How Alzheimer’s Research UK is cracking the gaming industry

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Alzheimer’s Research UK is doing some really interesting and exciting activities around gaming and the gaming community. We chatted to Lucy Squance, Director of Supporter-led Fundraising, about their plans.

Hi, Lucy! How does ARUK engage with the gaming community?

At a foundation level we currently engage with the gaming community through DIY fundraising, encouraging those who game to do what they love and raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

As a brand, we push to be brave and innovative. We introduce products, content and opportunities for consumers that buck the trend of what they would expect a dementia charity to deliver. We’ve been fortunate enough to work with Google and tech developers Visyon to develop a VR experience for dementia and have presented about this project in the UK and around the world as one of the first brands (NGO or otherwise) to use VR to communicate.

A lot of the team are gaming fans – we co-created the multi-award winning Sea Hero Quest with our partners Deutsche Telecom and game designers Glitchers. This citizen science mobile maze game helps our scientists at UCL understand how human navigation varies over time and by sex or region to help develop more sensitive diagnostic tools for when these abilities are lost in the early stages of dementia. Over four million people have played the game and taken part, giving scientists millions of hours’ worth of user data to analyse, making it the biggest citizen science game ever. 

We have a cross-team working group looking at new opportunities in gaming and how we can use our current skills and resources to respond quickly to new opportunities and create a culture of embracing this exciting new area of our work.

We’re very interested in bringing new offers to our supporters and engaging the public in our amazing scientific mission. We are high tech people and want to embrace tech in our offers.  

What have you learned along the way in terms of good and not-so-good practice with gaming for good? What should other charities be aware of?

We are still learning and exploring. What we do know is:

  • The global games industry worth rose to £135 billion in 2018
  • Over £75 million has been raised through Gaming for Good in the last 5 years
  • Twitch hosts over 2.2 million broadcasters each month with over 100 million unique users tuning in to watch
  • The gaming companies want to give back

This is a huge opportunity for charities and something that they shouldn’t be scared of. We are speaking to game developers, trade bodies, influencers and gamers to gain deeper insight into their world, asking directly what resonates with them.

We have three core areas we are currently exploring:

  1. Developers & in game purchases
  2. Gaming influencers and live streaming
  3. DIY gamers fundraising for ARUK

What do you think is the future for gaming and fundraising?

  1. In-game purchases like skins. For example, last October, Breast Cancer Research Foundation launched a special charity skin for Overwatch: PINK MERCY. The skin was sold online and the proceeds went directly to BCRF and their work of finding a cure for breast cancer. In addition to supporting the cause by buying the skin, there is also a selection of limited edition goods including the Pink Mercy charity shirts, a series of Pink Mercy sprays, player icons, and more. $12.7 million has been raised so far.
  2. Gaming tournaments. For example, the charity Special Effects put on GameBlast which is the UK’s largest gaming marathon weekend. It helps thousands of people that are affected by physical disabilities by supplying them with game controllers and keyboards that are suitable to their needs. Gamers for Giving in the US raises half million for local hospice. E-sports tournaments are a great inclusive fundraising activity to engage large multi site corporate partners.
  3. Influencers live streaming to support more causes. Our team are actively approaching gamers in the same way we would with more traditional celebrity support. We find people with large followings who have a link to our cause, and cultivate relationships with them. The objective is to engage them in a way they’d like to help us – by raising awareness, working with us on partnerships or raising money directly.

Lucy Squance is Director of Supporter-led Fundraising at Alzheimer’s Research UK. Read more about Alzheimer’s gaming work and download their fundraising pack here.

Charity gaming events are a great way for you to have fun and raise some money for a good cause at the same time! Check out JustGiving’s work around gaming for social good here.

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