Karma Points – Gamers Scoring Through Charity.

Luis Badillo, Writer

photo courtesy of Penny Arcade


It’s no surprise that gamers have faced a bum rap by having a hobby labeled as a useless pastime, but Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins are two gamers that have found a way to use the dedication of the gamer fanbase to create a tangible positive influence in the world. Krahulik and Holkins (respectively called “Gabe” and “Tycho” by their fans) are the founders and creators of Penny-Arcade, which has given them popularity, fame and a huge voice in the video game community. They currently have a fanbase of around 3.5 million and often use the comic to express their (often humorous) responses to criticism aimed at the gaming culture and industry.

One of these criticisms, penned by columnist Bill France, warned parents of the dangers of video games on young minds. In his article he says that “Video games laced with human atrocities” and “help young, impressionable people practice killing without care.” France also goes on to say that “Every time a youngster plays one of these games…They practice laughing at others’ pain and justifying murder.”

As a response to this article and the many like it, Gabe wrote in his blog post for Nov. 23, 2003 “The media seems intent on perpetuating the myth that gamers are ticking time bombs just waiting to go off. I know for a fact that gamers are good people.”  Soon after, Gabe and Tycho announced Child’s Play, their new charity. Teamed up with Amazon.com, gamers would be able to donate toys and video games to the patients of the local pediatric hospital. After about a month, word of Child’s Play circulated among blogs, forums, and magazines. The quick mobilization of gamers led to an impressive $250,000 raised for Child’s Play in just under a month.

Since then Child’s Play has raised more than $12.5 million and recruited some of the biggest names in the game industry to help out in the noble effort. Companies like Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony now help support the worldwide network of over 70 hospitals.

The effort started by Gabe and Tycho has inspired gamers everywhere to find ways to raise money. Sketch comedy group LoadingReadyRun, hosts an event called “Desert Bus for Hope” which has raised more than $380,000. Various independent game developers gather on occasion and sell their games in what is called the “Humble Indie Bundle” where they sell five games at a time. A portion of the profits go to Child’s play, as well as other organizations such as the Red Cross, or Charity: water.

Gaming blog and community, Sarcasticgamer.com founded Extra-Life in 2008, which allows independent gamers host their own 24-hour video game marathons. Some Northeastern students have been known to participate in this annual test of endurance. Participants are tasked to seek sponsors which raise money for the Children’s Miracle Network, a collection of pediatric hospitals throughout the United States.

After seeing the work done by Gabe and Tycho with Child’s Play and gamer organizations like theirs, France wrote another article. In it he describes the gamers’ efforts as wanting to do something good and that they “demonstrated that they have big hearts and generous instincts.”

It just goes to show that a little bit of good can go a long way to change somebody’s mind.  So the next time you see a gamer obsessing over saving the princess, you may want to take a second look. There might just be a little more at stake than a digital princess.