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People have been misrepresenting gamers for years. They get no respect, endless taunts, and are occasionally fingered as being the human offal that has single-handedly caused the degradation of society as we know it. Gamers are the reason for violent crime, school shootings, and who knows, probably bestiality and pollution and illiteracy. In 2003, Mike Krahulik finally got tired of it all. Mike, also known as Gabe in the video-game based web comic Penny Arcade, fired back with his own method of proving that gamers were, in fact, people. On November 24, 2003, he said

If you are like me, every time you see an article like this one, where the author claims that video games are training our nations youth to kill you get angry. The media seems intent on perpetuating the myth that gamers are ticking time bombs just waiting to go off. I know for a fact that gamers are good people. I have had the opportunity on multiple occasions to meet hundreds of you at conventions all over the country. We are just regular people who happen to love video games. With that in mind we have put together a little something we like to call “Child’s Play”. . .

This is the birth of Child's Play, the gamer's charity that has, to date, collected over $1 million in games, toys, accessories, and contributions to donate to children's hospitals around the United States and the world. The idea is simply this- being in the hospital during the holidays sucks. Kids, siblings, and parents have to wait through weeks of treatments, pain, confusion, and endless other small tortures that rob them of what should be some of the best times of their lives. By providing some distractions, however small, Child's Play charity seeks to alleviate these little horrors by getting gamers to share their passions with people who desperately need something to look forward to. The outpouring of support, both fiscal and personal, has been tremendous, and it's done a lot to show that gamers have more heart than those that come at the top of a screen.

Makings of something great

The idea was much simpler in 2003 than it is now, entering the fourth annual drive. At first, all donations were sent to the Penny Arcade headquarters, to be donated to the Seattle Children's Hospital. Mike and Jerry “Tycho” Holkins were overwhelmed by the response- they ended up having to take out extra storage space just to organize all the X-Boxes, video games, Play-Doh, and assorted other gifts were ordered from an Amazon wish list by those wishing to show their care. The outpouring of support was tremendous. As it became apparent that Child's Play was going to be kind of a big deal, things began to move onto a much grander scale.

Evolution of a Philanthropy

With so much support already, the decision was made to increase the amount of hospitals benefiting. Penny Arcade partnered the hospitals with Amazon to create wish lists of things that they wanted or needed in the hospital, from video games that could be added to the library, consoles to play the games on, and batteries to power them, to Play-doh and other one-time use toys that had to constantly be replaced. There were books, movies, and Tonka trucks. There were board games, play sets, and educational materials. And all of these things were being sent to children's hospitals with the express purpose of cheering up some very ill children over the holidays and beyond. In 2003, the total for contributions was $260,000 going to one hospital. By 2005, over $600,000 worth of materials were donated to 20 hospitals around the nation. As of 2006, there are 35 hospitals participating, including three in Canada, two in Australia, one in England and even one in Egypt. Proceeds are listed now as surpassing what was raised in 2003, with over a month left in donations. Every year seems to be a record breaking year for Child's Play. Part of this comes from the support garnered from the community. Another huge part are all the radically cool things Penny Arcade oversees to make sure things are happening.

Ridiculously Awesome Annual Events

2006 will mark the third annual Child's Play Charity Dinner, the 'headline event' for the charity. It's a night for gamers to “act like we're a bunch of fancy high society types”- don semi-formal ensembles (the hosts will be in full-on penguin suits) and eat an admittedly fancy dinner-

“Read the following menu and understand that Penny Arcade does not fuck around. When we throw a charity dinner, it stays thrown Goddamnit. Grilled salmon with lemon aioli and crispy leeks served with tomato-herb couscous and fresh seasonal vegetables, or top sirloin steak with merlot rosemary demi glaze and roasted mushrooms served with horseradish potatoes and fresh seasonal vegetables, or vegetarian. . . “ (dinner 2k4)
all while bidding in silent and live auctions, the proceeds of which go directly to Child's Play. Items are often donated by some of the most influential and impressive gaming groups, companies, and studios around, with more coming from events such as PAX and/or the comic strip itself. One notable prize is the once-in-a-lifetime offer to be featured in the Penny Arcade strip. First offered during the inaugural Dinner, it was determined that after bidding reached $1200, anyone (or groups of anyones) contributing more than $1000 would be featured in a strip. The following year featured the same prize- win the bid, win the appearance. Bidding jumped from $100 to $10,000. It finished at $20,000. The first charity dinner raised a little over $17,000. The second? $82,100. Let me try this again. Eighty-two thousand one hundred United States dollars.

There are also other affiliated events, including Funde Razor in New York, a poker tournament in Nova Scotia, and countless gaming tournaments. The Penny Arcade website runs features in the news posts when new charity-related auctions are available, featuring PAX memorabilia, original artwork, strip treasuries, and a whole hell of a lot more. There are also links to related auctions, the proceeds of which always directly benefit Child's Play. It's even possible for you to set up your own eBay auction and get your money donated as such.

Look them up!

The Child's Play charity even has its most very own website. If you want to know what events you can get in on, read the events page. If you want to see which hospitals around you are accepting gifts, look at the map. If you want to get a little choked up and make everyone in your office wander over to see why it is that you're crying, read the thank-yous and personal stories from families and patients that have seen, first-hand, what Christmas in the ICU can do to kids.

There's a FAQ that covers a lot of stuff, like tax exemptions for auction bids, the fact that you can't send old toys to immunocompromised children, how exactly the toys are used, etc. for the more skeptical viewers. But take a look, get a feel, and think hard about brightening up someone's holiday.

Charity doesn't end with Christmas- this is one of those few times you can sequester all your good will into one little moment and that moment will be able to morph and spread into year-round happiness. This is without a doubt one of my favorite charities, and I hope, dear noder, you will find it so as well. You will have the incalculable gratitude of children world-wide, that little kernel of gratitude (perhaps in the form of a letter- I got two last year) spread across the miles to let you know that you are something to someone. There aren't really words for how that feels. But you'll know... you'll know.

We aren't very well equipped these days to manage truly unironic sentiment. When we are overwhelmed by emotion, I believe it is the custom to make a very minute, nearly undetectable gesture - preferably inside a coat pocket or in a dark closet, hidden from view. Well, as a purveyor of bulk negativity the rest of the year, let me thank you in the most genuine, most absolute terms the hypertext markup language will allow. When I imagine the respite you have provided thousands of young people, the notion is so massive that I am nearly crushed beneath it.- Jerry Holkins, 2005

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