Site Spotlight: Donate to Play on IndieGameStand

These days, it seems like indie games are taking over the world. In response to the (relatively) recent indie revolution came a flood of promotional websites selling games and bundles at various levels of price and quality. Many provide independent developers with much-needed exposure and support; some exist only to generate traffic and money. Few, however, combine a true indie spirit with the spirit of generosity — and that, friends, is where IndieGameStand comes in.

Founded by Mike Gnade and Dan Liebner and launched in September of 2012, the purpose of the site (according to the official mission statement) is “to put a spotlight on those indie titles which provide fantastic experiences, but may have been passed over by the mainstream gaming public, portals, websites . . . Every developer out there deserves a moment to shine.” The site works on a pay-what-you-want model, and new games are featured every four days. The best part? All the games offered are completely DRM-free.

In addition to supporting the underdogs of the game development community, IndieGameStand facilitates contributions to a variety of causes by donating 10% of the proceeds from every game sold to a charity organization of the developer’s choice. As of this writing, the site has purportedly raised over $35,000 dollars for a plethora of good causes. Currently, the organizations receiving the most support from IndieGameStand sales include Child’s Play, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Doctors Without Borders, the American Red Cross, and the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

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EVENT: Adopt a Pet in WoW for Charity

Save the goat, save the world. From December 3 to December 31, Blizzard Entertainment will be offering World of Warcraft fans the unique opportunity to contribute to a good cause by adopting a new in-game companion.

The new pet in question is Argi, a cute little blue goat-like creature (with weirdly humanoid ears). Purportedly, she will be quite the little helper, able to “help guide you through the savage lands of Draenor, climbing, swimming, and running wherever you go.” So far Argi appears to possess six known abilities: Gnaw, Gift of the Naaru (a healing spell), Stampede, Horn Gore, Chew, and Headbutt.

Fun fact: Argi isn’t the first charity pet to be sold by Blizzard. During December 2013, the Alterac Brew Pup pet was put up for adoption, both as a solo purchase ($10) and as part of the company’s first charity bundle ($30). Regardless of which option customers chose, $5 of each purchase went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help improve the lives of children diagnosed with life-threatening conditions.

In generous contrast, Blizzard’s official announcement stated that this year, every single penny of Argi’s adoption fee ($10) will be donated to charity. The cause? The American Red Cross‘s ongoing Ebola relief efforts.

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Extra Life 2014 Postmortem

With the end of October came the end of the Arcade Activist team’s Extra Life gaming marathon — for the most part. Though the official marathon day has come and gone for this year, official event donations will continue to be accepted through December. The more, the merrier!

While the Arcade Activist “team” experience didn’t go precisely according to plan (most likely in large part due to the last-minute nature of the plan itself), games were played and money (and awareness) was raised, and after all, every little bit counts. As promised, I kept a log of my personal marathon experience, which ran a total of 24 hours and 40 minutes. Without further ado, allow me to introduce Dar’Izra, a young female Khajit with a quick tongue and quicker hands who found herself scooped up by Imperial soldiers following a criminal misunderstanding. (Times and dates have been translated into our time, rather than Skyrim time, for the sake of convenience and clarity.)

(BE YE WARNED: This log contains spoilers, especially with regards to the Thieves Guild questline and several secondary quests along the way. Know that before you begin reading.)

 

Dar'Izra Skyrim

Dar’Izra, in all her feline glory.

 

OCT 01
(2:57AM-3:57AM)
Within a week of arriving in Skyrim I found myself in chains. I should have let that stupid Nord alone, I know, but when I saw her purchase that ridiculously gaudy necklace and then slip it into her pocket as if it were but a cheap trinket, I couldn’t resist. But to go from petty theft to war crimes — what sort of country is this? I take one pretty little bauble and the next thing I know, I’m to be executed for treason!
And then, of course, there was the dragon. Extinct, impossible, and yet, it came. In a way, it saved my life, interrupting the execution and allowing me to escape with some fool by the name of Ralof. I’m not sure how grateful I can be, however, considering how close I came to becoming dinner.

