The Hero Within – Charity in video games
Gaming has transcended from a mere hobby into a social phenomenon that bridges gaps between people, no matter where they live and who they are. Yet, there are still many unpleasant stereotypes about gamers: they are anti-social, they live unhealthy lives, and they behave inappropriately towards women and minorities. However, these statements are not exactly accurate. There is an increasingly popular movement in the gaming community that goes some way towards proving all these sentiments wrong: thousands of gamers play their games in order to raise donations for charitable projects. What motivates people to use their gaming skills for charity? What are the most successful projects? And how do they bring joy into the lives of others?
Charity in video games has many faces. There are lots of projects dedicated to very different purposes: some collect money for terminally ill children, others help people with disabilities enjoy video games just like anyone else and raise more funds for Doctors without Borders. It is truly fascinating how the world of video games and the problems of the real world are brought together in projects like these to make a difference. Fun and play meet rough reality, so to speak.
In the following sections, we want to introduce a number of projects that link video games to charity. Each one takes a different approach to helping people and making a positive impact on the lives of their beneficiaries.
AbleGamers: Inclusion through gaming
Play is a very important part of human nature. Take a minute and think about it: from children playing soccer in the streets, to teenagers on the basketball court, to grown men on the golf course, engaging in pastimes is essential to our lives and mental health. Some people, however, cannot engage as easily in such activities, due to impairments in their bodies. Video games in general are more accessible to people with physical impairments than traditional sporting activities, yet the devices that enable players to perceive and control virtual worlds are often bound by the limitations of the hardware.
Most standard devices used for gaming are produced for a very broad range of people. As a result of this they are not designed to accommodate the unique needs of people with disabilities. While advances in technology have made customization much easier in recent years, it is impossible to cover all needs and demands of people with disabilities since they differ from individual to individual.
AbleGamers is a project dedicated to enabling people with disabilities to experience video games just like anyone else by providing customized devices that fit the need of each individual gamer for free. Their range of products includes controllers that can be operated by mouth, eyes, or voice, special gaming set-ups that are tailored around the user’s body shape, or simple attachments to controllers and keyboard that give the player more control.
One of their beneficiaries, Steven Paschall, for example, lost control over his left hand and arm after a stroke. Through a streamer, he learned about AbleGamers and reached out to them. They would provide Steven with instructions on how to play with his mouth, send him a special controller and new games to play. In so doing, they were able to bring the joy of playing games back into his life.
AbleGamers is a completely non-commercial charity project that is kept running through donations. The main goal of this charity is to make video games accessible to anyone, no matter their bodily condition. In this regard, the project is unique and is a beacon of light for advancing inclusion.
Breaking records for charity
When it comes to charity and gaming, there is no way around Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ). The event gathers speed runners from all over the world for a weeklong marathon of games. The 2019 edition featured more than 130 games, with a viewer peak of 220,000 people tuning in simultaneously. Apart from running through their favorite games at lightning speed and breaking world records, the gamers gathered for a much more serious reason: they aimed to raise as much money as possible for the Prevent Cancer Foundation (PCF). After AGDQ’s conclusion, the players earned $2.4 million, donated by 45,000 different individuals and organizations.
The event takes place twice a year, and the amounts people donate over the week increase with each iteration. Since the first Games Done Quick in 2010, the semiannual marathon has amassed almost $20 million for charitable purposes. Next to PCF, Doctors Without Borders is one of the projects which has benefitted from AGDQ the most. A very special part of AGDQ is the involvement of the community. Not only are they donating large sums of money for people in need during the event, but they also spread messages of love and community through their donations as well as providing the event’s runners with fan made items to be auctioned off for even more money. AGDQ is the perfect merge of gaming culture and charity.
Friendly Fire – YouTube and Twitch stars team up for charity
Friendly Fire is a German charity stream featuring some of the country’s most popular and influential YouTube and Twitch stars such as Erik “Gronkh” Range and the PietSmiet crew. The event was held in 2015 for the first time. Ever since, Friendly Fire has become a staple in the German gaming community. In contrast to AGDQ, Friendly Fire is more about gaming casually and entertainment. Yet, the event has been able to successfully collect money for charitable causes year after year. Projects that benefitted from the pre-Christmassy stream include the German Cancer Aid and initiatives against racism and neo-Nazism among others.
Despite its restriction to the German-speaking regions, Friendly Fire’s reach and success are nothing short of remarkable: more than 100,000 people tuned in on Twitch during the last episode in December 2018, raising some €890,000 (around $1,000,000 dollars). Friendly Fire V is going to take place on December 7, 2019 and is surely set up to be even more successful than its predecessors.
These three examples are only the tip of the iceberg! There are many more we have not mentioned yet but would certainly deserve more attention and coverage. What charitable projects in gaming do you know of? Who deserves a turn in the spotlight because of all they do for gaming? Write us on Facebook and Twitter !