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What Are Charity Arcades?

Dropping Quarters For A Good Cause

By Neal LitherlandPublished 7 years ago 3 min read

Video games are big business, but these days most of them reside in our homes, or live in our pockets. We play online from our PCs, we connect via the Playstation network with our friends, or we play mobile games from our phones. But there was a time not so long ago where, if you wanted to play quality video games, you had to get off the couch, and go to where the games were.

Not only that, but you had to bring a pocket full of quarters, and make sure you could stand in one place for the long-haul.

Whether your arcade was a dark cavern full of blinking cabinets, a small side room at the local pizza joint, or even a bank of pinball machines down at the mall (depending on your age and gaming preferences), there was something special about the experience. You got to know other regulars, you got a rep for which games you were good at, and as long as you had a couple of quarters to drop you were always welcome.

What if we could resurrect all those positive aspects of the classic arcade, and use it to help good causes? Well, that's where Charity Arcade comes in.

What The Hell is Charity Arcade?

Well, the name is pretty self-explanatory. If you want it spelled out, though, Charity Arcade is an organization that has designed classic arcade game cabinets specifically meant for use at charity events. What makes these machines special is, firstly, that they have a clear acrylic box around the coin collection area so players can see how much change has been collected already. Secondly, the cabinets boast dozens of classic games (and we are talking seriously old-school stuff, like Galaga and Pac-Man here). Thirdly, rather than the machine setting a default price to play, it's the player who decides how much they want to donate in order to use the cabinet.

In addition to cabinets being used in for one-off events like 1-Up on Cancer, though, charity cabinets are cropping up internationally. Some of them are even semi-permanent installations. As a for-instance, Trend Hunter reported on a set of cabinets that each boast three, classic games cropping up in Swedish airports (places that notoriously have a lot of bored people sitting around looking for a bit of entertainment). The money these cabinets earn goes to the Red Cross, which might give players the warm feeling that they're doing something positive with the money they're sliding into the coin slot.

A Potential Game-Changer

Arcades may not be the big business they once were, but you'd still be hard-pressed to find a casual restaurant or a movie theater that doesn't have at least a few, token cabinets offering distraction for bored patrons. And while the charity arcade games have seen serious returns, it does beg the question what we could do if we revved-up the concept by expanding past the same handful of games.

For example, we all love the classics like Pac-Man, but what if we could get some of those games that are infamous for gobbling our tokens? The games that, when we found them, we'd grab all our friends and show up to button-mash our way through to the very end? Games like X-Men, which always seemed to have a crowd eagerly waiting for an empty slot, or any of the classic 1-on-1 fighting games like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat? Because there's nothing wrong with Space Invaders, but if we could get a team-based charity game going, or one with tournament-style competition, then we might see a significant influx of charity donations.

If you let players write the donations off on their taxes, and maybe get some Twitch personalities playing on a live-stream, then you had better be sure the change machines on-site are getting regular refills.


About the Creator

Neal Litherland

Neal Litherland is an author, freelance blogger, and RPG designer. A regular on the Chicago convention circuit, he works in a variety of genres.



Blog: Improved Initiative and The Literary Mercenary

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