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.
Kurt, thanks for clarifying and bringing the truth our little Stew Pot.
This is without a doubt the most important post our RPG Blog community has ever seen. Thanks Telas.
Thanks very much for posting this. As a Christian and a Gamer, I sometimes feel squeezed from both sides. Remember this story the next time you see a Christian make an ignorant false accusation about gaming. Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.
Let he who feels squeezed, flatulate.
Confucius say, “He who fart in church, sit in own pew.” 🙂
Seriously, thanks for the compliments. After watching a significant number of gamers overreact to the initial story, I felt compelled to try to put the record straight. I hope that most of the other sites that mention this story have taken steps to correct the initial story.
Speaking of corrections, the story is apparently continuing to evolve; at least one person at CCF stated that Gen Con’s Chapter 11 status was the reason for their initial refusal. (Ironically, Gen Con filed for Chapter 11 after a large lawsuit was filed against them over a charity auction.) However, others have stated that the initial refusal was indeed over the Satanic presence of D&D.
And that’s just it; when it comes down to a “he said/she said” situation, the best policy is to find out as much as possible before opening your mouth. Otherwise, you might go off and do something embarrassing.
Great article. It cinches the #1 spot for me in regards to what Gnome Stew has produced so far.
Charities often have to be cautious of donations offered by entities in the middle of bankruptcy proceedings. Charities live and die by donations, and you don’t want to spend $17K expecting that money to come from a donation that may never arrive.
There is a whole layer here that we shouldn’t overlook – two organizations had a deal fall through. Forget gaming and religious affiliations. Two organizations, one with financial problems and the other dependent upon outside resources, had a deal fall through. Wow. What a scandal.
Everything that I have been able to find from reputable sources points to this being CCF saying “Yeah we’d like the money if it is a donation, but no we aren’t going to endorse you in order to get it. That isn’t a donation, and our name isn’t for sale.” and that is pretty standard practice for charitable organizations.
Gen Con LLC isn’t exactly known as the gold standard of how to run your organization. We should keep that in mind as gamers before rushing to defend them in a situation where there may have been no wrong doing.
Thanks for posting that – it’s great to hear some clarifications after the fact.
Agreed, good to hear. I may be a Johnny-come-lately to the discussion, but it really is a shame to see people overreact on false causes. There’s been too much tragedy and misunderstanding from both sides of these camps (I myself got kicked out of a seminary because I played D&D). The more light that’s shed, the fewer of these scuffles will happen.
Great post. I’m going to have to quote 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.” in many place I’m sure. 🙂
Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Sorry, Kurt, but this hasn’t actually changed much.
The key is this: CCF said that they won’t allow their name to be used to avoid the appearance of lending endorsements. I’m not aware of anyplace showing that GenCon even *asked* to use their name (maybe it’s in boilerplate somewhere?).
The long and the short of it is that the CCF put a stipulation on whether or not they’d accept the money. Since GenCon didn’t conform to that stipulation, for whatever unknown reason, they would not accept the charity donation.
It still stinks. The rumors about it being rejected because of D&D were blown out, but something still doesn’t smell quite right about this whole thing. I don’t think we’ve heard all the facts. If it were a minor legal issue over “endorsement”, I’d be shocked if the two parties couldn’t have made an amicable agreement for the sake of a $17k donation.
Gen Con asked to use their logo and name to promote the event.
A quote from Jeannette LeGault, the Director of Event Programming for Gen Con LLC:
“Gen Con contacted CCF about our intentions and asked for a logo and some promotional materials that we could use on our website. We were informed by a person at CCF that they would not be able to provide us with these materials, apparently due to our association with D&D.”
And a little bit later she adds:
“We later found out that we had been misinformed as to CCFâ€™s position in regards to D&D and Gen Con, but by then we had already chosen Fisher House as our charity, and announcements and promotions were already made and in the works, such that it would not have been possible to change charities at that point.”
And then she adds this:
“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.”
She ends her post with an appeal to the gaming community to set the record straight on the matter, and clarifies that she is the only Gen Con staff member to have commented on this matter and that others who claim to be Gen Con staff are not.
Read the post at Gen Con’s community site for yourself.
And keep in mind that we don’t know who they talked to the first time that they contacted CCF, nor how their donation was being presented (did someone crack a joke during the initial call like “D&D, you know, that Satanic game. “.)
So you have both sides publicly stating that this wasn’t a Religion Vs. Gaming thing, and yet I have yet to see many of these blogs and forums put forth a serious effort to set the record straight.
Kurt is doing both gaming and blogging a favor by getting the facts straight in his article. Others should follow his example. False alarms hurt you the most not at the moment that you call them, but later when you face a real emergency.
If we gamers want to claim some sort of moral high ground, then maybe we should earn that through our actions for the next time some group really does attack gaming.
