“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes”
– Mark Twain

Around Halloween, a series of stories were posted on a number of gaming sites, claiming that the Christian Children’s Fund (CCF) rejected over $17,000 from Gen Con 2008’s charity auction, because some of the funds came from the sale of Dungeons and Dragons materials.

The initial story outraged gamers and played on memories of the Christian-Gamer conflicts of the 1980s. Multiple pages of outraged forum posts filled gamer sites. The story made it to Slashdot, Fark, and other mainstream social news sites. Gamers flooded the CCF with emails, phone calls, and probably even snail-mail.

I’m not going to cover where the story originated, or who did what when. The important part (as I see it) was that based on a few blog posts that mostly echoed each other, and with no independent confirmation, the gaming community flooded a charity with complaints.

As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, this was all a misunderstanding. Jeannette LeGault, Gen Con’s Director of Event Programming, issued a statement two days ago clarifying what actually occurred, and included this statement:

To be clear, Gen Con made the decision not to donate to CCF; at no time did CCF refuse to take charity money from Gen Con. Gen Con chooses a show charity long before Gen Con Indy 2008 ever takes place.

In addition, when I first read the story, it didn’t ring true. I did some Googling, and in under a half-hour, found at least one link which debunked the whole “rejected over $17K” part of the story. The “standard response email” that CCF replied to all inquiries with confirmed this, by including the following paragraph:

There appears to be a misunderstanding which I would like to correct. When Gen Con contacted CCF about its auction, we were pleased to accept donations. However, we couldn’t lend our name for publication because our policies have specific criteria for endorsements. We were unaware that this had caused any problem or concern for Gen Con until we began receiving emails. This decision was in no way intended to be a reflection on Mr. Gygax, gaming enthusiasts or the game Dungeon and Dragons. We have the utmost respect for the gaming community and were touched by the generosity expressed through your auction. We were disappointed that we were not the recipients of the donation but we were pleased that another worthy organization benefited.

Many of the forum posts I read mentioned how, as Christians and gamers, they were offended by the charity’s decision (as represented in the initial story). Many others mentioned how this alleged action fit their perception of Christians as hypocritical, ignorant, and/or judgmental. And now we have a very large Christian charity who now probably sees gamers as thin-skinned, argumentative, and socially maladjusted.

Let’s take a step back and get some perspective on this. A group of people, acting on the stereotypes they hold of another group, have just confirmed some of the stereotypes that others have of them. By overreacting to rumor, the gaming community has given itself a black eye. As of yesterday afternoon (Nov 7), only a few sites have corrected or clarified their original posts, a number of the sites that carried the initial story have not retracted or clarified it, and others have basically posted words to the effect of, “Yeah, but it still smells fishy to me”.

There’s probably some famous quote about not judging others, unless you wish to be judged as well…

Why am I writing this?

Because the truth is more important than righteous indignation, especially after the fact.

Because sometimes, trying to see an event from the other side will show that maybe you don’t have the whole picture.

Because maybe the stereotypes you apply to other groups are often as inaccurate as the stereotypes that others apply to you.