Tag Archives: gaming for good

Zine Incoming! Issue Two of Component Is Now Available

Earlier last year, Chip released a video game zine called Component that featured essays and artwork from talented artists and writers.  The first issue was filled with stories about the contributors’ most cherished games, featuring titles like Mega Man 2, Spyro the Dragon, and Okami.  Now, we are happy to announce that the second issue of Component is available for your reading pleasure!

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Issue Two focuses on role-playing games.  While each player has different tastes and favorites when it comes to this genre, we have all found ourselves caught up in these adventures. RPGs provide strong narratives and complex systems in which we can become immersed and play a character in a totally different world.  At the same time in our own reality, these games help us forge lasting friendships and uncover fascinating truths about our own personalities.

Games highlighted in articles and artwork of Issue Two include Dungeons & Dragons, Super Mario RPG, Fallout 2, Xenogears, Final Fantasy VIII, Legend of Dragoon, Shadow Hearts, Fable II, Skyrim, Dragon’s Dogma, Bravely Default, and Yo-kai Watch.

Just like Issue One, the latest issue of Component is available as a print-on-demand magazine and as an instant PDF through MagCloud .  The editor and contributors of Component thoroughly believe in gaming for good causes, so 100% of the profits from Component will be donated to charity:water to fund clean water projects in the developing world.

Thanks for reading and please be sure to check out Component for all sorts of gaming goodness!

 

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Charity Marathon Incoming! UPickVG 5, June 3rd – 5th 2016

The time has come, my friends.  Our beloved streaming crew has returned.  The latest U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity will be broadcast live on the interwebs June 3rd-5th, 2016!

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During the 48-hour-long continuous livestream, we’ll play the video games you pick to raise money for charity:water, to bring clean water access to people who need it in the developing world.

Starting the evening of June 3rd and going for the following 48 straight hours, we’ll play the games you choose when making a donation to our charity fundraiser. We’ll switch games each hour (on the hour), as determined by a spin on the Wheel of Destiny – a magical rotating device with all of the top games that have received donations.

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We opened up the floor for our viewers to suggest the games they want to see us play. From a vast number of submissions and a few extra ideas added in by our Official Gamesmuns, Chip & Grant, we narrowed the list down for your viewing pleasure, which can be found here!

Any of these games can be donated for right now if you want to see them in UPickVG 5! Donations to our charity:water campaign will give points to your selected game, which will put it on the Wheel of Destiny, to possibly come up during the marathon. The only way a game will be played is if it gets donations, so get donating for the games you want to see!

Every hour, we’ll spin the Wheel of Destiny to see which of the top-ranked games (in terms of those points!) we play for the next hour. When the Wheel lands on a game, it loses all of its current points and goes back to the bottom of the list. (So if you want to see it again, you’ll have to donate again!)

Stack that Wheel up with the games of your choice! Any donations made before 7:50pm EST June 3rd (the first Wheel spin) will count for that first Wheel spin, and the points will carry over into the following hours (other than the game that is landed on, of course).

But what should you be doing between now and then?

We’ve got some ideas!

  1. Check out the Player Shift Schedule here!
  2. Sign up for the UpickVG Newsletter, which will remind you of upcoming UPickVG events and special opportunities (like requesting games, voting for games, game-y things)
  3. Tell everyone you know about UPickVG and how awesome it’s going to be. Use the graphic up top, and share this post with the sharing buttons down below.
  4. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. We regularly post cool video game stuff and updates about UPickVG 5.
  5. Visit our Watch Now page every Sunday at 4pm EDT (8pm UTC) – we do live rehearsal broadcasts every week! Tune in, heckle us in the chat, and get hyped for the big marathon on June 3rd!
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U-Pick VG IV: Mission Success

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The latest U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity is officially over!  For 48 consecutive hours, the U-Pick Crew played a pile of video games for a good cause.  We battled brutal skeletons in Dark Souls, struggled with mech controls in Steel Battalion, and slapped each other silly in GoldenEye 007.

After the dust settled (and the consoles were turned off), U-Pick Marathon IV raised over $5000 for charity:water. Thanks to these generous donations, 168 people in Uganda will have access to renewable clean water sources.

