As writers working in the game industry, it's often our jobs to analyse and critique video games and the creators that bring these ideas to life. While much of the time we can all come together and enjoy our collective hobby, oftentimes things can spill over. Whether it be for a lack of features, an unstable launch, or even questionable business practices, things can get negative pretty quickly. Today, however, we want to sweep that aside and move beyond these issues to instead look towards what games can do to make our lives better. Gaming-focused charities and community events all play a pivotal role in the industry, and we're here to show what they, along with game creators, do for the wider gaming community.
In this section, we want to highlight some of the best charities from around the world and what they do for gamers. Games Aid, for example, is a UK-based charity which not only works with disadvantaged and disabled young people who enjoy gaming but it also serves to help a number of smaller charities who share the same goals. Each year, members of the Games Aid charity group have the ability to vote on which smaller organisations they'd love to support, which we think is a brilliant and democratic way of letting everyone make a difference. In 2016, Games Aid UK provided 10 smaller charities with a huge donation of £95,400 each, to go towards their efforts of improving disadvantaged gamers' lives. In 2019, Games Aid UK has a slew of events planned including a games session with developer Supermassive Games at the Guilford Games festival in June, and the 12 days of Games Aid event, which auctions off one of a kind gaming goodies to raise money at Christmas for a selection of charities.
Over in the U.S, Child's Play is a unique charity which uses a network of hospitals to reach a broad range of children who love to play games. Child's Play aims to improve the lives of those in hospital by letting members of the public donate items curated from wish lists. This brilliant idea gives disadvantaged children the chance to experience gaming how they have always wanted to, whilst letting ordinary people make a massive difference to their lives. Child's Play certainly keeps themselves busy too, gathering cash donations to make their own console and accessory purchases for the hospital network. The charity, which operates worldwide, has a calendar of events viewable on their website, including speedrun competitions and charitable Twitch streams, all in the name of raising money.
It's not only pure gaming focused charities that do well for the industry though, as some existing organisations that cover a range of charitable efforts have a gaming sector. There's a branch of well-known charity Macmillan Cancer Support called Game Heroes, which is all about lots of gaming in a short space of time. The gaming extension, created to support the main charity's efforts, looks to raise money by letting players take part in marathon 24-hour gaming sessions. Flexibility is a big plus point for Game Heroes, as the charity lets you sign up, pick a date and gather your own sponsors for a marathon night of gaming. Cumulatively, the charity has raised over £134,000 for cancer support. War Child UK is another example of a charity that contains a sector dedicated to gaming, albeit with a different approach. Helping children who are affected by conflict, War Child UK has its own paths for those looking to contribute in the gaming space; not only has the charity worked with developers to create themed games and DLC to fit the charity's ethos, like 11-11 Memories Retold and DLC for This War of Mine, War Child has a huge list of developer endorsements who contribute to the charity and its efforts. Tim Shafer, Rhianna Pratchett, and Steve Gaynor all support the organisation, giving it a broad reach in the games industry. It's not only big names who can contribute though, as anyone with a gaming challenge idea and the means to stream can donate, with such events raising over £2.5 million since the initiative began.
Some charities go above and beyond to make things easier for disadvantaged gamers, creating customised hardware. Ablegamers and Special Effect have taken huge strides to make gaming possible for anyone, even before Microsoft introduced its Xbox Adaptive Controller. Rather than a one-size-fits-all mentality, these charities look at each person individually and determine how they can create something to enhance the experience for disadvantaged gamers. Whether that be eye-tracking sensors, modified controllers, or building entire gaming setups; the goal is to find a way to make gaming enjoyable regardless of ability. As Ablegamers say, the sky's the limit! Special Effect, one the other hand, has a massive list of events that run throughout the year in the UK, from competitions and demos at gaming festivals like Insomnia, to sponsored marathon runs and football tournaments. In the last two years, Special Effect has smashed records for the biggest team in the Virgin Sport British 10k Run, with 125 runners in 2018. Whether building bespoke gaming setups, creating useful online guides or setting up a multitude of live events, both Ablegamers and Special Effect do fantastic work to help disabled gamers get playing.
Now we've been over some of the amazing charities working in the games industry, it's time to take a look at some of the most influential community figures, developers and events helping enable these charities to do their incredible work.
Most people will recognise the name of the biggest personal channel on YouTube, PewDiePie. The Swedish content creator, Felix Kjellberg, regularly makes the news, however, he doesn't receive enough attention for the charitable work he frequently performs. Over the past few years, Felix has raised over $600,000 for Charity: Water, an organisation working to bring clean water to everyone on the planet. And that is as well as over $342,000 for Save the Children, $1.3 million for (RED), a charity fighting AIDS, and recently $200,000 for CRY India, a non-profit organisation working to help underprivileged children in India.
