Immediately following the announcement of Microsoft’s Xbox One, many gamers were up in arms about the new system’s always-on Internet requirement and resistance to used games. At E3, the Playstation 4 seemed to pull ahead specifically because of the absence of these features. Even so, it was still surprising when yesterday, Don Mattrick, president of interactive entertainment business at Microsoft, released a statement announcing that the Xbox One would drop its 24-hour Internet connection and retain the use of hard-copy game discs.

Of course, this is familiar territory; consider Bioware’s agreement to expand Mass Effect 3‘s ending or EA’s mea culpa in response to the disastrous SimCity launch. But few such decisions have been so high-profile or far-reaching as this: a complete reversal on not just a game, but a whole next-gen system, from one of the biggest names in the business.

Still, corporate apologies are nothing new, even if they seem to be becoming increasingly more frequent. Only a few months back, J.C. Penny’s primary advertising strategy involved apologizing for their attempts to change their brand in ways that alienated loyal customers. For the time being, the strategy seems to have worked—but J.C. Penny’s older, middle-class customer base is likely a lot less irascible than the gaming industry’s ever-churning rage-machine. With so much at stake in terms of time, loyalty, and monetary investment, many consumers who have cash to sustain a console gaming hobby feel that they have the right to shape the hardware that facilitates that hobby.

As one might expect, then, reactions to the announcement run the gambit of civility. Of course, pretty much everybody is excited about the change (with a few exceptions); some, however, are lauding Microsoft for their attention to consumers’ concerns, while others are disappointed that they even tried to push exclusively digital content in the first place. The range of response to this news raises an important question for Christian gamers in particular: How should we receive an apology when it issues not from an individual, but from a corporation?

Of course, we know of Christ’s exchange with Peter in Matthew 18:

Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

And we’re probably familiar with Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

But, we might argue, these are different circumstances—Christ and Paul are talking about individuals, people who have souls, whose feelings can be hurt, whose dignity as image-bearers can be diminished by our refusal to meet their apologies with grace and their repentances with hopefulness. Corporations, on the other hand, are soulless, heartless entities motivated purely by profit. Even when they apologize, it’s all for money’s sake, right?

In light of this apparent tension, here are three things that we might consider when we receive news like Microsoft’s announcement:

  1. Corporations aren’t people, but people comprise them. Microsoft may not be my neighbor; but Don Mattrick is and so are the rest of the employees and executives at Microsoft. When they take the initiative to apologize for bad decisions, even if it is through a corporate medium, I ought to respond as I would to my neighbor: namely, with love and grace.
  2. Entitlement is toxic to the soul. If I disagree with the Microsoft’s development strategy, that’s one thing; if I feel that it violates my inherent rights as a gamer, that’s another thing entirely. If my personhood feels violated by a company’s attempt to change the landscape of my hobby, it may be a good time to step back and consider whether or not that hobby has become something more idolatrous.
  3. Forgiveness is about giving grace, not just sincerity. In other words, forgiveness exists just as much for the spiritual health of the forgive-er as for that of the forgive-ee. Thus, whether an apology comes from an individual or a corporation, whether it is humane and sincere or simply part of a PR initiative, my primary concern needs to be my heart, not theirs. When we forgive, we remind ourselves of our own lowliness, of the great Forgiver who accepts our repentances, no matter how colossal our screw-ups.

What do you think? How should we receive corporate mea culpa‘s like Microsoft’s?

1 Comment

  1. Agree, but we also need to remember that forgiveness is a two way street. It not only bestows grace on the receiver, but also on the giver.

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