Child’s Play lets you donate video games and films to kids

Guest post by Chris Brightwell
Our wee gamer

It’s that time of year again: Child’s Play 2010 has begun, and that means that it’s time for me to buy a game for some kids who really need it. I tried to write something eloquent and succinct, but they did a better job than I could. Here’s a cut-and-paste from their website:

Since 2003, we’ve set up and organized Child’s Play, a game industry charity dedicated to improving the lives of children with toys and games in our network of over 60 hospitals worldwide. In five short years, you as a community have answered the call and come together to raise millions of dollars. […]

Child’s Play works the same as last year. With the help of hospital staff, we’ve set up gift wish lists full of video games, toys, and movies. You can go to each hospital’s list and buy a toy, and that toy will be sent to the hospital. Some of these kids are in pretty bad shape. Imagine being stuck alone in a hospital over the holidays, getting something from a fellow gamer would really raise their spirits. Some of the stuff the hospital will give away for kids to keep, while other gifts (like consoles) will be kept by the hospital for patients to use throughout the year.

Basically, this charity is teaming up with more than sixty children’s hospitals around the world to stock their library with books and movies and video games and consoles and all sorts of other things to help distract them from some of the most painful, most difficult experiences they’ve had. It helps them cope with the reality of enduring otherwise unbearable medical treatments.

When I was seven years old, I lost my dad to a horrific car accident. Over the next two years, my mother became increasingly distant before finally abandoning my sister and me. She left us with our paternal grandparents and never looked back.

When I look back on that experience, and realize how absolutely crushing it was to me, I remember what got me through: video games. I had a long series of video game consoles in my bedroom (starting with the NES, of course), I carried a GameBoy in my hip pocket, and I had an Atari 2600 to play in the counselor’s office at my school, where I had regular, weekly appointments to deal with what I was going through.

If it hadn’t been for those games, and the friendships that I built around gaming, I don’t know how I would’ve emerged from that experience — losing my dad, then being abandoned by my mother — with a single ounce of sanity. Those games made a difference for me because they gave me an escape. They gave me a distraction. They probably saved my life.

I have plenty of friends who endured these hospital visits as children, and some of them have shared with me fond memories of playing Pitfall! or Super Mario Bros. while they were going through one treatment or another.

What I had to endure is nothing compared to the horrific experiences suffered by kids in hospitals, some of whom spend more time in a hospital lab than in their own home. I have plenty of friends who endured these hospital visits as children, and some of them have shared with me fond memories of playing Pitfall! or Super Mario Bros. while they were going through one treatment or another.

If I can buy these kids a book, or a movie, or a video game, or anything else to help them get through whatever they’re going through, I’m going to do it. Most of the people who read this either have kids, or plan to have kids. If that’s you, the only motivation you need to donate is the mental image of your son or daughter, sick and terrified in a hospital, begging for a distraction or an escape of some kind. This is your opportunity to stock a game cart for a kid in a hospital, knowing fully how deeply they would appreciate if someone did the same for theirs.

Some of you went through this as children yourselves. You don’t need any motivation. You just need an opportunity to do something. Here it is.

For the rest of you, I can’t say much that hasn’t already been said here. It’s a move made out of kindness, and it’s one that will undoubtedly make a difference. If you can’t afford to give, that’s fine. If you can, however, I really think that you should.

Donating is simple. All you have to do is go to, choose a hospital by clicking on a controller icon on the map, and buy something. The controller icons on the map link to Amazon wishlists for each hospital. When you buy something through that wishlist, Amazon will pack up your purchase and deliver it directly to the hospital you selected.

If you’d rather make a straight cash donation, you can do that, too.

Please, take a moment to browse through one of the wishlists for a hospital on the map. If there’s something you can afford to give, please consider giving. My friend Amber already bought a copy of the original Star Wars trilogy for one hospital, and tonight I’ll be buying a video game for the Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, AL.

Comments on Child’s Play lets you donate video games and films to kids

  1. Please do not send these things to kids as an attempt to heal them. I’m glad they helped you cope, Chris, but a package of donuts would probably have distracted you just as well — and would be just as bad a choice to give to children. Let’s aim for our highest good, which would be deepening relationships, not further alienating an already too-alienated generation of children. Let’s try walks in nature with calm and loving elders, not eyes tuned for hours on end to TV and computer screens. It’s a nice gesture but really misguided — more screen time and more violence is really really really NOT what kids today need.

