Generosity from an Unexpected Source

When most of us think about video games, our thoughts immediately jump to the stereotype that they are violent and mindless.  I’m the mom of an 8-year old, and sometimes I fear the worst.  Like many parents, I regulate everything my son plays and the many mediums he uses.   

Because of him, video games have become an even larger interest for me.  I’ve volunteered at the East Coast Game Conference (ECGC) the past two years.  It’s a great opportunity to learn how games are created, to learn about the local companies, and to meet with future developers. 

The amazing thing I discovered is that many game companies donate their time, games, and cool “swag” to charitable nonprofits.  And, there is also a large contingent of socially responsible “gamers.”

At ECGC’s 2012 Conference, I volunteered with Wake Tech’s Simulation and Game Development Department.  Our mission: Selling raffle tickets for “Child’s Play,” a nonprofit devoted to purchasing games systems for children who are undergoing lengthy hospital stays and treatments.  I was glad to see several attendees buying as many as five raffle tickets at $5 a ticket. The $1,200 raised from this raffle means there is potential to do even more in future years.     

Prior to this experience, I wasn’t aware that anyone in the video game industry cared about nonprofits or giving back.  I met a student at one event who works at a nonprofit serving veterans.  He was learning game design and development so he could create games to help veterans suffering from PTSD transition back into daily life.    

I have come to realize that there is much more to video games than I first thought.  There is an entire section of the industry focused on social awareness and studying the beneficial results of games.  Check out the Gains through Gaming Lab at N.C. State University where they’ve discovered that video games can improve cognitive functioning.  Games for Changegenerates social awareness on subjects ranging from human rights to the environment to PTSD support.  Jane McGonigal’s theories on how gaming could improve the world are interesting, too. 

I will volunteer again at the 2013 ECGC Conference.  I hope that we can raise even more money at the raffle booth.  With the growth in responsible and socially aware gaming, I think the future holds great potential  – FTW (for the win), as long as we don’t go AFK (away from keyboard) and stay connected.    

Sandy Pickett is executive assistant at the N.C. Center for Nonprofits and has served on the staff team for more than a year.

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