The deadly tornadoes that attacked Missouri and killed 3 people earlier this month moved many people to donate their time and money, as well as needed supplies.
Today, they’re joined in this crucial effort by an increasingly powerful community, one that has members throughout the world and is responsible for enabling a multibillion dollar industry: gamers.
In sharp contrast to the stereotypes some associate with gaming, video game players comprise one of the newest movements to help in the wake of tragedies.
On Twitch, the largest website for watching people play video games — also known as streaming — gamers have donated $145 million to charity since 2011, including $42 million last year alone, according to figures sourced from the company.
“If anything has surprised me, it is how many people want to donate. For an event raising, say, $2 million, you will see like 50,000 plus donors,” said Andrew Schroeder, Director of Charity Partnerships at Twitch, a department he started in 2014. Schroeder said the video game community, especially streamers and those who follow them, has always been interested in using their platforms to help those in need and that finding common causes provides an additional way for them to connect.
“I think the ability for fundraise for a mission they believe in just brings them together even stronger,” said Schroeder.
Aaron Fowlow, 36, better known as Stereorage82 online, has seen this happen firsthand. Based in Newfoundland, Canada, he set up a charity streaming marathon by himself last year and decided to go for it again this year, along with four friends, on his channel.
“I do not have the biggest reach, but the community I have is tremendous. They pull together especially for my charitable efforts. It’s not about me, as I cannot do it alone,” he said.
The marathon began at 12 p.m. EST, on Friday and will go for 24 hours, benefitting Direct Relief’s work for Missouri communities impacted by the recent tornadoes.
“I have friends in the state of Missouri. I have been there myself, having spent three months of my life there. It is a beautiful state, with wonderful and generous people,” he said. “I felt the urgent need to organize something this weekend.”
Direct Relief has a dedicated gaming department, which supports gamers in supporting causes that speak to them.
“Any time that the gamers have needed some kind of request fulfilled to make their events more effective, whether it’s been venue space or needing to build some product online, they help provide it,” said Schroeder about Direct Relief.
It helps that the team running the department are gamers themselves and understand the community from a grassroots level.
“The main thing is what do millennials like to watch? It’s video games: people who are better than them and can teach them tricks or who are super funny,” said MC Moffit, who co-started the gaming effort at Direct Relief with Brooke Malone in explaining the appeal of watching other people play video games.
And a lot of people do. Last year, a report from Goldman Sachs stated that “the audience on YouTube & Twitch is larger than HBO, Netflix & ESPN combined.”
On Twitch alone, users watched 355 billion hours of content in 2017, which is an increase of 22% from 2016, according to the same report.
Despite the new format of gaming, Moffit said the appeal of charity gaming is reflective of previous successful appeals.
“It is not much different than the past with telethons, where there are entertainers asking you to make a pledge while you watch a singer, but it’s just watching it online,” said Moffit, who has raised $2.2 million through Zeldathon, a charity video game marathon he has been running for 10 years, and about $400,000 for Direct Relief so far.
In assessing why gamers, who skew younger, have been so generous, Schroeder said it’s a natural extension of an online-based community aspect.
“Each generation expresses themselves very differently and being able to interact with people around the world is something that speaks more closely to gamers and people who use the internet a lot in general. That connection really drives people wanting to give to each other more,” he said, adding that gaming stream allow people to easily give amounts they feel comfortable with.
As he prepared during the last hours before going live, Fowlow said the root of the gaming charity marathons is indeed the same as past concepts — except that one need not be a celebrity in this new kind of show.
“I am a 36-year-old disabled man from Canada. I just want to do good by the world, in what I enjoy doing, video games. I am not a pro, just an average dude,” he said.
To watch the streaming marathon, click here.