OCT 03
(3:40PM-4:45PM)
Now I’ve done it. Killed a bard, and his mother to boot. I didn’t mean to — I honestly didn’t mean to — but he caught me picking his pocket and started to call for a guard and I panicked and ran him through. His blood still dripped from my dagger as I pawed through his pockets and then made a dash for the house, expecting an empty sanctuary and instead finding myself face-to-face with a rabid crone with a death wish. She threatened me, attacked me, and wound up dead for her troubles. I have never killed before.
On the bright side, Ralof and his silly wife let me take all their food, their gold, everything. Not that they had much to give, but it’s a start. I might not starve after all. I am on my way now to Whiterun, to pay my bounty (anything to avoid jail, or worse, execution) — apparently no one knows I’m a killer, but they know of my theft — and to deliver a message to Jarl Balgruuf about the dragon. I am no man’s messenger girl… but with any luck the pay will be good enough to buy me some proper protection, or at least more food.

OCT 07
(9:09PM-9:26PM)
Whiterun. Brief blacksmithing lessons with an intriguing woman by the name of Adrianne Avinichi. I’ve decided to begin a new hobby — key-collecting — and hers has made a lovely addition to the collection. On to Dragonsreach to see Balgruuf.
(10:10PM-11:26PM)
The security in this city, especially in Dragonsreach, is amazingly lacking. After delivering my message (for a pittance of a reward, in my opinion), I proceeded to do some spring cleaning for Balgruuf and walked away with heavier pockets and a lighter heart. The Jarl’s personal quarters were especially good fun to clear out. Afterward I explored the town for a bit, popping into Arcadia’s Cauldron, the Bannered Mare, and the Drunken Hunstman for some practice (both alchemical and — well, less legal hobbies, shall we say) and added a great many keys to my swift-growing collection. I believe Skyrim may be growing on me.
(1:10AM-2:30AM)
Goodness. I took one little key from that wench Adrianne and upon my next visit I find armed thugs waiting to welcome me back. I’m no warrior, and between you and me (whoever you are, anyway), I’m a little amazed to be alive. But the thugs lie dead, pockets emptied, and I do not. Perhaps that is how it works here. Kill or be killed.
At any rate, I’ve come across interesting rumors of a group known as the Nightingales — mysterious master thieves said to comprise a special sect of the very definitely real Thieves’ Guild in the east — so I have decided to make my way to Riften, to see if I can carve out some semblance of a life for myself here in this mad little bedragoned kingdom.

OCT 08
(5:55PM-6:58PM)
Riften. It didn’t take me long to find the Guild — or perhaps the Guild, in the guise of a man named Brynjolf, found me. At any rate, I’ve pulled a little stunt which has granted me the honor of a visit to thief central. While the concept of a rogue guild seems admittedly odd, I look forward to seeing such a sight for myself. Perhaps I have found kindred spirits at last.
(7:11PM-9:18PM)
I helped a woman named Svana Far-Shield mess with her fool of an aunt. I may be a thief and a(n accidental) murderer, but now and then saving a damsel in distress does make for a nice change of pace. And the food she rewarded me with — a veritable feast! I am full to bursting.
Her kindness has been a gift after the battering I received underground earlier. After surviving the trials of the Ratway, I found my ragtag future brothers and sisters in crime concealed in the cistern of a beggar’s bar. They… intrigue me.
(9:48PM-9:59PM)
I need invisibility potions. I’m not good enough yet to go without.

OCT 10
(7:38PM-9:39PM)
My first job involved the Goldenglow Estate, and while matters could have been worse, I did get a bit carried away with the fire situation, and Maven Blackbriar (who apparently runs everything in this joint, to some extent) is not pleased. I don’t look forward to making it up to her; she’s the sort of person I’d much rather be robbing than working for, but I suppose at this stage beggars can’t be choosers.
As a pick-me-up, I stopped by the local Temple of Mara and picked more than a few things up on my way out. I also managed to (properly) complete a quick burglary job for fellow guild-sister Vex — in broad daylight, no less — which further brightened my day. Now I’m off to Whiterun to see if I can pull off a numbers job for Delvin Mallory, another of my newfound associates.

