Victor Lucas, Others Bring Gamers Together for Japan

Gamers Come Together for Japan

Natural disasters are a borderless tragedy that can strike anywhere in the world at almost any time, and there is no fair way to ‘rate’ any such event in importance or impact over any other. However the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami struck a special cord with the world’s gamers, a growing segment of the population that for decades has admired Japan’s unique cultural exports and technological impact.

“I don't think the US [video game] industry would exist the way it does today if not for the contribution of Japan and Japanese gaming,” responds Victor Lucas, the Host/Executive Producer of The Electric Playground, a daily pop-culture news program on the cable TV network G4. Video gaming, today a major American industry whose latest hit Call of Duty: Black Ops, developed by San Diego based Treyarch reached sales totaling over a billion US dollars, was once all but dead in the United States.

“For all intents and purposes, video games died in North America in 1983,” Victor explains, “In 1985, Nintendo released the Nintendo Entertainment System […] and in the process allowed our industry to go through a phoenix-like resurrection. Were it not for Japanese developers' love for video games and their appreciation of the potential of the medium, I don't think video games would have ever come back they way did and have.”

It is a debt that both gamers and game developers in the United States and around the world are looking to pay back in the wake of the recent disaster. Victor saw the footage coming out of Japan and decided to do what he could to help.

“I knew that this feeling of wanting to do something was already out there. So I wrote an email to about 80 contacts in the game business and I pitched the concept of a collaborative video collage, with all kinds of media outlets and game creators discussing their thoughts on Japan and the game development scene there as a way to generate donations for the Red Cross.”

This project became Gamers Heart Japan, an hour-long televised and web-broadcasted special that he describes as, “some of the world's greatest game developers and passionate veteran video game journalists [talking] about their love of Japan, Japanese culture, and especially Japanese video games and game developers.”

Airing live on the cable network G4 as well as internationally on outlets like SCI FI in Australia and SPACE in Canada, the program now exists in perpetuity on the internet via YouTube and other video hosting sites [Newsarama Note: You can watch it directly below this article]. Throughout the broadcast and on the show’s website, gamersheartjapan.org, viewers are encouraged to donate to their local Red Cross branch. Early figures show that in a single night that over $10,000 was raised for the Red Cross of Canada from just that country.

Pioneered after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, individual text donations, such as the ten dollars raised by texting REDCROSS to 90999, has remained a quick way to make an impact. However, the modern interconnected gaming population, seeing the devastation of a country that shares the same love of innovation and, looked for collective ways to help with the kind of ‘viral speed’ that is infamous on the internet. 

Less than two weeks after the quake an organization described by their mission statement “to aggregate and promote online auctions of items culled from the resources of its members– video game rarities, art, signed games, etc.–in order to generate donations for disaster relief” was founded under the banner of Play for Japan.

Items currently up for internet auction range from gaming convention tchotchkes to exclusive retailer promotional items to signed copies of rare or out-of-print games. Their site also serves to answer questions about the destination of the funds raised, almost $75,000 as of April, 3rd, help those interested in selling items get noticed by the gaming community.

On a smaller scale, gaming marathons to raise money kick off almost daily in local communities and online around the world. One such event, L+R+A+Start’s ‘Japanathon’ kicks off on April 8th and will feature some of Japan’s finest gaming exports like the borderline surrealist Katamari Damacy from 2004, where you must roll up clumps of items from as small as a thumbtack to as large as a baseball stadium to replace the missing stars in the sky.

On the response from gamers to the disaster in Japan, Victor Lucas also sees an opportunity to shatter preconceptions as well as help people, “Gamers are incredibly passionate, intelligent and involved consumers. […] It would be great for mainstream media to see that gamers are [also] compassionate, caring people and that this very broad demographic has a lot of desire to contribute in positive ways to our society.”

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