@Patrick Benson – Thanks for the backup, Patrick.
CCF was asked to be the official charity of Gen Con. This plasters their name all over the charity auction, the signage, and the directory.
It took less than 30 minutes to discover that the original rumor was incorrect on at least one major point. (I honestly think it only took a few minutes plus breakfast, but 30 minutes is the time between my outraged reply to first hearing the rumor, and my “waitasecond” reply correcting the information.) Why couldn’t all these web sites reporting this as news be bothered to check it out?
Better question: Why won’t they correct it now? Or if they are correcting it, why are they doing so with the attitude of “if there’s smoke, there must be fire”?
Thank you so much for posting this.
Having been there for the initial flare-up, I’ll make this observation – trying to stand up for objective sourcing, skepticism, or even giving people the benefit of the doubt was hazardous duty when this started. People who pointed out that there was no source material other than unsubstantiated rumor were vilified and insulted in many quarters.
Frankly, the combined level of Religious Bigotry and “Jack Chick Flashbacks” in the gaming community in some circles was downright worrisome. For a community that often prides itself on intellectual curiosity, open-mindedness, and rationality I saw massive levels of knee-jerk emotionalism, religious bigotry, and appeals to stereotypes.
As “one of those blogs” I think it’s important to state that there *is* something fishy going on. However, you are correct that it doesn’t appear to be a gaming vs. Christianity issue.
However, check out this response I got to my letter:
” Thank you for your follow-up inquiry.
One of the criteria we take into consideration is whether the organization is financially sound. At the time we were contacted Gen Con was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Before we could reach consensus, Gen Con moved forward in selecting another charity. Again, we did not realize how much concern this caused within the gaming community until we began hearing from so many of you. It was never intended as a slight.
I hope this provides the needed clarification. It is my understanding that Gen Con also has posted information under â€œForumâ€ on its Web site.
Vice President, International Communications and Fundraising”
That’s the first I’ve heard of Chapter 11 being an issue. Since the money comes from gamers, not from GenCon, I can’t see how this matters.
So my point stands. The CCF has an issue with priorities. They place corporate nonsense above the well being of those they are claiming to serve. I have yet to see a valid reason why CCF wouldn’t agree to be the recipient of the charity auction.
The quote in Patrick’s post above says “we had been misinformed”… but by the time this was realized, it was too late. This just seems weird. How are you misinformed about their position with D&D?
Much ado about nothing? Maybe so. But I call into question whatever corporate practice that prevented CCF from just saying “yes please and thank you” in the first place.
Forgot to include the link to my original post on this topic: http://www.dragonavenue.com/dnd/post/christian_childrens_fund_priority_problem/
@jimgoings – Okay, let’s get the timeline correct.
1) Gen Con LLC starts planning the charitable event for the next Gen Con.
2) Gen Con works with a charity to arrange for the donation to be made after the event is held.
3) Gen Con is held and the event raises money.
4) Gen Con donates the money raised by the event to the charity they decided upon in step 2.
So CCF didn’t refuse $17K. There was no $17K at the time that Gen Con LLC, an entity currently involved in a lawsuit over another fund raising event for a charity and that has recently filed for bankruptcy, approached them with an offer to be the sponsored charity.
Now CCF refused to lend their name to the event for some reason, and Gen Con goes with their second choice. Note that they had an alternate choice before they contacted CCF, which from my past experience with organizing events is not unusual because sometimes two organizations can’t reach an agreement for any number of reasons and you work down your list.
Whatever happened, Gen Con refers to this refusal as their being “misinformed”. That can mean many, many things. From crackpot CCF zealot refusing “D&D devil money” to crackpot gaming zealot telling his superiors that “those Nazis said no because they hate D&D”. It was probably something nowhere near either extreme, but we don’t know.
Gen Con then reaches an agreement with another charity. CCF then clarifies that they are interested in the event, but Gen Con LLC has already made the deal. A missed opportunity. But Gen Con LLC admits that CCF did express interest. Maybe they decided that Gen Con LLC would be able to honor their commitment despite their financial and legal situation. Who knows?
Gen Con holds the event, raises the money, gives it to the second charity. This probably took place months after the CCF deal fell through.
Now, after Gen Con 2008 in Indy is done and over with, the story somehow gets out to the public and it turns into a “CCF is evil and won’t take money to help starving kids” blogfest.
That is just plain wrong. Do we really think that Gary Gygax would support such an institution? Do we have that much faith in Gen Con LLC despite the facts that we have around their bankruptcy and their legal issues? Or are gamers looking for a little payback for the witch hunt of the 80s? I’m betting on the witch hunt.
There’s so much smoke here that there must be a fire, right? Well I agree, but I’m betting that it is on our side of the line and not CCF’s.
