This weekend, thousands of visitors will descend upon Seattle's Convention Center for the Penny Arcade Expo, or PAX Prime, to get sneak previews of what's new in the world of gaming. But for the kids at Seattle Children's Hospital, even older games and gaming systems are exciting -- and one local charity, founded by the creators of the online comic strip that PAX spawned from, is helping get the games to them.
Founded in 2003 by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins, Child's Play was the comic strip creator's attempt to curb the negative perception of gamers -- by donating new games, consoles, books and toys to sick children.
"Krahulik and Holkins called for the gaming community to donate to Seattle Children’s Hospital during the holiday season," explains Child's Play spokesperson Jamie Dillion.
"The response was overwhelming: within weeks, they had a garage packed full of toys, games, and gifts to brighten the holiday of many sick kids. In 2003, they raised $250,000; a number that has grown each year. Since then, the gaming community has raised millions of dollars, put together hundreds of community fundraisers, and changed the lives of countless children."
The games offer more than just a sense of normalcy for children who are battling life-threatening diseases; the pricey consoles also have real physical benefits.
"Technology like the Kinect and Wii Balance Board allow for children to participate in physical therapy activities in an enjoyable, approachable environment," Dillion notes.
In addition to calling for donations, Child's Play also hosts multiple fundraisers each year, often in partnership with other area establishments -- and like-minded cultures.
This year, local beer blogger Dikla Tuchman is helping put on an event in tandem with PAX, wherein area brewers are donating kegs to the cause, and competing in various categories, as judged by attendees. All of the proceeds are going to Child's Play.
"It just made sense," says Tuchman of the idea to bring two of Seattle's passions -- beer and gaming -- together. The event, called the First Annual Post-PAX Pints Throwdown, will feature a raffle, as well as beers from at least nine Pacific Northwest brewers, many of which will be game-themed.
Tuchman also says it was "surprisingly easy" to get brewers to donate to the cause, largely because the charity hits so close to home in a culture that understands the need for fun, and a city that's been built on technology.
Dillion agrees, noting that "Seattle is a technology-embracing city," and one with a philanthropic heart.
"The number of game studios and creative companies in the area lead go a really fantastic gamer culture...we so often get donations along with stories of the donor's time in the hospital as a child, or their sibling or friend, and how a game console changed the experience for the better."
"Gamers know the power of play," says Dillion, "and respect and appreciate what it can do to change a child's life."