Zach Wigal from Gamers Outreach sits down with another fine game-related charity called The Beautiful People's Club to talk about their efforts to raise money in the fight against the ugliest thing on planet earth: cancer. The group has an event planned for May 19 that you can find out more about at the link above. Zach's interview with Jason Fishman and Martin Brinkley of The beautiful People's Club begins now.
There’s been an explosion in gaming related charity activities in the past couple years. From the record success of Child’s Play and Extra Life, to the efforts of individual gaming personalities, there doesn’t seem to be any slowing down. Video game enthusiasts are finding ways to combine their passion for gaming with charitable action and a new field of philanthropy is in the midst of being pioneered. Perhaps the most impactful component of this growth is the empowerment of gamers through websites such as Twitch.TV and YouTube, which are providing non-profit enthusiasts with a new platform for connectivity. For gamers, it doesn’t take months of organizing, thousands of dollars in overhead costs, or extensive call to action campaigns to raise money for charity. The average Joe can turn on his streaming equipment, recruit friends, and spread awareness through social media, bringing together a community of people to generate resources for favorite charitable causes.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with a gaming community called The Beautiful People’s Club. A relatively small group of gamers, The Beautiful People’s Club identifies themselves as a group of mature, friendly gaming enthusiasts whose community has grown modestly over the years, but still very much remains a grass roots, tight-knit group. Despite their small size, the Beautiful People’s Club has been able to generate around $10,000 in revenue for charity causes through an annual streaming marathon hosted by members of their community.
Come May 19th, they’ll be hosting their third annual marathon in support of a non-profit called Stupid Cancer, an organization that provides a variety of resources for individuals battling cancer. It doesn’t take more than five minutes to realize how passionate the Beautiful People’s Club is about this cause. I sat down with Jason Fishman and Martin Brinkley, two of the streamathons organizers to learn more about their event and what challenges they’ve faced along the way…
Zach: Thanks for taking the time to chat guys. For starters, what is the Beautiful People’s Club?
Jason: We’re a small community of gamers. We’ve tried to keep ourselves small, in some sense. We don’t publish or post much. Every year we host a charity event, but it’s a small effort.
Martin: We like to approach charity from a grass roots scale. We don’t like to pressure people into giving – we’re just trying to raise awareness, primarily.
Zach: How successful has your charity marathon been in the past, and what organizations have benefitted?
Jason: The first year was for Child’s Play, but the marathon was strictly 24 hours of Red Dead Redemption. Our second event was for Stupid Cancer. We’ve raised around $10,000 between those first two events. When it comes to choosing the cause, it’s really about what our community wants to get behind.
Martin: We kept falling back to cancer related charities.
Jason: The big thing with stupid cancer was you could see the results. They’re a great foundation / support group of people who are willing to help people battling cancer.. It’s a very important cause for us. We’ve done a lot of research on a number of charities. This is one for us that’s making a noticeable difference. It’s really tangible for us.
Martin: One of the things that hits home is that it directly relates to our demographic. We have members between the ages of 16 to 68. All over the world, all ages, but this hits home because cancer is something we can all relate to. People fighting cancer - they’re our next door neighbors. This charity provides community support, legal aid, & financial aid for people fighting the disease. There’s a whole wealth of a community that really impressed us.
Zach: It seems like the community component of Stupid Cancer – the support they provide for individuals – is something you’ve heavily considered and decided to support. Do you think this stems from your love for gaming communities and the type of camaraderie they offer?
Jason: It’s interesting you bring that up. If we get sign ups in any given year, it’s a surprise for us. We’re just a group of people sharing what we love, and we happen to be really focused on this cause – it’s a big deal for our community. We really want to raise awareness for this group.
Martin: We were really inspired by Extra Life. We saw what they were doing and thought, “that’s something we can do to.” Maybe not on such a grand scale, but we wanted to do something like that.
