being productive and not self prioritized. I understand where both of you were coming from but, why would you do this? I donate to charities all the time, including child’s play, and this was just a cool thing to make the movement not pointless and whiny looking (no thanks to that FTC complainer). And did what I read true people ASKED FOR THEIR CHARITY DONATIONS BACK? WTF BRO?
Xivai – They think WE’RE the entitled ones?! What madness and hypocrisy is this! They’re doing this because their vain ego wants their charity to “look” good. But oh **** it if it’s making money for children. I understand in some cases this might be an issue like a donation to support murder or some outlandish one. But this? Because they think we don’t deserve a new ending they’re going to pull the plug on lots of children gaming. Good job. You put the being a douche in the bag.
Could this be a reason for people wanting their money back? It’s not clear. What is clear, however, is that Holkins’ and Krahulik’s hasty actions are, at least in part, to blame for this confusion. Instead of smearing ‘Retake Mass Effect’, Holkin should have made it clear that the money raised would still be going to Child’s Play. Then again, doing so would have prevented him from lying about the movement’s motives for raising the money in the first place wouldn’t it?
There are also a number of comments from people who aren’t happy that they’re being attacked by Penny Arcade for wanting BioWare to change Mass Effect 3’s endings. This is especially insulting to those who have already donated to Child’s Play.
The Angry One – Who the hell cares why people donate, if people want to donate to promote a cause let them.
Stop pretending this has anything to do with using a charity to promote a cause, that’s done all the time. The charities benefit either way.
This is the biased fools at PA making it clear that they don’t want to be associated with anything that may jeapordise their relationship with BioWare.
Gabe and Mike are a pair of shills, and they disgust me.
magikbbg – I just wanted to add that its terrible that they ended this donation drive because of “political” reasons. If they don’t agree with our message will they refund our money back? Nope. They just treated us like a terrorist organization then said “thanks for the money though”. I feel really dirty that I gave some money to the cause. I bet that money is gone, if you called childsplay they’d be like we dunno wut retake movement is. lol (jk just being cynical)
Why do I keep getting bad endings since 3-6-12 ??!
dont charities always get used as tools for movements in america? kinda like invisiblechildren to start a war for natural resoucres in uganda
Strange Aeons – I think there’s enough well-justified negativity to go around regarding the ending without trying to turn this into a major issue as well.
I don’t agree with PA’s relentlessly derogatory take on the fan response to the ending fiasco, but they’re not the bad guys here either. They’re just doing what they think they need to do to protect their organization from potential problems in the future, I guess. I can’t pretend to know all the reasons, but it’s their call.
Just be happy that $80000 was raised for a good cause and move on.
rexx1888 – O.o isnt it a bit cross purpose for them to tell us to bugger off, not 2 days they were expounding about how retake was a bunch of whiners that should stfu 😐
still, it was always a bit odd that we had a SPECIFIC charity linked up, it would have made more sense to pool all the cash and then divvy it up at the final goal, like a kickstarter or something, so no charities caught the flack for our ’cause’*
* i say cause like this because im not convinced we are a cause specifically, we are a group of very disgruntled consumers asking not to be taken for a bunch of mooks by big business
Imortalfalcon – Makes sense, I see what he means.
Sure he can be the “bad guy” for shutting down something that is obviously giving money to a great cause, which this is doing, but it’s not the only message in this campaign.
– The message is “Help us change the ending of Mass Effect 3 and support Child’s Play”
– But can also be taken as “Help us change the ending of Mass Effect 3, oh and btw we support a charity so you can’t refuse or else you’re cold hearted.”
They saw it as the latter, which any owner of anything like this would see it, unfortunately. It’s just the ‘spin’ of things I believe messed it up. I see where he is coming from because it would seem like we’re using it as a shield — As previously mentioned. There’s no neutral ground here, and they went with the safe option of just ending it because of this ‘spin’ someone could see it rollin’ with.
Now if he -really- stood by his opinion and thinks supporting Retake ME3 is equivalent to supporting Child porn, he should refund everyone who donated their money back.
But I seriously doubt that’s going to happen.
Actinguy1 – I understand those that feel I shouldn’t have been so negative. I’m a human, I have emotions, and when I learned that someone I trusted had done something I saw as a betrayal, I had a knee jerk reaction.
I will continue to support Child’s Play. Unfortunately, I can not continue to support Penny Arcade.
Neow – They can stop accepting the donation from “Retake”, but taking down the page simply rings “We’ve taken your money, but we’re not crediting you for it.”
There are anonymous donors, there are donors that deserve acknowledgement.
I’m not saying they should gave the money back, taking the page down is just a display of unappreciative.
