AbleGamers: PAX East 2013 Isn't All About Swag
Let's face it. Aside from playing as many games you can possibly cram into three days, PAX East is also all about the stuff you can score. It matters little if you will ever use any of it again. The ultimate feat is to parade around with your fellow gamers acknowledging each others awesome love of all things geekdom and wondering where that dude just got that crazy looking hat.
People were willing to do a lot for crazy hats. You saw gamers shout their lungs out on a League of Legends stage in front of a giant crowd. Women and children stand in ridiculously long lines that lasted hours. Men fill out surveys. Monkeys write game reviews on some crazy game site that makes people think they will be skinny after reading (the name of said site somehow escapes me now). Others yet would sneak back in line for another Magic The Gathering swag bag even though you already got one (you know you did!).
Don't get me wrong. I loved every fraking second of it. The only thing that could have been better would be saving the Earth from evil zombie bunnies with only one shotgun early in the morning and then getting free beer the rest of the weekend.
Bunnies aside, PAX had one small area that stood out from the rest. It wasn't about what it could give you.
It was about what you could give back.
This "exhibit" (for lack of a more knowledgeable term) was AbleGamers. It was located on Level 1 at the North Lobby to the left of the Merchandise Booth. I actually stumbled across it because I had just acquired a PAX East 2013 tee. And we will totally overlook the fact that I was wearing my Curse Wildstar free tee I got after waiting for 30 minutes outside in the cold to get into their party. Totally not swag greedy over here. Nopes.
Despite my hopeless faults, the people running AbleGamers have made me believe that gamers can make the world a better place - even with our Rogue tendencies. Their mission statement grants them +100 karma in my book:
"The AbleGamers Foundation is a 501(C)(3) public charity enabling children and adults with disabilities to enjoy the world of video games. In a world filled with barriers, video games provide a way to help level the playing field and increase the quality of life for people with disabilities.
We believe there should be no barriers to fun. Through our original accessible game review database, community groups and Accessibility Arcades™, we empower those in the disability community by providing equipment and advice on how to play the same games as family and friends with a little help."
The charity had a game set up that was a cross between casino slot machine and video game; though it was a little more towards the video game side. The "money" or currency was metal balls. And keep your mouth shut before you insert any comments about balls. I'm trying to write about the decency of the human race here; let's not ruin it by letting Aliens see we are still immature even at this age.
Ehem. So if you donated $5.00 you received 50, $10 for 100, and $20 for 300. I have to say that whoever came up with the game design is a genius. Just like Atlantic City and coin-op games it has that annoying addictiveness you love to hate. It's hard to say no to continue playing. Even if you were an evil zombie bunny sent to scout out our planet you still may not be able to stop yourself from putting those balls in the hole (oh, let's not pretend you weren't thinking about it).
Thanks to all those zombie scouts, AbleGamers raised an amount of money that not only surpassed what they expected, but caused the sign showing the dollar count to break, freezing at over $16,000. A volunteer informed me that they had in fact raised more than this - so much so they had a guard standing constantly by them in anxiety that the money would be stolen.
It's nice to think that there were some PAX goers who were able to pause, take a break from all the swag-ness, and contribute to a really decent cause. I never thought about it before seeing this group on Sunday, but as soon as I listened to what they were about I thought man, does this make sense. Not only do these kids and adults deserve to have as much fun as anyone else, but I could certainly understand how it might allow them to dream and do the things they can't do physically themselves. I would never be able to imagine what their lives are like. I am a very active person myself. Running, martial arts, hiking, fishing, and a million other things keep my limbs busy each week. If someone told me I couldn't anymore it would be a hard adjustment for me to make.
It's rare as a gamer to be able to show without any doubt that games are not only fun but doing something positive in a person's life. On Sunday March 24, AbleGamers was doing just that. Not only were people playing games to raise money, but they were raising money so disabled children and adults could enjoy a better quality of life.
I don't think that even saving the Galaxy can compare to that.