Mike Daw explains how video game marathons can give small, local charities access to global audiences
These days, a lot of people enjoy watching strangers play video games. If that sounds a little unlikely to you, there's some numbers you should know: The most popular YouTube content creator PewDiePie has a base of nearly 40 million people who watch videos of him playing games. Twitch, a website exclusively for streaming people's live play-throughs of games, attracts up to 100 million unique visitors a month.
This world of video game watching is quite a charitable one. It makes sense when you think about it - it's a hobby loved by billions of people, most of whom have a bit of disposable income (the average age of gamers in the UK is around 35 years) and time to sit and contemplate the world. This year, Games Done Quick organised a week-long schedule of sponsored live-streamed video game marathon playing, which raised over $1.2m for Doctors Without Borders.
We've all seen many times how Facebook and Twitter can be used to raise funds and awareness for your charity - and gaming podcasts, YouTubers and Twitch streamers should be regarded as equally powerful partners.
For charities who help disadvantaged and disabled children and young people in the UK, GamesAid can be a great place to start building connections. They act as an umbrella to support small to medium-sized charities rather than larger, better-funded ones. Selected charities can benefit from any fundraising events, and you can suggest your own fundraising events too. A huge number of these fundraising events are live-streamed game playing marathons, including world record attempts.
Often in conjunction with GamesAid (but not exclusively), podcast hosts and YouTube content creators will do a charity video game marathon to both fundraise and entertain. Chances are there's a content creator out there either around you locally or further afield who would enjoy teaming up with your charity to fundraise and mutually promote.
From local to global
Even down to the most grassroots level, I think you'd be surprised at the number of people who'd come down to a village hall to watch and sponsor a 24-hour charity Street Fighter 4 tournament. You could even stream it live on the internet for free - turning your local event into a global one. Both YouTube and Twitch offer free streaming services for live game play with live chat and social media integration. They'll even archive the footage for people to re-watch around the globe later on.
You could go a little bigger and host it online yourself for not a huge amount of hassle or expense. There's plenty of guides on the internet, such as this one, to how best to organise your own live-streamed gaming marathon from people who've done them before.
For many charities big and small, watching people playing video games has already raised significant amounts of money. When you're planning your next angle on fundraising, the world of video game spectating should definitely be on your list of options. Whether you team up with content creators or umbrella charities, or go it alone and have your own marathon, it's a way to raise money and awareness for your cause that also provides great entertainment to a lot of people.
Mike Daw is creative director at Infinite State Games