Digital Worlds students gathered for 24 hours to play videogames, discuss media issues and raise money for charity.
On April 13 and 14, students raised $2,125.38 for Victims Support New Zealand, a charity for the families of the March Christchurch mosque shooting. Looking for Good is the first livestream charity event at Digital Worlds and was produced by Digital Worlds students.
Between 11 a.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Sunday, about 20 students gathered to play games on Twitch, an online livestreaming game platform, where viewers could watch games and donate to Victims Support New Zealand.
“As we all grow into this industry, we’re realizing these are conversations we need to have,” said Dr. Kyle Bohunicky, the event organizer and a digital arts and sciences assistant professor.
The event idea began in March after Bohunicky saw the tragic New Zealand mosque shooting, and he found his class interested in hosting an event to draw attention away from the images of tragedy and to find positivity through gaming.
He also noted the low representation of Muslim and Middle Eastern voices in game development and in the game community.
“There’s all this great work that Muslim developers are doing,” he said. “We don’t recognize them, we don’t see them.”
The event brought together traditional American, Japanese or European games and games with Muslim characters and developers were featured, Bohunicky said, but these voices are often obscured in popular media.
“In addition to discussing why representation matters, we also need to hear from the developers and researchers themselves,” he said.
Looking for Good created a commonplace for all these cultures to gather and play games, he said.
Antonio Farias, the UF chief diversity officer, was a guest speaker, and he noticed the power that online game streaming can have in connecting people. The gaming event threw Farias in a new environment, he said, but it allowed for cross-generational conversations.
“It is okay for me as an older adult to get uncomfortable into the space where young millennials and Gen-Zs are working on social issues that matter to us all,” Farias said.
Farias said the use of technology can bring generations together, especially when everyone doesn’t agree on all issues. He hopes to see more work at UF that brings faculty and students together to talk about social issues.
“We need to do more of this. We need to cross generations,” Farias said. “When we talk about diversity, we fail to talk about generational divides.”
Other guest speakers at the event included Thomas Sanders, a popular internet personality; Ken Chitwood, a UF religion scholar; Amanda Phillips, a Georgetown University media professor; and Imad Khan, a video game journalist. Topics included gender and cultural representation in games and animation.
James Oliverio, the Digital Worlds Institute executive director, said he is proud of the students, faculty and staff for taking time out at the end of the semester to give to families on the other side of the world.
“Our students’ demonstrated social engagement, coupled with their considerable digital skills, gives me confidence they’ll continue working effectively to make the world a better place after graduation,” he said.
Rafaela Pelegrina, a digital arts and sciences and advertising senior, said Looking for Good found positivity out of an event that was indirectly related to gaming.
“We wanted to take back the narrative on gaming,” she said. “We didn’t want it to have this negative narrative stigma of being very violent or encouraging violence.”
The student-produced event allowed Pelegrina’s class, taught by Bohunicky, to bring their technology and gaming knowledge together. Everyone was excited to help, she said.
“Even if the victims weren’t gamers, it doesn’t matter,” Pelegina said. “We’re all a community and we’re here to help."