Saturday, March 25, 2017

Gamer Altruism Defeats Stereotypes about Gaming

The Video Game Industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the U.S. Economy. From 2009 to 2012, the industry grew at a rate of 10%, with overall U.S. economy only growing by 2.4% during the same period. Today there are more gamers than ever, with more than 150 million Americans playing video games. However, even now some people continue to insinuate that playing games causes violent crimes, perpetuating unfounded stereotypes. The stereotypical gamer is an awkward boy who never grew up, never contributed to life in a meaningful way. Facts easily dispel these stereotypes: the average gamer is 35 years old, nearly half (41%) of them are female. A new survey commissioned by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) found that more than 80% of gamers said they anticipate voting in 2016, in comparison to 75% of non-gamers. In the 2012 presidential election, gamers voted 10% more than the general public.
Yet even with these statistics, the crux of the issue is more personal. As someone who spent the majority of his life playing games, I now find myself at a crossroad. I am too old to make a living playing e-sports, a fairly recent global phenomenon, with the average retiree age being 24. Game creation requires aptitudes I do not possess. In retrospect, the fun time I have spent playing games feels wasted, an empty accomplishment immortalized in pointless digital trophies. While my passion for gaming will always be there, the motivation is missing. As we get older, our priorities evolve, shifting from self-preservation and gratification to concern about the people around us and our global community. So how can we reconcile these two contradicting issues, pulling us in separate directions, in the limited time we have.

As I was surfing the internet last night, I came upon a site that seemed vaguely familiar, perhaps I had seen it in a TV commercial. It is called Extra Life (, a charity to support Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals (, that raises funds through a 24-hour gaming marathon. This year, the 24-hour marathon takes place on Nov. 5. I was instantly captivated by this premise, having seen similar concepts before on Twitch (, where various streamers raise funds on behalf of charitable organizations. Extra Life was started in 2008 and has raised more than $22 million for local CMN Hospitals, including New Brunswick’s own Children’s Specialized Hospital. They were inspired by 11-year-old Victoria, who was diagnosed with cancer in January 2004. During her ensuing hospitalization, she became friends with a DJ named Jeromy Adams (“Doc” on the radio), who provided her with uplifting video games. Doc spread the word to the gaming community, and soon she was receiving games from all around the world, which she shared with other children in the hospital. After her passing in 2008, Doc created the 24-hour video gaming night as a way to honor her memory and help other kids struggling with illness. 24-Hour marathons are not the only type of gaming charity.
The most famous gaming charity so far is the Humble Bundle ( Although it is not a non-profit organization (5% fee for the widget, 14% for Humble Store sales) it has opened the door for other gaming charities and has helped get the juggernauts of the industry, like EA, Sony, and Microsoft get involved. EA’s Origin (online store) sale raised over $10.5 million for charities this year. The Humble Bundle gaming, book, and mobile bundles all vary in price based on the average donation (minimum $1). They also allow you to allocate how much of your donation will go to the charity of your choice, with over 1000 different charities available. Sales from the Humble store and the Humble Monthly subscription also partially support your charity of choice. The Humble Bundle is also an excellent way for an indie game to boost it’s popularity and sales. Knowing that no gamer, or human can resist a bargain, it is a great way to promote altruistic causes. Extra Life and Humble Bundle are not the only ways gamers can give back to their community.

Other marathon-themed gaming charities, like St. Jude’s Play Live host year-round fundraising, featuring one major yearly event. Games Done Quick ( and #SmashTheRecord ( hold speed-running and record-breaking gaming marathons for charity. Games Done Quick feature a different charity for each event. They also have public submitted prizes and bids on names, endings or level choices. Direct Relief ( uses streamer’s fundraising to support the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies. They are currently responding to the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew. Other gaming charities, like The Get-Well Gamers Foundation (, focus on bringing electronic entertainment to children’s hospitals, for the benefit of amusement and pain management, through monetary and physical donations. The GameChanger’s Foundation ( also accepts your old games, collectibles, consoles and swag. In addition to providing entertainment, they provide financial aid, college scholarships, and host unique gaming events for patients. Operation Supply Drop ( focuses on gamers in the active military population, bringing joy to those separated from their homes and families. The Child’s Play Charity (, in addition to accepting monetary donations, sets up wish lists with the help of hospital staff, allowing the public to buy them directly from They have also recently started a pilot program to reach out to Domestic Violence Support Facilities, to help support, distract and interact with traumatized youth. One of the applications to the program said, “The very nature of family violence eradicates trust, self-respect, and physical and emotional wellness in all victims, but none more so than with the children. These “hidden victims” are often the most vulnerable, overlooked and the least likely to receive appropriate services during a time of intense trauma. We believe that these “hidden victims“ can be reached through creativity and play; through the gaming opportunities and learning experience, they will build their self-confidence and self-esteem.” The AbleGamers Foundation ( holds several charity livestreams, as well as other fundraising activities. They seek to empower children, adults and veterans with disabilities through the power of video games. They provide expert review and information on video games and assistive technology aimed at helping individuals with disabilities make educated purchases. They also advocate to developers and video game publishers on how to make games as accessible as possible. Accessibility is important not only in gaming, but also in our everyday lives. Non-gamers or those without disposable income can still support their global community.

Several companies make charitable donations as easy as googling. Qmee ( uses a browser app to present you with an alternate search result, other than your primary search engine and a monetary amount. After clicking and accumulating money you can “cash out” to a non-profit of your choice. GoodSearch ( is similar, but uses a search toolbar to split advertising profits with non-profit supporters. Welzoo ( donates 3 cents per day to a non-profit of your choice. All you have to do is set Welzoo as the home screen of your internet browser. Ebates ( lets you earn up to 30% cash back on your online purchases for your charitable organization. Amazon lets you use their affiliate program to generate revenue each time a purchase is made using the affiliate link for your school or non-profit. Ebay lets you set a percentage of your sale to a charity of your choice. In this technological age, variety is the spice of life, no matter the industry. One charity is using our love of variety to spread awareness of gaming’s altruistic side. UK-based GamesAid ( focuses on many events that are outside the gaming spectrum while featuring volunteers from the gaming industry itself. Raising public awareness will hopefully show the world the beautiful side of gaming that is buried beneath cultural stereotypes.

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