DigiPen game teams create some amazing things together, and they don’t always take the form of a game project. “One day I asked my game team, ‘Hey, what if we volunteered together sometimes on the weekend?’” sophomore BS in Computer Science and Game Design student Mike Doeren recalls. “They all went, ‘That’s a great idea!’ That idea snowballed into a club, then into an event, and now into more events.” Thus, DigiPen’s newest club was born, the Gamers Philanthropy Network (GPN), a group of students that “aims to benefit the greater Seattle area through organized, charitable initiatives,” as their mission statement puts it. “I consider us a group of helping hands, and we go where we feel we can be most useful to the community,” Doeren says.
Doeren’s journey to starting GPN is slightly unusual — before he became a DigiPen student, he was a DigiPen employee. “I was in Outreach for three years, both on campus and out on the road at college fairs talking to people about what DigiPen can do for them,” Doeren says. “Eventually I went, ‘You know what? I want to develop video games. I should do this too.’” After becoming a student, he found himself missing all the interactions he had with people outside his immediate sphere. That urge to reconnect with the larger community, combined with a desire to spend his free weekends more meaningfully, served as the inspiration to start GPN.
In fall 2022, acting as president of the new club alongside vice president and fellow game team member Emmy Berg, Doeren and GPN set out on their first initiative — partnering with local environmental nonprofit EarthCorps. The group of DigiPen students put on their boots and headed out to Mukilteo one weekend to do restoration work on the 1,000-acre Japanese Gulch basin. “It was a lot of fun,” Doeren says. “We helped them do land rehabilitation by planting trees, lots of physical work making things nicer.”
To keep up the momentum, Doeren and the GPN have planned “A Smashing Charity Tournament,” an upcoming Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament, scheduled for Saturday, February 18, in the Michelangelo room on campus. Dragons who want to participate or spectate will be required to donate one non-perishable food item at the door, which the GPN will bring to local social services and food bank organization Hopelink. “I love Smash. I wanted the event to act as a bridge to get the campus community excited about doing something good for our larger community,” Doeren says. “I volunteered for New Student Orientation and we had a miniature Smash tournament there that people loved, so I thought it would be fun to do that on a larger scale and amass food donations in the process.” Tournament participants must register online ahead of time, and while there will be prizes for the winners, the biggest prize will be helping folks in need in the Redmond area.
For Dragons looking to get involved in GPN, Doeren says there are lots of ways to jump in. “Anyone can join! The easiest way is to join our Discord server. You can find us on the DigiPen hub,” Doeren says. The club also meets in person every two weeks, both to develop currently planned initiatives and field new ones from the community. “We want someone new to be able to come to us on Monday and say, ‘There’s this great volunteer opportunity I’m really passionate about happening on Wednesday! Can I get help?’” Doeren says. The club already has its sights set on future initiatives, currently exploring partnerships with local animal shelters and potential community mural work by GPN members from the BFA in Digital Art and Animation program.
One other way to get involved with GPN? Find Doeren at the Smash tournament and say hello. As one of the rare Bowser Jr. mains out there, he should be easy to spot. “Other people don’t love him, but I do,” Doeren says. “He’s my baby boy!”
Gamers Philanthropy Network Presents: A Smashing Charity Tournament, Saturday, February 18, at 11 a.m. in Michelangelo. Non-perishable food donation required for entry. Tournament participants must register online in advance.