Will Ferrell Wants to Play Video Games With You to Help Raise Money for Kids With Cancer
"We truly do believe in the goodness of gamers and the community."
Will Ferrell is taking time out of his busy--and obviously hilarious--schedule to help raise awareness and money for cancer. The Anchorman star is the main draw of a new Indiegogo campaign-called SuperMega Blast Gamer Challenge--launched today by two prominent charities with the support of Xbox, Amazon, and Twitch. Should the campaign hit its $375,000 target, Ferrell will play video games live on Twitch--at the company's headquarters in San Francisco--against a lucky gamer. You can contribute to the campaign here.
Here's how it works. Everyone who supports the Indiegogo campaign at $10 or more will receive at least one entry into a lottery for the chance to be the person to play against Ferrell live on Twitch during a special, two-hour event on October 26. The winner will receive air transportation and hotel accomodations for the event. A contribution of $10 also comes with $5 Amazon credit for digital games.
Contributing $25 to the Indiegogo campaign gets you a one-month Twitch Turbo pass, as well as two entries into the sweepstakes, and the $5 Amazon credit for digital games. There are some cool additional perks, including "Will Ferrell's Gamer Sunscreen" ($50), a SuperMegaBlast teeshirt or sweatshirt, and even autographed Xbox 360 controllers and personally addressed cowbells. If you support the campaign at the $1,500 level, Will Ferrell will record a 30-second video message for you.
Check out the SuperMegaBlast Gamer Challenge Indiegogo campaign page for full details. Xbox, Amazon, and Twitch are official sponsors of the event. Organizers did not say what games will be played if the funding target is reached.
Two charities are behind the campaign, the first of which is DonateGames, a nonprofit that collects secondhand games and re-gifts them to sick children. (Xbox senior product manager Patrick Perkins is a member of the Donate Games board of directors.) It was founded by Jim Carol, whose son Taylor was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of 11. He survived and is now a sophomore at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. After seeing how video games helped cancer patients during Taylor's treatment (Taylor says video games are "godsend" for kids facing serious health challenges), Jim and Taylor decided to create DonateGames to help improve the lives of cancer patients around the world.
The other charity involved is Cancer for College, a nonprofit organization that provides scholarships to cancer survivors and amputees. Its founder is Craig Pollard, a two-time cancer survivor and double amputee. He was also a fraternity brother with Ferrell in college. Pollard says Ferrell's attachment to this campaign will help raise its profile substantially.
"The power of his celebrity brings so much attention to pretty much anything he does," Pollard said. "People love to be around him because he's just a nice guy. It's not just putting his name into it."
Jim Carol adds, "Will Ferrell obviously isn't doing this to enhance his name or his reputation in the marketplace. He's doing it because he knows the pain and suffering that happen when a family gets cancer."
Where will the money go? If funding reaches $375,000, that means Cancer for College will be able to allocate two full years of scholarships. That comes out to 150 new scholarships for cancer survivors.
"Just think, your gaming habits and the tiniest donation can make a cancer survivor's dream a reality," reads a line from the Indiegogo campaign page.
"Video games truly are a godsend for the kids who are going through these health struggles" -- Taylor Carol
Video games have faced a raft of backlash over the years from politicians and behavioural experts, some of which claim they cause violence or harm gamers in other ways. For Taylor Carol, however, video games were a major help in helping him fight through his two bouts with cancer.
"I think some of the biggest struggles [when you're sick with cancer] are the social isolation you feel and just the lack of power in your life, and I think that video games truly were a medicine for that," he said. "You'll be isolated in a room for several months, but you can get on Xbox Live and still talk to your friends. You can laugh; you can feel, even for a moment, some semblance of normalcy in your life. Video games truly are a godsend for the kids who are going through these health struggles."
"Games are good and games are here for good," he added. "There is a lot of bad press and accusations that video games are bad or that they're harmful to our society. But we just know that's not true. We know that games are here for good. It's our hope through this event to really spread that truth that games are here for good and that gamers are really going to incite positive change."
Ferrell agrees. "I'll admit--I'm recently educated about the close ties between video games and charity/cancer," he said. "I'm awestruck by it all, and you inspired me. So that's one of the reasons why I'm hosting this challenge....I want more people need to know how video games can help and how benevolent the gaming community is."
For Jim Carol, seeing the impact video games had on his son was a major turning point in his life.
"I was a very strict father before Taylor got sick," Jim Carol recalls. "Taylor would not have been allowed to play all these different games. But once he was really sick and alone, the barrier went down. We were still discerning parents, but we also let him play a lot more games. We saw the joy that it brought him."
Though you might find a lot of negativity in some gaming circles (ever played Call of Duty on Xbox Live?), Jim Carol says gamers overall have the capacity to be a virtuous bunch. "We truly do believe in the goodness of gamers and the community," he said. "We're here to help kids that are sick and we're going to ease the pain and suffering of those children and their families."
Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch