The ACLU may be dismayed at the new president’s war on the media and his campaign to deport undocumented immigrants, but from a fundraising standpoint, Donald Trump has been a boon for the organization. The civil-rights campaigners have raked in record donations this year, raising in one weekend five times what it would normally raise in a year.
Last month, the game industry — including a handful of developers with Colorado ties — added its own dollars to the kitty with the Humble Freedom Bundle, a charity game deal organized by online retailer Humble. For a donation of $30 or more, buyers could get more than forty games, including hot indie titles like The Witness, Super Meat Boy and Stardew Valley, with all proceeds going to the ACLU, the International Rescue Committee and Doctors Without Borders.
By the time the sale ended on February 20, the bundle had become Humble’s second-best-selling of all time, with more than 200,000 copies sold and $6.5 million dollars raised.
“Our number of activated users is now roughly ten times what it was before the bundle,” says Megan Fox of Glass Bottom Games, whose title Hot Tin Roof: The Cat That Wore a Fedora, developed in Colorado, was included in the bundle. “Doesn't help us financially…but it was still a weird double take when I checked our stats.”
Like the rest of the contributors to the Freedom Bundle, Fox, a former employee at now-defunct Play Well Studios in Louisville who currently lives in Washington, made no money from the sale. Instead, she was spurred to take part by “what appears to be the beginning of a fascist regime,” she says.
“You don't sit idly by when that's happening. You do whatever it is in your power to do,” she explains. “Folks who have time to protest, protest. Artists make art and use that art to raise awareness and influence minds, etc.”
The number of players trying Fox's game could still go up. Based on the numbers, she estimates that about half of the customers who bought the bundle have activated Hot Tin Roof.
Also included in the bundle was Luna’s Wandering Stars, a physics-based puzzler from Boulder-based studio Serenity Forge. In an e-mail, president and CEO Zhenghua Yang says that this isn’t the first time the developers have donated their games to a good cause; last year, three of Serenity Forge’s titles appeared in a bundle from itch.io that raised $160,000 for Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.
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“I wouldn't say that we're politically involved. Each of our team members has their own unique views on politics, and. honestly, sometimes we don't quite agree with each other either,” says Yang. “However, what we do agree with each other on is that it's important to help others and make our world a better place.”
For her part, Fox says that video games, like all art, are inherently political — and that developers need to embrace that.
“When that's your trade, your life's work, you can't really just shrug when the world shifts around you,” she says. “You can either stay quiet and become complicit, by effectively reinforcing the status quo, or you can try and work against the change.”