Thoughts on Video Games Changing Lives


Video games have something of a stigma amongst non-gamers as being irrelevant, even inane.  Yet they can be more than just ways to pass the time. They can be more than just interesting stories. They can be a good source of income for the players, and they can even help change lives.

Though the original StarCraft is still being played by gamers around the world, StarCraft II hit the tournaments just like its predecessor, with the Global StarCraft II League, or G.S.L., being just one big name in the Korean gaming tournament world that features it.  Last year, the end of the tournament saw the grand winner receive the equivalent of approximately eighty-five thousand, seven hundred U.S. dollars (or about sixty-three thousand, seven hundred and ninety-five Euros, or fifty-four thousand, eight hundred and sixty-two Pounds Sterling).

Global StarCraft II League logo.

This is a yearly event, mind—with players being treated like how Western cultures treat rock stars and other celebrities.  Lim Yo-Hwan, for example, is incredibly popular, with hundreds of thousands of members in his fan club, a D.V.D. collection of his best games, and a few more perks besides.  He’s not the only player to have a ton of fans and other such things, either.  It’s more than a sport—it’s a job.

As with so much of the rest of the world, Korea is growing.  One staple of any growing culture is that jobs become scarce, and/or people have to take jobs that are dangerous, low-paying, require more than they might technically be qualified for—or all three.  Any job is a welcome job, especially one with perks like this.  Though, like most sports, players tend to not have a very long career—but also like any sport, a player who tends to their money wisely can set themselves up with a nice retirement fund.

On another side of things, you have the Penny Arcade Expo, or P.A.X., which is a semi-annual gaming festival-cum-celebration, created by Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the pair behind the crazy-popular web comic Penny Arcade—and growing from P.A.X. is Child’s Play.  It’s not just another “give toys to kids” charity, though that’s obviously the focus.  Giving toys to very sick children and cold cash to the hospitals that treat them is important—and Child’s Play is one of the charities that lives up to that promise.

Aside from insane money drives that break records every single year, the toy drive is enormous, yet efficient.  For just one example, wish lists are set up on Amazon.com, and people can click through and buy things for the hospitals.  Items ship directly to the hospitals, and the commission Amazon pays Child’s Play gets shunted right into the hospitals—they keep none of it for themselves.

Child's Play logo.

On top of that, though, are the charity dinners, started a few years ago, with a silent auction, usually filled with items from pretty much everyone even tangentially connected with the business end of gaming, and the final bit being a guest spot in the comic strip.  Jerry Holkins, the alter ego of Tycho Brahe, is quoted as saying, “it’s like they’re jousting with money!” as people started bidding absolutely ludicrous amounts of money.

What it really proves, though, is that gamers are no less soft-hearted than any other group of people.  In the very first few weeks of Child’s Play’s existence, they raised hundreds of thousands of dollars—from nothing, no warm-up, no pestering people for weeks, nothing.  In just three short weeks, they raised an incredible amount of money—and it’s only grown in the years since.

It’s all too easy, even as a gamer, to see the hobby as some non-gamers see it—irrelevant, without purpose or reason.  Yet it can be so much more than that—and how many other hobbies can boast that?  Gaming helps bring people together—and it can help children deal with their illness a little bit easier.  It can help people get jobs who might have to turn to glorified slave labor.

Gaming is a wonderful hobby.  We celebrate it whenever we can—but maybe we should celebrate it a little more.  There’s more depth to this hobby, more sincere attempts to help, than in some other hobbies one could name.  That deserves attention.  That deserves celebration.

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on Video Games Changing Lives”

  1. Great post and I love the other side and glad you talked about it. I have tried to find links about things like this, but had trouble. One of your best post about gaming.

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