Microsoft Wants You to Vote Which Children's Hospitals Will Be Denied the Ultimate Gameroom

Microsoft's "Ultimate Gameroom Giveaway" is charity turned into a gimmick as voters decide which Children's hospitals receive prize packages. I'm all for charity, but was it really necessary to guarantee a let down for kids in the 167 "losing" hospitals?

The three hospitals to receive an Ultimate Gameroom through Microsoft's partnership with the Children's Miracle Network are chosen by a very public popular vote. Not a random raffle, not a secret vote, but a public popular vote with results regularly updating on the CMN's website.

As I'm writing this, there is an eight-way tie for last place, with each hospital having one measly vote. The hospitals currently in the top three have a lead of several thousand votes over the rest, but that can and probably will change quickly. How will those kids feel when they miss out on the gamerooms after thinking they could win? How do the kids at the hospitals with barely any votes feel? While I'm sure that all the kids at the winning hospitals (or at least those who enjoy Xbox-based games) will be as giddy as can be, charity isn't about making 167 hospitals full of kids feel like losers in the process.

Microsoft Wants You to Vote Which Children's Hospitals Will Be Denied the Ultimate Gameroom

Looking at the premise of the giveaway, it's like Christmas gone oh-so-very wrong: They'll give some Children's hospitals about ten thousand dollars worth of equipment which could include several 42" Plasma TVs, a pair of Xbox consoles, some Zunes, four computers, oodles of games, and associated furniture. Microsoft is even throwing in delivery, installation, and "reasonable labor," while the hospitals cover any construction costs. Pretty fair. Except that the world is voting on where Saint Microsoft will bring Xboxes.

I truly hope this is just a one-time bad decision, especially since Microsoft is normally rather good about charities, this one included. They've helped raise $1.3 million of the incredible $3.2 billion total which the Children's Miracle Network has raised for Children's hospitals around the world. Microsoft has also contributed an Xbox kiosk to each of the 170 hospitals in the Network and been an all-around great partner to the CMN. It's truly sad that they've chucked away any milligram of character with the Ultimate Gameroom Giveaway. This vile competition is on the level of tearing a teddy bear out of a child's arms and then ripping it apart into a pile of fuzzy remains on the spot.

It's almost sad the mess probably started with good intentions. Perhaps someone truly struggled to find a way to cajole his or her boss into approving giving away $30,000 in equipment. Maybe turning it into a marketing scheme was the only way to cover or justify the expense, but if that's the case then I'm even more disappointed. Microsoft has spent hundreds of millions on individual ad campaigns, some of which barely made sense and were ridiculed, while this act of charity had the potential for a lot of positive publicity. And even if Microsoft went as far as outfitting each of the 170 hospitals with the same Ultimate Gameroom, it would've cost them a measly $1.7 million total. That's a lot to you and I, but to Microsoft that's .6%, point freakin' six percent, of the cost of a single ad campaign.

That perspective aside, no one is demanding that Microsoft give away $1.7 million. Charity is charity, and it is wonderful that they're giving as much as they are. But they're toying with the hopes of children at 170 hospitals and frankly, I would really love to find whoever decided on this messed up vote-based competition approach and tear any Birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Summer Solstice, and un-freakin'-Birthday gift right out of his or her cruel, little claws. If you're going to contribute to a charity, especially a children's charity, you shouldn't turn it into a game with winners and losers.

Click to viewEven without spending more than $30,000, this situation could've been handled differently. I understand that some sort of public announcement is needed in order to justify the spending, so I don't really expect Microsoft to just quietly pick a few hospitals for these donations. But the money could've been used for a smaller campaign encouraging others to give. Or if someone's really stuck on having a public vote then choose the hospitals without a spectacle and keep the rankings hidden. Those kids have enough sadness in their lives and really don't need to be yanked back and forth while watching a ranking of just how much the public cares about them or their particular hospitals.

The Abridged Version for Those Strapped for Time:
I like charity. I personally donate both time and money to various causes and I encourage others to do the same. I applaud Microsoft for everything they've done in the past and continue to do. Hell, I'm even secretly a Microsoft-fangirl (but lets not go there, because this isn't about the company). What this rant is complaining about is the game-like approach taken with this particular donation.

Whether you agree or disagree with any or all of the points, or have thoughts on a better approach: The comments are here for a reason, so please let your opinions be known. If a few good ideas, a constructive discussion, or maybe a few extra donations come out of things then all the better. [Children's Miracle Network via TeamXBox]