Thursday, September 29, 2022

Jeff Burrell’s vision behind the Riot Games Social Impact Fund and how it ‘mobilizes players’

Riot Games has made giving back easier than ever by combining its fundraising initiative with gamers from around the world. The Social Impact Fund, Riot’s philanthropic venture that launched in 2019, has raised millions for 400 unique organizations from 25 countries and distributed over $23 million in grants.

Riot’s Social Impact Fund gives players the opportunity to create change simply by purchasing in-game cosmetics. The cosmetics depend on the game and can be anything from a battle pass or specific character skin. In 2021 the Social Impact Fund ran two major charity events across VALORANT, League of Legends, Wild Rift, other Teamfight Tactics: the Give Back Bundle and Sentinels of Light fundraiser, which raised $11.3 million combined.

The developer is using its global reach to give back to the community and invite fans to do the same. Whether it’s through grants, monetary donations or charity work, the Social Impact Fund is constantly giving back to those in need and opening the door for players to show their support.

“As a global company, it’s important that we take a global approach to help address some of the most pressing problems in our communities,” senior director Jeff Burrell said. “The structure of the Social Impact Fund allows Riot to mobilize our players all over the world to address issues that matter most to them.”

Millions of people log in every year to play Riot’s list of expansive titles. From a first person shooter in VALORANT to an action-packed MOBA in league, there’s something for everyone to enjoy among the developer’s numerous titles. While the Social Impact Fund is a separate entity from Riot’s publishing side, the fund is structured in a way that ensures funding is used to pursue a positive impact on education, citizenship, opportunity, and sustainability.

Whether a player is purchasing a weapon skin in VALORANT or one of the many champion skins in league, there’s an endless opportunity to bring attention to causes that help others. Burrell detailed the thematic bridge between cosmetics and the fundraisers they’re supporting, including the Star Guardians’ drive to save the galaxy and Sentinels of Lights’ ongoing battle to eradicate evil.

The Give Back Bundle stood as one of the two major charity events of 2021 and was a collection of some of the most popular VALORANT weapon skins that players could purchase and “give back” to the community. The bundle included four skins and had 50 percent of skins proceeds and 100 percent of accessory proceeds going directly to the Social Impact Fund. This bundle was active from June 22 to July 8, 2021 and raised $5.5 million for charity.

The Sentinels of Light fundraiser raised another $5.8 million in a collaboration between League, Wild Rift, and Teamfight Tactics that had nearly 15 million players take part. The funds were distributed across 30 different charities from around the world, including the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, the Table Community Food Centre, and more.

Skin-based fundraisers typically feature one skin to represent a cause. Riot’s most recent venture centered around the Star Guardians event with Taliyah receiving the featured skin. The team chose Star Guardian Tailyah due to her lack of skins, according to Burrell. Taliyah only had three skins prior to the release of Star Guardian: Pool Party, Samsung Galaxy, and Freljord. The team felt it was important to choose a champion and skin players could get excited about.

Burrell said the team wants skins to have layered meanings. The Star Guardians theme features a group of champions trying to protect the galaxy, something that aligns with Riot’s goals in its charity selections. This same theme was also present when Riot chose the Sentinels of Light event to be a part of the charity last year. Heroes banding together to overcome the darkness and save humanity means much more when those heroes aren’t just saving the virtual world, but the literal one as well.

“When we were looking at this year’s roadmap, we saw Star Guardians and got really excited because we thought that this would be another great opportunity to engage players on that other level of Social Impact and making a difference in communities,” Burrell said.

“The broader narrative of Star Guardians is protecting the galaxy and everything like that, but there’s also a very human component to it of like what they’re going through and how they have to fight against their own demons.”

There is more to the Social Impact Fund than just cosmetics, though.

In 2021 Riot introduced its first VALORANT charity events hosted by Offline TV. The events raised $88,000 for charities including Children Foundation, Stop AAPI Hate, St. Jude, The ACLU Foundation, and Rise Above the Disorder.

While Burrell didn’t give specific details on upcoming collaborations between the Social Impact Fund and VALORANT, he did share the success of the Offline TV fundraiser and his excitement for the coming months.

“We held the first VALORANT fundraiser last year and it was phenomenal,” Burrell said.

“It was the first time we were able to include a whole new set of players, they might not necessarily be familiar with League of Legends, but they’re like, intense technical shooter fans. We were able to engage them in these kinds of activities as well, I’d love to kind of keep exploring that.”

The success of charity streams for VALORANT and fundraisers for League of Legends showcases what Riot is capable of achieving. Every year the Social Impact Fund has come up with new ways to bring the community together and excite players with fresh opportunities to give back.

As the fund grows, so will chances to get connected through Riot’s titles.

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