Gamers as Givers

In late July, the first volley of what would later become GamerGate happened, and per usual, C and I had a drunk conversation about it. His prediction, which would immediately become true as the harassment campaign dug its heels in, was that folks would stop calling themselves gamers. Sure enough, gaming sites and then mainstream media pulled out the funerary signage announcing the "death" or "end" of the gamer identity.

I didn't think it was fair at the time, and I still don't. True, maybe the community that we called "gamers" was a desert mirage to begin with. Just because most of my friends had been raised on your Marios and your Donkey Kongs, doesn't mean that everyone else who grew up that way would be my friend.

But in the midst of what turned into a fiery argument, I made one impassioned play based on personal experience. Gamers can be good, and I could put my finger on the exact moment when I knew so: the very first Child's Play charity. It was my senior year, and I read every one of Mike and Jerry's blog posts attempting this noble experiment. I knew then: I wanted to be in this community, because it's made up of good people.

Nowadays, the gamer charity universe has expanded way beyond my original, breathless realization. Of course, there's always Desert Bus if you're down for an annual spectacle, or Humble Bundle, if you prefer a weekly charity regimen. Speed run/let's play marathons are a great way to give, and I know from experience that the runners love giving back.

Don't like throwing your money into an internet hole? Who could blame you! My local coalition for the homeless allows you to sponsor a family in need, and I always look for the kid who wants a video game and a winter coat. Think about your experience growing up: would you make mom or dad pick between keeping you warm or bringing you video game joy? That's a decision no behind-the-scenes Santa should have to make.

And of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning C's most recent project: Bullseye's Playground, a Target-sponsored collection of minigames for St. Jude's Hospital. I love the model: just play these adorable kids' games and Target donates.

Months after our first debate about it, C sent me Chris Kluwe's emphatic diatribe against GamerGate. Midway through, he says:

When people think of “gamers,” I want them to think of Child’s Play, and athletes who play competitive League of Legends, and all the normalization we’ve accomplished over the years. I want them to think of feminism, and games as an art form — something more than mass entertainment.

He's right, of course. But gamers—the identity, the community—shouldn't die. They should look into the future, to the kid who can't get her hand around a mouse right now, or has to hold a controller in her lap, and make sure she has something good and giving to look forward to.