Massively Uplifting: Gaming studios and communities support kids, trees, cats, STEM, and gaming grandparents

    
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While there are understandably many reasons folks may not want to look back on 2019 fondly, the year wasn’t all bad. Massively Uplifting has found and focused on a plethora of inspiring stories happening in our gaming world. And December added more holiday cheer to the mix, closing out the year — and decade — with gobs of good deeds and a host of heart-warming stories.

Several studios stepped forward to raise money for charity, and multiple game communities rose to the challenges their games presented to aid charity. There were in-game initiatives that players could participate in like in Astroneer and The Elder Scrolls Online as well as livestream fundraisers like Wargaming’s. Donations went to everything from planting trees to STEM programs to animal rescue to children’s hospitals. Communities also rallied together to support and cherish its members, from making mods to developing programs to spread awareness of and support suicide prevention.

So go ahead, spend a few minutes reveling in the great things about our genre. Immerse in the glad tidings. Bask in the goodness and give yourself some real positive memories to take with you into this new year.

Getting gifts for giving

Many games do livestream fundraisers for Extra Life, but the creators of Astroneer developed a way for the whole community to get in on the giving regardless of anyone’s ability to donate money personally. Instead, players are donating their time and System Era Studio will be donating the cash. Money will be given to support Seattle Children’s Hospital, a part of the Children’s Miracle Network.

Astroneer’s Extra Life campaign pairs in-game gift package retrieval with donations: For every 50,000,000 recovery points the community achieves by retrieving lost presents all over the solar system, the studio will donate $5,000 to the campaign. This can go all the way to $20,000! So whether or not you have spare funds to give, you can “give” simply by spending some time in-game taking part in the event. Currently, donations are up to $13,099.

Players who participate don’t come out of the experience empty-handed; they can earn special snowman cosmetics by meeting personal milestones. And because the community reached the half-way goal, everyone who logs in during the event will unlock the top hat.

Gotta get ’em all — for science!

There are many ways to better our world and help children, and Pokemon Go developer Niantic chose a slightly different focus. The developer raised money for STEM programs in communities around the world, collecting a total of $100K in 2019 to create and enhance programs in science, technology, engineering, and math. Niantic’s 2019 Social Impact Report also revealed that players got into the giving action by raising another $28,000 for various charities through social impact events.

Dragons slain, cats saved

One of the reasons The Elder Scrolls Online got the Game of the Year vote from me is the concerted effort it has made to unite players in charity work initiatives. Besides helping find homes for “the jolliest breed of the Khajiit, the Alfiq,” Bethesda supported another big pet-centric cause in 2019. The #SlayDragonsSaveCats initiative promised that for every five dragons players slayed in-game through December 9, 2019, ESO would donate $1 to pet welfare charities, up to a total of $200,000. The two chosen charities were Best Friends Animal Society and Four Paws International.

Players rallied to the challenge and together defeated more than one million dragons! That means the $200,000 will be shared with the charities, and many kitties will be saved. Players can still donate to either charity directly by visiting the links on the official site.

Modders get gaming granny in the game

Back on April 1st, we shared how one gaming grandma with a special passion for The Elder Scrolls was honored by Bethesda with a visit to its offices and an upcoming NPC role in its next Elder Scrolls game. But that isn’t the end of Shirley Curry’s adventures in players’ hearts or in the games. In fact, she can actually become your companion in your own Skyrim travels! Curry recently shared on Twitter that several modders have been working on a follower character of her for Skyrim.

If you’ve ever watched Grandma Shirley’s adventures, you can understand why so many folks would want to game together with her. And with this new mod it will be possible! Until the mod is finished, you can enjoy watching her fun videos on YouTube.

Got grey? Gaming isn’t just for the young

Grandma Shirley is not the only member of her generation enjoying gaming — and even notoriety. NBC recently highlighted some other elder gamers who have fallen in love with gaming, and gamers have fallen in love with following them.

Another grandmother, Audrey Buchanan, has used “Animal Crossing” as a way to connect with both her grandson across the country and others. It is a real social outlet. She has put more than 3,500 hours into the game, and her grandson, an independent game developer, uploads videos of her playing to YouTube for others to enjoy. He stated that minus a few negative remarks, the experience is totally positive for her.

