Thursday, November 5, 2009

A different perspective on WoW charity

This post is probably going to be a little bit controversial. I tell you right from the beginning, so it won't come as a shock to you. Not Very Controversial, but controversial enough to make a few of the readers annoyed or at least a little bit disappointed, since they don't share my views. But I wan't honesty in my inn. I won't settle with anything else.

I'm going to talk about charity.

Once again there are a couple of fundraising events going on in the blogosphere. Wow-insider says it’s "because of the time of the year", but to be honest, I think there’s some stuff like this going on more or less all year round. Wow players are asked to support everything from cancer research to homeless animals.

I can’t help wondering about the reasons for it. Are gamers a good target audience, more goodhearted and generous donors than others? Or maybe we’re more prone to suffer from bad consciousness, thinking about all the time and money we waste on our socially not totally accepted hobby? Perhaps we have some secret hope that we can feel a bit better about ourselves if we support a good cause?

Probably it's neither. Probably it's just a cultural thing. The blogosphere is pretty much US dominated, and over there they have a long tradition of charity, where people support different phenomena in society through donations, rather than doing it as we do in Europe, by paying higher taxes. So all those charity things that stick out in my Swedish eyes are just an everyday thing for the US bloggers. You have it all around you, all the time, wherever you turn in your life.

Some explanations
As you might have noticed, you won't find any ads or announcements about those things at The Pink Pigtail Inn. How come? Don’t gnomes recognize a good cause? Has your innkeeper been influenced by a certain goblin? Do I think that welfare is the root of all evil?

As time goes by and I see those voices, hands and pink colored things on every single blog on my roll, I feel more and more apart as I'm refusing to join the choir. It's time for some explanations.

No. I'm not opposed to charity. I earn well enough to put aside a percentage of my own income to causes which I think helps to make the world to a little better place than it else would have been. As I decided to do this, many years ago, I realized that there are endless of alternatives. You can save gorillas, you can support the fight for cure against certain diseases, you can help abused children or prevent an environmental disaster. My choice fell on two organizations which I think do a great and important job, Doctors without borders and SOS Children's Villages. I support both of those as monthly donor. This means that they are granted a long-term support which doesn't require them to put a huge chunk of their income on marketing. They can trust on me being there for them, not only for a one-time-only event, but month after month, year after year. And I know that this kind of support is important for their longterm existence.

The benefit of this for me on the other hand is that I don't see any reason to bother much about all the other charity things that come in my way. It's easy to say no to organizations which call me on the phone, stop me in the streets - or approach me through blogs, asking me for money. I know that I'm already contributing.

Freedom of choice
Do I advocate that you should help the same organizations as I do? Absolutely not! I think the readers of the PPI are fully capable of making their own choices in those matters. As I said, there are tons of good causes to support out there and I have no reason to try to talk someone out of rescuing the whales in order to sponsor daring field medics instead. Your wallet is limited and it's really up to you how you want to use it. Maybe you even have good reasons for not supporting anything at all. Maybe you've got problems even to finance your own living? Maybe you even think that charity is the wrong way to go and that you should rather help out by other means, the political way for instance. Who am I to argue about that? It's your life, your decisions.

WoW as an escape
And last, but not least: I don't want too much of the world problems intervening with my existence in Azeroth. All day long I have my hands full trying to balance job, family, worrying about the state of my life, my mother, kids, the state of the world, where am I heading, where are we heading, what is it all about? You know. Real Life Stuff. The things that wears us down.

Yeah, I admit it, I say it aloud and I refuse to feel ashamed. When I log into WoW at night or when I spend time reading and writing blog posts, it is an escape for me. It's a fantasy world, my own little corner, where I can be merry, free of burdens, free of duties, just playing like a child. In the game. On my blog.

There is another part of my life where I DO worry about suffering children and women. But I don't bring it into this inn. If other bloggers want to participate, I don't mind (although I honestly think it becomes a bit repetitive when EVERY blogger and podcaster participates in the marketing, not once, but over and over again).

But I won't do it. Apart from this post, PPI will remain a charity free zone.

Please forgive me.

yours sincerely

Larísa

PS Someone may have noticed that PPI is a member of Azeroth United, which indeed promotes charity events. I had no idea that this was the main purpose when I joined the network. If I'd known it would have been more honest not to join. I'm a crap member, who won't actively take part in the fundrasing, for the reasons stated above.

25 comments:

Magma said...

Makes sense to me. Didn't seem controversial either. With anything, It's your life and money to do with what you please.