OCT 15
(8:37PM-9:26PM)
Discovered Shor’s Stone and a watchtower populated by dead guards. I paused a moment to wonder what took place before scavenging — most profitable. I also got into a bit of a scuffle with a mad wanderer, I believe his name was Talsgar? Serves him right for that look he gave me. Just because I bear little resemblance to Nords and Redguards and Bretons doesn’t mean I am not a person too.

OCT 16
(12:26AM-3:20AM)
Whiterun. Numbers job went swimmingly. A man approached me with an offer to join the Dawnguard — a vampire-hunting guild, by the sound of it — but I declined. I am no soldier; war is not my specialty. At Maven’s request, I met with Mallus Maccius to discuss a job involving Honningbrew Meadery. An unsavory job, by the sound of it, but who was I to argue with boss lady?
It was — unsavory, that is, but not for the reasons I expected. A surprise in the form of a madman named Hamlyn waited for me in the meadery basement. I should like very much to repay Mallus for that little bit of trickery with the point of my dagger, but he is in charge of the meadery now and Maven is pleased, and it is not the time for revenge. Now I am to make for Solitude to shakedown some Argonian named Gulum-Ei.
(7:45PM-9:35PM)
Solitude. Another shifty Argonian named Jaree-Ra offered to split a great treasure with me if I would help sink a ship. The sailors will live, or so he promises. I hope he is not a liar — for their sake, and for his. If he wrongs me, I will not stand for it. I did as he asked — put out the lighthouse fire — and, cold and starving as I was, broke in to seek shelter, warmth, and food, and found myself attacked by the lighthouse keeper. A fellow Khajit. I regret his death more than those that came before, but I am no necromancer, and I did need the food and rest.
I dealt with Gulum-Ei as asked, and uncovered some hints about what has been going on in the guild. Something to do with Mercer Frey, and a woman named Karliah…

OCT 17
(12:12PM-2:54AM)
That liar Jaree-Ra. The sailors all died, and he and his fool of a sister thought to betray me with a deadly trap. Their loss — quite literally. Killing Jaree-Ra himself was the only difficulty; he’d holed up with a monster of a man named Captain Hargar, and it was all I could do after murdering the Argonian to escape from the Captain and the cave with my life. I’ll be back though, once I am stronger. This is a debt that must be paid.
To that end, I have traveled to Winterhold, to begin lessons in magic. Nothing fancy, but I hear there’s an invisibility spell that can be learned, and surely that could come in handy in my line of work. My fellow students are — well, as lost as I am, I suppose, but it was nice to meet a fellow Khajit (one I doubt I’ll have to kill). J’zargo makes for interesting company.

OCT 24
(3:45PM-4:33PM)
After picking many a pocket (and adding many a key to my collection) in Winterhold — including the Jarl, most amusingly — I am on my way to Snow Veil Catacombs to meet Mercer Frey and go after this Karliah, who, I’m told, is a traitor and a killer, and must be stopped. I thought killing was not the Guild way, but Mercer seems convinced we have no other option.

OCT 25
(1:04PM-3:04PM)
Mercer Frey will die, and by my hand if the fates are kind. Betrayer. Murderer. I will not stand for this, and neither will Karliah, who is the real wronged party here. Mercer killed her love Gallus and would have killed her too, given half the chance. I will return to Winterhold to find Enthir, and hope he has answers for us to help us stop Mercer before he ruins everything.
(3:25PM-6:42PM)
Enthir has been somewhat helpful, at least, and pointed me in the direction of Markarth. Upon arriving, the first thing I witnessed was a murder. Joy. I killed the killer before he committed the act twice, and then proceeded to pick the pockets of both the criminal and all witnesses in the area. My hands don’t even shake anymore at the sight of blood. I suppose it means I am growing stronger.
The man I came to meet, Calcelmo, is a stubborn old man, but his museum (which I have need to get into) is well-guarded, and so I found myself doing him the favor of spider-slaying. Not my specialty, but I succeeded, and gained a museum key for my efforts. Things at the museum didn’t go quite as planned, though I got the job done, and after fleeing the city on a stolen horse I am on my way back to Enthir, who will, hopefully have more answers for me.

