GameChanger Charity has received $18 million worth of donations in the last two months toward its goal of using video games to help sick kids. The nonprofit is also announcing a new venture, ZOTT, which is a content platform specifically for children in hospitals. Former Twitch executive vice president of broadcaster success Jonathan Shipman will be heading up ZOTT as president.
Taylor Carol and his father founded GameChanger a decade ago. Its inspiration comes from Carol’s own battle with cancer and how he found comfort in video games during his multiyear stay at medical institutions. The nonprofit has launched a number of initiatives such as scholarships for cancer survivors and events at hospitals. It’s also partnered with the charity Child’s Play to get games and consoles to sick children.
Since the nonprofit was founded, it’s attracted industry support. Popular YouTuber Jordan “CaptainSparklez” Maron has been a board member for two years. Today, GameChanger announced that Treyarch chairman and former studio head Mark Lamia has also joined its board. And Microsoft donated Xbox Game Pass subscriptions to hospitals through the charity, contributing much of the $18 million of donations so far this year.
“Tech can be used to supplement kids’ learning while they’re in the hospital, so they leave the hospital not just with newfound distractions, things they like, but with newfound passions,” said Carol in a phone call with GamesBeat. “Same thing with socialization. Things like Minecraft provide a capability for kids who are like me, who are stuck in a room by themselves, to play in virtual playgrounds with other kids.”
Carol emphasizes that hospitals are doing the best they can for their patients. However, most facilities have limited resources and children end up having to rely on watching TV to pass the time.
“A lot of the hospitals have really outdated gaming systems, really outdated tools to stay intellectually engaged, to play with their friends, and to feel connected to the world around them,” said Carol. “It’s an incredibly painful situation, and one that often seems delineated between different socioeconomic status. Some families can afford to give their kids a Switch or bring an Xbox One or PS4 into the room. Those kids can stay engaged. But so many patients can’t do that.”
ZOTT is meant to be an alternative source of entertainment and education for kids, providing opportunities for socialization and distraction from harrowing treatments. GameChanger hasn’t disclosed when ZOTT will be live, but a pilot program is currently being tested in eight hospitals. The platform will include games alongside, videos, comic books, and livestreaming content. A moderation team will work to make sure it’s a safe environment.
“I know from my own son’s experience the positive impact meaningful opportunities to play, learn and socialize can have for those fighting through a life-threatening illness and the ensuing recovery, especially at a young age,” said Shipman in a statement. “ZOTT is a new leap forward in patient engagement and support, with the power to scale GameChanger’s founding mission for socioeconomic good upward around the world.”