GAMESAID SEEKS TO HAR­NESS THE TAL­ENTS AND EN­ERGY OF OUR IN­DUS­TRY TO GET OUT AND RAISE MONEY FOR GREAT CAUSES

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The in­dus­try’s in­her­ent creativ­ity is a key point. This is a medium whose cre­ators and play­ers em­brace new tech­nolo­gies and ideas with a fierce en­thu­si­asm that is rarely seen in other sec­tors. Take Hum­ble Bun­dles for ex­am­ple: to­day, play­ers are so fa­mil­iar with them that it’s easy to for­get how in­no­va­tive the con­cept was when it burst onto the scene in 2010.

“The Hum­ble Bun­dle is kind of a novel idea, and I think the game in­dus­try is a bit more ex­per­i­men­tal than other in­dus­tries,” Hum­ble’s vice pres­i­dent of prod­uct

Nate Muller tells us. “We’re more will­ing to try weird stuff. It’s a re­ally weird busi­ness model, and it’s hard to ex­plain to peo­ple – cer­tainly to de­vel­op­ers and pub­lish­ers. But the game in­dus­try is more will­ing to lis­ten to crazy ideas and give them a shot. It’s re­ally funny ac­tu­ally, be­cause some of the char­i­ties get scared off by our model be­cause they think we’re some kind of scam. It al­most sounds too good to be true, right? ‘All we need from you is a logo, and then we’ll send you tens of thou­sands of dol­lars, maybe more.’ But now – and I’m not sure if we’ve pub­licly thrown this num­ber out yet – we have just crossed $95 mil­lion in do­na­tions to char­ity [since Hum­ble was founded].”

The first bun­dle, which sup­ported the Elec­tronic Fron­tier Foun­da­tion and Child’s Play, was pur­chased 138,813 times and raised over $1.27 mil­lion. Play­ers could, if they wanted, choose to do­nate all of their cho­sen pur­chase price to the char­i­ties, giv­ing none to de­vel­op­ers or Hum­ble. “The char­i­ta­ble el­e­ment re­ally came from a be­lief in con­sumer choice,” Muller says. “Play­ers could buy their games from any­where, but mil­lions of cus­tomers con­tinue to buy from Hum­ble Bun­dle. We think a por­tion of that is be­cause they like to give to char­ity. So it re­ally is the com­mu­nity that’s choos­ing the char­i­ta­ble com­po­nent.”

The suc­cess of Hum­ble Bun­dle re­lies on a del­i­cately bal­anced ecosys­tem in which pub­lish­ers, de­vel­op­ers and char­i­ties must em­brace an un­usual busi­ness model, and re­quires that play­ers en­gage with an es­o­teric method of get­ting hold of down­load­able games. But tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion also play a cru­cial role in en­abling play­ers to raise money for char­ity on their own terms. The nature of on­line play and livestream­ing makes gam­ing a highly so­cial ac­tiv­ity whose con­nec­tive power ex­tends well be­yond the live-event cir­cuit to the con­sump­tion of the me­dia it­self – a fact un­der­scored by the likes of Awe­some Games Done Quick and the po­ten­tial for in­di­vid­ual stream­ers to con­trib­ute.

“All of our sup­port comes from the com­mu­nity,” Erik­sen says. “The ma­jor­ity of it is put to­gether by peo­ple do­ing streams and things like that. Now, it’s re­ally easy to share your hobby, and at the same time pick a char­ity that you can sup­port. I think that’s part of why gamers are so en­gaged. They tend to be on the cut­ting edge of what tech­nol­ogy is do­ing. Twitch was made for videogame stream­ing, so we al­ready have that key piece of en­gage­ment. If you’re stream­ing al­ready, it’s re­ally easy to add this lit­tle wid­get to the side so that every­body watch­ing can also give to Child’s Play.“

Like Child’s Play, SpecialEffect is an­other char­ity that is deeply em­bed­ded within the in­dus­try it sup­ports. The group helps gamers with phys­i­cal dis­abil­i­ties to play games by mod­i­fy­ing or cre­at­ing cus­tom con­trol set­ups, and pro­vides sup­port so that re­cip­i­ents can get the most out of them. It’s a ges­ture that helps many peo­ple en­gage with a com­mu­nity that they would oth­er­wise be un­able to. Mark Sav­ille, the char­ity’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions sup­port of­fi­cer, points to the in­dus­try’s com­mu­nal spirit as a key fac­tor in the pro­lif­er­a­tion of char­i­ta­ble be­hav­iour.

“The videogame in­dus­try and com­mu­nity are built around an in­tensely so­cial in­fra­struc­ture, which nat­u­rally cre­ates greater aware­ness of good causes, es­pe­cially ones like SpecialEffect, which res­onate so closely,” he says. “Games of­fer such great op­por­tu­ni­ties for peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties to play on a level play­ing field with their friends and fam­i­lies. But the im­pact goes way be­yond the fun fac­tor: it’s bring­ing fam­i­lies and friends to­gether, it’s pro­vid­ing es­capism, it’s pro­vid­ing an in­crease in self­es­teem. We’re see­ing new ben­e­fits ev­ery day. Last week a par­ent said to me, ‘I feel so much bet­ter now that my daugh­ter can join in with every­one else.’ And we have real syn­ergy with the gam­ing com­mu­nity.

“IT’S BRING­ING FAM­I­LIES AND FRIENDS TO­GETHER, IT’S PRO­VID­ING ES­CAPISM, IT’S PRO­VID­ING AN IN­CREASE IN SELF-ES­TEEM”

Spe­cial Ef­fect’s Mark Sav­ille (top) and Hum­ble Bun­dle’s Nate Muller

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