Game Chaingers is a new kind of fundraising. The UNICEF project catches the zeitgeist of our age by capitalizing on two phenomena: the blockchain and eSport. Needless to say, it just might be a huge success.
Good game, well played
November 4, 2017. After having watched a fierce duel for three hours, the 40,000 spectators in Beijing’s national stadium suddenly all rose from their seats. The favorite – the Korean team SKT T1 – had just fallen. The three-time defending champion had to relinquish its League of Legends title to another local team: the Samsung Galaxy.
The battle may be virtual, but the audience is real. While the national stadium was at full capacity that day, the web had no spectator limit. The numbers for this final were colossal. Over the entire event, which ran from September 23 to November 4, the games (and replays) were viewed for almost 4.3 billion hours. This included 73.5 million views on Twitch, the flagship video game streaming platform. The most hard core fans – those who stayed up late to watch the exploits of their favorite eSport live on Chinese time – occasionally reached 36 million total, all simultaneously connected to the platform.
The numbers are certainly stunning, but they’re hardly surprising. The craze around eSports is common knowledge. The medium also has its own stars, whose Twitter followers – and advertising contracts – are in the hundreds of thousands, even millions.
The Game Chaingers’ site
“A new, connected generation has taken the reigns. We’re no longer talking about a 500-pound dude with acne glued to his computer screen 24/7, but a normal person, who leads a normal life, with friends and a real passion for video games. Gamers are cool!” says Tiampa Bamrounsavath. Along with David Campese, Bao Tu Ngoc and Pierre Jungers, this advertising designer formed a team within the Paris advertising agency BETC. Together, they created the most innovative fundraiser at the beginning of the year: Game Chaingers. It knows its target: the 711 million gamers in the world who have a graphics card, the only tool needed to mine cryptocurrencies.
“Game Chaingers is a new kind of fundraising,” Bamrounsavath explains. “Instead of recruiting donors through conventional channels, we’re launching a donations campaign using blockchain technology. The mechanics behind this project are simple. By using the processing power of players’ graphics cards, players can generate virtual currency without having to pay a single penny.”
“This is part of a new wave of “painless” donations, like the micro donation, but our innovation comes from the fact that it is the first fundraising event done with the cryptocurrency Ethereum,” she says. This virtual currency, the second largest after bitcoin, is obtained by mining. This is done from a powerful computer – like a gamer’s – capable of solving calculations quickly. All the user has to do is let the machine run.
Game Chaingers is a UNICEF initiative. “The crisis in Syria is an issue we can’t ignore today and we wanted to help UNICEF,” Bamrounsavath says. So her team of innovation enthusiast looked for a way to join forces with the organization.
“The project was born of a simple observation: there is a shortage of donations due to several factors, including that donors from associations and NGOs are getting old. In other words, young people don’t feel implicated.” And what better way to engage young people than to involve the people they watch for hours playing video games?
A new philanthropy
Alexander “TheSlaSH” Müller is an old timer. When he entered the eSports world, the term did not exist. That was the time of LANs (local-area network), Counter Strike 1.6 archaic graphics, and, to use Bamrounsavath’ words, the idea of the “500-pound dude with acne glued to his computer screen 24/7.” But today, Müller is president of SK Gaming, the iconic German team and the oldest European structure still active in the eSport world. Its media power is thus considerable, and Tiampa Bamrounsavath knows it. She needed ambassadors for her project, so naturally she turned to the German team.
Luckily, “there was no need to seduce me,” Müller says. “I loved the idea from the get go, because it combines high tech and the starpower of SK Gaming. Plus, everyone can contribute and play a vital role.” So SK Gaming and its 281,000 Twitter followers were on board, as well as its star Gabriel “Fallen” Toledo and his 781,000 followers.
The initiative could bring Alexander Müller and his team high praise. He thinks it’s all quite simple, though. When asked about the role that eSports have to play in spreading the news of such an initiative, Müller says it’s a matter of “obligation.” “If you are in a privileged position, like all recognized athletes, you have to take on the responsibility you have as a role model. “
The use of the word “athlete” is loaded with meaning. It crystallizes the similarities between internationally lauded sportsmen and eSportsmen, whose status is still debated. Even though eSports are on the verge of being included in the 2024 Olympics, it’s time we rethink their importance. In addition to living off their discipline and training to stay competitive, eSports athletes – including those from SK Gaming – play a role in their community.
“The players are already public figures, especially in their countries of origin,” Müller says. “But they realize it little by little, as their popularity grows. One way to become more popular is by participating in charity events. It’s an important part of it, in fact.” Some players discovered this a long time ago.
Heart on the console
Humble Bundle was founded in 2010 by seasoned players Jeffrey Rosen and John Graham. Its motto is, “pay what you want and support charities.” The process is simple: Humble Bundle partners up with either independent developers or big names in the video game industry (Activision, Capcom) and sells their games, usually in packs. Gamers can then purchase the games of their choice at the price they want – starting at a minimum sum.
Then, when users pay for their games, they make a small calculation. They must divide the total sum into three and decide how much to put into each section. One part goes to Humble Bundle, another goes to the developer, and a final one goes to charity. The system is working: in September 2017, Humble Bundle exceeded the $100 million mark in terms of donations.
Companies aren’t the only ones getting involved: individuals are too. In France, one of the top three European countries with the highest eSport sales figures, people are jumping on board. In addition to the French participants in the Game Chaingers initiative (who all happen to be members of the German G2eSports team), one independent streamer stands out. Adrien Nougaret, known as “ZeratoR”, is one of the leading Twitch players in France. Last September, he raised 450,000 euros for the victims of Hurricane Irma, thanks to his followers’ donations, simply by playing video games for 50 hours along with 30 other streamers, and also by creating the hashtag #ZEvent.
As for Game Chaingers, while their stated mission is to attract millennials, they have no intention of creating a wedge between younger and older communities, who may also be interested in cryptocurrencies and eSports. That’s why Bamrounsavath and her team made sure the donations process was as painless as possible.
Donors just have three steps to follow. “First, go to www.chaingers.io and find out about ours initiative,” Bamrounsavath says. “Then download the mining software preconfigured for each participant. Finally, launch the software to mine whenever you want.” That’s it.
This simplicity is what got UNICEF on board. “They welcomes the project really well,” Bamrounsavath says. “We carefully explained how the cryptocurrency works and they were enthusiastic from the start. The idea of a fundraiser that just asks donors to use their computer graphics card to make donations won them over. They made every effort to facilitate communication, speed up processes … in short, it was effective teamwork,” she concludes. Now we’re just waiting for their team to win.