CHILD’S PLAY SEEKS TO IM­PROVE THE LIVES OF CHIL­DREN IN HOS­PI­TALS AND DO­MES­TIC-VI­O­LENCE SHEL­TERS THROUGH THE GEN­EROS­ITY OF THE VIDEOGAME IN­DUS­TRY AND THE POWER OF PLAY

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“SHE WAS CON­TEM­PLAT­ING SUI­CIDE. GAMESAID MONEY MEANT SHE HAD THE SUP­PORT TO SIT DOWN WITH A MEN­TOR EACH WEEK AND TALK”

They get what we’re try­ing to do. So many times we’ve heard peo­ple say, ‘I can’t imag­ine life with­out games – how can I help?’ It’s hum­bling and in­spir­ing.”

Recog­nis­ing this phil­an­thropic streak in play­ers is a part of what has al­lowed com­pa­nies like Hum­ble Bun­dle ( and, in­deed, dig­i­tal plat­forms such as Steam, which also al­lows play­ers and de­vel­op­ers to make char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions) to thrive at the cut­ting edge of con­sumerism. It re­flects a wider shift in the pri­or­i­ties and ex­pec­ta­tions of cus­tomers, cer­tainly, but the in­dus­try’s proac­tive re­sponse to that shift has been re­mark­able.

“I think this is more of an is­sue of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance than some­thing that is nec­es­sar­ily in­dus­try spe­cific,” Erik Heiberg, brand man­ager at Abzû pub­lisher 505 Games, says. “Busi­nesses ex­ist to make money and it’s dif­fi­cult for busi­ness lead­ers to shift rev­enue to some­thing that doesn’t im­me­di­ately demon­strate a pos­i­tive im­pact on growth. It’s gen­er­a­tional as well. There are com­pa­nies out­side the gam­ing in­dus­try that do quite well and in­cor­po­rate ‘cause’ into their cor­po­rate cul­ture, but th­ese tend to be younger com­pa­nies that un­der­stand what the emerg­ing con­sumer seeks through their pur­chas­ing de­ci­sions.

“Videogames are at the fore­front of tech­nol­ogy and in­no­va­tion, and that’s where our global youth want to be. Com­pa­nies like Hum­ble Bun­dle recog­nise their great­est op­por­tu­nity for suc­cess is to tai­lor their prod­ucts to this con­nected au­di­ence, so it makes sense there are more char­ity op­por­tu­ni­ties within the in­dus­try over­all.”

The rea­sons for the game in­dus­try’s for­ward-think­ing ac­cep­tance of char­i­ta­ble con­cerns, and its abil­ity to fold them into day-to-day busi­ness in such a mag­nan­i­mous way, are com­plex and man­i­fold. But the im­pe­tus driv­ing play­ers to keep rais­ing and giv­ing money – long af­ter the point has been proven that videogames might be a force for good af­ter all – is eas­ier to un­der­stand.

“I think peo­ple just see the good that it’s do­ing,” says Erik­sen. “We hear a lot from our sup­port­ers who say things like, ‘I spent years in hospi­tal grow­ing up and I was lucky enough that I had a Game Boy. I know how im­por­tant that was to me, and so I want to make sure that any­body else who is in that same sit­u­a­tion has that and more.’ That’s a big part of it: they can see the ef­fect of giv­ing back, and a lot of them have been the ben­e­fi­ciary of some­one else who came be­fore them, and said, ‘I know that this sucks right now, but here’s a game, this will take your mind off it.’”

That rip­ple ef­fect was aptly demon­strated at this year’s Awe­some Games Done Quick. Prior to TGH’s show-stop­ping Un­der­tale fi­nale, an­other speedrun­ner, Bub­blesDelFuego, per­formed a prob­lem­atic run through

Dark Souls III, which saw the game’s AI refuse to co­op­er­ate with cer­tain tricks, and a crash caused by an out-of-bounds glitch. He got there in the end, and dur­ing a short speech af­ter his run re­vealed that he watched a Dark Souls speedrun from 2013’s AGDQ while in re­mis­sion fol­low­ing treat­ment for Hodgkin’s lym­phoma. Per­form­ing at AGDQ was his way of giv­ing back.

The im­pact of the work car­ried out by de­vel­op­ers, char­i­ties and play­ers is sig­nif­i­cant and far reach­ing. And it’s a con­tri­bu­tion to so­ci­ety that con­tin­ues to grow each year thanks to the unique com­bi­na­tion of tech­nol­ogy, gen­eros­ity, com­mu­nity spirit and em­pa­thy that seems to go hand in hand with the videogame in­dus­try and its player com­mu­ni­ties.

“At our an­nual cheque-giv­ing cer­e­mony, not only do we hand over big fat cheques, but we also give the char­i­ties a chance to tell their sto­ries of how GamesAid money is be­ing put to use,” McGar­ri­gan says. “There’s al­ways a mo­ment when you re­alise the true im­pact. I worked with a char­ity called MAPS [Men­tor­ing, Ad­vo­cacy And Peer Sup­port]. They told us about a young per­son who was go­ing through a re­ally dif­fi­cult time in her life. She was car­ing for her mum, drop­ping out of school, and there was a mo­ment where she was go­ing to give up and was con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide. GamesAid money meant that she had the sup­port to sit down with a men­tor each week and talk to some­body about it. She fin­ished her GCSEs, and she’s now in col­lege. And that’s when it re­ally, re­ally hits home that what we can do as an in­dus­try is quite amaz­ing.”

505 Games brand man­ager Erik Heiberg

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