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Dave Davies: Gamers get into the action of helping Katrina victims

Web Posted: 09/09/2005 12:00 AM CDT

San Antonio Express-News

When a horrible event as massive as the Hurricane Katrina disaster rocks the nation, it touches everyone, even the community of video gamers.

These are people who spend their free time fighting imaginary zombies, mutants and Nazis, but sometimes the monsters are real. The suffering is real and the need is real for money and compassion for the victims.

Like everyone else who has seen the media's coverage of the storm's devastation, gamers are doing what they can to assist Katrina's evacuees.

So many of the Web sites that gamers frequent are listing pleas for cash for the American Red Cross with prominent Web links for quick Pay Pal contributions.

One video game developer is taking the lead raising money for disaster relief. Redmond, Wash.-based Bungie Studios, a subsidiary of Microsoft, is noted for its hit game "Halo." Bungie is now putting its star character Master Chief to work in the battle for funds. The Master Chief is featured on a special edition T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase "Fight the Flood!"

For those not versed in "Halo" lore, this is a play on words. The Flood is also the name of the warmongering destructive alien race trying to wipe out humanity in the top-selling video game series.

The T-shirts sell for $19.99, and all proceeds go directly to the American Red Cross. Bungie is also donating all the profits from September from its online store to the Red Cross, and it is donating rare Halo memorabilia to an online auction, which also will raise money for the Red Cross. Among the items in the auction: a large Master Chief statue autographed by the Bungie team, posters, action figures and more. The charity auction is being organized by the fan site

One "Halo" video game fan found an unusual way to raise money for the Red Cross. Dan Lauden of Tulsa, Okla., who goes by the handle BoneKin, logged online to play and promised to donate a dollar for every headshot he delivered in player vs. player combat.

BoneKin will be cutting a check for $139 for the Red Cross after he went on a seven-game HurricaneHalo rampage.

"I'd heard some of the stories of the starving people and the looters, and a friend of mine who I met online through "Halo 2" lives down in Louisiana and had a brother trapped in the city," BoneKin said via e-mail.

"I decided I would donate some amount of money, but I'd do it in a way that involved other members of gaming community. This way I can help out, interact with other gamers and try to spread the word that donations were needed."

There are other examples of the video game community coming together for this cause. Another "Halo" fan created a clan, an online game team, called Donate2RedCross, which was formed to help inform other gamers online of Katrina's devastation.

Retailer EB Games pledged to match donations made to the Red Cross at its outlets up to $50,000. And in the sword and sorcery world of Norrath, "Everquest" players can contribute to the Red Cross by using the "/donate" command while still in MMO game universe.

Additionally, for the more than 13,000 players/subscribers in the affected areas, Sony Online Entertainment suspended monthly billing on their game accounts until they are able to play again, the Austin-based company said in the statement.

While these may appear to be small gestures compared to the immense size of the disaster, at least they are letting their fellow gamers and citizens know they haven't been forgotten.