Get in the giving spirit with Child's Play, Ben's Game

Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 12:24 a.m.


To help

  • Donate to Child's Play at
  • Download Ben's Game online:

  • The holiday season means frantic shopping, even more so for gamers, because new games are often released during the holidays.
    The holidays, however, also mean a time to share, to reflect and to help those less fortunate. Video games normally aren't seen as a method for meeting these holiday goals, but this season you'll be able to help children across the United States and Canada through video games.
    An organization called Child's Play sponsors children's hospitals so that gamers, geeks and other involved citizens can directly purchase games and other fun supplies for children in hospitals. The Penny Arcade Web comic artists Gabe and Tycho started Child's Play to help showcase the benefits that games, and gamers, bring.
    Certainly a noble cause in its own right, what's even more impressive is that Child's Play has raised nearly $1 million over the past three years. And Child's Play collects no administrative fees - all of the money, games and supplies go directly to children in hospitals. Child's Play is expanding this year to include more hospitals in the United States and Canada.
    This year Child's Play is also sponsoring Gainesville's Shands Hospital.
    Child's Play works in conjunction with to create wish lists for participating hospitals.
    Individual donors can choose to give new items, ranging from toddler toys to music CDs, videogames, game consoles and accessories. Gifts are delivered directly to hospitals in need and are tax deductible.
    The Child's Play Web site lists letters of support from gamers, formerly hospitalized children and the parents of sick children.
    As one parent mentions, "When you are a 5-year-old, going into the big donut of the CT scanner is frightening. Having a video on the TV, or a book for your daddy to read while you are being scanned can give you something to focus on that is not scary, to help you get through it."
    Part of what makes Child's Play so amazing is that it unites gamers, who are a concerned and motivated group, but who aren't normally mobilized for all the good they can do.
    Another gaming initiative comes from 11-year-old Ben Duskin, who wanted an online game to help other children who were battling cancer like him. LucasArts software engineer Eric Johnston worked with Ben to develop a game and Ben's Game, was subsequently released online.
    "Ben's Game" has now been downloaded by more than 100,000 people and translated into nine languages. The Dalai Lama even honored Ben and Eric on Nov. 6 as two "Unsung Heroes of Compassion."
    Where Child's Play and Ben's Game focus on sick children in particular, video games in general offer benefits for all players. As gamers know, in their everyday use video games are collaborative toys that invite players to play simultaneously in a friendly and open environment, while learning new concepts, histories and philosophies. Scientists have even shown that video games relax children going into surgery more effectively than tranquilizers.
    In all, video games can offer dramatic benefits for children, especially those who are ill and have restricted opportunities for benefits from other sources. Child's Play and Ben's Game are helping gamers and children, and helping everyone get involved in the process. That's something that makes the holiday season bright for gamers and nongamers alike.
  • Gaming Around Gainesville: Check out the local gaming scene at Gamers Asylum, 1124 W. University Ave. See their Web site for more information on upcoming tournaments and events,, or call 371-1774.
    Gainesville has two live action role-playing (LARP) groups. See their Web sites for more information: or
    Reach Laurie Taylor at
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