I love video games. Growing up the the 90s meant the magic of Mario, Donkey Kong and Zelda. Now social media has replaced Super Nintendo and whilst a large portion of my twitter feed is dedicated to nephrology there is an equally large portion dedicated to gaming and the culture which has grown up around this.
There is now an established culture of streaming in video games via services such as Twitch in which people play a video game for an online audience who watch and interact through the chat and media presence of the streamer. It’s big enough now for some people to make it their full-time job. One of the better things that can occur with streaming is charity streams, in which big name streamers play video games for a charitable cause in order to raise money. It’s surprising how much good can be done through this type of philanthropic endeavor. People such as Dr Lupo raised over $1million for St Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital through charity streaming in 2018, or Arin Hanson from the Game Grumps who raised $55,000 in a single siting for Healing Horse Therapy Centre.
But I digress. Recently, a chap by the name of HBomberGuy did a charity stream of Donkey Kong 64 in order to raise money and awareness of the rights of trans people, after Graham Linehan was accused of making disparaging comments via his social media account towards them. Video gaming has its own cultural sphere on social media and one of the curious things about social media is its unpredictability as to what exactly will capture the hearts and minds of the internet as a whole. Well this event certainly did. Via word of mouth over social media platforms and the appearance of several video-gaming celebrities, United States based politicians like Alexandria Oscasio-Cortez and Chelsea Manning, the stream blew up and helped raise over $340,000 for Mermaids, a United Kingdom based charity supporting trans rights. It’s by far one of the most wholesome and kindest stories I’ve heard in some time, and one could not help but feel inspired by it.
So musing on the fantastic work that HBomberGuy recently did with his stream to raise awareness for trans rights, I had to ask myself, would it be possible to do a similar thing for nephrology? Could I play video games in a similar vein (after all, I do love them and want to advocate for my patients and spread awareness of kidney disease at the same time) for a good cause and will the community rally behind me and provide donations to those organisations which need it most? Unfortunately, the answer realistically is, probably not.
Firstly, I would never presume that I would have influence, anywhere near that of these big streamers, who make such things their careers. And unfortunately without that kind of clout such a project is probably going to have little momentum getting off the ground. Secondly, such things are fluid and evolve naturally through the same grapevine that social media and the internet works on. Something just captures peoples’ imaginations for whatever reason and it becomes an event – you can’t plan for that. It just happens. And lastly is a point brought up by Laura Dale, a trans woman who co-hosts a video games podcast (which I listen to each week) who pointed out that part of the reason this had the success it did is because it was a cis person doing it, and not someone from within the trans community. It is easier for people to rally behind a cause when it isn’t a member from the minority group that is championing it.
And this point is the last reason why it might be difficult for such an event specifically for kidney disease to take hold if I was running it. While I am fortunate not to have chronic kidney disease, my natural role as a clinician is to advocate for my patients. In this way I am not separate from this group, thus directly counteracting this crucial component.
Advocacy for kidney patients and video games! Is there a way to marry these two ideas together? Or is there any other way in which we can capture the imagination of the general public (in short, go viral!) in order to raise money to help those with kidney disease?
Could we as a group approach a larger streamer and ask for their assistance in a charity stream for kidney disease? Would it garner enough support? I honestly cannot answer these questions as I sit here and softly tap away at my keyboard. But perhaps by drawing attention to my musings our community as a whole might be able to achieve more things for our patients.
P.S. The title of this blog post is also a direct nod to a level from a video game. Props to anyone who knows which one I am referencing.