Elnia said...

LOL. You should see how Blizzard is getting hammered on the charity aspect of the new pet store. I think more people agree with you than you realize.

Rhii said...

I think you've got a point with your Europe-vs-US approach too. The WoW and charities link never was too apparent to me, mostly because I don't see more WoW-related charity events than I do for any other sort of charity events.

Last year my office had a drive to convince us all to donate a percentage of our paychecks off the top. They had over 90% participation rate in the program. Mostly because they didn't present it as an optional program, they presented it as "one of those programs which sounds optional but is really required if you know what's good for you." We also had a company sponsored breast cancer walk, and a mandatory community service day where we volunteered at places like Habitat for Humanity and local soup kitchens.

Most of us grumble and groan because it's often rammed down your throat, especially as a student or entry level employee. Charity isn't meant to be forced upon you, it's contrary to the definition... so it's kind of nice to be able to participate voluntarily. Since many WoW players are in that demographic, I imagine lots of us feel that way. I know I am sort of at a place where I've been asked to give to this and that, more or less involuntarily for most of my life, and it's a nice thing to be able to say "this cause matters to me, and I choose to support it."

Syrana said...

It's definitely your choice and I don't think anyone who is participating thinks negatively of those that do not choose to. I think it is great that you have 2 organizations that you give to on a regular basis.

I have a few that I try to give to yearly around where I live and daily I work with people that frequently benefit from the giving of others... people who are trying to rebuild their lives.

Personally, I am very much in support of Child's Play because it's an organization I can identify with and have given to previously.

You might be on to something regarding the cultural difference, as I really don't know how charity drives and whatnot look or handled in other countries. I do know that even at work we're constantly seeing information for a wide variety of charitable organizations.

Along those lines, it is sorta nice to see so many gamers unite to do something positive... especially when the the non-gaming public thinks we're all a bunch of basement dwelling no-lifers based on a few news stories. Is that my reason for doing it though? No. But your question reminded me of high school where they constantly urged students to participate in volunteering and such because people perceived us all as being up to no good all the time. :P

Although there are a lot of bloggers and podcasters participating in the drive, I don't think we're trying to come across as knocking on everyone's virtual door asking for donations.

Even with my twitter campaign, that's not asking people to donate themselves (unless they want, of course), but more like a pledge concept - the tweets that blame me for stuff brings up the count of how much *I* am going to donate to the drive. (Similar to pledging money per pins bowled or per mile walked... just I'm not collecting from anyone but myself...well and now 2 other bloggers that offered to "sponsor" the blame tweets as well.)

As for the repetition, it all depends on who you follow, read, and listen to. Not all of our audiences overlap... so some people might feel like every post in their reader is about these events, and others might only see a couple.

Lance said...

I agree 100% with your post. I play WoW to save Azeroth and do not think much about it. To escape from the real world.

However for various reasons I accept that people want to go that way. I personally do not mind, I am just ignoring it.

My real life is different nonetheless and charities - particularly related to children - are of a special importance to me.

After all, we may have a virtual escape from real life; some unfortunately do not...

Miss Medicina said...

I think you nailed it right on the head Larisa, and I think it is a cultural thing. For one, over here in the states, everything is marketed out the wazoo - so charities do what makes sense to them for publicity - market.

Another aspect of it is the relationship between any kind of community and charities in the states (I can't speak to how it is in Sweden). Anytime you have a group of people who share a similar interest, and thus a community, one of the best ways to promote your community is to promote a cause.

If you want something you do to seem less smarmy, just tag a charity onto it. It's good PR. After all, people can't claim that Blizz is selling out by selling in game vanity pets if half the proceeds for one of them goes to charity... right?

Personally, I'm quite fond of sitting in your Inn and not being barraged with folks asking for my money. Not that I mind giving it in general or on principle, but every now and then I want a place I can relax without requests for money.

For you, that place should be Azeroth. For me, it's the Pink Pigtail Inn within Azeroth :)

Azryu said...

I do not believe immersion in the game and having that place of escape and supporting WoW/Gaming related charities have to be exclusive of eachother.

I think everyone has their own perogitive, everyone holds certain topics to be more dear then others, and perhaps thats why we choose to support the ones we do.

But that is a non-issue- it is completely and wholelly fine that you want the Ping Pigtail in to have a "No Soliciting" sign on the door. Your blog, as you put it, is a large part of your escape, and by broadcasting things that subtract from that would do nothing good for the Inn, because then it would become something you'd need an escape from.

