When it comes to health care, video games do not typically come to mind. There has been some research about the positive impacts on the brain, or scientists developing smaller research games. While this suggests positive signs, the overlap between video games and science is not well-known. Nevertheless, here are three video games that aid global health.

Borderlands 3

In recent years, Borderlands 3 made an impact on the science community with the introduction of Borderlands Science in 2020. An arcade cabinet in the comedic first-person shooter game allows players to try out Borderlands Science. Each level has a target score and players get rewards as in-game accessories if they achieve this score or higher.

The minigame works to map out the microbiome of the human gut. It does this by translating each strand of DNA as a color or block, then players solve puzzles involving these blocks and colors. The goal is to use this data to combat disease, as some microbes in the human gut are associated with diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and much more. Scientists may be able to treat these diseases with more insights about which microbes are the underlying factors. This could save scientists many hours of research and also assists genomic sequencing. Player behavior demonstrates the most effective way to solve these puzzles, which is being studied for its ability to help the task of genomic sequencing.

In developing countries, there is much difficulty with accessing health care for the aforementioned diseases. There is a combination of poor access to care and high rates of disease. For example, there were 309,000 prevalent cases of Parkison’s in the Middle East and North Africa in 2019. This was alongside 80% of diabetics and 58% of people with dementia living in developing countries. Diseases like Parkinson’s have no known cure, whereas the risk for Alzheimer’s is highest in countries with challenges in access to education.

Finding treatments for these diseases could lead to better health globally, especially in countries with difficulties accessing health care. For this reason, Borderlands 3 has become a popular example of video game that can aid global health efforts.

World of Warcraft

World of Warcraft is a multiplayer online roleplaying game, where players are given free will in an immersive setting. A 2005 update introduced an infectious status debuff known as Corrupted Blood which caused players to lose health over time. Originally, this debuff only existed in one area of the game and would be deleted when players left the area. The problem was that players could have pets and they would retain the debuff, infecting players outside of that area.

This situation has drawn the eye of many scientists as a way to study human behavior, as every player reacted organically. Since gamers are invested in the world, which John Kirkland described as an “economy,” it created pandemonium. While this specific instance was uncontrolled, many scientists investigating video games that aid global health still use it as a reference.

Professor Jodie McVernon noted the similarities between how players reacted to Corrupted Blood and how people reacted to COVID-19; some ran, some went to densely populated areas and some tried to help others. Ran Balicer considers it a place to study the spread of disease and others related it to Avian flu. National Science Foundation (NSF) believes the behaviors exhibited during the Corrupted Blood pandemic will be similar to real-life scenarios.

Epidemiologist Nina Fefferman believes partnering with video games to simulate real human behavior is an excellent idea since it reveals factors not initially considered in epidemiological modeling such as empathy or curiosity. She continues to study similar virtual spaces to model infectious diseases in her lab.

Pokemon Go

Pokemon Go is an augmented reality game that encourages players to go outside to capture Pokemon and battle each other. It quickly became one of the most popular mobile phone games. People were quick to ask if it had a positive impact on health.

From a review, 76% of tweets suggested that the app had a positive effect. It benefitted physical health with players increasing their step count by 25% to 35% and they were more likely to engage in physical activity like walking their dog. The social health benefits include players strengthening bonds with friends and reducing their anxiety. Mental health benefits were considered more neutral, though still skewed positive as it reduced anxiety and improved cognitive performance.

Looking Ahead

As video games continue to become a popular form of entertainment, there are growing questions about the global health implications. Institutions like McGill University see the value of using video games to collect difficult-to-gather data. Scientists find value in its ability to model human behavior. These trends suggest that video games carry the potential to advance global health efforts. 

Lachlan Griffiths

Photo: Flickr

Games Done Quick
Crammed into the convention center of a suburban Minneapolis DoubleTree Hilton, thousands sat in a room filled with chairs, a pair of projection screens, a TV, a few gaming consoles and PCs, a stack of prizes and a couch, listening to the clicks of keyboards and joysticks over seven days. Competitors, many of whom were unknowns sitting among the crowd, trained for years, memorizing specific levels paths and honing their muscle memories, in anticipation for this week. Around the world, millions watch the lightning-fast action online, shooting comments into a scrolling chat box and sending in donations to fill up a green bar at the bottom of the screen. This is the scene of a typical Games Done Quick event. Generally, people are here for two things: to see video games — from classics like Super Mario Bros. to newcomers like Elden Ring — finished in record-breaking times and to generate millions of dollars toward saving lives.

About Games Done Quick (GDQ)

Games Done Quick, also known simply as GDQ, is a series of live-streamed and in-person charity events built around marathons of video game speed runs. Speedrunning is a popular style of gaming where players attempt to complete sections or entire games as quickly as possible — sometimes using hacks and/or glitches to achieve better times. GDQ typically regularly hosts two major events throughout the year: Awesome Games Done Quick and Summer Games Done Quick.

Though these events focus on speed-running video games, GDQ’s central goal is raising money for nonprofits. In the past, it has even controversially switched which games participants would play mid-event in hopes of maximizing the amount of viewership and donations. Over the nine years that GDQ has been hosting events, they have raised a total of $34 million toward charities that fight cancer, provide education to women in the developing world, and give health care to those around the world who would otherwise not receive it.

GDQ and Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide medical care to anyone who needs it. According to its website, it works in more than 70 countries. Typically, the organization works mostly in conflict zones, areas where natural disasters have hit and locations where access to traditional health care is either limited or nonexistent.

Recently, Doctors Without Borders has been involved in the global response to COVID-19 by supporting developing nations’ overwhelmed healthcare systems, refugee search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea and providing displaced peoples from the Lake Chad region of Africa medical attention as the area experiences a period of violent conflict.

In July 2022, GDQ hosted its annual Summer Games Done Quick, benefitting Doctors Without Borders. It was its first in-person event since 2019, having switched to an online format during the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, viewers watching on the popular live streaming platform Twitch donated more than $3 million to Doctors Without Borders. According to its website, GDQ claims to be the largest event in the world raising money for Doctors Without Borders.

The Future of GDQ and Live Streaming for Charity

In August 2022, GDQ plans to host “Flame Fatales,” which will feature a cast of female-only speedrunners and benefit the Malala Foundation. The Malala Foundation is a nonprofit advocating for the funding of secondary education for girls around the world and supporting education activists.

Outside of GDQ, Twitch, among other live streaming services, has served as a platform for numerous other fundraisers. These include large-scale, produced events, such as GDQ, but also individual streamers encouraging their viewership to donate to charity while watching.

In 2021, French streamers ZeratoR and Dach hosted Z Event 2021 on Twitch. By collaborating with other popular streamers, they raised a record-breaking $11.5 million to fight world hunger through the organization Action Against Hunger.

Throughout his career, individual streamer Nick28T has driven those watching his gaming streams to donate more than $200,000 to the BC Cancer Foundation, which funds cancer research, advocacy and care for patients living in British Columbia.

In 2020 alone, Twitch reported that streamers across the site managed to raise over $81 million for charity. In response to the popularity of charity streams, Twitch has invested in specially made tools for philanthropy. It has partnered with Tiltify, a service that provides streamers with fundraising overlays, donation tracking tools and more. The partnership represents the company’s attempt to compete with other platforms like YouTube and Facebook to host these massive charity drives as more fundraisers choose to go digital.

– Ryan Morton
Photo: Flickr

COVID-19 Relief in India and BrazilThe video game industry is doing its part in the global fight against COVID-19. The online video game storefront, Humble Bundle, is playing a major role in charitable efforts. As of May 28, 2021, Humble Bundle has raised almost $1.2 million for COVID-19 relief in India and Brazil.

What is Humble Bundle?

Humble Bundle is an online video game store founded in 2010. Since then, the video game bundles that give the company its name have raised money for a wide variety of charitable efforts, from the World Wildlife Foundation to Make-A-Wish. The funds primarily come through the sale of popular video games along with other entertainment items like comic books.

Humble Bundle has garnered almost $200 million through bundles. These often include selections from popular gaming franchises like Civilization, Saints Row and BioShock. Typically a portion of each bundle is donated either to the company’s featured charity of the month or the purchaser’s chosen charity. However, Humble Bundle took a bit more of a drastic approach in May 2021 to help several organizations in India and Brazil during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Humble Bundle created the live “Humble Heal: COVID-19 Bundle” from May 12, 2021, until May 19, 2021, in order to support four different charities working in Brazil and India during the ongoing pandemic. More than 54,000 bundles were sold. India recently experienced a record one-day COVID-19 death toll of more than 6,000 deaths on June 10, 2021. Around the same time, Brazil neared 500,000 overall deaths due to COVID-19. The relief efforts of Humble Bundle and other charities are vitally important for COVID-19 relief.

Humble Bundle COVID-19 Relief Support

The charities supported by the bundle primarily focus on providing medical equipment and care to those in need. For example, in February 2021, Direct Relief granted more than $500,000 in aid to Amazonas in Brazil for roughly 350 oxygen concentrators. The Brazilian state desperately needed oxygen concentrators for local medical facilities and people isolated in rainforests. Similarly, in April 2021, Direct Relief donated $5 million toward the purchase of oxygen concentrators in India as well.

According to a recent report by Doctors Without Borders, countries like Brazil were forced to ration treatments or prioritize some patients over others due to a lack of resources. Humble Bumble supported Doctors Without Borders with donations to ensure that essential health services continue with the necessary medical resources.

GiveIndia also incorporates oxygen supply efforts into its pandemic relief. The charity raised more than $6 million to help boost the oxygen supply in India. GiveIndia also provided financial support for low-income families who lost employed family members during the pandemic. Furthermore, the organization supplied food for those struggling with hunger.

The International Medical Corps, another organization supported by Humble Bundle, is also working to strengthen the healthcare system in India, provide crucial medical supplies and deliver personal protective equipment. Additionally, the nonprofit is working to combat vaccine hesitancy in the country to ensure a successful vaccine rollout throughout the country.

The Impact of Humble Bundle’s Efforts

Humble Bundle supports nonprofits like International Medical Corps and Direct Relief in a unique and creative way. It not only provides significant humanitarian funds to the organizations but also spotlights the organizations and increases awareness and engagement through its platform.

“The generosity received as a result of Humble Bundle’s effort is deeply inspiring and will serve as a force-multiplier to get more aid into these areas to improve the health and lives of those who are most vulnerable,” says Heather Bennett, vice president of Partnerships and Philanthropy at Direct Relief.

The nearly $1.2 million raised by Humble Bundle will certainly help these nonprofits continue their impactful work. This will provide COVID-19 relief in India and Brazil to help hard-hit communities recover and rebuild.

– Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Video Games in AfricaThe global video game industry is valued at $140 billion and Africa is primed to take a piece of the action. Between 2014 and 2018, the number of African gamers rose from 23 million to a staggering 500 million, opening up a lucrative opportunity for the African gaming industry to become a major player. Video games in Africa have the potential to transform poverty in the continent.

Video Gaming Industry in Africa

Every year, the African gaming industry grows by more than 8%, with new gaming companies opening frequently. The Festival of Electronics and Video Games of Abidjan (FEJA), is a video gaming event in Africa with the main aim of creating jobs in the industry. The event’s organizers see the three-day event as an opportunity to exemplify the immense potential the industry has in Africa.

Although there are already innovative African gaming companies such as Work’d and Paradise Game, video games in Africa are often overlooked. However, Paradise Game founder and CEO, Sidick Bakayoko, predicts that by 2025, West Africa alone will have room to create over one million jobs in the gaming sector and the continent as a whole could create five million jobs.

Urgent Evoke Video Game

A game designer named Jane McGonigal has developed a game specifically promoted to African gamers called “Urgent Evoke”. The game exists both online and in the real world. To progress in the game, players must complete real-life activism such as reaching out to government leaders, researching environmental solutions, contributing time to alleviate poverty and other acts of contribution. Players must document these actions and submit them to advance in the game.

McGonigal’s goal with “Urgent Evoke” is to empower Africans to become active problem-solvers and tackle poverty and other issues in their communities. In addition to promoting and requiring activism, the game awards prizes to winners, including mentorships, scholarships, internships and startup money to foster entrepreneurship.

Video Games and Perception

Game developers like McGonigal and Bakayoko aim to use video games in Africa to change the way Africans view themselves and their continent as well as change how the world views Africa. The continent is often seen as a dangerous place filled with hunger and war. By creating games set in Africa led by positive African characters, developers can change perceptions and help Africans see themselves through a more confident, leadership lens.

These games have the power to reduce prejudice toward poverty and help people understand impoverished nations and join the fight to help them. Many hold the false belief that poverty is something self-inflicted or personally controllable. Cultivation theory states that the media that people absorb affects the way they perceive the world.

Video games in Africa have the influence to create a more accepting and representative industry. Games such as “Urgent Evoke” change perceptions, allowing African gamers to be their own heroes both online and in the real world.

Potential for Poverty Reduction in Africa

The growing industry of video games in Africa has created a plethora of jobs but there is a lack of skilled labor. Unfortunately, many Africans have not realized the immense potential that video games in Africa have for the continent.

Most parents do not see video games as a lucrative skill-building task. For the video game industry in Africa to truly flourish, the younger generation must have access to coding and tech education.

This is not yet at the forefront of mainstream education, but the continent, especially South Africa, is abundant with resources to educate Africans in the gaming industry. Even without money for a proper university, coding boot camps or proximity to a city, Africans can take online coding courses to get their foot into the tech industry and contribute to Africa’s immense gaming growth.