It wouldn't be fair to speak about the support charities receive without also talking about popular streamer Ben 'Dr Lupo' Lupo. This man is one of the busiest influencers out there, he runs a full-time stream and casts a bunch of games, whilst still managing to frequently organise and participate in charity events. Last year alone, he raised over $1 million by himself for St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital and since the new year, he has done multiple charity streams, visited the very charity he actively supports, and even put out a t-shirt with other big name streamers in an effort to raise even more money for St. Jude. At this point, we might have to start calling him St. Lupo.
For nine years, Games Done Quick has been raising money for charity by organising events in which high-level speedrunners beat games as fast as possible. To date they have managed to accumulate over $19.3 million for charity, as well as becoming the largest donors for the Doctors Without Borders and the Prevent Cancer Foundation organisations. Each of the two annual events manages to draw in thousands of attendees looking to have fun and support the cause, with the next being Games Done Quick Summer, which will be held between June 23 and June 30, so be sure to take a look and support them if you can.
Events are also being held between influential companies to look at the future of accessibility. The GAconf (Games Accessibility conference) is an event in San Francisco where developers and games companies showcase their accessibility technology and features, whilst working together to introduce new ones. Sponsors for this event include massive industry names such as Microsoft, Epic Games, Ubisoft, Naughty Dog, and Sony Interactive Entertainment, which shows just how important accessibility is becoming to games. Throughout the day at the conference, there are talks and meetings that focus on designing accessible player experiences and using gaming for occupational therapy. Attendees include the likes of David Tisserand, accessibility project manager at Ubisoft, who said the event was "literally the most informative conference I've been to in a very long time", which says a lot for the future of the event.
Sometimes for a developer to take the leap and make a huge donation to charity, all it needs is a little bit of community help. When the developer of Minecraft, Mojang, donated $10,000 to Charity: Water, they also announced that if the free Travelling Trader skin received 100,000 downloads, they would donate a further $90,000 to the organisation. In less than a day, the community pledge was met, leading Mojang to donate the total of $100,000 to the charity, which ultimately led them to being able to provide 3,300 people with clean water access. These kinds of uplifting stories show what communities can really achieve.
These are just a few of the amazing people, events, and stories the gaming industry has put forward to show their support for good causes. Whilst we should celebrate these and what they are doing, there's still tons of work to be done and you don't have to be a charity or a renowned streamer to contribute...
Sometimes helping out can be as simple as playing a new game. Sea Hero Quest is a unique experience where players guide a ship through Arctic seas or sandy shores, which are constructed in a maze-like design. What makes this so exceptional is that the game was created to study dementia by tracking how each player approached the puzzles throughout the game. In total, two minutes of playtime equated to five hours of dementia research. Currently, the game has been played for over 117 years collectively, which is equivalent to over 17,600 years of dementia research. The study hasn't finished, so if you want to help understand and fight the many varieties of dementia, be sure to head on over to Sea Hero Quest and begin your nautical adventure.
If you think the idea of helping create a better future for those who need it by playing video games is brilliant, then you'll be happy to hear about the Extra-Life organisation. This amazing group of people help organise gaming marathons to raise money for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. However, this organisation is much more than that, as you can pledge to help them and then simply game for charity from the comfort of your own home. Right now, the organisation has raised over $50 million for the charity since its inception in 2008, changing the lives of countless children in need. If this is something you'd like to be involved in, head to the Extra-Life site and follow the steps to setting up your fundraiser.
Not all avenues of help require an actual fundraiser, as sometimes the easiest way is to spend your money on a charitable storefront. The Humble Bundle is a digital deal that offers gamers a variety of titles whilst allowing customers to decide where the money they spend goes. Now you have an excuse for that ever-growing PC games library! If you're not an avid PC player, there are options on mobile devices too. Apple's RED event gives players the chance to purchase devices, accessories, and qualifying apps that donate to a massive AIDS fundraising campaign, raising over $160 million since the initiative launched. The software side of the event is limited, so be sure to check when it's running!
Last, but definitely not least, is the opportunity to send gaming gifts for others who would love to use your old devices and games. Get Well Gamers is a UK based organisation that gathers any consoles, accessories, and games handed in, and distributes them to a number of hospitals for sick children to play with. At some point, most of us have had that old console that takes up too much room and never gets played, and Get Well Gamers could be the ideal place to send that off to make someone else's life better.
Gaming is good, and putting a bigger focus on the charities, communities and fundraising efforts that come from the industry can only be a positive thing going forward.
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