Gaming is often a solitary pursuit, an experience best encapsulated by the stereotype of the unshaven freshman hunched over a flickering screen while he shouts into a Doritos dusted headset about “League of Legends.”
Every once in a while, though, we have a chance to do some good, both for our online avatars and the world.
The best known example of video game philanthropy is easily the Humble Bundle, a California based company selling games at a reduced price for the greater good. While the charities of choice sometimes get just 10 percent of the profits, that’s not bad considering the Humble Store is full of titles like “Dark Souls II” and “Mortal Kombat X” that you might’ve bought anyway, and it doesn’t always work out that way.
This week, Electronic Arts is donating its majority share of profits from Humble Origin Bundle 2 directly to Girls Who Code, The V Foundation for Cancer Research and buildOn, a group that works with illiterate adults worldwide. It turns out even EA, voted worst company in America in Forbes Magazine twice, has a heart when it counts.
The genius of uniting video games with charity is that, unlike a 5K marathon or giving blood, it gives gamers license to do things they were already interested in. When you pair Awesome Games Done Quickly with speed runs or Extra Life with sitting on your butt all day, suddenly finishing “Grand Theft Auto: Vice City” in an hour or playing “Skyrim” for a whole day straight becomes a source of pride.
Most of the people you know may have gone to work that day, but you just helped raise $1 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation in a week! Who’s a slacker now?
Equally important, tying video games to charity empowers developers to have a concrete impact on the subjects of their digital creations. “This War of Mine” and “Call of Duty” may take very different approaches to the portrayal of wartime violence, but both have raised thousands of dollars and changed the lives of children and veterans alike with their contributions.
The oft-vilified “Call of Duty” franchise, in particular, has placed over 5,000 veterans in jobs and operates an endowment that awards millions in grants to veterans and the organizations that support them each year.
Once again, video games and the people who make them are demonstrating their intimate understanding of human psychology. There’s virtually no opportunity cost to this kind of giving. Donating DLC profits and celebrating players obsessive understanding of their favorite games rewards behavior that would have occurred anyway with the warm glow of charity.
It may not be the most philosophically pure form of giving, but when many of us would rather level up than tie up our sneakers and run a mile, it gets the job done. Doesn’t hurt that it’s a heck of a lot of fun too.