Child’s Play is not a weapon

Giving to charity is great. Abusing charity for your own selfish ends however...

By now you may be well aware of the brouhaha from a vocal segment of BioWare fans about the ending for Mass Effect 3. To say they’re a mite disappointed would be an understatement bigger than the series’ iconic megastructure The Citadel. Although some have shown more restraint than others a lot of them have run screaming across the border into apoplectic rage territory, leading to accusations of “entitlement issues” and other criticism from various sources. Some fans however have decided to focus their hurt and disappointment into something positive with Retake Mass Effect, “a community driven effort to bring positive attention to our petition for an alternate ending to the fantastic Mass Effect series.”

Launched only yesterday, Retake Mass Effect’s goal is to persuade BioWare to give fans an ending that satisfies them through donations to the Child’s Play charity. Part-petition part-fundraiser, the idea is that rather than append your name to an easily-ignored list of other names you make a donation instead. While Retake Mass Effect’s mission statement acknowledges “the right of the writers and developers of the Mass Effect series to end that series however they see fit,” it also states that the ending as-is does not provide an adequate sense of closure “with regard to the universe and characters we have become attached to.” So far Retake Mass Effect has raised over $35,000, a fantastic amount of cash for a good cause in such a short space of time.

So why does it feel so cynical?

I fully understand why fans are disappointed, I really do. Mass Effect 3 culminates in a lazy, rushed Deus Ex Machina riddled with plot holes big enough to drive a Mako through. Giving to charity is also a very noble thing to do and I applaud Retake Mass Effect for raising as much money as they have, but I take issue with the idea of using a charity as leverage to exert pressure on BioWare. Charity is meant to be about selflessness, so donating money to a charitable cause should not be done with any expectations other than that your money will be put to good use. Individual motivations for giving to charity are as complex as they are diverse, far too complex to go into here, but generally speaking shouldn’t expect some sort of reward for your donation besides a warm feeling of having done something nice. Unless you’re donating to a Kickstarter project but that’s technically patronage anyway.

You sure as hell shouldn’t exploit a charity for ultimately selfish ends. At its best Retake Mass Effect’s use of Child’s Play to exert pressure on BioWare is a somewhat misguided, socially awkward affair that has nevertheless had an incredibly positive effect. At it’s worst however its little more than emotional blackmail, mired in selfishness by a minority overly-concerned with the opinions of others. You know what, fuck it, I’m through mincing words. Despite what some of its most vocal champions would have you believe, Retake Mass Effect is not an act of noble passive-resistance in the tradition of Gandhi and King. It may have started out that way but it’s not that anymore. It’s been hijacked by a crowd of whiny, entitled fuckwits that have subverted it into an act of passive-aggressive resistance.

Let’s not beat around the bush here. These hijackers donating under the umbrella of Retake Mass Effect aren’t doing so out of altruism or a genuine desire to give videogames to sick kids. No, they’re doing it to emotionally blackmail BioWare into giving them what they want, plain and simple. Protesting by way of donation simply makes them feel better about it – more righteous even – at the cost of cheapening the great work done by Child’s Play. Sure it may very well be to the letter of charity but it bloody well isn’t in the spirit of it. A charity is not some gun-for-hire you can chuck a few shekels at and attach to a cause to make it more righteous, or hold up as a shield to deflect criticism. If Retake Mass Effect was sincerely about charity first and a better-ending second then why am I seeing comments like this?

“Now that is the kind of protesting that not even the tards at IGN can complain about, gets the message across and far more importantly it helps Childs Play!”

Please note how “getting the message across” takes a higher priority to helping Child’s Play. The highest priority is of course given to what IGN are saying about them, which makes the caveat “far more importantly” seem a somewhat hollow and token gesture. Then there’s this thread about an article by Destructoid’s Jim Sterling where one of the highest-rated comments tells people to only click on links “from Forbes or Giant Bomb.” Another commenter rants about being “genuinely upset” and “trying to do something about it,” and they’re not referring to the plight of sick kids in hospitals.

All because Sterling dared to criticise the attitude and methods of a self-righteous minority amongst Retake Mass Effect supporters. If their motives are as pure as they claim then why try to stifle debate in such a way? Why tell people to only click on links from Giant Bomb and Forbes? Two marvellous sites, incidentally, but are other sites with a differing opinion not worthy of consideration? I’m sorry to say this but doing something in the name of charity does not grant you immunity to any criticism or concerns that may be warranted. Ask Invisible Children if you don’t believe me.

Not everybody donating to Retake Mass Effect has done so with greed in their selfish black hearts of course, and if I’ve given that impression I apologise. For every person like that there are plenty more people who would’ve donated anyhow, whatever the charity and whatever the cause. My ire is entirely reserved for a cabal of loathsome little parasites that have latched-on to a positive thing and twisted it to their own selfish ends. Meek, callow little thugs who believe they can say what they want, act however they want and make any demands they want, so long as they say they’re doing it for a good cause. A minority that makes Retake Mass Effect look bad, demeans the work of a great charity and tars the genuine altruistic majority with the same foul brush.

Would I like a better ending? Fuck yes, and if certain rumours pan out (they are only rumours, mind you) we could very well get one along with a bunch of multiplayer content in future DLC. I started with Mass Effect 2, bought and played through Mass Effect 1 with a new Shepard, then carried that character back into Mass Effect 2 and played through it again. I am as emotionally invested in the story of Buckaroo Shepard and the Citadel Cavaliers as any other die-hard fan of the Mass Effect saga. Invested up to my gorram eyeballs, yet I’m not screaming “BETRAYAL!” from the rooftops. Maybe I’ve just read enough sci-fi to understand what BioWare were trying to do with the ending despite them dropping the ball big-time. Five minutes of half-arsed pseudo-mystical bollocks however is not enough to diminish the hours of immense enjoyment I got from the game. To paraphrase an old platitude: Mass Effect 3 was all about the journey rather than the destination, and it was a journey I found memorable, emotional and engaging.

I am in no way whatsoever disparaging the excellent work of Child’s Play, the efforts of the person who started Retake Mass Effect or those honestly generous souls who saw an opportunity to do some good and donated. Congratulations are well deserved for raising such an impressive sum in so short a time span. I’m also definitely not saying a donation is somehow worthless if your motives are tarnished with a little bit of selfishness because let’s face it, none of us are saints after all.  I’m not even telling you how or where to donate your money. Giving to charity should be a private, personal choice, not a dick measuring contest. No, I’m calling-out that sly, pernicious minority using Retake Mass Effect to mask their selfishness as they wield charity like a cudgel to browbeat BioWare and stifle any criticism. The kind of people who would probably respond to this article by calling me a child-hating monster, uncharitable bastard, twat, troll, moron, and any other names they can think of.

Go right ahead. Your insults will reveal far more about you and your motives than they ever could about me.

Matt McDermott

About Matt McDermott

Matt is the irresponsible degenerate behind bitscreed.com.