Will R., better known as Grandpa Gaming on Twitter and GrndPaGaming on Twitch, streams a variety of games, including the shooter PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. He’d shared his experience of receiving so much support from his followers after he had a heart attack. He told NBC news:

“What people don’t realize, when there’s a life-threatening situation and you have people that support you, that is uplifting in itself and it makes you fight. That’s what I did. I fought to get back and get back to my viewers and show I’m not giving up.”

Not the care and concern that the community expressed, and the strength that provides. Yes world, we gamers can be a huge force for good! We can even be family.

We’re sure to see more of these examples as gaming expands and gamers age. NBC News reported, “In a study by the Entertainment Software Association, 25 percent of male Boomers and 22 percent of female Boomers said that they’ve been playing video games for more than 25 years.” Personally, I plan on gaming and streaming with my someday grandkids and even great grandkids!

Even the undead save the trees!

You don’t even have to be alive to want to save the planet: The zombies in Plants vs. Zombies are putting aside their animosity for plant-life to help plant 500 trees for Feastivus. To give back to the community, the game is donating $500K to the Team Trees initiative, which plants a new tree for every one dollar raised. Those trees will be planted throughout the year (or more) starting this month.

To date, Team Trees has planting nearly 21.5 million trees! The organization met its goal of planting 20 million trees by January 1, 2020. But that doesn’t mean it is stopping; the initiative will continue to collect donations and plant a new tree for every dollar.

Stack Up’s StOP Mission

Mental health issues are serious, and veterans especially can be prone to troubles with PTSD or transitioning back to civilian life. As a society we need to shine a light on mental health more: That’s why it was heartening to see Stack Up’s specific initiative to bring awareness to suicide prevention and promote positive mental health highlighted at the gaming awards. Stack Up is already all about using gaming as a way to help veterans. Now, The Stack Up Overwatch Program, or StOP, is a program is designed to watch over its community of veterans and provide critical support through round-the-clock access to a team of trained and certified crisis management volunteers.

By utilizing Discord, veterans have 24/7 access to the StOP Squad, folks who are ready to assist them with gaining mental health resources, support services, therapeutic resources, financial resources, and even just be present if they simply need someone to talk to or game with. Yes, that means a squad of gamers might even being a LAN party to your home for some major Overwatch activity.

Those who want to apply for positions in StOP can read up on requirements and apply right on the main site. For even more information, you can join the official Discord to talk with one of the StOP Squad members.

Wargaming: Lose hair, save children

On December 19th, 2019, Wargaming culminated a week-long fundraising event for Save the Children with its first 24-hour stream on the official World of Warships Twitch channel. Devs participated in a variety of activities that players voted on, including getting a pie to the face and the unique World of Wax Strips (watch at your own risk!).

Players also earned rewards for donations, and the original target of $35,000 was sunk as fans gave a total of $41,702.03. Those funds will be sent to Save the Children to aid in its mission to improve the lives of children. Those who missed the livestream and still want to donate can do so using the link provided on the official post.

From happy stories to good deeds within our virtual worlds and the real world around us, there’s so much good in the gaming community. That’s why Massively OP’s MJ Guthrie pens Massively Uplifting: to highlight those generous, inspiring, heart-warming, and uplifting tales that exist throughout the MMOverse. Send your suggested stories along to warmfuzzies@massivelyop.com for our next entry!
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Alyn
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Alyn

Some stories bring a tear to my eyes. This one has done that. Thank you MJ. We spend so much of our time screaming bloody murder at our games and game makers. Why not stop for a second.

Look at all the good that has come from the games we play. That is us! It not just the company hosting a benefit, but we the gamers giving, sharing. We do what we can to help others and that is a warm and good thing to do.

I am guilty of being angry at greedy companies. However, this column causes me to stop and reflect on the good that these companies can stimulate from their perspective communities. I leave you all with this quote;

“The life of a man consists not in seeing visions and in dreaming dreams, but in active charity and in willing service.”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Reader
Jim Bergevin Jr

I just wanted to say thank you for this column. As an Extra Lifer myself, it’s nice to see how other gamers, and especially dev studios rally around charitable causes.