It's an exciting time to be Seven Siegel. Siegel is the executive director of Global Game Jam, the world's largest 48-hour gaming hackathon, but more important, they're a former game developer with an MBA in nonprofit management. This makes Siegel particularly suited to work in an emerging niche market blending philanthropy with cutting-edge technology: video game charities.
There are dozens of charities in the video-game industry, including heavy hitters like the Gamers Outreach Foundation, which puts gaming equipment in children's hospitals around the nation; AbleGamers, which helps people with disabilities play their favorite titles; and Take This, which advocates for mental-health awareness in the gaming industry. And there are more community-led nonprofits popping up all the time.
"We're seeing it on the individual level with Desert Bus for Hope, with the Mario marathon, with Awesome Games Done Quick," Siegel says. "These are all charity events that aren't big industry things. These are all people getting together with their love of games and making some good happen."
There are so many charities in the video-game universe nowadays that Siegel decided it was time to round some up and see what kind of good they could do together. Yesterday, Global Game Jam and the IGDA Foundation launched One Gamer Fund, a collection of seven big gaming charities under one fundraising banner, a la United Way.
The participating charities -- AbleGamers, Child's Play, Games for Change, Global Game Jam, IGDA Foundation, Stack-Up and Take This -- will receive half of all the money raised in Good Shepherd Entertainment's big Steam sale this weekend, plus proceeds generated by the initiative's collaboration with t-shirt retailer The Yetee. Twitch streamers are also getting in on the action, raising money for One Gamer Fund via the Tiltify fundraising tool today through Sunday, September 24th. And there's always direct donations on the group's website.
"It's amazing," Siegel says. "Gaming as a medium is very young compared to movies and then definitely compared to the all-time reigning champion, books. Games are really young. And people recognize movies can produce social change, and we can have these great documentaries that can change people's minds, and books can pass on messages and we've seen that -- and we've reached the point where, if you look at society as a whole, we're at the early-adopter phase."
Most of the money Siegel expects to raise this weekend will come from the Good Shepherd Steam sale, which features serious discounts on the publisher's library of indie games, including RunGunJumpGun, Oh...Sir!! The Hollywood Roast, Hard West and Train Fever. Siegel says Good Shepherd has been an incredible asset as One Gamer Fund has come together. Good Shepherd's chief creative officer, Devolver Digital co-founder Mike Wilson, even helped make the entire Steam collaboration happen -- front-page placement and all.
One Gamer Fund was initially going to partner with another distribution service, but last month, that deal suddenly fell through. Siegel discovered they didn't have a home for the Good Shepherd sale via an email, just before boarding a flight to PAX West.
"I'm about to get on a plane for six hours -- I'm going to Seattle for PAX -- and I'm freaking out, I'm emailing Mike," Siegel recalls. "And then I get on the plane, I get off the plane, I check my phone immediately, and Mike has already reached out to Steam, communicated with them, sold them on the idea and got it going in that area."
That's how Good Shepherd rolls, Siegel says: "We're getting much more out of this than they are. So it's really showing to me that Good Shepherd really cares and is willing to put their donated money where their mouth is."
It isn't pure goodwill driving Good Shepherd here, of course. Charity work can be a boon to any business, and while individuals in the industry have proved their desire to help underserved communities through the power of video games, publishers haven't exactly jumped on the philanthropy train. There are a handful of initiatives, like Activision's Call of Duty Endowment and Riot Games' recent foray into nonprofit work, but compared with companies like Unilever or Nestle, the gaming industry falls short.
That's silly, to Siegel, who regularly gives talks at conferences like PAX West about the corporate benefits of charity work. Siegel says 85 percent of Americans will switch to a product if the company supports a cause they believe in, and that figure jumps to 90 percent if we're just talking about millennials.
"My sneaky-sneak ulterior motive for this Steam sale is for people to see, other game companies to see, like, 'Wow, Good Shepherd really succeeded with this Steam sale, even with giving away half their proceeds,'" Siegel says. "And they'll follow suit and they'll say, 'We should do this, too, and we should hop on board. We should give more to charity and work with charities more and diversify the charities we work with so that we can really impact gaming on all levels.'"
As far as ulterior motives go, that's a truly good one.