St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is powering up a new videogame charity program with help from some of the top streaming gamers.
The helping hands include Johnathan Wendel (Fatal1ty), “Ellohime,” “CohhCarnage,” Danielle Mackey (Panser), actress Zelda Williams, a team from Twitch, the world’s leading video platform and community for gamers, and GameStop, the world’s largest videogame retailer and official PLAY LIVE gaming sponsor.
Several of the gamers recently visited the hospital, bringing their passion for games, along with their controller skills, to help St. Jude prepare to launch a summer gaming season designed to excite and engage players and raise funds to “zerg” (defeat) childhood cancer.
St. Jude PLAY LIVE is a chance for gamers to use their skills at overcoming virtual enemies and obstacles to raise money so that kids can continue to win very real battles with cancer and other deadly diseases, and to ensure that no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for anything.
The 12-week program kicks off June 13, in concert with Twitch, and ends midnight, Sept. 1, featuring titles such as League of Legends, Dota2, Minecraft, StarCraft II, and a host of indie games.
“St. Jude PLAY LIVE marks our first real foray into the video game world to raise awareness and funds for children battling cancer and other deadly diseases at St. Jude and around the world,” said Richard Shadyac Jr., CEO of ALSAC/St. Jude.
“The willingness of these online competitors to invest their time and considerable talents to meaningfully impact the lives of some of the world’s sickest children and their families has been remarkable. We are honored that so many are eager to join our lifesaving mission.”
Gaming is booming a $21-billion industry and the fastest growing segment of entertainment, according to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), engaging hundreds of millions of people from around the world daily. Sales of virtual goods have reached $1 billion annually, and forecast to reach more than $4 billion by 2016.
Virtual goods sold, bought or won for charitable causes are also on the rise, connecting a growing number of consumers with causes that matter to them. Additionally, many consumers are discovering a cause or organization for the first time through gaming, introducing them to philanthropy.
Players’ average age is 31, 10 years older than a decade ago, and, collectively, the world spends 3 billion hours every week playing video games, reports ESA, including games created especially for women and seniors.
St. Jude PLAY LIVE will also provide students the chance to earn service hours as more organizations consider service hours a critical part of service leadership and community engagement. In St. Jude PLAY LIVE, student players can earn 10 service hours per $100 raised, and every dollar raised helps more kids fighting for a chance at life. St. Jude gaming ambassadors CohhCarnage, Mackey and Ellohime are supporting with pledges of fundraising or donations from their personal streams.
“Having worked with many charities in my time streaming, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is by far the most impressive group of individuals dedicated to the simple pursuit of bettering our quality of life,” said Ellohime, who is donating 10 percent of his Twitch earnings to St. Jude.
“It is one thing to see such passion and positivity within the working members of its organization, but something entirely different and profound to see those qualities spread to the patients and families of those they help. I cannot wait to be a part of the St. Jude PLAY LIVE movement and do my part.”
Mackey said, “I have been working hard to recruit people for my team and encouraging businesses to make donations or provide prizes for the highest donors.”
To reach as many players as possible, St. Jude PLAY LIVE is working with Twitch and GameStop. Twitch sees more than 45 million people visit its site monthly to broadcast, watch and play games around the world. Zelda Williams, actress and serious gamer, plans to host a stream on the St. Jude PLAY LIVE Twitch channel.
Twitch also has issued a $250,000 Challenge – the first 250 gamers who sign up and raise $1,000 receive a highly prized purple custom Twitch hoodie.
GameStop is offering the grand prize package, an all-expense paid trip for two to their highly anticipated 2014 GameStop Expo, Sept. 10, in Anaheim, Calif., to the top fundraiser. The top four fundraisers will receive an all-expense paid trip to the Expo.
Registration for St. Jude PLAY LIVE is open now at playlive.stjude.org, and fundraising opens June 13.
Over the summer, St. Jude and its gaming ambassadors will host different events each weekend focusing on different games. The first weekend of St. Jude PLAY LIVE, single players or clans can play their game of choice, with the goal to get as many people streaming as possible. The June 20 weekend will feature Riot Games’ League of Legends, the most popular eSports game in the world.
Other weekend events are:
• June 27: Sports Cup for the Kids, featuring a variety of sports titles
• July 4: An Indie Games Explosion, focusing on smaller game studios
• July 11: The Zeldathon Adventure and an old school games marathon
• July 18: Valve's Dota2, the wildly popular MOBA with the largest championship prize in the world
• July 25: Blizzard in the Summer: a three-week long focus on Blizzard’s library of award-winning games
o July 25: Hearthstone
o Aug. 1: StarCraft
o Aug. 8: World of Warcraft
• Aug. 15: Next-Gen Drag Race, a weekend focusing on the best racing games on the home consoles
• Aug. 22: A Minecraft Buildathon, challenging streamers to build a local version of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Mojang's Minecraft
• Aug. 29: Open final weekend, which will wrap up with a live-streamed 90-hour marathon that begins at 8 a.m. Friday, Aug. 29, and ends at midnight Monday, Sept. 1
Throughout the three weeks dedicated to Blizzard’s collection of games, the top streamer will have a chance to earn tickets to the sold out BlizzCon 2014 and other rare prizes.
The St. Jude PLAY LIVE season will end in a 90-hour marathon live streamed from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, featuring gamers, patients and ambassadors. The 90-hour window aligns with the hospital's mission to increase the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 80 percent today to 90 percent in the next decade.
(To register or for more information, go to playlive.stjude.org.)