Play For Good: Videogame-Related Charities

Giving & Gaming

Philosopher Albert Schweitzer shows us “No matter how busy one is, any human being can assert his personality by seizing every opportunity [to give back] for the good of his fellow men.  He will not have to look far for opportunities. Our greatest mistake, as individuals, is that we walk through out life with closed eyes and do not notice our chances.”

Author and video game advocate Jane McGonigal explains her #1 goal in life is to see a game designer nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She forecasts that this will happen by the year 2023. Of course, it’s not enough to just forecast the future — She’s also actively working to make it a reality. (And you can too — join Gameful, the Secret HQ for Worldchanging Game Developers.) Her best effort so far? SuperBetter, a game that has helped more than 250,000 players so far tackle real-life health challenges like depression, anxiety, chronic pain and traumatic brain injury.

Figure 1.

As a professional game developer with 17 years experience (2016), I am regularly involved in charities. With the flexibility offered by owning and running my own consultancy for years, I could also take time out for volunteering. One year I taught English (and some gaming too!) in Indonesia (See Figure 2). The experience left me positively (changed and) charged. Back in the office, more research has led me to write this article on the many ways we can all give back using skills from game development. I’m very excited for the possibilities. I have already contacted many companies to ask how I can be of service. I’ll provide an update in the future with new discoveries.

Figure 2. Me, Teaching English (And Videogames) In Asia

As individuals we can all give a bit more to help the issues we care about. But the issue of course is not just individual. Companies can build their charitable concerns to augment business objectives including of course public relations and to attract proactive new talent. When considering new employers, partners, and clients… the charity and community involvement are important parts of my evaluation of successful fit within company culture.

Game Companies Doing It Right

The Humble Bundles are a series of collections (“bundles”) of digital creations that are sold and distributed online at a price determined by the purchaser. The bundles are typically offered on a semi-regular basis during a two-week period; sales often include bonus games or media offered mid-week through the sale for those that have already purchased the bundle or otherwise pay more than the average.

As GuardianLV explains, there are two aspects of Humble Bundle that separate it from the conventional retail model. The first one is that the buyer can determine the price of the product they buy. One would think that this would drive the price down; but Humble Bundle has already thought of that. The consumer must pay above the average price in order to get the bonus, most coveted games in the package, among other benefits. This prevents buyers from lowballing the price too much, as many of them primarily purchase the bundle specifically for those games. Also, only those that pay over $1 will get keys to Valve’s Steam client. This is significant because Steam sometimes holds contests allowing players to win prizes by accomplishing certain achievements within the games offered in order to enter a raffle. This became a problem with Humble Indie Bundle 4, as many gamers were purchasing multiple packages for the minimum price of one cent in order to enter a concurrent Steam contest multiple times, and that is why this policy was put in place.

As of September 25, 2013, our customers have given more than $25 million to the many great charities associated with Humble Bundle. The generosity of Humble Bundle customers has benefited many vital charities. It recently closed with over 2.1 million bundles sold and $10.5 million in sales. The portion of that given to charity was significant.

The other aspect that sets Humble Bundle apart is that gamers decide how much of their money goes to what end. Buyers can choose what percentage of what they pay goes to the game developers, to Humble Bundle, Inc. itself, or to the charities corresponding to that particular package, which vary from bundle to bundle. Furthermore, the consumer can choose how much of their charitable donation goes to what specific organization.

Figure 3. Consumers select how much of the purchase price goes to charity

Charity Organizations


Games For Change

The mission statement for Games For Change (G4C) isCatalyzing Social Impact Through Digital Games”. Since 2004, they facilitate the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.

President of G4C Asi Burak is an award-winning game creator, tech executive, and social entrepreneur. He is the Executive Producer of the Half the Sky Movement games, he orchestrated partnerships with Zynga, Frima Studio, some of the world’s leading NGOs, and Pulitzer Prize-winning authors Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Unlike the commercial gaming industry, G4C aims to leverage entertainment and engagement for social good. To further grow the field, they convene multiple stakeholders, highlight best practices, incubate games, and help to create and to direct investment into new projects.


