Tabletop games can have incredibly positive benefits for the people who play them. They teach us to be better winners and losers, to play cooperatively, and to think strategically. However, the positive effects of games aren’t limited to the people who play them. More and more board games are being used as tools to raise money and awareness for charitable causes. It’s great to see a hobby full of kind generous people turn games, themselves, into conduits of doing good deeds.
For this week’s CMON Feature Friday we talked to some people that have found a way to turn gaming into a charitable act.
Marguerite Cottrell has been running the Gauntlet tournament in Seattle from the Mox Boarding House for the past four years.
“We ask 20 local companies (Bungie, Paizo, WOTC, Popcap... etc) to raise funds. All the money they raise will help them in a one day epic tournament. To the winner goes a big, shiny trophy,” explains Cotrell. This year's event jsut took place last weekend and raised over $138,000.
“The company I work for formed a charitable giving wing called ENGAGE in 2013. We wanted to formalize our charitable efforts and try to maximize our reach. We modeled the Gauntlet off of the Omegathon that happens at PAX Prime each year. The woman who heads the committee has a background in social work and charity and it is the best perk I've had in any job, ever.“
Cottrell sees the synergy that board games and fundraising can share. Gamers naturally want to do their best and find ways to maximize their efforts. Turning that energy towards charitable causes is extremely beneficial.
“The Gauntlet utilizes our competitive nature as gamers toward something impactful and amazing.“
Turning her hobby into a way to help others has been extraordinarily rewarding for Cottrell.
“Each year, we've chosen a unique charity that is hyper-local to our store locations. We've benefitted Hopelink, Child's Play, Youthcare, and Treehouse. Our ENGAGE committee looks for charities that do amazing work, control admin costs responsibly, and for which the money we raise can make an impact.”
The Gauntlet isn’t the only event that Cottrell takes part in. She also competes in the Extra Life Marathon. Extra Life is a 24-hour gaming marathon that raises money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Since 2008, Extra Life has raised over $30 million for local hospitals. Some of her best memories have come from her fundraising efforts with her friends.
“In 2012 or 2013, my friends and I were chatting on Twitter about the upcoming Extra Life Marathon. By the end of that talk, friends flew to Seattle from all around the US. We raised more than $10,000, and even got memorial tattoos,” Cottrell remembers. “It was our first great indication of the impact a little effort could have with this amazing gaming community.”
Organizations and individuals are turning towards gaming as a way to have fun while doing some good for the community.
The Jack Vasel Memorial Fund was developed in 2011 in memory of Tom Vasel’s son, Jack, who tragically passed away. The goal of the charity is to raise money for members of the board game community who have suffered a personal hardship. Each year, an auction is held featuring donations from different members of the community. People can bid on rare or out of print games, play sessions with board game celebrities, and get board game exclusives they can’t find anywhere else. It is great to see the community come together to help out the members who need it the most.
Snakes & Lattes Board Game Café holds an annual event called the Catanathon. Players compete in game after game of Settlers of Catan in order to raise money for Cancer research. It has become one of the highlights of the year for the staff, and a number of local celebrities take part as well. People can donate money for ridiculous consequences for the participants, like forcing them to dance for an entire round of the game, or eat a habanero pepper, or even shave their heads. The more donations roll in, the longer the participants play. Most of the events last just under 24 hours. Now that’s a lot of Catan!
CMON is even getting into the act, with the announcement of the Rising Sun Charity Event at Gen Con 2017. Ticket holders will get a chance to try out the game, and at the end of each session, six winners names will be drawn. Each winner gets to take home a copy of the hotly anticipated title from Eric M. Lang. Proceeds from the charity event will go to support the Gen Con charity from this year, Child Advocates. CMON will also be matching the money raised from the event dollar for dollar.
One of the great things about the gaming hobby is how supportive we are of one-another. We try to find ways to help people out, and raising funds through various gaming methods is a great way. If you run a Con, big or small, consider picking a charity and running an event, tournament, or raffle to help them raise some money. And if you’re just an individual with a big heart, consider supporting this type of event or taking part, yourself.