END LOG

 

If you’ve read this far, you may (or may not) be curious as to what happened next. To keep a long (and ongoing) story short, Dar’Izra has, at the time of this writing, righted the wrongs of Mercer Frey, defeated Mercer in battle, become a Nightingale, and lately has become entangled in several daedric quests at once. She grows more bloodthirsty by the day, and I fear her mind is not in the rightest of states. The talking dog that has insisted on accompanying her for one particular quest for the daedric lord Clavicus Vile probably hasn’t been helping matters. But, for better or worse, she is on her way to taking over the Thieves’ Guild — and it seems the Dark Brotherhood may have its eye on her as well. Only time will tell what will become of this particular Dragonborn.

Thank you to anyone and everyone who helped out with Extra Life 2014 — your effort, no matter how great or small, makes a difference. Keep reading, keep gaming, and above all, keep giving.

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Arcade Activist is participating in Extra Life 2014!

Extra Life 2014 will be the first charity gaming event ever to be officially supported by yours truly in the name of Arcade Activist. It’s all a bit last-minute, but better the 11th hour than never, right? Or something like that.

Anyway, head over to the Arcade Activists team page to check us out, join us, and/or donate in sponsorship of one (or more, if you’re generous) of our team members. Each of us will be playing a game of our choice for 24 hours over the course of October in a slow version of a marathon, and in return, we’re looking for “sponsors” to donate in our name to Extra Life to raise funds for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Anyone is welcome to join us at any point during October (the sooner, the better), and there is no set time as to when or how to split up your gaming time, just as long as you finish it all up by the end of the official event date, October 25th.

I personally will be playing a newly-created character on Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (with all the official expansions installed) on my PS3. Along the way I’ll record my journey, and once it’s over, I’ll share the story as a (hopefully) semi-amusing way of reporting my experience and confirming, as best I can, that I did in fact play for all 24 hours of the marathon.

If you’ve got the time, join us, and if you’ve got some change to spare, donate! At the very least, please do help out by spreading the word about this fantastic event and the cause we’re supporting by participating. Every little bit helps.

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EVENT: Will Ferrell’s SuperMegaBlastMax Gamer Challenge

Last week comic actor Will Ferrell announced a charity sweepstakes event which promises to be as absurd as it is altruistic. In exchange for donations to help nonprofit organizations Cancer for College and DonateGames.org, gamers can score a variety of oddball prizes, including a chance to win the “super mega” grand prize: a two-hour play session in San Francisco (be sure to wear flowers in your hair) with the manic man himself.

Set up as an online Indiegogo campaign, the sweepstakes opened September 10 and is set to close on October 12. As per usual for this type of fundraiser, the more money you donate, the bigger (or in this case, the more ridiculous) your reward. Swag includes (but is by no means limited to) treasures such as Will Ferrell’s Gamer Sunscreen, a personalized video message from the actor, and “gamer face” shirts and hoodies. Sadly, the signed cowbells are already sold out.

The campaign goal is to raise $375,000 — once this target is hit, one lucky (?) contributor will be selected by raffle to play one-on-one with Ferrell. (Note that if you’re not a fan of Ferrell but still wish to donate, you can always opt out of the contest.) Why $375,000? According to the event website, the idea was inspired by a recent drum-off fundraiser hosted by Ferrell and the Red Hot Chili Peppers on the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. Together they raised over $300,000 for charity. “After deep analysis and planning,” Ferrell writes, “I was basically convinced gamers should be able to raise more than musicians and RHCP fans… right? I mean, aren’t there a million kajillion gamers out there?” On a more serious note, he goes on to add, “Just think, your gaming habits and the tiniest donation can make a cancer survivor’s dream a reality.”

The play session with Ferrell will take place on Sunday, October 26 (the same weekend as Extra Life 2014) and will be broadcast live via Twitch.TV. Visit the official campaign page for Will Ferrell’s SuperMegaBlastMax Gamer Challenge to learn more or to make a donation and enter the sweepstakes.

