Many people, especially those that don’t play video games, assume video games are bad for you, that video games are nothing but a waste of time, and that nothing good can come from playing them. Yet the recent partnership between Activison’s Skylanders role-playing platform game and the Autism Speaks advocacy organization highlights the power that video games have in influencing people.
Josh Taub, senior VP of Skylanders Product Management, shared in a February 29 BusinessWire press release that the parents of autistic children reached out to the company and said the franchise plays a special role the lives of their children.
— Skylanders (@SkylandersGame) February 29, 2016
Yet this isn’t the first time video games have been used to help support a noble cause. Gamers have been giving back to the community for quite a few years now, with some of the most notable movements providing the impetus for charity-driven gaming:
Extra Life is a grassroots movement where gamers around the world run gaming marathon with all the proceeds of the going to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The CMN raises awareness for local children’s hospitals and distributes funds to children who most need the money. Extra Life started in 2008 in honor of Victoria Enmon, a child who died from lymphoblastic leukemia. The charity managed to bring in a total of $8.3 million dollars last 2015.
Child’s Play is an organization that collects and donates toys and video games to hospitals around the world. One of their most significant movements, however, is building on the massive support of gamers to aid in the construction and awareness of facilities devoted to aiding the victims of domestic violence. As of 2015, the charity was able to provide toys, video games and board games to over 100 domestic violence shelters across the United States.
SpecialEffect is a UK-based charity that reaches out to mentally and physically disabled individuals and creates custom hardware setups that enables these individuals to play video games. Their stated mission is to help the disabled enjoy games, leisure technology and communication – which in turn helps the individual feel more confident, included in the community and more willing to seek rehabilitation.
Get-Well Gamers is a US organization that collects donated video games and distributes them to sick children in hospitals. It cites the pain management benefits of video games as the main reason why it connects children to video games, and is currently working with over 200 hospitals and treatment facilities in the US. Get-Well Gamers has also established a UK branch in 2014, and is currently linked to 35 hospitals across the country.
Games Done Quick is a series of video gaming marathons where gamers “speedrun” or complete video games in as little time as possible. The contributions of speedrunners, volunteers, donors, sponsors and viewers this 2016 have allowed the charity to raise over $1.2 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. This has helped fund research on the prevention and early detection of cancer.