Jason: We went overboard the first year though. We focused on one game for 24 hours. Playing one game for that much time is pretty difficult!
Zach: On the note of difficulty, what kind of struggles have you guys faced in organizing this event?
Jason: We’re old people. When we play games for 24 hours – that means something! Anybody who comes on – they’ll see it. By hour 18, we’re loopy …
Martin: We’re a bumbling mess…
Jason: It’s really a big job organizing these things. When you’re at the point where it’s time to play the game, you’re already exhausted.
Martin: And that’s coming from a group of hardcore gamers that play 5 or 6 hours a night. We play 6 or 7 nights a week. We have groups of people you’ll catch on team speak any time of the day.
Jason: So there’s definitely a sacrifice. We can’t compare to people with cancer or people who are working coal mines for days. It’s not a comparison, but it’s different. For 24 hours we suffer in our own way.
Martin: As much as it’s about raising money, it’s about raising awareness.
Jason: For the people being diagnosed with cancer, this is a support group. They’re not just trying to support the community with financial goals, they’re trying to help. I haven’t personally had cancer, but this tugged at my heart strings. There are people that really need help, that really need to get through the next day, and they’re on stupid cancer trying to put their lives back together.
Martin: One of the things that hit home with me was reading on their forums about a child who couldn’t see a pediatrician because he was 17, and couldn’t see an adult doctor, and he was in a quandary because he had just been diagnosed with cancer. These guys were there to help him and find people he could see.
Zach: Can you tell me a bit about Stupid Cancer?
Martin: They provide legal, financial – all types of support to people with cancer.
Jason: I’ve seen a few people in there who have been family members of people reported with cancer. They offer all types of support. If people are misdiagnosed or in need of any help, Stupid Cancer supports them.
Martin: They have camps where people can learn about cancer. The organization entirely supports it. They explain to people what they have and the consequences of different treatments. They have a weekly radio show every Monday at 8 PM. It’s absolutely jam packed with information. Some of these cancers are directly related to younger people, which I had never realized. I didn’t know there were certain cancers that attacked people at a younger age. But these guys bring that to the forefront and they provide the means to provide support.
Zach: What is your take on games being used for charity?
Martin: I think it stems from games coming out of the bedroom and becoming a bit more mainstream. They’re more socially acceptable now. If you go back 20 years you wouldn’t have seen a gaming commercial. Now they’re everywhere. That just tells me that socially, video games are way more acceptable. More people are playing them now than ever before. It’s just a natural progression. The thinking process goes something like “You know what, I want to do something for charity. Well, I play video games. Let’s incorporate that.”
Jason: There’s definitely a much larger user base than 2 or 3 years ago. You could look at the Starcraft streams. Some of these guys are raising $60,000 just because they stream Starcraft.
Zach: So I have to ask, what’s the inspiration behind the name “Beautiful People’s Club?”
Jason: Family Guy. I started this 6 years ago. We were just a Guild Wars guild. We all got together on the PlayStation forums and wanted to find a place where we could post about stuff we wanted to post about on different games. So we created our own forum and we had 150 members in the first two weeks. A lot of it has been putting time in coding and doing a lot of events. We’re at 620 members now.
Zach: How can people be involved with your upcoming event?
Martin: Please spread the word. We want to generate awareness for this group. Obviously we hope you donate to, that’s what a charity event is about.
Jason: But it really is about generating awareness. This forum is a great resource. There are people who care about your life – about helping you with your fight in cancer – and helping them grow that community is our ultimate goal. We’re just really impressed with this group, and they truly care about the people they help.
Martin: Make sure to go to StupidCancer.com and show them some love. Take 10 minutes out of your day to read what they have to say.
Jason: Even if you, God forbid, are diagnosed with cancer, this is a dedicated group of people you can reach out to for help.
The Beautiful People’s Club 24 Hour Marathon will begin on Saturday, May 19th. You can tune in and offer support by visiting them on the web at beautifulpeoplesclub.org.