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EVENT: Extra Life 2014

When the going gets tough, gamers get serious. Back in October 2008, the creative minds behind Sarcastic Gamer banded together to launch charity event Extra Life in honor of Victoria Enmon, a well-known member of the community who’d lost her battle with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in January of that year. $115,000 was raised, 100% of which was donated to the Texas Children’s Hospital. Extra Life became an annual event, partnering with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals in order to raise awareness (and funds) for childhood health issues by bringing gamers together once a year to participate in a 24-hour gaming marathon.

This year, the official date for Extra Life 2014 is set for Saturday, October 25. Registration is free and there are no restrictions regarding location (anyone anywhere in the world is welcome to join) or what game or platform to use. As stated in the event FAQ, “From PS4 to poker on your phone, everything counts — even Facebook games!” Even the date is flexible. Marathon participants are encouraged to play whenever their schedules allow, and those unable or unwilling to complete a full 24-hour marathon session in one go may decide instead to break up the hours into two or more segments on multiple days, either completing them ahead of time or making up the remaining hours later.

Marathon participants can join a preexisting team or create their own, and the charity organizers are willing to work with anyone looking to set up their own local Extra Life event. Fundraising is simple; just sign up and start gathering sponsors. In addition to (or instead of) playing in the marathon, participants or sponsors may donate in support of any fellow players or teams, including themselves or their own team. Any money raised will be sent directly to the CMNH hospital of the participant’s choice. Additionally, donors may choose to make a general event contribution (non-specific to any individual participant or team) to whichever CMNH hospital they would like to support.

Visit the Extra Life website to learn more about the rules and origins of the event, or head over to the official Extra Life 2014 page to register or make a donation.

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Words of Hope: Depression Quest

One of the first words to come to mind when games are mentioned is the word “play.” Video games in particular are marketed, and tend to be most often perceived, primarily as entertaining distractions from the real world, fantasy expeditions filled with big, flashy action sequences and the latest in graphics and surround sound technology. Rare is the title that tells the player flat-out from the start that it will not be fun, yet that is exactly what Zoe Quinn’s Depression Quest opens with.

“Depression Quest is a game that deals with living with depression in a very literal way,” reads the first line of the introduction. “This game is not meant to be a fun or lighthearted experience. If you are currently suffering from the illness and are easily triggered, please be aware that this game uses stark depictions of people in very dark places.” This warning is followed by a link to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline’s Lifeline Crisis Chat for those suffering from suicidal thoughts or tendencies.

Depression Quest is an interactive fiction story which casts the player as a young adult suffering from depression. The goal of the game is to balance support systems, therapy and prescription medication in order to find the best possible solutions. The severity of the protagonist’s emotional status alters based on the player’s choices, and is reflected in subtle changes in the musical score and in how many options open up or become unavailable as the story progresses. Unlike most games, there is no perfect score achievement. As the conclusion of the game says, regardless of which finale the player reaches, “There is no neat resolution to depression … Instead of a tidy ending, we want to just provide a series of outlooks to take moving forward. After all, that’s all we can really do with depression — just keep moving forward.”

Though one popular critique of the game is that the protagonist is too privileged in terms of having a strong support system and affordable mental health care available to him/her, Quinn argues that the point of the experience is to show how depression can happen to anyone, no matter how well off they may seem or how simple the solution may seem to others. Quinn, who herself attempted suicide at age 12 and was officially diagnosed with depression at 14, has indicated that the game’s main function is to help those who have never battled serious depression understand what those who do suffer from it struggle with on a daily basis, as well as offering hope for recovery to those who may feel there is none.

Received with largely favorable professional reviews and a fair amount of positive fan feedback, Depression Quest has also saddled Quinn with unwanted attention in the form of hatemail. Initially released on Valentine’s Day of 2013, the game’s August 2014 port to Steam sparked (more) controversy by coinciding with the announcement of Robin Williams’s suicide. This in addition to the scandal social media has dubbed #GamerGate led to increasingly serious accusations and threats directed at Quinn. Later that month her personal information was “doxed” — that is, leaked to the public — and the severity of the threats she became the target of led Quinn to contact the police and seek refuge away from home. This situation remains ongoing at the time of this writing.

