Gaming the System: Raising Money and Awareness for Mental Health in Video Gaming
Mental illnesses can be particularly challenging for those immersed in video game culture. The Seattle, Washington-based nonprofit Take This was created to provide resources and support to gamers and game developers and to decrease the stigmas surrounding mental health issues.
One of the many resources they provide is an AFK Room. Named after the gamer term for being away from the computer screen or “Away From Keyboard,” the AFK Room is a quiet space away from the sensory overload of the convention show floor.
Historically, the best place for the organization to connect with their new supporters—as well as the people who need their services—has been in person at video game conventions like Penny Arcade Expo which often draws more than 70,000 attendees. This year, with most conventions moved online or canceled altogether, Take This had to devise new ways to reach those in need. One of those ways was to run a Custom Ink t-shirt fundraiser to raise money and awareness for their cause.
We connected with their Operations Director Katrina Keller to find out more.
CI: What is your cause? Who or what does it benefit?
KK: Take This is a mental health advocacy organization with a focus on the game industry and community. We provide resources, training, and support to individuals and companies that help the game community improve its mental well-being and resilience. The organization addresses the underlying conditions that can create and perpetuate mental health challenges: stigma, harmful studio culture, harassment and toxicity, lack of diversity and accessibility, and problematic game and community design.
CI: Tell us your story.
KK: Take This provides mental health support and advocacy, so the pandemic has been a busy and intense time for us—our entire operation shifted online, and much of the event-based speaking opportunities and activities we conduct suddenly evaporated or changed entirely. That meant that we struggled to come up with new ways to raise money for our organization, and had to re-envision how we provided support to our community.
With our community now unable to see each other at game conventions and events, it seemed like a t-shirt fundraiser, which allowed people to wear their support on their sleeves, would be a great way to generate some revenue and help people with a sense of belonging. (And it was so quick to set up, it made the whole thing an easy win for our team, which is pretty stretched.) It’s already been well-received!
CI: Where did you get the design?
KK: Our T-shirt design is our logo.
CI: What have you learned from doing a fundraiser through Custom Ink?
KK: Fundraising through Custom Ink has been a lovely experience. It was easy to set up and the support teams have been great with any questions or issues that arose. It’s also been a wonderful experience receiving comments from people who are supporting us. We’ll absolutely consider doing a fundraiser through Custom Ink again in the future!
CI: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
KK: I’d like to share a bit more about our first-ever AFKOnline, which is an online version of our AFK Room Program created for PAX Online [the first-ever online version of Penny Arcade Expo]. AFKOnline is a moderated Discord server staffed 24 hours a day by volunteers trained to provide resources and peer support during the convention. There is always at least one licensed mental health professional available in the server who can answer questions relating to mental health topics. We do not provide mental health treatment but we will be happy to answer questions about seeking it out.
The Take This custom t-shirt fundraiser runs through September 28th. You can see and support It on their fundraising page.