‘Cheat Codes for Charity’ gaming marathon benefits children

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One of the first questions eight-year-old Conner asks his mom, Tammy Boyd, as they leave the house is, “Do you have my iPad?”  Conner’s iPad has been an integral part of his life ever since he was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago, helping him pass long hours in the hospital. Conner still has two more years of treatment and according to Boyd, the iPad will be right at his side.

“The work of an iPad when you have a sick child is just undeniable,” Boyd said. “We spend so much time waiting and sitting around, whether it’s in clinic or in-patient or if you’re driving, it provides entertainment anywhere you go.”

Child’s Play, a game-industry charity founded in 2003, seeks to brighten the lives of children like Conner through the donation of video games, books and other entertainment devices to hospitals. The organization receives many of its donations from marathon gaming events, one of which, Cheat Codes for Charity, will take place in Salt Lake City on Feb. 22.

Cheat Codes for Charity founder Ricky Simmons said he was looking for a way to transform his love for video games into an activity that could benefit others.

“My buddies and I have always played games,” Simmons said. “A couple years ago, I started seeing the gaming marathons popping up and I thought, ‘You know, we’re already gaming for a long period of time and this charity is really cool. We’re going to do this anyway so let’s do it for a good cause and get some more people involved.'” 

Simmons said he hopes events like Cheat Codes for Charity and organizations like Child’s Play will help re-shape people’s views about the influence of video gaming.

“Kids play games when they are sick so they can keep their minds off of their pain,” Simmons said. “It gives them that sense of accomplishment that helps them feel like they can defeat their cancer.”

On the day of the event, volunteers will gather together to play a variety of video games for 24 hours straight. The action will be live-streamed for interested viewers who can donate through a secure PayPal portal and enter a raffle for prizes donated by the sponsors. 

Simmons has been able to engage enough sponsors and private individuals to fully fund the event, which he hopes to continue annually or even biannually.

“We thought it was just going to be a little thing, like, ‘Hey, let’s play some games and have people hopefully watch us and make donations,’ but it’s become this really cool Salt Lake City local movement,” Simmons said. “A lot of people are getting involved, and we want to see how far we can take it.”

Bailey Dickens, social media director for betaForce, a gaming hosting site, has been heavily involved in many of Child’s Play’s larger-scale gaming events and has witnessed the power of technology in the lives of sick children.

“I have directly seen the impact of what Child’s Play can do,” Dickens said. “There are kids out there in hospitals that can’t leave, can’t have normal friendships or normal interactions with people. Having the ability to put an Xbox or a PlayStation in there and provide them with a world at their fingertips–they can get that social interaction that they couldn’t get before through an online community.”

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