– Veronica Booth
Photo: Unsplash

Z EventEven though the world is more connected than ever, poverty remains a large problem as many people are left behind. Fortunately, people are using the internet as a platform for change, resulting in unprecedented awareness of global poverty. One example of this is Z Event, a French charity project hosted annually on the live streaming website Twitch. Z Event started with just two people wanting global change. The video gaming event is shattering world records while raising millions of dollars for charity.

Twitch Live Stream Platform

Z Event would not be possible without the rise of the Twitch platform. Twitch is a website that people can use for live streaming. This means that whatever viewers are watching is happening in real-time. This creates a new world of interactivity. While Twitch was originally created for live streaming video games, the website has now expanded into other genres like art, music and chess. Twitch now has a massive following, with more than 140 million monthly users.

It was only a matter of time before content creators used Twitch as a platform to raise money for charity. In July 2013, Summer Games Done Quick raised $257,181 for Doctors Without Borders in a charity stream on Twitch. As Twitch started growing in popularity, charity streams became even more popular. In 2019, Twitch streamer “DrLupo” raised more than $2.3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in 24 hours.

Video Gaming: Z Event

With the success of charity streams in the past and the increasing global presence of Twitch, the time was right for Z Event. In March 2016, a charity stream called “Avengers Project” raised €170,000 for Save the Children. The goal of the project was to gather every popular French streamer to raise awareness for certain issues. While the project began small, the annual event grew considerably. In 2017, the now named “Z Event” raised €500,000. Z Event is the annual charity event by French streamers ZeratoR and Dach. As the project grew larger, more popular French streamers joined the event. In 2020, 41 Twitch streamers participated in the event.

Video Gaming for a Cause

While each individual streamer is popular on their own, their platform increases exponentially when combined. In 2020, the event had an average of 248,000 viewers with a peak of nearly 700,000 viewers. This large amount of awareness led to large sums of money raised for charity. In 2019, Z Event hit the world record for the most money raised in a charity stream on Twitch — more than €3.5 million. In 2020, Z Event shattered its own record, raising more than €5.7 million, which is approximately $6.7 million.

Each year, the event raises money for a different cause. The money raised in 2019 was for the Pasteur Institute, a nonprofit organization that researches diseases. In 2020, Z Event raised money for Amnesty International, an organization focused on global human rights.

Video Gamers Uniting for Charity

These efforts have been applauded by many. Mark Hamill supported Z Event on Twitter and President of France, Emmanuel Macron has also commended the project.

While poverty remains a problem in the world today, the growing platform of the internet, along with websites like Twitch, shows significant promise. Millions of dollars have been raised for charity to fight poverty. France’s Z Event shows that when people come together, the impact is substantial.

– Evan Weber
Photo: Flickr

Video Game to Combat COVID-19With the COVID-19 pandemic being a new reality for people all around the world, top medical experts have advised everyone to take a series of precautionary measures to protect themselves against the disease. This includes wearing a face mask, social distancing and regular handwashing. While many have successfully adapted these recommendations into their daily routines, one group that is particularly struggling to do so are young children. However, two Pakistani teenage brothers have put forth an out-of-the-box solution and created a video game to combat COVID-19 in Pakistan.

The Creators

Brothers 14-year-old Kenan Khan and 13-year-old Nabhan Khan, created a free video game to combat COVID-19, called Stop the Spread. They began developing the idea in February 2020 and released it in April 2020 because they observed that children had trouble remembering and adapting to the guidelines that are meant to protect them against COVID-19. The tasks of the Stop the Spread game, test children on the health guidelines put forth by the World Health Organization. This includes being able to identify symptoms and the difference between facts and myths regarding COVID-19 as well as protection and prevention measures that need to be taken to protect their chosen videogame avatar from being exposed to the virus. As each video gamer completes a task, he or she accumulates points and advances to the next level. Once the video gamer completes all six levels, he or she is considered a COVID-19 warrior and is deemed knowledgeable enough to protect themselves against COVID-19. This keeps children engaged in the game as well as well-informed.

Neither of the Khan brothers has been formally educated. However, they were able to use the vast resources available online to learn design, coding, simulation and animation as well as basic literacy and mathematics. 

Combating COVID-19 Through Video Games

Other children around the world have also begun to create video games of their own. Israel Smith, a 12-year-old from Georgia, redesigned Space Impact, an old cellphone game, to combat COVID-19. In the game, each player is assigned an avatar who is tasked to identify and kill the COVID-19 viruses. Throughout the game, the avatar and the viruses use speech bubbles to inform the video gamers about facts regarding the virus as well as health guidelines.

