The video-game enthusiasts from the group Speed Demos Archive, whose members dedicate themselves to completing video games quickly, raised about $150,000 for cancer research in a six-day marathon of speed gaming. That’s a big jump from the $53,000 the group raised last year in its initial event for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
“It’s really phenomenal,” says Liona Chan, spokeswoman for Prevent Cancer Foundation, which focuses on early detection of the disease. “The gaming community is really supportive. They’re a unique and unusual group of people who are energized to donate money for charity.”
It’s certainly not the foundation’s typical donor group, which skews older. “Most of them had never heard of our foundation,” Ms. Chan says. “They’re a completely atypical demographic.”
About 90 people gathered, in shifts, at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center, in Chevy Chase, Md., to play video games around the clock for a good cause in the event called “Awesome Games Done Quick 2012.”
Participants completed 107 games for the event, which was watched by thousands of online viewers around the world through a live broadcast stream on the Speed Demos Web site, where they could donate. During that time, some 3,200 donors gave 5,850 times, with an average gift of about $25. (One donor contributed $3,500).
To encourage people to donate more online, organizers raffled off prizes (such as a replica sword from the game “Legend of Zelda,” sold event T-shirts, and conducted bidding wars, like letting the biggest donor choose the next video game to be played.
This more-involved strategy proved to be a game-changing element in this, the event’s second year: People gave and gave. The video gamers’ goal was to raise $80,000 to finance a two-year cancer-prevention research grant. But they soon blew past that goal in about 79 hours.
“Last year, we thought we raised a crazy amount of money because we raised $53,000,” says Mike Uyama, the charity event’s coordinator. “We were expecting to just raise $20,000 to $25,000 more. I guess if we were bad at doing one thing, it’s that we’re bad at making estimates.”
Picture above: Speed Demos Archive members get ready to kick off a marathon video-gaming session for charity. Photograph by Liona Chan.