To respond to JIMGOINGS concerns:
If a non-profit organization fails to adhere to their bi-laws the I.R.S. takes away their tax exemption and effectively blows the whole charity up.
I work with a fraternal order. We have 8 active members on a good day. If we meet on the 2nd Tuesday of the month instead of the 1st Tuesday we risk losing out tax exemption. If we handle more than $2500 of revenue in a year (even just to give it away to needy folks as a go-between) we have to file special tax forms and are at increased risk for an audit. We don’t have the man-hours necessary to properly field an I.R.S. audit.
If you want to declare that you were “right,” and “something is fishy” with the Christian Children’s Fund please don’t bash their “priorities” for having to follow rules – bash the government that wipes them out if they don’t follow them. Also, please be mindful that GenCon was in the middle of Chapter 11 due to LucasFilm suing them over the Star Wars Celebration Charity Auction of 2007.
I contacted Gen Con LLC in private and I was assured that this was just a misunderstanding. In fact, the correspondence was so pleasant that I have more respect for Gen Con LLC in general now. I think I’ll make it a point to become more involved with them in future projects.
I wish the gaming community would put as much effort into apologizing as they did in attacking CCF. This hurts us in the long run. It shows how ignorant some of us are as to how businesses and non-profits operate, as well as how sensationalism can overpower common sense.
I thought us gaming geeks were supposed to be of the smart and intelligent variety, but apparently some of us are choosing to put our brains second and our emotions first.
@Patrick Benson – Good points all. However, as I understand the facts:
CCF gave some sort of indication to Gen Con that they could not or would not participate when originally requested. This meant that Gen Con sought another charity.
I completely understand that there may be reasons for this… perhaps even laws. However, something happened that caused this particular charity to lose out on money that could have helped a lot of children. Red tape? Human Error? A simple misunderstanding? Maybe yes to all three.
I haven’t heard yet what the original confusion was about. Why not say “we’ll get back to you” instead of “no” (or whatever they actually said that made Gen Con think they weren’t interested at first).
CCF has said:
“When Gen Con contacted CCF about its auction, we were pleased to accept donations. However, we couldnâ€™t lend our name for publication because our policies have specific criteria for endorsements.”
“Christian Childrenâ€™s Fund made the decision to decline the gift from Gen Con, LLC as the request presented to us gave the appearance that CCF (the organization) was an endorser or supporter of a gaming convention, which CCF was not.”
Whether it’s laws, corporate policy, or some dude that just said so, something went amiss here. Did Gen Con really give the impression that they were endorsing the event (cause that’s an oops) or did CCF make the mistake?
In any case, I think we can all agree it was a misunderstanding.
In a follow-up email though, the CCF then brought up the bankruptcy as the cause. Well, which was it? The endorsement or the bankruptcy? I fail to see how the bankruptcy had anything to do with this since the money wasn’t coming from Gen Con directly.
But I digress… it’s clear there was a misunderstanding here. I am not so much emotional about this as I am confused by it. It’s an unfortunate event.
If Gen Con was actually seeking a charity to endorse the event, then that’s just silly. Either way, as I said in my original post:
“Perhaps this is much ado about nothing, but I canâ€™t help but think that starving children are the victims of this corporate nonsense. “
Lots of things happen that cause charities to lose out on money. Perhaps it was the bankruptcy, perhaps it was that CCF did not want to lend their name and logo to an event in the manner that it was initially presented to them, perhaps some lunatic escaped from an insane asylum and sneaked into CCF headquarters and decided to answer a phone call that day. We’ll probably never know, and they don’t have to tell us either. That’s their business and we can all decide to give our money to some other charity if we don’t like how they have reacted.
Now as for different stories coming out of CCF, well that happens at large organizations when out of nowhere they suddenly find themselves bombarded by a bunch of angry gamers demanding answers to a problem that they didn’t even know existed. Hell, I’ve seen small organizations get confused when suddenly attacked/pushed into the public spotlight for negative reasons. That is why so many companies have a “all press communications go through X” type policies. Was Cheri Dahl authorized to make a statement? Usually VPs aren’t unless they are part of the Marketing or PR departments. I know of organizations where the board has the CEO restricted from making comments about particular matter.
My point is cut them some slack. That VP may not have had the right story either. Large international organizations run into that all of the time.
Now as for the starving children, well I think gamers are trying to justify their unfounded attacks by claiming to be concerned with starving children not getting the $17K.
I don’t see many gamers making their number one priority here to be the feeding of starving children. I see them Christian bashing because they want to take a shot at a group, actually a small minority within that group, that has bashed them in the past. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
If we as gamers are so concerned about CCF not being able to help starving children I have the answer for that one – let’s contact CCF and put our money where our mouths are. Let us approach them and ask that they give us their requirements to endorse a charitable event where all of the proceeds will go to them. Unlike Gen Con we won’t have a deadline to keep, and so we can plan everything out clearly from the beginning. Then we can all know for sure if CCF accepts donations from the gaming community, and we can all feel better knowing that children received our money.
