There’s no doubt that over the years we’ve gotten a healthy amount of bashing for our love of things like Mortal Kombat and Grand Theft Auto but 2014 was one of the worst years for gamers as a community in recent memory. The criticism went much deeper than an isolated incident of violence, this time around the community as a whole was indicted. I believe that there are few within the gaming community that would disagree that Gamergate was bad for our image, but there is a lot we can do to help win back the hearts and minds of those who might have started to perceive us as less-than-upstanding individuals.
- Donate your old games to a children’s hospital.
The idea of it sounds incredibly cheesy, but how many people do you know that actually do this kind of thing? Donating your old games and equipment to a children’s hospital is a great way to put smiles on the faces of some kids, and even the staff. Don’t be insincere about it though. If you like your old gaming stuff, then keep it. If it’s just sitting around collecting dust because you don’t know what to do with it though, why not give it to some kids who might love it? You’ll clear out some clutter, make some kids happy, and look like a hero in the process!
- Champion good games to those you know.
When a non-gamer thinks about video games I would imagine that their first thoughts are of guns, swords, blood, and bad language. As a gamer you know that this comparison is like thinking that all movies are summer blockbuster comic-book adaptations. There is a lot more out there than just violent games, and you know it. In fact, the success of the Wii is basically proof of that. People who had never had any interest in gaming were suddenly smitten with the idea of playing tennis and bowling from their couch. That all happened because people championed the Wii; they took the time to show it to their friends, parents, and grandparents. So if you’re the parent of a kid, get them some educational games. Maybe it will push other parents to do the same, and in turn recognize the value of games. You can also tell your 30-something friends about new games, and remind them that as they’ve grown up so have games. There are a lot of ways to remind those around you that games are much more than just guns and swords.
- Organize a gaming party.
A lot of people have forgotten how much fun gaming can be in a social environment. The internet has done a lot of good for games, but it’s also pushed multiplayer away from the couch. Games like Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Rock Band, and The Jackbox Party Pack are all incredibly fun games to play socially though, so why not have a gaming party? You can go nuts with it if you want, making video game themed snacks and flyers. Just make sure that the people at your party can and want to play the games you’ve chosen for the night.
Pro-tip: Buy the Jackbox Party Pack and open the night with it. Because people can use their cell phones to play, everyone can participate. It’s also downright hilarious, and will get your guests in the gaming mood. They’re much more apt to pick up a controller and try Smash Bros. if they’re already feeling gamey (like an elk).
- Evangalize Minecraft
You might have heard about a little cultural phenomenon called Minecraft. Not only is it one of the most successful games in history, it’s also one of the most exceptional examples of games enriching our lives. Minecraft has almost no violence, and promotes an almost endless amount of creativity. It’s more than just about creativity though. Minecraft’s grid layout makes it perfect for helping kids learn things like multiplication tables. It’s hunger and farming system helps teach resource management. The game is multiplayer too, which makes it great for teaching teamwork. Even if you don’t like Minecraft yourself, it’s still the most positive touchstone we’ve had in a long time, so use that to help educate the those around you of the positive side of gaming.
- Participate in Extra Life.
If you’re a gamer and you’re not familiar with Extra Life, here’s a quick primer. You play games for 24 hours straight, and people sponsor you, like a marathon. The proceeds of their donations go to children’s hospitals. Typically you participate on a scheduled day (this year it’s Nov. 7th), but you don’t have to. If that date doesn’t work for you, you can participate on another day. You can also create a team of players, all participating together. You can even create an event, like a gaming party! It’s really easy to participate in, and it’s by far the most noteworthy way to help raise awareness that gamers aren’t bad people. Also, you can combine it with #3 on the list and get the double benefit of both helping kids AND reminding your friends that gaming is awesome.