Why I can no longer support Child's Play.

I can no longer support Child’s Play. I think that the charity does excellent work. I think that there are great people in the organization. I think that what they do is important. But I will not give them another cent.

Most people are probably already aware of the events that I led me to reconsider my support of Child’s Play, but here are the high(low)lights:

Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins of Penny Arcade, the webcomic that was the genesis of Child’s Play and PAX, made a strip about the absurdities of MMORPG quests that included a rape joke.

Some survivors of rape and sexual assault (and plenty of other people), understandably upset and feeling uncomfortable about the joke, raised concerns about the comic.

In response, Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins created the now infamous “dickwolves” shirt, and encouraged people to wear them at PAX- an event intended to be an inclusive gathering of gamers and geeks.

Mike Krahulik in particular chose to act defensively, confusing criticism with censorship, instead of engaging with the criticism in a meaningful way or trying to understand those who felt uncomfortable about the strip.

Cooler heads prevailed, and the shirt was pulled from Penny Arcade’s store.

Some time passed without major incident, but then earlier this year Mike made a bunch of transphobic comments on twitter.

Once again, instead of engaging with the ensuing criticism, he pouted about how people were being unfair to him. He was eventually convinced to publicly apologize, and as part of the apology he made a sizable donation to The Trevor Project.

Then, during an on-stage interview at PAX Prime 2013, Mike stated that pulling the dickwolves shirt from the store was a mistake. The room cheered. People raised concerns. Mike made yet another public apology.

Not supporting Penny Arcade itself at this point was as easy decision. Mike has a history of saying very shitty things in the public sphere and then decrying any criticism as censorship. I have no interest in financially supporting such an individual, so I have stopped going to the Penny Arcade website. However, Penny Arcade has become much larger than a webcomic. Penny Arcade Expo is one of the largest gaming events in the world, and one of the only large events that is consumer-focused rather than press or industry-focused. I have wanted to go to PAX since the first event, and with the creation of PAX East in Boston it became likely that I would be able to attend once school was no longer taking up all my time in Spring. As a result of the events of the last couple months I’ve spent some time thinking about PAX, and I’ve made the decision that I will never attend. I know it would be a lot of fun and I could meet games writers and developers whose work I really enjoy, but I have two problems with attending. First, as with the comic, I do not want to financially support Penny Arcade. Second, I do not want to attend an event that a significant number of people either do not feel comfortable enough to attend, or attend and end up feeling uncomfortable the whole time. Any enjoyment I got out of the convention would be tainted by that knowledge.

After reaching that conclusion, I decided to move on and examine how I felt about other things touched by the tendrils of Penny Arcade. While I never thought the Penny Arcade comic was incredibly funny, and was therefore easy to excise from my internet activity, I really enjoy Extra Credits. It is a smart, funny, and thoughtful video series that is not produced by Penny Arcade, but is hosted on the Penny Arcade TV video service. The episodes promote intelligent engagement with games as a medium and inclusiveness in the gaming community. As far as I know, watching episodes of Extra Credits on Youtube will not result in Penny Arcade receiving any money. However, as long as Extra Credits is partnering with Penny Arcade, they are giving Penny Arcade legitimacy. As much as I enjoy the series, I now feel like I cannot continue watching it while they are associated with Penny Arcade. Unlike the Penny Arcade webcomic, I -will- miss Extra Credits.

And finally, Child’s Play. As I stated at the beginning, I really like Child’s Play. I’ve donated to them during both Tested Octobercasts, the Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run, and a number of other charity events. I think that providing distractions and entertainment for children in hospitals is very worthwhile, and donating to Child’s Play does not financially support Mike Krahulik or Jerry Holkins. Even so, after giving it a lot of thought, I have found that I can no longer support Child’s Play. Child’s Play is a good cause, but it is also used as a defense for Mike Krahulik’s behavior. I do not feel comfortable giving money to a charity that is used to dismiss legitimate criticisms of shitty behavior. I really hope that the next Giant Bomb Community Endurance Run will select a different charity to benefit. If they don’t, I’ll find another charity to donate to during the event, as I also think it is important not to decrease the amount I give. It would not be fair to give less money to children’s healthcare because of Mike’s behavior. However, here is the thing that makes my decision not to support Child’s Play easier than I expected it to be: There are many, many ways to give money to help children with health problems. There are a plethora of options that won’t make me feel guilty for contributing to something used to defend the continuous exclusionary and toxic public discourse of Mike Krahulik. In the future I may reconsider, but Mike’s seemingly endless cycle of apologies rings hollow to me; it will take a lot of action, not words, to convince people that he has actually changed.

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