The Importance of Giving Back: Video Games and Charity Streams

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On April 1st and 2nd, Gamers for Giving will host its annual charity tournament at the Eastern Michigan University Convention Center. Start in 2008 by Gamers Outreach, the tournament is one of many video game events held across the nation that use video games to raise funds that go towards helping others. For Gamers Outreach, the funds go to creating portable GO Karts, medical-grade karts that can travel to hospitals and provide bedside entertainment for kids unable to leave their room during long-term care. In an interview for  engadget, head of Xbox games marketing and Games Outreach donator Aaron Greenberg said:

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The Gamers Outreach Foundation supports over 105,120 children across the nation per year. (Rob Schilke, Creative Commons)

“We play our games, and we love gaming as an art form. To be able to tie it back to something where [games] mean even more to kids in hospitals? I don’t know how to describe the feeling I get.”

In most cases, however, the funds are donated to local and national charities.

One of the largest and most well-known of these events is known as Extra Life. Powered by the streaming site Twitch, a live streaming video game platform, Extra Life is a way for gamers to raise money for their local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. The challenge, and fun, of Extra Life is creating a team to play video games for a full twenty-four hours.

Since 2008, Extra Life has raised over 30 million dollars for local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Just in 2015, the collective streams of 5,500 solo and teams raised around 8.3 million dollars. These dollars are used by the Miracle Network Hospitals however each hospital sees fit, from purchasing life-saving equipment to helping pay for treatments families otherwise couldn’t afford.

Although the charitable cause is the main purpose of these video game streams, for most viewers, the main draw is the streamers who participate. Roosterteeth, an Austin-based production, entertainment, and video game company, attracted over 1 million viewers during their 2016 Extra Life Stream. In 24 hours, the stream raised over five-hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

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The Rooster Teeth set featured at RTX 2015. (Daniel Benavides, Creative Commons)

One of the most important things to come out of these video game charity events is the changing perception of what it means to be a gamer. These events, by raising support for important causes, show the positive impacts of playing games, and highlight the charity and generosity that exists within the growing community. In an interview with CNBC, the coordinator for one of the largest Destiny charity streams of for St. Jude hospital Kevin Murray said:

“Millennials get a bad wrap but I think this charity event will prove that even those who can only give a dollar, will.”

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