We can have as a requirement of our own that all of the money will be raised by having individual gaming groups pledge to give $1 per person for every hour of D&D that they play on a designated weekend. We’ll let CCF know all of the details as to how we plan to raise the funds. If the gaming community is serious about starving children being helped by the CCF, then I am more than happy to lead the charge on this and contact them to get the ball rolling. I’ll host a forum on my own site dedicated to the event in hopes of raising money for those starving children.
Email me at email@example.com if you are interested.
Now who’s emotional? 🙂 I don’t doubt that the CCF will accept money from D&D players. I was more concerned that whatever process took place failed and it only hurt those they seek to benefit.
I do think that the gaming community at large probably perceived this as a Christians vs. Gamers. I don’t think it’s necessary to “prove” anything since the truth behind any matter on the Internet is always bound to be different than what’s presented at first.
Do people make mistakes. Of course. I am not saying to boycott them or that they aren’t a good charity. In any case, pressing this here isn’t yielding anything new.
So, let’s talk about your idea. I like it. It’s a good way to put all this nonsense behind us. I don’t have the time to manage such an effort, but I am willing to 100% participate and promote it. I’ll shoot you an email tomorrow.
Thank you. I look forward to seeing this take shape.
That’s one person. I’m contacting CCF now for their guidelines on contributions and fundraisers.
Who else will help with this? We’ll need to plan, promote, and run the event. This will take a great deal of effort on all of our parts. My biggest concern is the collection of funds. We’ll need to verify that all donations are received, and that people who make a donation can rest assured that their donation made it to CCF. The best method is to see if we can get a donation code of some sort, so that there is no middle man.
I’ll be creating a forum for this at http://www.youmeetinatavern.com so that we can organize our efforts better once I hear back from CCF.
PS CCF has packages for bringing games and educational materials to poor children. That seems like a good match to me, so perhaps some of the money raised can go to that as well.
It’s purely rumor, and I can’t even find where I saw it first, but I have heard that Gen Con and CCF are already working towards making CCF the official charity of Gen Con 2009.
I also heard that they’re planning to serve free crow at the events… 😛
I fail to see where anyone needs to go back and “correct” anything. It’s still very unclear why CCF rejected Gen Con’s proposed plan in the first place. The $17k didn’t exist at the time, but it certainly came to pass. I hear varying stories here:
1. It’s the Gen Con bankruptcy (this came out kinda late in the explanations)
2. We don’t do endorsements. Well, they didn’t say they don’t do them, just that they have “standards” this didn’t fit. With that kind of evasive statement, is it a wonder people are concerned? What standards exactly?
3. “Before we could reach consensus.” So… Did they say no, or did they say they were thinking about it?
When the same organization gives a bunch of confusing, contradictory reasons, I think it’s natural for people to suspect there’s something shady going on.
1) I’ve never seen any statement from CCF that it was the bankruptcy. Is there an official statement from CCF citing the bankruptcy? I suspect that Gen Con’s bankruptcy had something to do with their decision, but that is common with any deal where one of the parties is involved in Chapter 11 proceedings.
2) They did not make any evasive statement. They said that they don’t just lend their logo out to anyone for a donation. That is a pretty standard practice amongst charities.
3) The deal fell through for some reason. Happens all of the time in business and when dealing with non-profits.
As for an organization giving confusing and contradictory reasons, and I have only seen one official statement from CCF, well I’ve had the same experience with Gen Con. That happens often in business, and I’ve had it happen to myself. Sometimes when you make a statement to the legitimate press they fail to get the quote right.
I wrote an email to the Gen Con staff regarding this matter. The word used to describe what was going on was “haters” and they weren’t referring to CCF. They were referring to the gamers bashing CCF.
That is what makes me so upset about this. Gen Con has made it clear that this was just a misunderstanding and that was it. Yet no one seems to be listening to that. They just want to talk about how there must be something fishy going on here.
So we have a small conspiracy theory going on that CCF must have some reason not to deal with Gen Con and/or D&D. Yet there is no evidence, and both parties have released statements saying that this was just a misunderstanding.
There is a lot of research done on why people create and support conspiracy theories. From what I have read on the matter it comes down to this – we can’t accept that as advance as we are with our technology and our society in general that bad things still happen due to randomness and simple errors. Despite all the effort we put into controlling our world bad things still happen.
This was a misunderstanding. It was a simple error. Nothing more. Let’s stop flinging mud at a charity just because we can’t accept that which even Gen Con (the supposed victim) is telling us is true.