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