In a blog post, Quinn explained her decision to go ahead with the Steam release: “I can’t in good conscience hold back offering someone something that could help them start making real changes in their life for the sake of reducing the risk of offending people or hurting my own reputation.” Furthermore, in spite of accusations that she intended to capitalize on Williams’s death, the game is free to play with an optional donation, a portion of which will in turn be sent to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.

To learn more, donate, or play the game for free, visit the Depression Quest website or check out the game’s official profile on Steam.

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Green Gaming 101

While environmentally-conscious gaming may seem like a bit of an oxymoron, it’s actually pretty easy being green — or at least greener. But wait, there’s even better news: joining the gamer faction of the eco-revolution doesn’t just help you help the rest of us save the world, it’ll save you money, too. Money that can be used for, among other things, more games. It’s also good for your health, and for saving a little space (which means having extra room for — you guessed it — even more games). Good deal, right? Here are some ideas to get you started.

Beg, Buy (Used), Or Borrow

Manufacturing physical copies of, and containers for, new games uses up energy and resources. Unless the fates of you and the next upcoming title you’re dying to pre-order are as inextricably intertwined as Siamese twins, consider employing just a little patience and self-restraint. Release-day prices have been heading upwards of $60; why not wait a little and snag a lightly used copy for $20? If you were so inclined, you could go ahead and use the $40 you just saved to go buy two other games, cashing in that patience as a three-for-one deal. Everyone loves a good deal, right?

An even cheaper variation on this method involves begging, but the dignity it might cost you just might score you a free game. If you happen to know (and be on reliably good terms with) someone who has or will have the game you want, wait until they finish playing — then inquire, on bended knee and in your best “No one loves you more in this world than I do” voice, whether they might be so gracious as to grant you the boon of borrowing their copy. Sure, you’ll have to give it back eventually, but who knows, maybe someday you’ll get lucky and they’ll leave the game to you in their will.

If begging just isn’t your style, you could always split the purchase between a friend or two. You will have to share, but you’ll get that new copy you wanted for a drastically reduced price, which your wallet will thank you for. Just be sure to lay down some ground rules before buying — the last thing you want is to find yourself embroiled in a vicious, friendship-destroying custody battle when one of you gets a little too attached to the game.

Finally, if you don’t want to share with your friends (or don’t have any), you can always rent games from services like GameFly or Redbox, often for a lower cost than the full purchase price. In a similar vein, subscribing to membership services like Sony’s PlaystationPlus or Xbox Live Gold can score you a wealth of free games (though not necessarily the newest releases) for just about the price of one pre-ordered title a year.

Let’s Get Digital

If you just can’t stand waiting (or sharing), there’s always the downloadable option. If you’re anything like me and love ogling pretty box art, collecting collectible merchandise, and meticulously poring over game manuals, this might be the hardest step on the list. It is, however, worth it: buying digital, in addition to conserving that energy and those resources mentioned earlier, saves you space in your house, room, underground lair — wherever it is you play — for other stuff. This doesn’t just apply to games, either. Manuals, art books, soundtracks and more can almost always be downloaded too, sometimes even for free.

If you’re worried about backing up your game, by the way, fear not. Purchasing through Steam, Desura, or any one of the big-name companies’ online shops generally means the game data will be saved on a magic cloud independent of your gaming system, so even if you toss your laptop out a window one day in a mad fit of ragequit, you can always just download the game (and often your save files as well) from the store again once you buy a new computer. Even if your digital copy doesn’t get saved to a cloud, you could always buy a backup hard drive, or grab a cheap set of R/W CDs or DVDs and backup several titles to a disc at a time.

Waste Not, Want Not

Think of the garbage bin as a last resort. Yes, if something absolutely has to go, it has to go. But 99.9% of the time, the “junk” we throw away had a much brighter destiny in store for it before we got lazy and chucked it out instead. Here are just a few alternatives to tossing stuff out:

