Gaming is one of the largest sectors of the entertainment industry, and it gets bigger every year. The gaming community is massive—227 million Americans are gamers, and 26.5 million Americans regularly watch game streamers through sites like Twitch. The community has a culture all its own with subcultures built in, and not all of them have a sparkling reputation. However, a growing number of the gaming communities are embracing something that hasn’t been seen before. Gaming for charity and social causes is not new, but it’s a growing non-profit opportunity, and every year, more gamers use their hobby for positive change. As this unique side of the industry grows, innovation is exploding, and many organizations are harnessing this demographic for good.
Founded in 1991, the National Breast Cancer Foundation is a successful and respected non-profit focused on spreading awareness, teaching the value of regular checkups, providing free screenings, and supporting breast cancer survivors. Their most recent innovation in fundraising is Game Pink, a gamer-centric year-long fundraising drive. They give streamers the tools to plug their streams into NBCF efforts, providing direct fundraising and raising awareness among viewers of the streams. They build in prizes and special event streams that keep the ball rolling on this successful program.
Children’s Miracle Network’s Extra Life has added a competitive component to this idea, building in leaderboards to keep track of how much individual streams earn toward helping fund children’s medical treatment. Gamifying charity donation fits in perfectly with gamers who want to give. Video games have long been considered a children’s distraction, so leveraging gaming for children’s hospitals feels organic. They’ve partnered with major players in the gaming arena like Twitch and Wizards of the Coast to get the word directly into the gaming community.
St. Jude Play Live
Also focusing on children, but specifically on childhood cancer, St. Jude is one of the most respected and time-tested charities around. Play Live has also been around longer than some of the other gaming charities, and this has given them some extra moves. They provide participants with tool kits to get the most out of their work including things like special overlays they can use when they’re streaming games for the charity, graphics bundles, a chat bot, and a momentum-building innovation called the Hype Train. Their website’s many testimonials from families who have been helped by Play Live adds an emotional resonance for gamers and streamers interested in participating. To date, they have raised more than 40 million dollars to fight children’s cancer.
The new kid on the block, GiveFTW, is making waves by innovating on the other end. What makes GiveFTW unique is that participants don’t need to give their own money—corporate sponsors provide donations and prizes, while players support the charity and sponsor by participating in activities like learning about their organizations and sharing their messages.
Following the model of games popular with streamers like Fortnite, Apex Legends, and Fall Guys, GiveFTW is split into seasons. This changes the way the fundraising is structured so that it isn’t an ongoing all-year marathon, but individual sprints consisting of weeks. This also allows them to get different sponsors on board and to plug into different charities each season. Season One ended earlier this month, and raised $50,000 each for Oceana, an environmental project to strenghten our oceans and the wildlife within them, and The Trevor Project, an organization that helps LGBTQ+ youth with suicide prevention and mental heallth. Intel was the inaugural season’s sponsor, and Season One coincided with Intel’s Gamer Days event. According to their website, Season Two is incoming, with a new sponsor, and new charities gamers can support.
Gaming, especially online gaming, may still feel new, but it’s a cornerstone of the entertainment industry. In 2019 online gaming was a $152 billion dollar industry, compared to $43 billion for box office revenues, and $19 billion for recorded music. Social change and charity support have morphed into a resource being mutually beneficial to hosts, gamers and charitable organizations alike, and is gaining traction year after year. But now, innovations in the way organizations can connect and communicate with the gaming community have shown that their hearts are just as big as their love of the game.