    • Not all video games contain violence, y’know…

      There are many that are actually quite kid-friendly! Not to mention, consoles like the Wii, Playstation Move, and XBox Kinect actually get the kids up and moving. Exercise is always good, right?
      And with the development of online gaming, people can actually develop and maintain friendships with people all over the world, or in their own neighborhood. School-age children often exchange their usernames to remain connected though gaming at home.
      Video games also encourage problem-solving, teamwork, critical thinking, and reading skills. It’s amazing stuff!

      The video-game world isn’t all doom and gloom, and is in fact changing for the better. 🙂

      I applaud Chris Brightwell for his wonderful and generous ideas and efforts.

    • I understand your point and your intentions are obviously good but having worked in two of the children’s hospitals with wishlists via that site, many of these children cannot go on walks in nature. They are stuck in hospital beds day in and day out and often times, their families cannot be with them 24/7 because high medical bills require them to work.

      I don’t think they should be just sitting around blankly staring at the tv or playing violent video games but I honestly don’t see the harm in donating a DVD of Toy Story 3 if it helps distract a child from their pain for a short while. I cannot speak for all children’s hospitals but in my experience, these kids are not just watching tv all day anyway. Often they are being kept company by volunteers, having music therapy, or spending time engaged in reading and/or some other sort of imaginative play. That said, the videos and games can be a good time filler for when there’s nothing else to do or when they are too ill or in too much pain to participate in some other activity.

      Additionally, not everything on the hospital wishlists are video games or DVDs- there are also craft kits.

      • I second what Amy said! I’m a nurse and I worked in a children’s hospital in the past. I’ve used video games as a distraction during a procedure when possible. It really helped keep the kids mind off what was going on. I can’t tell you the number of times a kid has opened up to me over a game a mario cart when they wouldn’t talk much sitting face to face.

        I could not disagree more with the first comment. We had no violent video games at my hospital. While I’m all for walks in nature it’s pretty impossible to do while you’re weak and hooked up to an IV pole.

    • To which I must respectfully disagree. I get where you’re coming from but there are a number of problems here.
      1) Comparing it to childhood obesity in a different environment. Yes, videogames can inspire many kids to stay inside and play (probably cause most parents I knew did not want their kids outside cause they were overprotective). However, these kids don’t have a choice in the matter. It is not a choice between staying inside and going outside necessarily. These kids could very well be stuck in bed and not able to get out of their room. Sending them a football or outdoor activity to someone like that would be crueler in my opinion.
      2) More screen time and more violence. The screen time ties in with above. Stare at a screen or stare at the wall for some of these kids, especially if their parents or what have you are at work. As for violence, not all videogames are violent. For some people, videogames equate out to first person shooters and gory scenes.
      But what about games like Ookami? (trailer link
      That videogame is not only artistic and beatuiful being based on Japanese calligraphy style, it has inspired many kids I know to draw, to look up other cultures, but is not violent. You play the sun goddess embodied as the wolf in the trailer. You being dead patches of earth to life, you make trees come into bloom. The enemies you fight is with Shinto prayer beads and they are based of traditional Japanese demons.
      There are lovely games out like this if one cares to look past Call of Duty and such.

      Before you condemn all videogames are inspiring kids to become fat and unimaginative, crazed killers, realize that in some circumstances, with moderation, and paying attention to what kids are playing, videogames can be jumping off points for creativity, horizon broadening, and bonding with your kids.

      I’m sorry if this is a bit of a long rant, I have been in traumatic experiences as well, and I turned to videogames just as much as books. Very long books. I just don’t get why people will villainize all videogames as bad when you spend just as much time sitting with books, and can read and learn just as violent things from them, too.

    • Video games are not everyone’s gig, but the majority of today’s youth are gamers. With the new motion systems, most families are now spending quality time together via Wii instead of Yahtzee. I actually think Yahtzee is on the Wii.
      Loving elders may have to actually leave the hospital to take care of other family members or make money to pay those hospital bills. These kids may not be able to walk in nature, if there actually is any within walking distance. Believe me, I get it. I’m a tree hugging dirt worshiper, but technology is not the devil.
      Violent games do not create violence. My son playing WoW above does not think he is a blood elf. He doesn’t shoot us with arrows or slash us with a dagger or sword. Violent behavior is only from mismanaging emotions.
      Either way, any distraction is a welcome distraction when you’re trapped in a hospital.

