Gaming for good - Remember Me/Doctors Without Borders

(If you're wondering what the heck is about, my first blog post here sums up my goals - short version: I'm matching every gaming dollar I spend, beginning at the start of June 2013, with a dollar of philanthropy).

Remember Me is the sort of game I approach hopefully but realistically. I really want a game like this to be better, both from a gameplay perspective and a writing one, but even though the final result, at best, can be called uneven it's still playable... just the kind of "second tier" game that we often mourn the death of, and it was a savvy idea for Capcom to bring it out during this year's particularly sharp spring-summer drought of new game releases - I'm sure my interest was half borne of needing something novel to play. Honestly, the weirdest thing to me was how it tugged at my (fond) memories of other games. It's like the teams behind DmC Devil May Cry and Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective decided to collaborate on a game but never really saw eye to eye.

Anyway, I decided to back away from memory-related causes that might be the most obvious parallels to this game, because I get uneasy talking about Alzheimer's in conjunction with a game where you win the game by... changing and erasing memories. The game comes close at times to grappling with the ethics of its central gimmick, but abandons every attempt at such moral questions.

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Instead, with a bit of a nod towards the game's setting of Neo Paris and the vast destitute population of "Leapers" therein, my $55 (more on that amount later) is going to Medicins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), an organization which could definitely be used in this particular dystopia. I also thought of them because of the rare (for games) mixed-ethnicity heroine, Nilin. That she's an African-European mix is beautifully handled within the game, which is to say it's not commented upon at all but simply accepted to be. And so I wanted to reach out to an organization that likewise has a global reach but some French heritage.

As for that $55, I'm also lumping in my Steam purchase of Penny Arcade's On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness 4, since it was too small a purchase to split off a separate donation for. The series ends, unfortunately, a bit rudderless, and the game fails to bring enough interesting elements to justify its length. I would have been a lot happier with a shorter game that allowed the writing (which still has plenty of great moments) to stay front and center, at full concentration and potency.

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Gaming for Societal Good - a manifesto and a pledge

Giant Bomb, a vibrant and great user-driven site I've been a devoted (but quiet) fan of for years, seems as good a place to lay this idea out as any.

Dr. Ray Muzyka, co-founder of BioWare, tweeted near the start of E3: "Remember to keep perspective as we debate merits of $400/$500 games consoles; billions of people lack clean water, food, education, housing." That got me thinking.

I really do appreciate how fortunate I am. Fortunate, to live in the era of the birth of videogames, from the Atari 2600 my family had in my childhood all the way through to the ridiculously powerful consoles and PCs yet to come. How great is it to have the luxury of arguing about the gaming potential of the Xbox One, the PS4, the iPad, my PC, and myriad of other crazy technologies? And boy, I recognize that I'm really lucky that I can pretty much try out any of these things if I decide to do so.

Personally, I don't feel like my hobby, or my ability to pay for it, contributes to the world's problems. But how cool would it be if it can help solve them, at least in some small way? That's what Ray's tweet started me thinking about.

I've decided, very simply, my own personal plan for linking my gaming to a greater good. For every dollar that I spend on anything videogame related in the coming year, I intend to also donate a dollar to a good cause. I've always wanted to make myself donate more, and this gives me a framework that I'm hoping makes things a lot more interesting (especially given the release schedule for this year!)

That's where this blog comes in. My donations will come as close to the same time as the videogame purchase as possible, and where I can, I'll try to relate the philanthropy and the game... but at least I'll talk about both.

For example, I've been... well, at least trying to decide for this past week whether I'm a fan of Animal Crossing: New Leaf ... I haven't played the series before and don't have much by way of friends on the 3DS to connect to, so it's feeling like a very unstructured sandbox that I'm having trouble seeing the full point of, though I can't deny its charm. I'm still happy to give it a few minutes a day... the jury's not out and Tom Nook obviously wants more of my bells.

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I'm matching it with a $35 donation to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. While there are many other big problems across the world to face (and I've got a whole year to donate to those causes too), I've always respected the ASPCA as one of the fine activism-in-actions kinds of organizations - you don't hear about them protesting or making symbolic gestures to get "public attention" to causes, you hear about them trying to find surrogate homes for abandoned pets, running spay/neuter campaigns, and otherwise getting out there making things happen. Hopefully I'll be as effective as mayor of my little town!

One final note, and this is important: this is something I'm doing because it makes me feel good to pair my self-indulgent hobby with something that feels more generous. If you don't believe in doing so, or can't afford to, I find no fault, cast no blame, make no judgment. You should do what's best for you and what you believe in. I'm simply doing what I believe in.

That said, if you are interested in participating, I'd love to hear about it. If you know of others doing the same thing, or have ideas or comments or anything, please feel free to let me know. It's ridiculously awkward trying to do this as a public act, but if it sparks any conversation or interest then maybe it can have an impact greater than my gaming/giving budget.

If you got this far, then you have my sincerest thanks for so much attention!