If people are actually asking that their donations be refunded after being slandered by Penny Arcade, I can’t blame them. As for the comments on comparing ‘Retake Mass Effect’ to pedophiles, I haven’t found proof of that Krahulik or Holkins made that kind of statement, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one of them did (do I need to write a post about what was said during the Jack Thompson fiasco?). Regardless of what was said, how does anyone justify attacking a group that’s trying to raise money for a worthwhile cause? Do these two not care that nearly $80,000 was raised for their charity? I guess they’re just incapable of showing humility.
In any event, it is clear to me that if anyone has misused the Child’s Play charity, it’s Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins. If the cause is truly important, which I feel it is, it shouldn’t matter who’s donating and why (within reason of course). The problem is that it does to these two. They couldn’t stand the fact that a movement they didn’t support was getting positive media coverage by raising money for their charity. As usual, Krahulik and Holkins will do exactly what they accuse ‘Retake Mass Effect’ of doing, touting their charitable donations to deflect legitimate criticism of their inappropriate behaviour.
From now on I’m going to take the advice of one of the commenters at the BioWare Social Network, Harbinger of your Destiny and change the charity I link to. I’m confident that those who run Fisher House, an organization dedicate to helping military families, do so because they actually believe their cause. It’s a far more deserving charity in my opinion, and, unlike Child’s Play, it’s founders didn’t create it so they could use it as a shield.
HOLD THE LINE!
If you haven’t already liked ‘Demand a better ending to Mass Effect 3′ on Facebook, and you feel as myself and thousands of other Mass Effect fans do about Mass Effect 3′s endings, do it. Also, I recommend supporters of the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ movement go to Fisher House and make a donation. It’s for a very good cause.
UPDATE: I’m hearing that the real reason that Child’s Play wanted to distance itself from ‘Retake Mass Effect’ was that sorting out the confusion concerning what the money was going to, was taking up too much of the charity’s resources. So much so that it was apparently undermining the charity’s ability to operate. I’m having a very hard time believing that.
Considering that ‘Retake Mass Effect’ raised over $80,000 in about two weeks, how is it that a small charity could spend over that amount, in that space of time, dealing with this apparent confusion? Why didn’t Child’s Play solve this problem by releasing a public statement earlier in the charity drive? That would have cleared up the confusion. Also, there isn’t anyone I’ve been able to identify either at the BioWare Social Network or through the movement’s Facebook page that will even admit to wanting their donation back. Could it be, as a number of people have suggested, that those who don’t support ‘Retake Mass Effect’ were calling up Child’s Play and PayPal in an attempt to undermine the charity drive? It wouldn’t surprise me. There are a lot of bad people in this world who have done worse. For example, the Susan G. Komem Foundation website was hacked by Planned Parenthood supporters after the charity pulled funding when it found out that the abortion provider was being investigated by local, state or federal authorities.
Whatever the reason for this mess, I still think that Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins handled it poorly. Krahulik’s comments on Twitter and that offensive statement Holkins released made a bad situation worse. Insulting people who donate to your charity, regardless of the reason, does more to undermine the charity’s cause than a little confusion over how funds from a charity drive are used.
UPDATE: atxbomber at the BioWare Social Network raising an intriguing point about Penny Arcade’s relationship with BioWare. Here’s the full quote, including the post he was replying to, with a link to the thread it was originally posted in.
streamlock – This whole mess has really brought to light the unbriddled unprofesionalism of just about everyone of these gaming/mag sights as a whole.
We really really need some professional game reviewers that are also practice professional journalism.
No, correction we need ‘critics’ not more white wash reviewing.
atxbomber – Correct. Even if you take Penny-Arcade’s stance regarding the Retake and Child’s Play at face value, it’s hard not to question whether there is a conflict of interest here, seeing as Penny-Arcade has a prior business relationship with BioWare and EA dating back at least to Dragon Age: Origins.
With the amount of the gaming “press” that then go on to work for developers, or are friends with them, or rely on them for advertising revenue, it’s become incredibly difficult to determine which “critics” are objective in their analysis, and which one’s are actually harbouring alterior motives.
I had forgotten that Penny Arcade had drawn comics for BioWare’s Dragon Age series. As atxbomber suggests, maybe Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins had other reasons to distance Child’s Play from ‘Retake Mass Effect’. I doubt though that Electronic Arts or BioWare would pressure them into doing it. If they did and it came out, having stories with headlines like “Game Developer Hates Children’s Charity” would be a public relations nightmare. It’s possible, however, that Krahulik and Holkins did it themselves, fearing that any connection between their charity and the ‘Retake Mass Effect’ movement would hurt their relationship with BioWare. Knowing these two, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the case.
atxbomber raises another point which he’s absolutely right about. This whole debacle with Mass Effect 3’s endings has demonstrated that game reviewers can’t be trusted to be objective. Very few of them mentioned the endings, let alone discussed how depressing and incoherent they were. As to why that is, there are a few theories, but I won’t discuss them in this post.