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Jan 09, 2006



As Penny Arcade's Child's Play program has proven, gamers are more than willing to give to charity. A foray into Virtual Worlds, with enough publicity, will allow a low cost way for charities to get the money they deserve.


The way to make this really pay off for charities is for players to be able to contribute IN game using game funds. Of course, that opens the whole can'o'worms of RMT.


At first I was a little skeptical about this, as I prefer my VW's as an escape from EVERYTHING that is RL (as "unpossible" as that may be). However, it's hard to be a cold, uncaring jerk when faced with good causes such as the ACS. Also, if advertisers are to start (have started?) infiltrating our virtual retreats, then why not?


I think a lot of people prefer their gaming as an escape from reality, but there are times that it cannot help but intrude.

One of the first friends I made playing Star Wars Galaxies died of leukemia less than a year later. She was a dynamic, well-known, and well-respected member of the Tempest server community; a great many of us did not even know she was fighting the disease for many months after meeting her. She left the game, and it was months before any of us knew for certain she was gone. Kate was a very proud person who didn't want anyone's sympathy, only their friendship.

Those of us who knew her best organized an in-game fundraiser for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It was an auction held on the Tempest server in Galaxies, with the items being auctioned all donated by players on that server. Auction credits were earned by giving a charitable donation to the society. We raised over $13,000 for the society, and had a lot of support from them (one of my guildmates was on the board for the Nebraska chapter of the LLS).

It's been my experience that gamers are some of the most charitable and giving people around. I applaud the ACS for recognizing that.


The first SLRFL rocked. I look forward to the next one.

When group sign-up is enabled for this year's event maybe we can have a Terra Nova group?


Currently, the model the American Cancer Society is using is one that will likely limit participation and therefore limit funds raised (as it did the first time). They are taking a group of 4 or so Linden sims owned by Governor Linden, and in a very controlled fashion, putting a relay up with space available for a building contest or sponsorship on spaces that the few organizers control invitation/access to.

They chose this highly-controlled set-up to be able to address the SL problems of griefing, the look of the builds, whatever.

I've mentioned that by having more of a "March of Dimes" type of approach where people move all over SL, getting sponsorship from a wide variety of businesses and residences from people highly motivated to have avatars traffic across their land, they can gain more participation. People help raise money often when they see that they themselves can benefit from it, i.e. if nothing else, than to have others come and see their builds, or also purchase from them. In any U.S. city, that's how you can get the city fathers and merchants to participate in giant walks like these for fund-raising causes, because the promotion of the city itself and the business can offset clean-up costs.

ACS rejects that model because it would be unpredictable and controlled. And indeed, most fund-raising efforts in SL remain very small and limited because they depend on high-profile, controlled events, often with a group-only piece of land requiring people to join a group to gain access to land that can only hold 40 or 160 avatars at a time.

By coming up with a model that enables people to participate without having to go to a controlled area or seek membership in a group or fight lag from a filled server, charities will get more participation. It means that they might have to go with a series of more low-impact events scattered over the grid more than go with some big high-profile event that gets them media coverage for doing some kewl thing in a virtual world, but only has 40 or 160 people participating in it.

One possibility, even with the high-profile/controlled event space model, is to have people agree to deploy an advertising kiosk for their event on their own properties.

I'm also thinking that charities can't be expected to keep getting the Lindens to drop down advertising in the Message of the Day for all these events -- avatars are going to get compassion fatigue. The charities will have to work with the inworld controlled/state/ as well as independent and free media to get their messages across, and also organize compelling events. After all, most people being nabbed in a virtual world are going to say to a charity, "I already gave at the office."

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