Hi-Rez put on a big performance for fans this Thursday and Friday with the SMITE Spring Fling, two days of fundraising and "casual" pro level game playing. I had the chance to hang out with the Hi-Rez team on both days and experience live the festival that was the Spring Fling. The experience was very much heartwarming and I brought home some interesting insights into Hi-Rez culture.
Everything that was seen on camera was real, every pepper that was eaten came directly from a local grocery store. They brought them in inside of the little plastic bag you get at the grocery store and I can verify - they were real 100% habaneros. Every time someone ate one, they were really dying a little bit afterward, often times fleeing trying to find something to drink.
They weren't "pre-peppered" for the pepperocalypse that fans quickly donated en masse for. Each and every brave soul that took a pepper to the face did so for charity and for good reason. Hi-Rez Quality Engineer Cryxious recently passed away from cancer, so for each and every employee there this event meant a lot.
All stunts performed were real, from the Lady and the Tramp style habernero sharing to the sumo suit wearing, everything performed on camera was as real as you seen it, including the reaction and the pain. You could say that some of the reactions were tempered on camera, the pain of the peppers were real.
It's very very important to understand the value that gaming has for charity and the power of Human emotion when it's funneled into something so noble. Hi-Rez has been known for some crazy charity fundraising, with I believe over $200,000 to the Red Cross so far (which strikes home to me, Red Cross was there for me as a kid when my home had burned down).
Even more touching is the fact the community came together and donated and in some rather large amounts, often without a catch - just a simple shout out. Both sides came together in a brilliant display in human ingenuity to produce not only a show that many will remember, but a substantial amount of cash to fight one of our greatest endbosses - cancer.
We can't just praise one side or the other, while one side did suffer the divine hell of melting their mouths for charity, the community was the one who was fanatically holding their money out for a good cause. Both worked in unison to produce the results achieved.
It's interesting how fundraising is becoming a critical and important part of gaming, because traditionally fundraising was done in years past through sending a check in the mail and getting a neat little tote and an invoice asking for more or through local churches where praise raised the money and it was distributed to organizations.
In a more modern time, with gamers being online more than off and focused on their games and not current events, it's great that you can merge specific interests in gaming with the ability to raise money. Just because someone plays a video game doesn't specifically mean they don't care, it just means that traditional methods of fundraising may not reach them, and this avenue with various companies like Blizzard, Riot, Hi-Rez, etc. offering in-game items for charity donations is very impressive.
The pies were plates filled with very inexpensive whipped cream (that had a rather pungent odor), the logic being that the good stuff was extra money that could go for charity, so why waste what you can give. While you may think the pies were harmless, they actually left a stench in anyone's hair, requiring a few rounds of shampoo to go away.
Then again, Hi-Rez was able to successfully raise the money without even venturing into returning anything beyond entertainment, shared with the 7,000+ concurrent viewers on the stream who were frantically spamming their print screen keys for some of the sweet reddit images that popped up.
With the recent events in Nepal, there is no doubt that game companies are mobilizing to help relief agencies through their products. While I'm not specifically sure if Hi-Rez plans anything (if so it would take some time to spool something up), the community has already asked for a Hindu god skin for donating for relief efforts. It's very heartwarming to see how much gamers care and have cared (just like at the success that's Child's Play or various pet / skin charities in other games).
All in all the charity experience was impressive and the genuine enthusiasm to sacrifice yourself for the greater good and enduring the horrid stench of dollar store whipped cream or the searing pain of ghost pepper sauce, is very much worth it to the fine folks at Hi-Rez and very much heart warming to me. It should also make any gamer proud, no matter their game of choice, on the fact that it shows that gamers are collectively kind hearted people, even if the troll is strong and there are very many trips to the grocery store to pick up some salt.
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