I myself don't blog that often on mine, as I have time divided by my old faithful WoW, and my love affair with Aion. I do have the Azeroth United button on the side, along with a few others, but I don't post every night about my undying and relenetless assult on the non-donating readership (Lol, as if I had a readership). I have it there so that it might do good, but I dont have it in my posts because I am helping in other ways.

All this said, I must ask how the food is. You have a bar at the PPI, but what about a grill?

Kromus said...

This post is perfect timing considering what Blizzard have just done with the pets lmao.

But in fairness, I know a lot of people who would of bought them regardless of the charity side, so its good that Blizzard are doing that, because at the end of the day it wouldn't of taken them that long to design those pets, as cool as they are.

I support the make-a-wish foundation and whatever I feel like I should. Normally I give money to children charitys as we're winners everyday in the fact that we at least wake up.

At the same time- I hate guilt trips, and I hate Oxfam adverts, its not our fault- yeah we could donate money, but the government holds the ultimate key.

Kromus said...

oh an forget to add I'm sure you remember me posting up pictures of me dressed as superman and going down London on the Adrenaline forums,. right?

I think I do my fair share embarrasing myself like that! lmao! Was fun though, just not the tightness of the suit. :c

gnomeaggedon said...

All good Larisa.

I promote them purely because there may be some that want to give to something, just haven't found that thing.

I too give on a monthly basis to a couple of charities, and would consider going without luxuries rather than letting that support fade.

I also dislike it when tins are rattled in my face... worse when the hovering workmate arrives at my desk...

I also have the compulsory volunteer events at work.

Ultimately it's my life so I pick and choose those that I go further with, and those are rare as I don't want to risk the ones I already support.

For me, throwing a banner or a freebie towards the cause is all fine and I will never think less of anyone that hits the delete post button before reading to the end.

The Rokk said...

I don't think it's a matter of "gamers being a good target audience" as far as charity goes. I think it's more like "there's 11 million people playing this game, some of them have to bite on the charity hook." Maybe's it's a disposable income thing too - they're playing the game, they've got money to spend.

First and foremost, this is a game. No one should feel obligated to donate to charity - be it for the knowledge that you're helping out in some way, or for those nifty in-game pets - just because they're a part of the community. It's an optional thing, and I would hope that people are not shunned for exercising that choice.

Mister K said...

Great Post, I never really thought about all the charity promotion like that but as a US blogger I guess it is just a common occurance and is kind of ingrained into the day-to-day.

Anonymous said...

Meh, take a look at Ebay and how much folks are dishing out for a variety of pets via loot cards (some only about $20 but some as much as $1,000!

Good point to ponder, though.

Larísa said...

@Magma: maybe I'm overestimating the controversy in not taking part in the fundraising activities in the blogosphere.

@Elnia: well, actually this post was written before the pet-charity thing came up. What a coincidence... But yeah, I'm really not a friend of that kind of charity where a little part of the income goes to the cause and the rest is profit for the company. Better give the donations directly to the organizations imo. And keep it out of WoW.

@Rhii: what a nightmare to have it forced down in your throat like that. Never ever heard of that approach before. The cultural differences must be even bigger than I had imagined.

@Syrana: yeah, my feeling of being drenched in the same message from all directions maybe just is a sign of my overconsumption of blogs and podcasts. :)

@Lance: yeah, I'm fortunate to have this escape. And therefore I want it to remain a place where I can load my batteries without feeling any obligations to good causes and such. I put on a filter and try to ignore most of those charity things.

@Miss Medicina: Actually I don't think the charity thing justifies Blizzard's sell-out. But I guess it doesn't quite belong to this thread. And yeah, working in PR I know about the benefits of showing social responsibility, building your ethos... It's just that... I want the WoW community be not so polished. More crude, natural, free from such things. I'm probably a bit naïve... I'm glad anyway that you feel that you can relax here. It's exactly what I want it to be. I'll keep it this way. Ad free. Charity free. It's a promise.

@Azryu: Grill? That might be an idea... I've always imagined that we basically mostly served traditional pub food. Any suggestions of what you'd like to see on the menu?

@Kromus: your dress-up for charity was just awesome Kromus and you were so sweet in your suit. I say it again: I don't mind charity. But I don't necessarily want to bring it into my WoW existence, I can engage into such things in real life.

@gnomeaggedon: "compulsory volunteer events at work"? Eeek. So you have that stuff in Australia as well? When volunteering becomes compulsory something has gone very wrong.

