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
“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