As of this year, 3.1 billion people across the planet—or roughly 40% of the global population—play video games on the regular. That’s a huge amount of people putting a lot of money into the industry and driving insane revenues. By the end of 2020, the industry is on track to generate $159.3 billion. With such high financial pictures and projections—and overall popularity—the industry is also ripe with possibility for its ability to drive social impact.
Social impact and giving in gaming
And it’s started to do just that. In 2018, a report by the American Gaming Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center showed that the industry gave $367 million to charities that year alone. Their study also found broader social impact efforts within gaming companies across the board, with 93% having energy efficiency and recycling programs, 69% having an institutionalized diversity and inclusion hiring policy, and 422,000 volunteer hours logged by industry workers per year. All of this points to an industry driven in large part by young people for whom social impact is a bigger factor in community and industry culture—and thankfully.
Since 2018, the industry’s social impact investment has continued to rise. Considering that 2018 revenues were $43.4 billion, when you do the math, the admittedly large sum of $367 million starts to look small—coming in at less than 1% of the total. So, there’s definitely room for the rise in giving.
What social impact initiatives in gaming look like
One of the coolest things about the gaming industry’s efforts in this arena are just how creative they are and how many organizations are doing innovative things to drive change. For one, you have video game streamers hosting livestreams specifically for charity, asking those that watch to donate. (For those old enough to get the reference, The Washington Post describes them as modern-day telethons.) As of 2019, the humanitarian aid organization Direct Relief had received over $9 million in donations from the gaming community and a great portion of that from popular and committed streamers, such as League of Legends streamer Tim “Trick2g” Foley and speedrunner David “GrandPOObear” Hunt.
Speaking of speedrunning—a competitive form of gaming in which the goal is to race through games as quickly as possible—the speedrunner organization Games Done Quick puts on gaming marathons dedicated to charity, much like standard running marathons or dance marathons often do.
Beyond charity gaming marathons and livestreams, though, you also have other full events and platforms, some geared toward specific charities and some fueled by partnerships between gaming companies and nonprofits for specific causes. Extra Life is one of the awesome organizations donating its efforts exclusively to one charity: Children’s Miracle Network Hospital. With a mission stating, “Play games. Heal kids,” Extra Life provides a structure through which anyone can sign up to play games on a day and time of their choice, run a fundraising drive and recruit others, and then play and stream on Twitch for more donations. The donations help fund critical treatments and healthcare services for pediatric patients at any of the organization’s 170 member hospitals.
Ritual Motion’s social impact initiatives
Ritual Motion takes part in our way by running tournaments in partnership with nonprofits and foundations in order to support their work and their causes. In June, we partnered with the Stonewall Community Foundation to honor the LGBTQ community for a Playing for Pride tournament, for which all of the donations went to the Foundation and their partner organizations. In September, we partnered with Rock the Vote and Gamers.Vote for our Varsity Votes tournament to help efforts to get young people in America registered and voting in this historic election year. Finally, in October—Breast Cancer Awareness Month—we partnered with the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF) on two big initiatives. For the NBCF’s Game Pink charity stream on October 3, Ritual Motion created special edition Game Pink Gaming Skins—15% of each purchase went directly to the NBCF. The event raised over $30,000 in donations. And at the end of the month, we hosted Smash Out Breast Cancer, a Super Smash Bros. tournament donating all funds raised to the NBCF’s Game Pink initiative.
Even more organizations driving impact in the gaming community
This list, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s Games for Change, a nonprofit that empowers game designers to drive social impact through games and immersive media. There’s FunFunding, which runs free-to-play tournaments where the charities of winning teams, usually composed of the nonprofit’s employees and supporters, earn prizes in cash. There’s also the social impact initiatives of the biggest gaming companies in the biz. Riot Games has a branch of its company dedicated to supporting initiatives and partnering with organizations around the world in education, citizenship, and defending human rights.
Lastly, there are even full media and entertainment outlets—or at least podcasts!—covering the gaming philanthropy beat, so to speak. The Gaming for Good podcast, for instance, focuses entirely on the philanthropic efforts happening in the gaming world. There’s so much going on in that space and so much continued potential that Shay Thompson, co-host of the podcast, has said, “This is the future of fundraising.”
If you ask us, he’s not wrong. Gaming is only getting more and more widespread. The opportunities for driving change and creating lasting impact will only get more and more widespread, too.
Which social impact initiatives in gaming would you like to see?