A fellow on Twitter pointed out a few problematic things with the Child’s Play charity.
1. It’s strongly associated with Penny Arcade, a webcomic whose creators have been front and center in a number of misogyny and intolerance scandals.
2. The original goal of the Child’s Play charity, stated as a matter of public record by one of its creators, was to benefit people who play video games. It was not conceived with the primary goal of helping kids. It was conceived with the primary goal of challenging the popular public opinion that gamers are worthless, violent dregs of society, using charity as a means to that end.
2.a. On top of that, gamers may not be physically violent on the whole (or even by a significant minority), but broad swaths of them really do behave in generally repulsive ways.
3. Fiscal irresponsibility within health institutions is one of the major reasons American health care is so expensive yet so substandard. A respectable charity to help sick people would not involve buying something for them so the hospital they’re in doesn’t have to. That reduces pressure on hospitals to responsibly spend the money they do have — something they need to do well but are currently terrible at.
4. Video game hardware, such as iPads and Xboxes, is manufactured in intolerable sweatshop conditions by slave wage laborers in developing nations. AAA-level video game software is created by developers who notoriously require abusive amounts of crunch time from their employees. Supporting either industry is a horrible thing to do. Supporting both, well….
5. A street customer donating a commercial item bought at full price is cost-inefficient compared to the manufacturing company donating it directly. This is especially true in the case of digitally distributed games, which have zero marginal cost.
Therefore, if you want your philanthropic efforts to go exclusively toward helping sick kids, you should do something that helps them but doesn’t financially aid corrupt medical and entertainment mega-institutions or improve the public image of discriminatory, misogynistic, bigoted organizations. Help the needy without helping those who don’t need and don’t deserve.
This isn’t the line of thinking we used in our decision to stop attending the annual Child’s Play charity dinner. That came exclusively from PA’s track record of consistently acting without empathy in the wake of hurtful incidents caused by themselves or close professional associates, to the point where it makes my skin vaguely crawl.
I’ve heard the arguments defending PA’s behavior by attacking the accusatory arguments. They don’t ring true to me.
I’ve heard the dramatically polarized general claim that anyone who asks someone else not to say or do or think or sing or write or draw anything, no matter how he asks and no matter why, is squelching free speech, stifling creative freedom, and imposing his will on others unduly. It’s the radically libertarian idea that if a woman were to walk down the street yelling “Goddamn faggots!” and a little boy were to ask her to stop, please, the boy would be the greater threat to society. I don’t think that level of idealism is remotely practical, regardless of whether it is, in theory, accurate and attainable in some perfect alternate dimension (which I doubt anyway).
I’ve seen the argument that the original Dickwolves strip is not technically a rape joke, even though it involves rape, because a) the main actor in the joke is neither the perpetrator nor the victim, and b) because the joke does not require that the offense be rape specifically, but rather uses that deed as an exaggerated stand-in for a generic “bad thing” and would work just as well swapping in any other personal ordeal. I see where this argument comes from, and I concede its pedantic terms, but I find it just that — pedantic. I am certainly unconvinced by the accusation — levied without evidence — that the majority of journalists and bloggers who claim the strip is a rape joke do not do so because they actually think it is, for rationally defensible reasons or even as honest opinion, but, rather, that they know it really isn’t and only say it is in a deliberate attempt to instill a preemptive anti-PA prejudice in first-time readers who aren’t familiar with the scandal’s background. “What? A webcomic I haven’t heard of makes rape jokes? Thank you for the warning, Ms. Random Blog Person. I’ll stay away from them and believe all the bad things I hear about them from now on.”
But here’s the Bizarro World twist to that last claim: the person who made it is a firm believer in women being discriminated against in society in general and the workplace in particular, much of it unintentional and subconscious. In companies he’s run, he’s even set policies of blanking names on resumes before they’re evaluated to avoid gender bias. Not what I expected…unless you accept that a person can truly believe that discussing a topic less often or in fewer ways is always bad. That it’s always unproductive. That the people who rail against the prevalence of “lighthearted” rape humor and prejudicial banter in casual conversation (because they believe that treating these subjects too lightly prevents society from believing that assault and harassment are common and serious) are actively working away from a solution rather than toward one.
Even author John Scalzi is involved. Scalzi, who is friends with PA’s creators, made gender-political waves in July when he announced he would not attend conventions unless they had an anti-harassment policy, made it known to all attendees, and had the ability to respond immediately to all reported incidents. The entirety of his response to PA’s checkered past is that he won’t be terminating his friendship over it, and that’s all he’ll say. Also not what I expected.