Recent COVID-19 game developments such as these, have inspired a global campaign called #PlayApartTogether to use video games to as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19 globally.

Videogame companies have also partnered together to spread the World Health Organization’s message by incorporating COVID-19 self-protection messages into videogames.

The Khan brothers’ video game to combat COVID-19 just goes to show that even the youngest of minds have the power to make a big impact during unprecedented times. The creation serves as an inspiration to others and provides rays of hope amid a global pandemic.

Rida Memon
Photo: pxfuel

Viral Video Game Employing Venezuelans
Hundreds of people in Venezuela are playing RuneScape. RuneScape is an online open-world game with multiple themes to choose from. RuneScape involves a world of ancient magic, pirates and medieval castles. This game provides an escape from the daily lives of Venezuelans. This viral video game is also employing Venezuelans during the country’s economic crisis to give them the income they desperately need.

The Economic Crisis in Venezuela

Venezuela is facing hyperinflation due to its plummeting economy and increasing political turmoil. Citizens are leaving their jobs and protesting on the streets instead. The country is in massive debt and corruption is rampant with violence on the streets in addition to food and medicine shortages. As a result, Venezuelans are fighting for survival as they earn only $6.70 a month.

Venezuela remains highly dependent on oil reserves, which accounts for almost all export earnings and nearly half of the government’s revenue. However, the falling oil prices due to the economic crisis has caused U.S. multinational firms to shut down their Venezuelan operations, aggravating the issue even more. The access to dollars has become insufficient with inflation on the rise and price controls as well as rigid labor regulations causing even more shutdowns. Because the government is so in debt, there are food and medicine shortages leading to health issues rising across the country. Malnourished children and citizens without access to proper health care is an ongoing crisis. Some Venezuelans are even migrating from their home country. Citizens are escaping to neighboring places such as Columbia and Peru in the hope of finding a better life. According to worldvision.org, the number of displaced people may increase to 5.4 million.

The Bolivar is worth $9.90 compared to the U.S. dollar. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s unemployment rate is 17%. The country is suffering from an inflation rate of 482% according to IMF figures. As the country is rationing food, angry and hungry mobs are attacking supermarkets and civil unrest is threatening the government.

In 2015, the oil price reduced by half and access to basic necessities like groceries cost 22 times the minimum salary. With the economy in turmoil, Venezuelans are searching elsewhere for employment and are looking anywhere to earn money.


RuneScape is a multiplayer online roleplaying game that can help the economic crisis in Venezuela. For some Venezuelans, this virtual video game is their only source of income. By farming gold on the game in exchange for in-game weapons and armor, Venezuelan’s can trade their virtual currency that is worth more than their actual currency online to other gamers across the world. Players are killing the green dragons in the game and selling the objects that they drop on the virtual marketplace. Additionally, Venezuelans can sell this gold to third party sites for money like cryptocurrency sites such as Bitcoin.

While the monthly minimum wage is only $6.70 a month, RuneScape players can earn that amount in only two days for eight-hour shifts by selling 500,000 units gold per hour. Since the economy is unstable in Venezuela, RuneScape offers a safety valve for Venezuelans across the country for the future. Estimates determine that 50% of the younger population and 20% of the older generation now farms RuneScape gold. In addition, 1.8 million Venezuelans depend on the green dragons in the game. A gold farmer can earn $40 a month, triple the average minimum monthly wage. This viral video game employing Venezuelans allows citizens to sell the gold for real money in the virtual marketplace that is not as volatile as their own economy.

The amount of RuneScape players may increase as the economy becomes more unstable. Additionally, for some Venezuelans, playing this viral video game will be the only way to feed their families and put food on the table in the foreseeable future.

Venezuela Crisis Relief

Although there are no organizations working to facilitate this money-making opportunity, multiple organizations are reaching out to help improve the economic crisis in Venezuela. Many children and adults suffer from malnourishment due to shortages of food. Global Giving imports medical supplies to dying patients and provides daily meals for starving patients. Each day, this project feeds 400 patients.

Humanitarian activities that the U.N. has supported have raised $155 million to support the Venezuelan people. The U.N. also donated food and provided agricultural support to 50,000 people. In addition, it has provided educational support to over 160,000 students.

While this viral video game is employing Venezuelans, Venezuela’s economy is still in collapse. With employment at an all-time low, RuneScape provides an opportunity for Venezuelans to escape from their poverty-stricken world and embark on new quests. One simple game online provides a solution by employing Venezuelans and allowing them to escape not only the economic burden of their country but also their daily lives. In the future, as online players increase, this money-making opportunity may even shape the world in which all Venezuelans are living.

Joelle Shusterman
Photo: Flickr