In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking miles to the nearest source, which is unprotected and likely contaminated.  It is amazing that the efforts of U-Pick and its supporters (along with charity: water) can make such a positive impact on the world through the joy of video games.

If you missed the marathon, fear not!  There is still time to donate to this worthwhile cause!  The current charity:water campaign is still accepting donations until June 30th, 2015.  Also, the entire 50+ hour video of U-Pick IV will be available to watch on Twitch for the next week.  Check it out here!

Many woots to Grant, Stephonee, and the rest of the U-Pick Crew!  Huge thanks to everyone who watched and donated! Please stay tuned to the U-Pick website, Twitter, and Facebook page for future livestreams and charity marathons.  And remember, GAME FOR GOOD!

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Mark Your Calendars: U-Pick IV Charity Marathon Begins in Two Days

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The time is nearly upon us- the fourth U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity starts this Friday at 8pm EST!

During the 48-hour-long continuous livestream, we’ll play the video games you pick to raise money for charity:water, to bring clean water access to people who need it in the developing world. The donation page is here:

https://my.charitywater.org/upickvg-iv-video-game-marathon

Starting the evening of June 12th and ending the evening of June 14th, we’ll play the games you choose when making a donation to our charity fundraiser. We’ll switch games each hour (on the hour), as determined by a spin on the Wheel of Destiny – a magical rotating device with all of the top games that have received donations.

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Similar rules apply from previous years- donate, pick a game from this list: http://wp.me/p47vWj-6U and leave the name of the game in your comment.  In the meantime, you can read some delightful reviews from the U-Pick Crew on the games from this year’s list, like Deadly Premonition, Steel Battalion, and Hyrule Beyblade Go Go Fight Yes!

We have increased our charity goal to $5000 this year, and we’ve already had over $1000 donated so far.  At this point, at least 34 people will get access to a renewable clean water source in Uganda. Please help us in achieving another successful marathon!

Remember, 100% of everything we raise will directly fund water projects in Uganda. And when those projects are finished, charity: water will send you proof in pictures and GPS coordinates, so you can see the actual people and communities you impacted.

So spread the word about U-Pick IV, donate, tune in, and as always, GAME FOR GOOD.

 

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Achievement Unlocked: Published Gaming Magazine

Component is the realization of a dream: to make a gaming publication that celebrates the joy of a beloved pastime.  The goal of this magazine is to bridge the gap between players. To share personal experiences and individual viewpoints with the rest of the gaming world. To encourage others to forge their own connections, and share the joy that our collective hobby can provide.

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Each issue will have a central theme, and features a collection of essays and artwork on the subject of video games. Component is available as a print-on-demand magazine through Blurb and as an instant PDF, sold directly through the Component website. The editor and contributors of Component thoroughly believe in gaming for good causes, so 100% of the profits from Component will be donated to the U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity.

The first issue is filled with stories about our most cherished games. Some are first encounters where a lasting bond was established. Others are tales of transition, where these beloved games have stood by our side as a supportive medium. All of them reflect the wonder that can be found in moments of play and through them we share the happiness of a cherished hobby.

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Games highlighted in the articles and artwork of Issue One include Mega Man 2, Super Mario 64, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid, Spyro the Dragon, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Pokémon: Yellow Version, Halo: Combat Evolved, and Okami.

Component will be released semi-annually, and the second issue has a tentative release of December 2015.  Please be sure to follow Chip, the editor of Component, on Twitter (@gimmgp) for news about the magazine and related video game musings.  You can also check our Blog page for updates and other works from our brilliant and creative contributors.

Thank you for reading and please be sure to check out Issue One: Our Games for all sorts of gaming goodness.

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Visiting Mario’s World in Weekly U-Pick Broadcasts

Keeping with our New Year’s resolution, the U-Pick Crew has been streaming fresh batches of games every week. These casual broadcasts are rehearsals for the bigger charity event on June 12th-14th.  Every Sunday at 4pm EDT (8pm UTC), we play hours of interesting and enjoyable games for our beloved viewers.

This week, U-Pick will be playing some of the big hitters from the hallowed halls of gaming.  We will explore the remote reaches of the galaxy with Samus in Super Metroid, join forces with Disney and Square-Enix to battle the Heartless in Kingdom Hearts, and take a nice vacation to Dinosaur Land in Super Mario World.

