Gaming For Good: Charity for the Win

Gaming for charity has been on the rise in the past decade, and it has provided gamers with the ability to raise money for the less fortunate by doing something they love. At GaymerX2 I was lucky enough to go to a panel where individuals from various organizations spoke about the best ways to get involved in raising money through games.  

Perhaps the most recognizable brand in gaming for charity right now is Extra Life, an organization whose proceeds primarily fund various children's hospitals within the Children’s Miracle Network. For an organization that started in 2008 Extra Life has made great strides in fundraising. During the last Extra Life weekend approximately $370,000 was raised for the Oakland Children’s Hospital, and that was just one of many hospitals aided by the efforts of gamers during the annual event.  

The #1 issue regarding children who have to stay in hospitals long term for treatment is boredom. They can’t stream Netflix or YouTube and enjoy the endless entertainment the internet has to provide. Making video games available to them gives them something to boost their spirits which can significantly help as they deal with debilitating illnesses and daunting hospital visits.

Along with helping provide children with video game devices, the money also goes toward gas vouchers and food vouchers for the families of the children in the hospitals. So even if you decide to participate in the Extra Life program and make a measly $10, just know that you are at least providing a family with the ability to feed themselves or put gas in their car so they can travel to and from the hospital. 75% of the families aided by the Children's Miracle Network fall under the Medical program, so while the state may be providing basic funding for medical visits it is often not enough to cover expensive medical treatments such as chemotherapy.

100% of all funds raised through Extra Life go to the children’s hospitals they support and all salaries are underwritten. There is no mysterious third-party organization dipping their fingers into the money pot. Rebecca Wilson, a Senior Officer for the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in Oakland, spoke about the goal of creating guilds and getting gamers more involved with local Extra Life groups. Most of the Extra Life guilds that have formed aid local hospitals within their cities, so if you join a local guild, you’ll know exactly which hospital is benefiting from your efforts. If you are interested in joining a guild join their Facebook page and keep an eye out for the next local guild meeting.

Here are links to some of the Facebook pages of guilds within North America: Bay Area Guild (San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, etc…), ChicagoIndianapolisCalgaryEdmonton, and Atlanta.

If you can’t find an Extra Life guild near you and you want to get involved, create an Extra Life profile and start participating as much as possible. It also helps if you can get friends and family to support your cause or even join in on the fun; that’s how most charitable gamers have become successful in the past. However, there are numerous ways you can become a champion for charities without joining a large group and going about it on your own.

TwitchTV is a dominant force in livestream gaming and is also currently the best platform for people who want to start livestreaming their own channel in order to help charities. John Howell, the Director of Partnerships Development at, gave several examples of individuals and groups who have become successful raising money by streaming gaming events.  

Most of you may already be familiar with Speed Runs Live, a group that sponsors various charities earning anywhere between a million to 3 quarters of a million within a week's time when they set out to raise money for a cause. Another top contributor to TwitchTV's charitable efforts is AtheneLive founder of who gives 100% of his earnings to various charities. They have also made Extra Life a game within their search engine so anyone streaming specifically for that organization can be easier to find and there are already people preparing for the October 2014 Extra Life weekend!

Most recently St. Jude has partnered with TwitchTV in its PlayLive campaign which you can sign up for here if you want to stream games for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. It is setup much like the Extra Life organization, in that 100% of the funds go towards helping children and assisting them with paying for expensive medical treatments and care. By participating you can also earn Academic community service hours by participating in St. Jude’s PlayLive event; if your school/organization counts it as an eligible program, every $100 earned can net you 10 hours of service time.  

There are many ways to get involved in the Gaming For Good Movement, and I hope those of you reading this who want to get involved have gotten some useful information out of this. One major overall tip that the panelist gave at GaymerX2 regarding becoming a successful live-streamer was to be unique, so if you have a kooky idea you think might help get you noticed, go for it!

John Howell shared an anecdote where he and his team were able to raise $10,000 in one hour simply by promising that they’d have one of their team members eat pancakes off another team member's bald head. Of course, it doesn’t have to be anything as extreme as that especially if you intend on live-streaming solo. Rebecca Wilson recalled one of their Extra Life live-streamers who allows her largest contributors to pick the worst games they can think of for her to play and more currently she has promised her viewers that she was going to spend one night in a scary clown motel in Nevada if she hit her fundraising goal despite having a fear of clowns. These are all examples of ways people have thought outside the box to add incentives for people to support charitable causes online.

Want to support charities through games but don’t have the free time to stream games on TwitchTV or join groups like Extra Life? You can still do your part to help out without becoming a live-streamer. Most of us may already be aware of, a site that emerged in 2010, and since then it has managed to raise over $40 million for charity. Although 100% of the proceeds for the various bundles offered through their website on a weekly basis do not automatically go toward charities, they allow you to customize your donation and decide if most of your money will go towards the companies submitting their games for the bundle that particular week or for the charity. I know I personally have taken advantage of some awesome deals through Humble Bundle and owe them for almost doubling my Steam library in the past year.

If you’ve been tracking them regularly you may have noticed some new additions. Humble Bundle is now branching out of gaming and providing bundles for comic books as well as e-Books. They have also launched the Humble Bundle store recently which has already been extremely successful in raising money for charity. 10% of all proceeds from games purchased through the store go towards the charities, which link the bundles as they change periodically. You may not always see better deals on their store then you would on Steam or other websites that sell PC games, but at least you’ll know that part of the money is going to a great cause. Humble Bundle also currently has a widget service available to indie devs that enables them to sell their games with ease and bypass the online red tape of selling digital content online.

The Gaming For Good movement is growing rapidly, and I think it is one of the most fascinating charity phenomena around. You don’t have to leave your house to participate! No 10k walks, no bake sales, no added work if you don’t want to. Support the causes you want to support by buying games you love or playing games you love—it is up to you.