    • (The original title for this column was “The one where I talk about the ‘Child’s Play’ charity, why I donate every year, and why I think you should, too.” I think that’s a more accurate title, but I understand the need for editorial control.

      There are also important subtitles or section headers, which were removed in this version.

      You can read this in its original context here: )

      Colleen: With all due respect, I think you’ve spectacularly missed the point.

      (I’d also contend that neither you nor any in your family have had to endure the kinds of hardships that this charity is designed to help diminish. For that, you should be thankful.)

      Not all games are violent, nor is it possible for many of these kids to go outside their room. The overwhelming majority of them can forget about visiting a nearby nature trail or throwing a football with their dad.

      These kids are sick, and a lot of them are scared or in pain. They need something to focus on to help minimize that, and this charity gives us an opportunity to give them that distraction.

      Please, take a moment to review a wishlist for a nearby hospital. There are plenty of movies and video games, sure, but there are also books and art supplies and all kinds of other things that aren’t video games.

    • Lots of people have said good things, but I’m just going to nudge in here for a bit.

      I think the biggest failure of understanding in this is the concept that the children could leave the hospital at all. Most of the donations for Child’s Play go to intensive care children, such as those being treated with chemotherapy. Such children can’t even leave their rooms because doing so risks them getting ill and possibly dying in their fragile states. To go along with this, many children are bedridden and can’t actively play around. As this world isn’t perfect, families can’t spend all their time with their children, as, like previously stated, they need to work. The trouble is that children obviously still need to be mentally stimulated and even challenged. When they are given a chance to do this, it boosts morale and helps the child stay mentally active. Video Games fit this bill very well.

      There seems to be an idea that video games dull the mind, when the exact opposite is true. >

      I would even argue against the lady’s point about arcade style games, which are often quite difficult, are useless with the idea that it gives a child a sense of accomplishment when completed. That might sound dumb because the accomplishment doesn’t really do anything, but for a child, it means a whole lot. And that’s really important.

      I’m also going to go out on a tangent here that maybe a bit off topic, so if so any mod who wants to edit my post please go ahead and do so.

      The statement: “Please do not send these things” really really really really really really really bothers me. It’s quite frankly dehumanizing to all the creative individuals who pour their blood, sweat, and tears into their work. Making a quality game takes a lot of time and dedication. Whether it’s the overworked programers who have to constantly revise their work because bugs constantly pop up no matter what, or the designers who have to plan the game out and make sure nothing is left out (that is A LOT), to artists who have to make sure the characters not only look good, but can be rendered well, to the testers who have to spend up to a week of work time walking along walls and writing a report every time the character accidentally falls through. And I haven’t even scratched the surface of the amount of work that goes into a game. Calling these games “things” is like farting in the general direction of all these people. (who are often severely underpaid)

      After getting to know several people who work in the game industry (big companies as well as indie), I can safely say that games are not “things” but rather a labor of love, even if the game isn’t particularly fantastic.

      Your statement implying all video games are violent, well, I just don’t have anything to say to that, because honestly it’s simply untrue. Where as a whopping 55% of movies are rated R, only around 8% of games are rated M.

      It really does seem like you come from a position ignorant to video games, which isn’t neccisarilly bad because it’s not really a vital thing to know about, but I do ask that before you make statements like these, you should know more about the subject you are speaking on.

      • Also, saying that you should avoid giving these kids gifts is just plain cruel. It’s Christmas and they’re stuck in the hospital with cancer and many families can no longer afford to buy gifts because of medical costs.

    • having worked with pediatric patients as a nurse, i cannot believe that someone would think that sending children the video games, toys, and coloring books (which are all on those lists) would be a poor option.

      children in hospitals are still children. they do not play any less than children outside of hospitals. some children, however, are confined to their beds due to mobility issues, and some children are confined to their rooms due to chemotherapy treatments. i have seen inconsolable children in immense pain be consoled by being able to play with toys. these toys (and video games are certainly included) give these children some sense of normalcy while they endure a life that otherwise ostracizes them.

      and let us not forget that children’s hospitals treat patients up to 21 years of age. these patients love playing video games – it helps to distract them from pain and loneliness.

      i think that you have completely missed the purpose of this charity, and i am greatly saddened by the misguided post that you have written.