@The Rokk: I doubt that WoW players in general are that well off tbh. For instance I read about Guild Mum, a dedicated pet collector, who now can't afford the new pet, since she can't even buy cloths to her kids. I think many WoW players play WoW even though they barely can afford it, since it after all gives so much entertainment for the invested money. They probably try to cut down on other things. Would be interesting to see a real investigation about it though. I guess Blizzard have quite a lot of market information about the players, but not anything they're willing to share...

@Mister K: thanks. I just wanted to share my perspective. It seems as if I managed to do it without threading on too many toes. Hopefully. Unless the silent mass in fact is very angry with me. I'll never know that.

@Anonymous: well, those players could certainly afford to donate some money to charity. Still I don't want to point it out on my blog. They are probably very well aware of different available charity options anyway. It's up to them to give or not.

Hinenuitepo said...

Well, I think you were far too nice to be truly controversial, Larisa!

I think you said it correctly, though.

It's ok if others have a cause that's dear to them to promote, but seeing too much of that can be tiresome. I do contribute to causes that are important to me as well.

On the other hand, I really don't mind seeing it from a few of my favorite bloggers when it's done tactfully. Heck, even one of my very favorite bloggers of all time, Daniel of BRK fame posted in support of a wow fundraiser effort on his new non-wow blog.

But if you choose to not post a charity link or even to particpate in it yourself, I think that's perfectly fine!

Ophelie said...

I put a link to the Child's Charity on my blog (and quietly donated a small amount) because as a gamer and as a health sciences student, it's a cause I identify with.

It's not possible to donate to every charity out there so it only makes sense to pick a favorite or two. I actually usually prefer to donate my time and volunteer than just give money. When I'm seeing people face to face, I feel like I'm making more of a difference than if I just put money in an envelope and dump it in the mail.

spinksville said...

Ophelie: I'm a big fan of volunteering. I know I've got a lot out of doing it myself (not just a sense of satisfaction but also useful skills and meeting some very cool people.)

I think you're right about the Europe vs US thing, larissa. 'click here to donate' feels awkward to me, even though I give money to a charity every month too.

I've been chatting to some other bloggers about a charity drive and came up against the same wall that you did, you can see how I coped with it next monday. The tension is because I support what they're doing, but I want to maintain my integrity and not do anything that makes me feel uncomfortable on my blog.

Rob Coulstock said...

I tend to ignore anything that isn't content on blogs so advertising of any sort, charity or otherwise, kind of gets filtered by my internal popup blocker. Having said that I never really noticed PPI not having any advertising until I read this article, at which point I thought - yeah, it is sort of nice and clean isn't it :)

Tesh said...

I have two thoughts on this:

First is the "widow's mite" principle. As Rhii notes, it's not really charity if you're not choosing to do it of your own free will. I take it further, and suggest that it's not truly charity if you don't sacrifice to give, and if you don't do it quietly without looking for attention.

Second is the mentality of carbon offsets and medieval "indulgences". It's an easy out for those who have money; give some cash to some organization and pat yourself on the back that you're doing your part for "charity". It's very compartmentalized and convenient; mark a certain percentage off the top and forget about it, content to believe that it's doing good somewhere.

In and of itself, that's not really a bad thing, since most charities do really help people, but it's not really charity, either. Charity is as much, if not more, for the giver, not the receiver. "Charity is the pure love of Christ"; it's a way of life, not a tax deduction.

Anonymous said...

Larisa,

I was totally going to just comment, but, alas, your blog has recently been blocked at my work (I now mostly follow the feed it seems). So, since I know as a fellow blogger that feedback, any feedback, is greatly appreciated even if it's in crazy gmail... I figured I'd drop you a line because I think I have some relevant thoughts that you may or may not find interestings. Here goes...

The bartender, Ms. Elnia wrote a few days ago about the "heart of Catholic self-identity". I wondered at the time if she was, in fact, a fellow Catholic, or if she were just presenting research. I'm guessing she's Catholic, as am I. One of the things she might be able to tell you about Catholics (if you're not one yourself or don't already know) is that we're ecouraged, if not required, by our faith to give 10% of our net income away. 5% should be to the church in the weekly collection, and the remaining 5% should be split amongst various things. Normallly 3% is earmarked for church capital campaigns, leaving you with the reamining 2% to donate to "supported" charities. At least, that's what a knowledgeable priest might tell you if you asked him to break it down. The reality is that Catholics do plenty of different things on their own, despite the rigid sounding nature of the "rules".