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To prepare for our journey with the Mario Brothers, the U-Pick Crew has been enjoying videos like the one covered in this article from February 2014.  Please be sure to check our Watch Now page today at 4pm EDT for some gaming goodness!


My earliest experiences with the Mario Brothers were not spent playing, but reading the instruction manual while my younger brother rushed through the very first game on our Nintendo Entertainment System.  As I scoured over the game controls and characters, my brother would enjoy this relatively new experience with the ease of a much older player.  All of Mario’s moves seemed natural to him, as if he had traveled these fantastic worlds for years.  The reality of the situation is that my brother has better eye-to-hand coordination than I do, but the level design of Super Mario Brothers had something to do with his genius as well.

Think back to that very first level, World 1-1.  There was no tutorial, no overt guidance for the player; only a stubby little plumber standing on the far left side of a screen.  Any attempt to travel further left would result in the player hitting a wall, so to the right we must go.  Oh no, there’s an angry mushroom heading your way.  Quick, try one of those red buttons on the controller.  Okay, ‘B’ doesn’t do anything… what about ‘A?’  Ooh, you made Mario jump!  Try to stomp that mean looking guy.  Hey, you squished him, good job.  No time to celebrate though; there is a timer counting down up there.  Let’s get going.

The design of these early Mario games provided levels that taught players the rules without beating them over the head with exposition and hand-holding.  Almost all of the necessary skills could be communicated through visuals and the experience of play.  To sweeten the deal, these games had a reliably steady difficulty curve.  Each concurrent stage added new challenges, but they hardly ever put the player in a situation without the resources to learn and grow.  This trend of difficult but fair level design has continued in the Mario Brothers series to this day.

Over the years, I have enjoyed many titles in the Mario series.  I would consider myself a rather advanced player; not a genius like my brother, but someone who has played enough of these games to acquire skills beyond the average level.  I have put in the hours, completed dozens of stages, and stomped many a koopa troopa.  In other words, I am pretty damn good at Mario.  However, I recently witnessed a charity event that humbled me to my very nerdy core.

Awesome Games Done Quick 2014 started on January 5th and featured some of the most amazing speed-runners playing games and accepting donations for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.  Over the course of seven days, 115+ games were played continuously for charity, including a hearty block of titles from the Super Mario series.  I just happened to tune in right at the start of a race between two players in the SNES classic, Super Mario World.  What I saw in that livestream blew me away:

Just look at these guys- they never seem to stop running!  They are using tricks within the game design that I have never seen before.  It seems like every level is not merely a slog from left-to-right, but a challenge to discover new and inventive ways to speed through the game.  While they do exploit some glitches over the course of play, the meat of their performance comes from intentional secrets and layouts within the level design.  This is particularly noticeable in the stages made up of platforms or mushrooms suspended above bottomless pits.  It looks like the placement of enemies was designed to be vaulted upon for a quick trip through difficult levels.  It’s as if the designers wanted to reward dedicated players with the means to bypass the usual routes and discover entirely new ways for Mario to travel.  This intention from the designers is made even more clear through the Super Play videos included in the more recent Mario titles.

That is the lesson I have come to realize in between the moments of actually playing games with the Mario Brothers.  There is an amazing balance in the design of these levels so any player can pick up the controller and have a worthwhile experience.  The novice players can discover a new hobby that eases them into the game with intuitive controls and a steady difficulty curve.  World 1 will prepare them for World 2, which will prepare them for World 3 and so on.  Behind the scenes, these levels have expert routes carved into the background; perfect paths with a hidden time limit that provides a challenge to the expert who is looking for something new in a beloved game.  For every level that made good use of my instruction manual studies, there is a stage that provided a seamless flow of play for my brother.  It seems that across the long list of games in the Mario Universe, there is a level for every player.

For the record, the level for me is World 1-7 from Yoshi’s Island: Touch Fuzzy, Get Dizzy.  But that’s just because I am a sucker for trippin’ dinosaurs.

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Charity Marathon Incoming! UPickVG IV – June 12th-14th 2015

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The time has come, my friends.  Our beloved streaming crew has returned.  The latest U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity will be broadcast live on the interwebs June 12th-14th, 2015!

During the 48-hour-long continuous livestream, we’ll play the video games you pick to raise money for charity:water, to bring clean water access to people who need it in the developing world.