  2. While I agree with some of the others that nature, human connections, and physical activity are important, video games were an important part of my childhood as well and I continue to enjoy them today. I don’t think there is anything wrong with donating these things to these children and I fully intend on making a donation.

  3. This sounds like a fantastic charity which would make a real difference in the hospital stay of kids. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.

    And I’m so glad to see that they’re also in Australia 🙂

  4. I’m the mama of a gamer, and I also worked in pediatrics for a few years. I chose to donate a couple of my little dude’s favourite game titles to a hospital here in Canada. No matter how loved a child is, their family simply cannot be with them 24 hours a day. If they have something to look forward to, no matter how small, it can help. Any small amount of joy we can provide these poor sweeties is worth it.

  5. my husband and his friends have been donating to child’s play for years! it’s truly a great organization. sure video games are nice, but as another commenter pointed out, they don’t only take video games. they love books, card games, board games and legos, too!

  6. My husband and I have been donating to Child’s play for several years. Ever since the BC Children’s hospital(in Canada) came online as that is the hospital we feel attached to. He usually donates a video game because thats what he enjoys and I usually donate a fun craft as that is what I like. Child’s play is a great charity! We always have a good time picking out our gifts for the kids and I know the kids have an even better time playing with them.

  7. Thank you! My gamer fiance and I have been debating all season about which charity we would donate to this holiday season. This is exactly what we were looking for! We can’t wait for the children at Johns Hopkins to receive our gifts. 🙂

  8. I meant to chime in sooner–this charity is an AMAZING organization. Speaking as a parent of a child who visits St. Jude’s, a lot of these kids really only have what they can do in their hospital rooms to serve as distraction. Even Jasper, who has a relatively mild condition, usually zones out watching Sesame Street or Star Wars for 45 minutes after having blood taken–I can only imagine how much good this organization has done. Thank you, Chris, for sharing it.

  9. I about choked when I saw their donation meter. This makes me so, so proud to associate with the gamer subculture, especially because most of the gamers I know are too lame (and “too poor”) to donate.

    Thanks for the link!

  10. I have been donating to Child’s Play for years, and I am glad someone made a post about it.

    To the nay-sayers:
    I am a gamer, I have always been a gamer. When the fine folks at the web-comic Penny Arcade began this Charity I jumped on the bandwagon. You see, I knew some of those kids as a child. They spent hours alone in a white room with little to do and let me tell you, sitting starring at Matlock on the television was boring as hell. Hospitals are scary places for kids full of unknowns and strange machines. However, If you won’t take my own endorsement, simply go to the page and look at some of the letters. Parents of children, former patients themselves, people who are grateful that during a time in their child’s life that is scary and often painful, someone is willing to send something to help distract from that pain.

    Many others here have already said far more than I ever could about the video game industry. But I will add one more note to this. For those unfamiliar with the story of how this charity came about it started with a clarion call to gamers. The long time idea and stereotype was that gamers were selfish, lazy, do nothings that eschewed his fellow man and wanted nothing more than to play violent games and become social loners. Child’s Play began with a single idea in a news post from the Penny Arcade website “Prove them wrong.” So we, as a community, did. The first year came in with a roar and an avalanche of boxes. And each subsequent year gamers and non-gamers have given hospital kids at the holiday season and beyond a little something to enjoy. As the giving has expanded so has the charity, now in multiple countries as well. So I pose the challenge to gamers, non-gamers, parents, aunts, uncles, and friends. Offbeat people of this world, regardless of the charity, lets continue to “prove them wrong.”

  11. I cannot believe I didn’t know this charity existed. Just bought a movie for the kiddies at the IWK. Nice to see so many people stepping up and donating! Thanks for the link!

  12. Thank you so much for bringing light to this Charity. I visit a site called, and every year we get together in Toronto and have a gathering with a Raffle, that raffle and all proceeds from the weekend go to Child’s Play. Also Does a weekend gaming marathon, where people can donate to different teams, all that money goes to child’s play as well.
    I have a daughter, and we love to play video games together, all types of games, and if heaven forbid, something happened to her, I would be glad that a charity like Child’s play was around to make her stay that much more enjoyable. Not all video games are bad, and not every kid that plays video games is Fat and anti-social. If you think that’s the case, I have an amazing 7 Year old at home you should meet.

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