  • Sell it. If it’s playable and doesn’t look like junkyard salvage, you can probably find someone who will pay you for it. Shops like Gamestop buy back used systems and titles in exchange for cash or store credit, or you could always go the E-Bay and Amazon.com route. Either way, it’s win-win: someone who wants the game gets to buy it, probably for a lower-than-retail price, and you get a little extra pocket money.
  • Better yet, gift it. Again, if it’s in good working condition, you might know someone who wants it. Go ahead and give it to them. My first system was a used and rather battered (but still-functioning) hand-me-down PS2. To the friend who gave it to me, it was a dinosaur too worn out to bother trying to sell, but to me, it was the beginning of a beautiful era starting with Kingdom Hearts and ending hopefully never.
  • Even better still, donate it. Charitable organizations like Get Well Gamers would be more than happy to pass your games and consoles on to hospitalized kids to whom your old stuff would be a welcome and much-needed distraction, possibly even an effective means of recovery. You could also head over to a local nonprofit Goodwill with a boxful of your old gaming gear (bonus if you can walk there).
  • If you can’t give it away, recycle it. This is the really easy bit. If you live in an area with regular recycling pick-up (hint: if you don’t, move), just toss any unwanted cardboard boxing, paper advertisements, manuals, etc. into the recycle bin. For discs, equipment and electronics, your best bet is to check out the manufacturer’s site — the AA companies like Nintendo and Sony finally got the go-green memo and offer recycling services. Old gear can also be salvaged by parts, either by you or someone you can give or sell your stuff to via listing services like Craigslist.
  • Make art with it. If you can’t get anyone to take it off your hands (or if you have too much time on your hands), you could always go the crafting route and make something new and probably weird (but in a good way). Transmogrify worn out discs into wall decorations. Paint a masterpiece on a fizzed-out screen. Attach magnets to the back of keyboard keys and stick ’em on the fridge. Display box art like a collage of mini-posters. The possibilities are endless. Check out this article for more ideas.

Binders Full Of Gamers!

If you can bear to part with the packaging, reuse or recycle it and clear some space on your shelves by slipping your game collection into a CD/DVD wallet. No matter how big your collection, there’s probably a binder somewhere big enough to suit your needs; the larger ones can hold upwards of 500 discs. If your tastes tend more toward console than PC, don’t worry, there are storage alternatives for you in the form of plastic binder pages compartmentalized specifically for memory cards and USB drives. If you can find brands that use recycled materials, so much the better.

Go Better, Not Bigger

Size doesn’t matter. Okay, yes, maybe a plasma widescreen TV is more ideally suited to enjoying the vast expanse of a world like Skyrim than a teeny-weeny napkin-sized monitor, but still. The next time you’re looking to replace or upgrade some gear, take the time to do your research and look for energy-efficient models and rechargeable batteries. Value LCD over lead-based components. If you’re into building your own equipment, recycle found parts, or at least find the highest-quality (and least energy-sucking) bits and pieces possible. In addition to just being better for the environment, energy efficient equipment will help save you money in the form of lower bills and less frequent replacement buys. Cross-check prospective purchases with EPEAT, a global registry which tracks the environmental impact of various electronics and rates them accordingly, or take a peek at Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics.

Switch On, Switch Off

There’s a good reason everyone keeps telling you to unplug your appliances — and that includes game systems and chargers — when you’re not using them. Think of them as vampires bent on world domination. The only way to stop them sucking vast and unnecessary amounts of electricity from the outlets (and cash from your wallet) is to pull those suckers out of the wall. It barely takes a minute to do, but that one small action will conserve a ridiculous amount of energy over the years. As for those times when you can’t pull the plug, like when you’re downloading an update or some epic new DLC, you can still turn off the monitor or TV screen. As long as you keep the system itself running, it won’t interrupt the download, and it’ll keep you from wasting your time checking the loading progress every five seconds.

By the way, if you like Netflix and own a PS3, chances are you’ve met Max. Don’t be taken in by his charming ways. Contrariwise, if he annoys you, don’t give in to the temptation to screw with him just for fun. Consoles use up much more energy than DVD/Blu-Ray players. Streaming boxes like Roku may be the most efficient of all, drawing as little as 3 watts of power while you binge-watch your favorite shows. The bottom line: stream on consoles only as a last resort. (Sorry, Max.)

Spread the Love. Spread the Word.

