It’s been said to the point of cliché, but it doesn’t make it any less true: the December holidays can be stressful. We spend so much time and energy agonizing over what gifts to buy, how much to spend, and the fine print of return policies that we forget that December giving is supposed to be less about material goods and more about caring for our fellow humans. And I think this goes double for fans of tabletop games. After all, we are in love with an entertainment medium that is designed to bring people together. And all this is to say that, with Christmas just around the corner, it didn’t feel right to just talk about more games.
Don’t get me wrong, I love sharing my excitement over clever and beautiful new games, and you can believe that next week I will be back to talk ad nauseum about the latest shiny new thing I’ve found. But this week I wanted to go in a different direction. This week, let’s take a look at four gaming charities and how you can help people through the magic of the tabletop.
Tabletop Knights – Hillsboro, VA, USA
Tabletop Knights is a group that uses Dungeons & Dragons as a means to give back to the community. They use a couple of different models to do this. The organization partners with and trains local DMs in how to run high-quality D&D experiences. These can be large-scale events like D&D tournament events, DM competitions, or open play events. The events have a donation-based entry fee, usually the suggestion from TTK is $6, and all proceeds go to local charities. Or if you want to book a private game or teambuilding event, you can contact TTK who will put you in touch with a local DM. The DM will suggest a donation based on if you want a one-off game or an entire campaign.
Tabletop Knights also recognize the empowerment and camaraderie that comes from working with a party of fellow adventurers. With this in mind, they put together curated kits of RPG materials “aimed at creating an RPG experience that is a positive force in the lives of others.” These kits are then passed on to youth organizations looking to engage kids in a positive and fun activity.
They also have ambitious goals for the future. We all know that hobby gaming isn’t cheap. And while RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons require less investment to enjoy them then, say, war gaming, the cost of those first three books can still be an insurmountable hurdle. To bring in kids from all rungs of the economic ladder, TTK is looking to create a program that sends DMs into low socioeconomic neighborhoods so children there can engage in safe, imaginative play. They are also looking to expand their care kits program to partner with counselors and mental health professionals. Roleplaying is already a widely used strategy among therapists, so this seems like a natural next step. But of course, all of this takes money. If you love RPGs like D&D, then please consider sending a few gold pieces their way.
Meeples for Peeples – St. Charles, MO, USA
The goal of Meeples for Peeples is as simple as the name: get games in the hands of people who want them but can’t afford them. Now, don’t think that means you can call them up just because you want more games than fit in your Kickstarter budget. Specifically, this group wants to get games into the hands of organizations that use the games for good. Think schools, military, libraries, youth services, etc.
This is definitely for the many gamers with more games than shelf space. MFP will happily take your gently used games and get them to a good home where they’ll continue to bring a lot of joy. Or if you’d rather, you can donate money directly. They also do a lot of raffles, the latest being for the Terraforming Mars: Big Box Edition, so be sure to check their sites. Their main site doesn’t have any events listed at the moment, but their Facebook page is much more active.
Game to Grow – Kirkland, WA, USA
Game to Grow is similar to Tabletop Knights in that they largely use D&D as their catalyst activity. But where TTK primarily uses RPGs to fundraise or provide games to other organizations for use in therapy, Game to Grow is more of an in-house, one-stop-shop.
The group was founded as a way to engage young people, usually diagnosed with autism, ADHD, depression, or anxiety, in behavioral therapy. The goal of the sessions is to teach players how to deal with stimuli and social situations that they normally struggle with in a setting that doesn’t feel like therapy.
Game to Grow’s team of licensed family therapists have created their own role-playing system, Critical Core, to facilitate this. You may have heard of it. It had a successful Kickstarter campaign and was mentioned on Critical Role. The game consists of modules designed to put the players in social situations which they must role-play. And like in the real world, the outcome of their role-playing has consequences which their characters must deal with.
And they have been very successful so far. Demand for the group’s services has grown substantially, and the group is looking to expand. If ever there was a time when they could use donations, it’s now.
Universal Board Games – London, UK
As I mentioned earlier, tabletop games have the incredible power to bring even complete strangers together and have them become instantly engaged with one another. Anyone who’s ever played in any kind of tournament can attest to the fact that, once your opponent steps up on the opposite side of that table, you become instantly attuned to them.
Universal Board Games has tapped into that instant connection board games bring to try and create not just one-on-one connections, but to bring whole communities together. They host weekly outdoor gaming events where people from all ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds can come together and play games from all around the world. There is no charge for admission, and the events have a carnival air meant to draw in passersby and engage everyone in the community.
UBG also recognizes that game design is an expressive art. As with any artform, the finished piece is an amalgamation of the artist’s lived experiences. That is why this group also hosts game design workshops with kids who might not have an outlet to otherwise express their views. Through this program, UBG has facilitated the creation of a diverse game catalog. Themes include countering extremist myths, life as a person in care, bullying, knife violence, or how to best use public spaces. In addition to the creative expression, these workshops also build critical thinking and create a safe space for children to share and hone communication skills. It’s also created a very fun way to donate. For a suggested donation of £35, you can purchase a copy of Universal Board Games original card game, Our World Too.
Giving and playing? It doesn’t get much better than that.
by Zane Messina