Loot Crate will be hosting an eight-hour-long Livestream event this Saturday, July 28th, from 12pm to 8pm, sponsored by the healthy lifestyle beverage FOCUSAID to raise money for an amazing charity organization called Gamers Outreach.
The stream will feature folks from Loot Crate, as well as influencers and celebrities, playing video games and partaking in hilarious shenanigans all in support of Gamers Outreach – an incredible organization that provides technology, equipment, and software to children in the midst of long-term hospital visits, treatment, etc. Not only will I have the privilege of taking part in this weekend’s stream, but I also got to have a chat with the founder of Gamers Outreach, Zach Wigal, to learn more about what his organization does and what the inspiration was for the GO team to do what they do…
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me! Before we get started, why don’t you tell me your name and what your role is with Gamers Outreach?
Of course! Thanks for organizing this event on behalf of our cause. My name is Zach Wigal, and I’m the founder of Gamers Outreach.
What were you doing before helping create this incredible program?
I started Gamers Outreach as a high school student back in 2007. It was a passion project in-between college and my “normal jobs” until around 4 years ago. Prior to Gamers Outreach, I worked for an experiential marketing agency and helped organize video game events for brands and esports organizations around the world. I also managed a professional Halo player named “Walshy,” and helped produce some of the original Red Bull LAN events. I later moved into PC hardware and had a job working at Corsair shortly before Gamers Outreach took over. Gamers Outreach always existed in parallel to work and college.
I know there’s a lot of information available on your website, but could you let our fans know what the inspiration behind Gamer’s Outreach was?
Gamers Outreach got its start after a public safety officer canceled a Halo 2 tournament I had organized as a high school student. We had 300 people signed up to participate in one of the area’s first-ever video game tournaments. It was his opinion that games like Halo were “corrupting the mind’s of America’s youth,” and that our event was “a hazard to public safety.” We had planned to use my high school cafeteria as our venue, but the public safety officer protested our event happen within a high school. The rental permit that had been granted to my friends and I was revoked.
I was frustrated with the negative stereotypes around games and gamers and decided to host a new event (Gamers for Giving) to instead demonstrate the positive impact I believed our community was capable of. Thankfully, that first Gamers for Giving went incredibly well, and I decided to form Gamers Outreach as a catalyst to continue hosting the fundraiser. Fast forward 10 years, Gamers for Giving is now the third largest BYOC LAN in the United States and has helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to make a difference for children and families in hospitals.
Why has being involved with Gamer’s Outreach been so important for you and the team at GO?
I believe working on Gamers Outreach is important for a number of reasons. As someone who identifies as a gamer, I believe this organization represents an opportunity for us to exercise our knowledge and enthusiasm as gamers in a way that makes a difference in the real world. Secondly, and most importantly, we’re specifically focused on providing children in hospitals with easy access to entertainment and relief during treatment. Many years ago, we discovered the staff at our local hospital were having a difficult time providing kids with access to bedside activities.
Video games were a form of recreation that empowered patients to re-engage in play when they otherwise couldn’t leave their rooms. In the context of healthcare, games help create joyful experiences for patients in an environment that can otherwise be downright scary. As gamers, we possess a wealth of knowledge that can help these kids regain a sense of fun and independence. That’s important for the well-being of thousands of children receiving treatment. And of course, on a personal level, being able to make a positive impact in other people’s lives is refreshing for the soul!
Can you tell me a little bit about the programs and assistance Gamer’s Outreach provides for children during their hospital stay?
Since starting as a bunch of high school students, Gamers Outreach has evolved into an organization focused on providing relief and entertainment to children and families going through hospitalization. We’re focused on improving a patient’s quality of life while they’re receiving treatment. It’s become clear video games can be of major benefit to hospitals and the healthcare process, both from an entertainment perspective, but also a therapeutic one. We’ve noticed health care professionals face two primary challenges:
- Many hospitals are not equipped with entertainment devices that make gaming content readily accessible to patients (e.g. consoles, controllers, monitors, games, etc.)
- When technology is present, it can be difficult for hospital staff to manage entertainment due to a number of factors (unfamiliarity with equipment, existing responsibilities, ease of mobility, etc.)
The majority of our resources are dedicated to two initiatives we believe help produce joy and minimize trauma for patients while solving the two challenges above:
Project GO Kart: Gamers Outreach constructs portable, medical-grade video game kiosks called “GO Karts” (Gamers Outreach Karts). These kiosks enable nurses to easily provide bedside activities to children unable to leave their rooms in hospitals. Each GO Kart is equipped with a gaming console, monitor, and an assortment of games. The carts provide a safe, flexible, and efficient way to ensure kids have access to entertainment and coping mechanisms during long-term hospitalization. Each unit also has an internal lift mechanism, which allows healthcare staff to adjust the GO Kart to a patient’s bedside, accommodating a variety of medical scenarios which may limit a patient’s mobility.
Player 2: Player 2 is a program where gamers have the opportunity to apply the knowledge they’ve acquired through gaming in a manner that supports patients and staff within hospitals. By volunteering, gamers become “digital activity managers” and serve by managing equipment, providing tech support, and playing games with patients. Many hospitals receive game donations, but without proper staffing to manage inventory at a mass scale, it can become difficult for tech donations to properly serve patients as intended. Player 2 helps address this issue by ensuring knowledgeable individuals are present to distribute technology and exercise its positive benefits.
Outside of Live streams like the one we’ve got coming up this weekend, what other ways does your team get the Gamer’s Outreach message out?
Live streams have been an incredible source of support for Gamers Outreach programs! In addition to streaming, there are a number of ways people can help spread the word! Sharing our cause on social media does wonders to help spread awareness. We also have a number of volunteer opportunities available in different parts of the country through our website.
Anything else you’d like to add for our readers?
If anyone would like to get involved or follow along with our efforts, be sure to check out GamersOutreach.org!