Sometimes the most important thing to do is spread awareness and advocate change. Seek out companies that support greenification, like Pocketwatch Games, who made a point of shipping their ecosystem-sim game Venture Arctic in 100% recycled material packaging. Push the developers you already know and love to do better, go greener. Get friends to follow your good example (assuming you’ve decided to set one) by making more environmentally-friendly gaming choices, and then get them to spread the word even further.

No one knows more about saving the world than gamers like us. It’s time to start leveling up and prove it.

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Alz: A Walk Through Alzheimer’s

Described by developer Dylan Carter as, “A short game. Well more like a short film. Well more like an experimental short film in ever-so-slightly interactive of a format,” Alz is an exceptionally brief but memorable exploration of the experience of living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Created in just four days by Carter, a 21-year-old animator with no previous coding experience, for Stencyl Jam 2014, Alz takes about two to three minutes at most to complete. Using the right and left arrow keys to move and spacebar to interact, the player controls a man with a blank face who goes out for a stroll. As with real Alzheimer’s, however, what should be a simple, straightforward day becomes unfamiliar, confusing, and strange.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive type of dementia that causes brain cells to degenerate and die, affecting various facets of cognitive functioning, including memory – particularly semantic memory, which stores information about meanings and concept relationships. Behavior also becomes altered, with depressive symptoms and apathy being among the most commonly observed effects. Current treatments can only delay, not permanently halt, progression of the disease, and a cure has yet to be found. According to a report from the Alzheimer’s Association, as of this year one in nine Americans aged 65 or older has Alzheimer’s.

Alz promotes not only awareness of the disease but understanding living with the reality of it, inviting gamers to talk a walk in the shoes of an Alzheimer’s patient. As the game instructions read, “Enjoy your walk. Interact with your surroundings. Or don’t. Have a forgotten, but hopefully not forgetful, experience.” Carter’s own grandfather, who passed away before Carter was born, suffered from the disease.

You can play the game online for free at Newgrounds.com.

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Charity Spotlight: Giving Back is Child’s Play

“We … understand that smiles are as important as medicine,” reads one testimonial from D. Bradley Leech of Children’s Mercy Hospital. “That is a reality that Child’s Play Charity is doing for our kids – adding a smile to their faces at a time when it is needed the most.” According to another letter from Karen M., Child Life manager of The Children’s Medical Center of Dayton, “Children and teens are connected to the electronic world through the internet or video gaming.  When I tell them that we have video games for patients to play you can visibly see them relax.  Parents are relieved to know that we can provide something familiar and comforting for their child during a stressful time in their lives.”

Founded in 2003 by Mike Krahulik and Jerry Holkins (authors of the popular webcomic Penny Arcade), Child’s Play began in part as a response to the mainstream media’s increasingly negative portrayal of gamers and the industry. Krahulik and Holkins challenged readers to make a difference both for the gaming community and for children in need by raising money for the Seattle Children’s Hospital. They received an enormous response and raised over $250,000.

Since then, the Child’s Play organization has expanded exponentially, raising over $25 million total in cash and physical donations for countless medical centers worldwide. Just last year, program coordinator Jamie Dillon announced the group would also begin reaching out to children in domestic violence shelters and advocacy centers.

Books, toys and games provide hospitalized children with a much-needed distraction from a situation which may be frightening, even painful – studies have shown that simply finding an engaging, enjoyable activity, such as reading a good novel or leveling up in order to beat the big bad boss at the end of a level, can lower a patient’s awareness of pain, resulting in lower stress and less need for pain medication. Technology like the Kinect or the Wii Balance Board can provide a much more amusing version of physical therapy, and multiplayer games help bedridden kids retain vital social ties with the outside world.

Currently, Child’s Play partners with over 70 hospitals to provide them with age-appropriate books, toys, video games, and “other fun stuff for kids.” The charity works with individual medical centers to set up gift wish lists of specific items which can be purchased for donation via Amazon.com. Cash donations, which are used primarily towards acquiring brand-new entertainment equipment for the hospitals, may also be sent directly to the charity.

Want to help? Visit the official Child’s Play website to check for upcoming events or volunteer opportunities, to plan an event, to make a donation, or to search for a specific hospital in the network. You can also follow the organization on Twitter or Facebook.

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