WE PUT FUN AND IN­CLU­SION BACK INTO THE LIVES OF PEO­PLE WITH PHYS­I­CAL DIS­ABIL­I­TIES BY HELP­ING THEM TO PLAY VIDEOGAMES

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Schall says. “But ac­tu­ally we’re a re­ally pas­sion­ate and ac­tive force – be that de­vel­op­ers, pub­lish­ers or fans. Per­haps that neg­a­tive per­cep­tion is some­thing we all sub­con­sciously push against. If you do char­ity con­tent right, it’s a win for every­one – it’s not the same as putting a few coins in a bucket. With some projects, the do­na­tor, the char­ity and the game can all re­ceive some­thing tan­gi­ble and valu­able.”

It’s a view­point shared by many of the in­dus­try’s videogame-fo­cused char­i­ties. Take Child’s Play, which aims to im­prove the lives of chil­dren in hos­pi­tals and do­mes­tic-vi­o­lence shel­ters by pro­vid­ing con­soles and games, and was founded in 2003 by Penny Ar­cade’s Mike Krahu­lik and Jerry Holkins. The char­ity gifts games and hard­ware, do­nated by play­ers, to fa­cil­i­ties an­nu­ally, but in the past two years has also be­gun ed­u­cat­ing staff on games’ ther­a­peu­tic uses.

“When Child’s Play started there was just a ton of bad press out there about videogames, “Travis Erik­sen, who over­sees part­ner re­la­tions, tells us. “You know: videogames make peo­ple vi­o­lent, videogames are re­sult­ing in kids be­ing an­ti­so­cial, and all that stuff. But Mike and Jerry knew who their fans were, and that gamers were gen­er­ally nice peo­ple. So they put those two things to­gether and said, ‘We hate see­ing that this is how the me­dia por­trays us. Let’s see if we can col­lect toys and help Seat­tle Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal.’ They ended up fill­ing the garage they had, and had to rent a stor­age unit just to cope. They were just over­whelmed by all the do­na­tions from fans of Penny Ar­cade who said, ‘Yeah, cool, I’m go­ing to buy one toy and send it off to the chil­dren’s hospi­tal.’ When all their read­ers did that it was this huge thing, and that be­came this huge char­ity that we’ve been run­ning for a long time. We’ve raised over $40 mil­lion since we started, and it’s all from gamers and the game in­dus­try that are work­ing to part­ner with us.”

The do­na­tions that Child’s Play re­ceives span the gamut from huge lump sums to smaller, more per­sonal con­tri­bu­tions. This year’s in­ter­net-based fundraiser event Desert Bus For Hope – in which mem­bers of sketch com­edy group Load­ingReadyRun streamed them­selves play­ing Penn and Teller’s in­fa­mously ter­ri­ble eight-hour driv­ing minigame re­peat­edly for a week – raised $700,000. A cheque for $321, mean­while, was sent in by a six-year-old girl af­ter she de­cided to forego birth­day presents in favour of get­ting her friends to do­nate to the char­ity.

“We have a re­ally ac­tive group,” Erik­sen con­tin­ues. “We have a lot of peo­ple who grew up with Nin­tendo or what­ever, and now we’re at the point where we have kids. I’m thank­ful that both of my sons are su­per-healthy and haven’t had any­thing other than mi­nor doc­tor’s trips, but it’s re­ally easy to em­pathise with fam­i­lies in that sit­u­a­tion and to know how im­por­tant and pow­er­ful games were for us grow­ing up, and how much more prom­i­nent they are in the cul­ture to­day. To be able to share that is a no-brainer. No­body looks at that and thinks, ‘I don’t re­ally know if that’s im­por­tant or help­ful.’ It’s just, ‘Yeah, I to­tally get this.’”

GamesAid is an­other char­ity whose en­deav­ours have been driven by a de­sire to show what the videogame in­dus­try is ca­pa­ble of. The um­brella char­ity sup­ports sev­eral smaller UK char­i­ties each year – voted for by its game-in­dus­try mem­bers – and has so far raised and dis­trib­uted over £2.5 mil­lion since it was set up in 2008. The rip­ple ef­fects of its work reach well be­yond the videogame com­mu­nity.

“We can say, ‘Ac­tu­ally, as an in­dus­try, we’re able to do so much good through videogames – when we work to­gether, look at all th­ese peo­ple we can sup­port,’” GamesAid trustee Tracey McGar­ri­gan says, echo­ing Erik­sen’s sen­ti­ment. “Be­ing very ac­tive and vis­i­ble while do­ing that is re­ally pow­er­ful, and the ef­fect we can have is what at­tracts peo­ple to the in­dus­try, I think. Hope­fully some of th­ese young peo­ple we’re sup­port­ing will join the game in­dus­try; we’re mak­ing them aware that we’re here, and we’re here to help them. What­ever dif­fi­cult time you’re go­ing through, the game in­dus­try is one of the most wel­com­ing, cre­ative, and fas­ci­nat­ing in­dus­tries that you can work in.”

“AS AN IN­DUS­TRY, WE’RE ABLE TO DO SO MUCH GOOD THROUGH VIDEOGAMES. LOOK AT ALL THE PEO­PLE WE CAN SUP­PORT”

Child’s Play’s Travis Erik­sen (top) and GamesAid’s Tracey McGar­ri­gan

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