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