A few short weeks ago, I embarked on a soul-saving mission of redemption by choosing to embrace the positive side of gaming and its many, varied fruits. I'll be the first to admit that I didn't exactly establish a place of worship by producing a list that featured, of all things, the act of shopping. But as I said, it's important I don't get carried away - lest things like this go unnoticed and are eventually considered acceptable.
Consequently, my latest batch of hot, fresh positivity from the fan-assisted ovens of joy is specifically focussed on games and the players thereof as a force for good in the world today – something to consider next time you're naked, covered in cheese and 150 hours deep into the next title in the Elder Scrolls series.
Don't look now, but I think there's a 'gamer' coming down the road – Yes, that's definitely one of them. His figure nestles uncomfortably somewhere between disproportionately rotund and couch-splittingly obese, and his limited range of attire resembles A Scanner Darkly's appearance-scrambling suit set to 'Saved by the Bell'. He's probably only dragged himself away from a heated online forum discussion (The cup sizes of Dragon Age II’s female cast, if you were wondering) in order to brutally murder some young, academic female who's never even heard of an Xbag 3:16. If he's not too busy devising nerdy and infeasible methods of surviving a supposedly impending zombie apocalypse, that is.
When this twisted perception of the game-playing public is taken into consideration, it's no real surprise to learn that we're rarely associated with an act as selfless and considerate as raising money for charity. Such things are, after all, usually left to mindless singles and performances from waxy, synthetic boy-bands, and the production of vaguely comical but consistently hideous flavours of potato snack. If the average gamer seemed unlikely to be concerned with making donations, then people would certainly be forgiven for failing to recognise popular webcomic Penny Arcade as a legitimate charitable organisation.
Since 1998, artist Mike Krahulik and writer Jerry Holkins have taken gaming culture and carved out their own filthy niche, producing concise, witty and often essential commentary on the gaming world and some of its quirkiest happenings. Along the way they've punched babies, eaten cold placenta sandwiches, made more rape jokes than even Frankie Boyle would care to admit to and through all of this, ended up with a readership of millions. It was this ability to reach and captivate such a wide audience of gamers around the world that led to the creation of Child's Play, a charity centred around providing children's hospitals worldwide with toys, games and funds for additional care and research.
With their humble intentions of setting out to dispel some of the negative attitudes towards gamers and raise some money for a worthy cause along the way, it undoubtedly came as a shock to the Penny Arcade team when the charity became such a huge success; the current total of money raised stands at just short of $9 million in the seven years since launching. By enabling this, they have ultimately proved that not only are many gamers willing to divert some of their money away from Batman memorabilia and busty statues of game protagonists for a worthy cause, but that they will do so on an unprecedented scale.
It was back in 2005 that events took on a fairytale-like quality, and a genuinely powerful statement was made by the creators of the Fruitfucker. Cue Jack Thompson, real-life counterpart of Lionel Hutz and self-proclaimed Bruce Wayne in the 'fight against rap music'. Despite his occasionally correct views on the sales of adult oriented games to minors, Thompson managed to be all of the misleading press and common misconceptions about games personified, and his wild claims and accusations were often nothing short of ludicrous. The peak of this idiocy was arguably his ironic pledge on live TV, of a $10,000 charity donation if any developer was willing to create a game that would feature Osaki Kim – a father whose son was murdered by an alleged gamer – embark on a killing rampage against leading figures throughout the gaming industry.
This proved to be a severe miscalculation on his part, as the modding community could hardly have made his moronic proposal a reality any quicker. Bruce Wa – sorry, Jack Thompson immediately rescinded his kind offer, simply dismissing it as 'satire'. Being somewhat familiar with the concept of satire, and failing to recognise its presence in this particular instance, Krahulik and Holkins were involved in a brief altercation with Thompson, who in turn gestured frantically and vaguely in the direction of the law and threatened with the intervention of the FBI on the grounds of harassment. In response, Penny Arcade simply made the $10,000 donation to The Entertainment Software Association Foundation, and accompanied it with a simple note: 'For Jack Thompson, because Jack Thompson won't.'