The Gaming Charities at PAX East 2014
Posted on Sunday, April 20 @ 23:25:00 Eastern by gil_almogi
PAX is a huge event for gamers who flock to Boston in droves to see and play new video games and also to listen to industry professionals speak about their experiences in panels. While it is indeed an energetic experience full of loud noises, HD TVs, and exposed ass cracks, it's important to shed some light on people who were there to do more than wait forever in line to play the new Wolfenstein demo. Here is a spotlight on the charities that were actually present in Boston this year. Keep these in mind for when you want to donate money or time in the future.
Child's Play - Website
It's hard to write an article like this about PAX without without mentioning the charity founded by PAX creators, Jerry and Mike. Although the Penny Arcade duo do not run Child's Play anymore, that doesn't mean the charity isn't still doing great things. Its aim is to bring joy to children in hospitals worldwide by delivering consoles and games to them.
It's bad enough that some kids are afflicted with life-threatening illnesses, but oftentimes treatments such as chemotherapy are extremely tough and painful to deal with. Child's Play assuages some of the pain with video games, allowing the ill to engage in fun activities in what would otherwise be a lonely and uncomfortable setting. The charity also fulfills gift wish lists containing toys other than video games.
This year, Jamie Dillon and Kristin Lindsay hosted a panel to talk about the charity, inform attendees on how to give, and answer questions. Over the years, they have raised over $10 million to help children and the charity is constantly partnering with gamers to raise money through streamed events.
Take This - Website
Founded by Russ Pitts in response to the tragic suicide of Matt Hughes about a year and a half ago, Take This focuses on raising awareness and providing assistance to members of the video game community who suffer from mental illness. Though the name is inspired by an iconic scene from the original The Legend of Zelda, the purpose is anything but a game.
At PAX East, the organization hosted "AFK Rooms" which provided gamers respite from the stress and anxiety that being in a packed public venue can cause for some people. For many of us, attending a video game-related convention sounds like great fun, but many staunch video game fans have to overcome a lot of personal struggles to make the setting anything but a nightmare. The AFK Rooms were comfortable, quiet spaces staffed with volunteers and mental health professionals who could provide further resources to attendees looking for a break or just for help.
On top of that, Take This board members Russ Pitts, Susan Arendt, and Mark Kline joined two more industry professionals, Sean Baptiste and Mitch Dyer, to hose a panel on their mission and their experiences. "But I'm Not Crazy" provided a setting for the panel members to talk about the social stigma of mental illness and depression and they also utilized the time to enable attendees to take action regarding their own or others' depression.
AbleGamers - Website
This charity, founded by Mark Barlet and Stephanie Walker, focuses on serving gamers who live with a variety of disabilities, ones that prevent them from enjoying many video games as easily as someone with no disabilities can. These can range from neurological issues like epilepsy to body transforming, such as amputation or muscular dystrophy. Sure, we lament when a game uses QTEs during cut-scenes, but at least most of us can hold a controller for hours and tap a button repeatedly.
AbleGamers efforts are really vast. First, they provide a forum for gamers of all kinds, disabled or not, to share their experiences with each other and seek assistance. Next, they use donated money to purchase special equipment for gamers in need that allows them to play games that conventional controllers and/or AV setups do not allow. Third, they actually rate games based on accessibility guidelines, allowing disabled gamers to make informed decisions about whether or not a game is for them. And lastly, they provide free consultation to game developers to find ways to make their games more accessible, which includes a huge 50-page detailed document on addressing various problem areas.
In the past, members of AbleGamers have hosted panels, and this year, they held a fundraising event near the escalators to the show floor. They'd like to bring attention to a new fundraising initiative, Driving Home Accessibility. The idea behind it is to address the many gamers who live in assistance centers that are unable to attend conventions or visit the charity's own facilities. They are currently trying to raise $200,000 to acquire a tour bus that will cross the United States, bringing assistive technology to those in need.
AbleGamers announced today that they racked up an impressive $33,635.07 from generous PAX East attendees.
Geeks in Harm's Way - Website
Inspired by his own brother, Jason Moquin launched Geeks in Harm's Way as a way to provide soldiers abroad and first responders and disabled vets home with games and gaming equipment. We all know folks in these lines of work who put their lives on the line to save the lives of others or to protect us as a country. Well, this charity wants to thank and help them by giving them more recreational options to take their minds off their duty.
Replicating activities from home is a big morale booster for soldiers overseas, and it helps to alleviate stress from the dangers they may face. When Microsoft was considering making the Xbox One an online-only console, one of the biggest outcries came from members of the military who love playing games together but don't have reliable Internet connections for a myriad of reasons. And for rehabilitating servicemen and women, gaming can help them deal with pain and PTSD.
At the Expo, Jason launched his charity by engaging attendees and developers on the show floor, even giving away game codes to those who saw the mascot, Sir Pugsworth, hanging around. Although no larger events were held, it appears that the time spent socializing was a huge success. It will be intriguing to see what comes of this charity's efforts.
Mass Effect Cast Cosplay Initiative (fundraising for St. Jude's Children's Hospital) - Website
Although this is not a registered charity itself, it is an example of members of the video game industry using their badassery to make the world a better place for real charities. Arising out of a coincidental meeting at DragonCon 2012 between Mass Effect stars Mark Meer, voice of Male Shepard, and Rana McAnear, face of Samara/Morinth, these folks have started using their cosplay for good due to efforts by Karissa Barrows.
At PAX East 2014, Rana McAnear, Luciano Costa (Kaidan Alenko's model), Keythe Farley (Thane Krios' voice), and Kimberly Brooks (Ashley Williams' voice) all dressed as their famous characters for the event. They gathered to talk to the fans in the main theater at the Boston Convention Center and the whole thing was broadcast via streaming service, Twitch. After the talk, fans gathered in the queue room downstairs to pay for a photo opp with the cosplayers, raising $6000 for St. Jude's in just 90 minutes.
While this is one of the odder initiatives out there, it is a demonstration of how utilizing fandom and appealing to gamers can give back to the community and to the world as a whole, not just to shill toys and DLC for corporate profit. I'd also like to note that all the charities listed in this article were started by gamers of various backgrounds, most not even in the gaming industry. If you'd like to take your fandom to the next level and give back, take a page out of these books and donate time or money when you can.
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