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Gamers Who Give: Charity in Games
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Extra Life Charity

In case you haven’t heard, there’s a pretty awesome charity initiative that’s set for this weekend. The Extra Life charity gaming marathon will take place on Saturday October 20th. Gamers will test their endurance during a 24 hour gaming marathon from 8am on Saturday October 20th to 8am Sunday October 21st. Donations are accepted (typically, at a rate of $1 per hour, or $24 per donation) to sponsor participants. Money raised goes to local children’s hospitals in the Children’s Miracle Network.

DISCLAIMER (shameless plug): I’m taking part in the activities and have already surpassed my modest $100 goal. If you’re interested in donating to my efforts, you can do so on my page here.


Charity in Games

With all the buzz around this event, I got to thinking about the amount of times I see charity-related special events in the game industry. Likewise, it seems many other industries in which my friends work don’t have such events as often or on the same scale. Sure, many local businesses regularly make donations or have fundraising drives for organizations like the United Way, Red Cross, etc. – but only those in the game community seem to open their wallets so wide and so often when they do.

Many of the fundraising activities happen with the participation in part by Child’s Play. The organization, founded by popular gaming comic website Penny Arcade, has raised more than $12 million dollars for children’s hospitals since its founding in 2003.

Steam Greenlight, the community-driven platform we are so keen on here at Snowed In, requires a $100 donation to Child’s Play in order to list your game on the service.

A few times per year, the Humble Indie Game Bundle appears for sale, offering a great collection of indie games under a pay-what-you-want model, with money going partially to: developers, Child’s Play (and/or other charities) and the Humble Bundle organizers themselves (plus, you get to the decide the split). Past bundles have included such hits as Super Meat Boy, Bastion, Sword & Sworcery, Dustforce, etc. Past bundles have raised between $1-$5MM, though it’s not immediately obvious how much of that goes to which of the groups mentioned above.

There are also special events such as Gamers Heart Japan – which helped raise funds to aid the victims of the 2011 Japan earthquake/tsunami. Special charities like this often pop up following natural disasters or other such events and gamers are always quick and willing to donate.

Why Gamers?

So my question becomes, why are gamers so charitable? Is it because many of the charity initiatives benefit sick children? Does that invoke an implicit need to help those less fortunate to experience the joy of video games many current gamers experienced at that age? Perhaps the oddest question of all, coming from those who sometimes only begrudgingly pay for things like DLC or In-App Purchases, why are they so quick to spend the same amount (or more) for charity?

It seems to me a huge part of what makes this so is that fundraising efforts and playing games blend almost seamlessly in all the events and activities I see. For example, the Humble Bundle: get some awesome games at an awesome price and hey, donate a few bucks to charity while you’re at it. Get enough people to do it (usually six figure numbers) and the results take care of themselves. Extra Life? What if I told you, you could be encouraged to play games for 24 hours straight? All you have to do is raise some money for charity.

Of course, this is comparison to other industries I’ve worked in – where the divide between giving and everyday activities is far more obvious. Drives happened mostly during the holiday season, when people are perhaps “more in the gift-giving mood”. Initiatives were as simple as asking employees how much they wanted deducted off their pay cheque to donate to charity – really, not much else. As you can probably understand, the intrinsic value of doing so was very low, if not non-existent.

It’s a topic that continues to make me think, but a question I can perhaps live with not understanding for now. In the end, it’s really the giving that matters, and knowing that you can make a difference, no matter how small the contribution.