Gone are the days in which ‘computer games’ are considered the sole domain of geeky young men at the margins of society. Women have made up the largest gamer demographic for five years, and the E3 games conference is every bit as highly regarded as an Apple or Google affair. This year’s E3 event saw A-list actor Keanu Reeves appear on stage to unveil CYBERPUNK 2077, a new game that he also stars in.
There’s also an undeniable amount of money swelling around the games industry. Rockstar Games announced that its Western adventure game Red Dead Redemption 2 made $725 million in revenue in three days over its opening weekend. That’s not far off Avengers: Endgame, the highest-grossing blockbuster in movie history, which made $1.2 billion across the world in an equivalent time frame.
So, perhaps it’s no surprise that high-profile gamers have become widely followed celebrities, or that such gamers are able to mobilise their fans in large numbers. What may be a surprise, however, is the scale of this influence: Earlier this week, via a widely-publicised charity livestream, Fortnite gamer DrLupo was able to raise $920,000 for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital—a facility dedicated to supporting children suffering from cancer and terminal diseases.
DrLupo—real name Ben Lupo—is one of the biggest gamers online, boasting over 5 million subscribers across Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. He asked people to tune into his in 4.5-hour stream on platform Twitch to watch him play Fortnite Battle Royale, a last-man-standing style medley in which 100 players fight to win either as an individual, a pair, or a small group.
A series of rising incentives were offered to encourage people to back him during the stream. For $10, people would enter a raffle to potentially win prizes including a year’s supply of Hershey’s chocolate or a particular gaming keyboard. For $100, DrLupo’s play would be hampered by dropping a certain weapon, or for $2500, the gamer would switch to playing via a less comfortable controller.
Larger milestone goals came in the form of having his son tag in to play the game (at $350,000 total donations) or for his wife stream a different game, Resident Evil (when donations reached $500,000).
Again, streaming is big business: Ninja, Twitch’s biggest player, reportedly earns more than half a million dollars every month from streaming. Yet, the scale of DrLupo’s success is somewhat astounding, as he received up to $40,000 from individual anonymous patrons. Even State Farm Insurance reportedly got in on the action, donating $10,000. Overall, Forbes reports that the total was equal to $3,400 being donated every single minute during the stream, which may be the most money for charity raised in the shortest period of time ever through a gaming stream.
The fundraising drive is part of Guardiancon, a large gaming industry convention that also serves as one of the largest charity events in gaming. Overall, through streams from DrLupo and other gamers, it raised $3.7 million.