Starting the evening of June 12th and going for the following 48 straight hours, we’ll play the games you choose when making a donation to our charity fundraiser. We’ll switch games each hour (on the hour), as determined by a spin on the Wheel of Destiny – a magical rotating device with all of the top games that have received donations.

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Got ideas for what games should be on the list? GOOD. You can request games for UPickVG IV right now on our Request Games page. The sky’s the limit: name any game you can think of that you would pay money (to charity) to see played!

We’ll be taking suggestions for UPickVG IV on the Request Games page up until May 1st. At that point, the “Voting Period” begins, and we’ll throw everything that’s been suggested into a big ol’ internet poll – and you’ll be able to vote for your favorites! Don’t worry, you’ll be able to vote for more than one game, and we’ll let you vote more than once, too.

Once the votes are in, we’ll put together the ultimate list of video games available for UPickVG IV – and we’ll open the donation floodgates so that you can get the games of your choice up on that Wheel of Destiny.

But what should you be doing between now and then?

We’ve got some ideas!

  1. Get those video game title requests in! Request Games here.
  2. Add the marathon to your calendar so you don’t forget to tune in!
  3. Tell everyone you know about UPickVG and how awesome it’s going to be. Use the graphic up top, and share this post with the sharing buttons down below.
  4. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. We regularly post cool video game stuff and updates about UPickVG IV.
  5. Visit our Watch Now page every Sunday at 4pm EDT (8pm UTC) – we do live rehearsal broadcasts every week! Tune in, heckle us in the chat, and get hyped for the big marathon on June 12th!

Get Hyped!!

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U-Pick Battle of the Birthdays: Mission Success

The latest U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity is officially over!  For 12+ hours, Grant and Stephonee played a pile of video games for a good cause.  They battled the angst-ridden undead in Buffy, struggled with mech controls in Steel Battalion, and groped the walls in Wolfenstein 3D.

After the dust settled (and the consoles were turned off), the Battle of the Birthdays raised over $2800 for charity: water.  That money will provide clean water sources to 81 people in the Sahel region of Mali and Niger.  The Sahel region is frequently affected by drought and famine, and access to clean water is rare.  It is amazing that the efforts of U-Pick and its supporters (along with charity: water) can make such a positive impact on the world through the joy of video games.

Many woots to Grant, Stephonee, and the rest of the U-Pick Crew!  Huge thanks to everyone who watched and donated!  Please stay tuned to the U-Pick website, Twitter, and Facebook page for future marathons for charity.  And remember, GAME FOR GOOD!

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U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity: Battle of the Birthdays

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It’s a surprise charity attack!  In just four days time, the co-founders of U-Pick are giving up their birthdays to help bring clean water to the Sahel region of Mali and Niger.  Stephonee and Grant have birthdays that are one week apart, so what better way to celebrate than a 12-hour charity marathon?

Each player has selected 15 games according to what they think would make for a great marathon, for a total of 30 fantastically fun and frantic titles to choose from.  For those of you who donated and watched last year’s marathon, the rules are pretty similar:

1) Pick a game from this list: http://bit.ly/UPickList

2) Donate as much as you want on this page! Leave the name of the game you picked as a comment on your donation. $1 = 1 point for the game you name.

3) Watch the broadcast on http://www.UPickVG.com on Sunday, September 21st from 10am-10pm Eastern. Grant and Stephonee will play the top games as decided by the Wheel of Destiny (and your donations!).

Also, there will be a preview show on Saturday Sept 20th at 8pm Eastern, where a random assortment of games will be played to get this party started.  Maybe the games will be from the list, maybe they will be even more strange and awesome titles from our collected gaming libraries.  Tune in to find out!

As with last year’s marathon, 100% of everything U-Pick raises will directly fund water projects through charity:water.  When those projects are finished, charity: water will provide proof in pictures and GPS coordinates, so we can see the actual people and communities we impacted.

So be sure to check out the website for more details on the marathon, see which games are on top, and to view the profiles of the rest of the U-Pick Team.  You can also see various media from the games we have played on our Tumblr page.  Please consider donating to U-Pick and sharing the link with your friends (maybe over the Facebooks).  It’s for a great cause and you can watch a pile of oddball games played for 12 hours straight!  Win-win!

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