Games for Good

Games for Good leverages game mechanics for social benefit. Games created for this segment of the industry hope to teach, train or simply generate awareness of a topic, an issue or a societal problem, therefore creating change – in thinking, actions or attitudes.

Examples of Games for Good

  • Games that teach young people to become globally conscious citizens, contributing their own solutions to social issues
  • A game that focuses on the moral challenge of oppression of women around the world, with content designed to teach young women how to unlock their economic power
  • A title that helps people form good savings habits, avoiding the pitfall of too many credit cards and debt
  • Games that help players think more critically about complex issues like race, religion, nationality, class and culture

Games for Good brings together leaders from non profits, government, corporations, academia and the gaming industry. This game category often provides an entry point for public sector entities new to the field, introducing a new way for these organizations to get their point across.

The Serious Game Association is building a directory to make Games for Good accessible to more organizations and people.



Since 2003, Extra-Life has set up and organized Child’s Play, a game industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in our network of over 70 hospitals worldwide. Over the years, you as a community have answered the call and come together to raise millions of dollars.

Child’s Play works in two ways. With the help of hospital staff, they set up gift wish lists full of video games, toys, books, and other fun stuff for kids. By clicking on a hospital location on their map, you can view that hospital’s wish list and send a gift.

Child’s Play also receives cash donations throughout the year. With those cash donations, they purchase new consoles, peripherals, games, and more for hospitals and therapy facilities. These donations allow for children to enjoy age-appropriate entertainment, interact with their peers, friends, and family, and can provide vital distraction from an otherwise generally unpleasant experience.


Games That Give

GamesThatGive was founded in 2008 by Adam Archer and Kris Goss, great friends and self admitted geeks. GamesThatGive was built around the belief that great companies, and their customers, want to make a difference. Even beyond that, they want to help others make a difference.

While many companies engage in charitable activities, they are rarely effective at involving their customer base in these efforts. That’s why GamesThatGive combined gaming with charitable giving to create the leading platform for engaging brands’ customers in charitable activities.

And so far, the results have been exceptional. GamesThatGive’s clients now include many of the biggest brands in the world. These brands have built trust and loyalty with their customers, and at the same time have helped make the world a better place.

When companies and customers play games to help others, everyone wins!

Please email us today. A real person will always respond, and we’d love to hear from you.



Indie Games For Good is a marathon event. It is about encouraging people to donate to Child’s Play while generating exposure for independently developed games. We’re going to run a live stream of us playing indie games, and we’ll keep playing for as long as people keep donating. Unlike other gaming marathons, which only play a predetermined list of games, the games we play during IGG Marathon will be determined by requests from our donors, so our viewers will be directly involved in the experience. Last year we raised $12,856.76 for Child’s Play, and played for 76 hours. The year before that, we played for 79 hours and raised $6,816.40.


Special Effect

SpecialEffect is a registered UK charity which helps to find ways for disabled people, unable to use a standard video games controller, to be able to enjoy the interaction, fun and many other benefits of playing video games.

They set up, create, lend and support the use of specialist games controllers from our library of equipment. Everyone they work with is different. Some of the people they work with find it difficult or impossible to control parts of their body other than their eyes. In these instances SpecialEffect uses computers which are controlled just by moving their eyes.

The demand for this work is growing all the time, so they are asking you to help to meet this need and help us purchase this very special piece of equipment which will add an additional eye-controlled gaming system to our library.

By pledging and spreading the word to your friends and fellow gamers, they can help more people, more quickly together.

How You Can Help

Checkout great charity organizations that mix gaming with a cause you care about. You can make a donation and perhaps volunteer your time.

In a larger way, consider how your current company and your game projects affect others. Not every game must ‘give’ or ‘teach’, but the impact we each have on the world is big and can always be bigger and better.

Watch the great video below. It is fantastic.


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