Above the spectacle of PAX East's show floor, in the lobby of the convention center, gaming charity AbleGamers set up their own mini pachinko parlor. With its vertically-mounted machines, loud noises and flashing lights, the Japanese devices were quite a spectacle. Curious to learn more about the sort of group that would bring them to PAX, I managed to grab Craig Kaufman, a member of the AbleGamers team, to learn more about what the charity does and how he got involved.
"What AG does is we have this guide hosted at includification.com, which has all sorts of game development advice for various areas of impairment ranging from colorblindness, to mobility, and beyond."
"So if you're a dev, we break it down into those different levels. Modes. Most people don't tend to think about it. That's why we put this out: a lot of times, it's not that people don't want to do it, but that they don't stop to consider it. We're come to events like this to raise awareness. The money that we raise goes towards grants, getting specialized controllers for those who need them. That goes for children with disabilities, as well as returning war veterans who have been injured in action."
It is certainly a noble cause, and one that Craig was drawn to through an unexpected event in his retail past.
"I used to work at a video game retail store, GameCrazy, where I was a store manager for a while. One day, a guy came into my store with his child, who had been injured in a car accident. It had left him with limited mobility in his hands. He asked me 'Can you help my son play games? Are there any games that he can still play?' I did some research online, and that's how I found AbleGamers and I loved what they did."
Craig soon became involved in fundraising on the charity's behalf. "I started raising money, and after I had done a few fundraising gaming marathons, they invited me to help out with their events. Not too long after that, they turned around and said 'Here's an email address. You now work for us!' It was as straightforward as that."
"Now, I do a lot of the outreach, so when it comes to things like PAX, I send emails, get swag donations from team and handle logistics, such as getting [pachinko machines] here."
The AbleGamers team's hard work seems to have paid off. "We've already beaten what we did last year, and it's only 12pm on Saturday. We've raised $15,000. Until people stop playing, we're not gonna stop doing it."