My point here is that I was completely in your boat until recently. That is to say, I pretty much refused to write about anything charitable. Being Catholic, I already attempt to give quite a bit (though I'm sure I fall short of the 10% goal because I'm human and flawed and like computers which are expensive). Thus, I, too, do not feel *too* bad when ignoring or turning down a myriad of charitable drives. After all, I do my part. I do it quietly and without fanfare, for it's what's expected of me. In fact, deep down, I don't really want recognition at all because I could always tighten my belt and give more. Ergo, I just quietly go about my business and don't push any charity things.

Recently, what with the outpouring that you mentioned, I, too, felt a bit left out. I mean, everyone else is throwing out all these cool events and stuff like it's a big deal and here I am in some sort of self-imposed sancturay of pride or benevolence or who-knows-what. So I sort of changed my stance. I decided I would actually mention some things and join in. I don't plan to give a lot of money, but I don't want to be left out either. Thus, and perhaps you have noticed, I've written a few things lately regarding charitable events. Now, I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to say and decided it was "safe" for me to write about these events with the understanding that I'm not doing them for the "cause"; I'm doing them because they're FUN.

In each of the cases that I've written about charity events, I've tried not to push the "donation" part on people, but rather tried to highlight the "fun" part of it. In my mind, it's a great thing to have fun and join in the community, but it doesn't mean I have to give money or even talk about money. Like you said, I like to leave money out of my fatansy adventures. (Though I did sort of break this rule when I offered to foot the bill for some of the #iblamesyrana tweets... I tried not to focus on that part of it but on the humorous/community part. We've been doing those tweets for some time just because they're funny. The fact that we're putting some money in is really incidental in my opinion since I'd do it anyways. Still, it's iffy and I realize it, but hey, we're all allowed to do random things randomly, right?).

to be continued

Anonymous said...

continuation:

I guess my urge to write you is two-fold. First, it's to say I completely understand where you're coming from and wage a similar battle within my own mind my about this issue. Not that it's that big of a struggle, since I think you and I are both comfortable in what we do and for whom we do it, but that sometimes it sucks to feel left out or misunderstood. Second, I wanted to point out that, should you desire, you could always talk about the fun involved in, say, running around in pink shirts, while completely ignoring the money aspect. I guess that depends on what you feel you want to do, and what you feel is fun. For Fuu and I, we've wanted to roll level 1's and run around with a ridiculous group of gamers for a while now. You know, bring a server to it's knees and all that jazz. It's an experience!

I think I've read you long enough now to know that you probably have a similar viewpoint here... that you wouldn't miss an experience or needlessly wall yourself out of something just because of a silly donation button, so I hope you take this comment more as just a shared commiseration or a *high five* than anything else. :-)

In short, keep up the good work and know that there's at least one blogger out there who doesn't think anything about your article speaks of evil. However, he is a warlock, so you may have to take that with a grain of salt.

-Fulguralis

(PS - Feel free to relate this comment as you see fit. As I said, I would have tried to post it publically had I not been blocked... though after seeing the length of my musings... maybe email is a better place!)


/edit: too good letter to be kept a secret! Hence posted by Larísa

Carra said...

It reminds me of tobolds post on the charity pet: "The $5 to charity deal (limited time offer, and only valid for one of the two pets) is a scam. If you disagree, I have an offer for you: Send me $10, and I promise to send $5 of it to charity." which I think is spot on.

Personally I don't feel like doing charity as I already pay more then enough charity. I'm paying close to 50% taxes which are used to help my fellow men by building hospitals, offering education, offering money for those without a job, offering money for the disabled,... And a part of that tax money even goes to third world countries.

Pierre Goldbloom said...

I think I agree.

While charity is all well and good, using it as a platform to gain cheap marketing for your blog or site isn't really the most honest of techniques. Some people are genuinely altruistic, but a lot are not. Any charity is good but if the reasons behind that charity may not be as good - especially when it breaks the barrier between RL and WoW/blogging.

Nibuca said...

To clear up on misconception.. AzerothUnited is established to be a cross-media community of people who are passionate about the World of Warcraft.

We, the founders, decided to strike a strong note as our first act as a "community" and to sponsor a charity for Child's Play (a charity some of us have been associated with in the past). When the HHV Charity event ends, AzerothUnited will continue. We're hoping that we can facilitate RL meetups and (my personal project) is prepping the community for contributions to a "Speaker Series" (more details coming as I figure them out).

Nibuca
http://chicanery.fibergeek.com/

Larísa said...

@Nibuca: that's great to hear. Looking forward to see what AU will come up with next, once the charity drive is done!