NATIONAL NEWS

Comic Relief launches metaverse fundraiser to fight poverty

Mar 28, 2023, 7:10 AM

This image provided by Comic Relief US on March 28, 2023, shows Kids Relief Presents: Solarpunk Sim...

This image provided by Comic Relief US on March 28, 2023, shows Kids Relief Presents: Solarpunk Simulator." The virtual world is part of Comic Relief US' Kids Relief initiative that will teach youth about the power of working for the collaborative good on the Roblox gaming platform. (Courtesy of Comic Relief US via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(Courtesy of Comic Relief US via AP)

Can playing more Roblox make your kids more philanthropic?

That’s what the nonprofit Comic Relief US hopes, announcing Tuesday its new Kids Relief initiative to encourage giving and community building with a new virtual world on the social gaming platform. The “Kids Relief Presents: Solarpunk Simulator” experience on Roblox will also serve as a fundraiser for Comic Relief’s real-life programs battling poverty in America, especially those empowering young people in that fight.

Alison Moore, CEO of Comic Relief US, told The Associated Press that the Roblox virtual world and the entire Kids Relief initiative is designed to “support young people’s ability to drive change.”

“Children and young people have a deeper understanding that they have the power to make change,” said Moore. “They have the power to gather together and link their arms to do something to change the world tomorrow. They’ve got the mindset that adults don’t have — that they can do it.”

Comic Relief US is behind high-profile fundraisers like Red Nose Day, which uses entertainment and celebrities to help generate donations. “Solarpunk Simulator,” which takes place in a “future world where nature, technology, and people live in harmony” will be no different, with Jack Black appearing as the spaceship captain and Roblox influencers acting as team leaders in the virtual world to get participants to work together toward a common goal.

The launch goal will be a special virtual concert by social media sensation BoyWithUke on April 7, but there may be different goals in the future.

Zach Letter, co-founder and CEO of Wonder Works Studio, which built the experience for Kids Relief, said the idea for the launch is a metaverse twist on the classic grade school fundraiser “Penny Wars,” where classes compete to see who brings in the most pennies in a week. Instead of pennies, the teams on Roblox are collecting parts of a spaceship together. And instead of a pizza party or extra recess, the winners get to enjoy the concert.

“It’s one of those games that has a lot of audio and visual feedback, so it’s really satisfying to play and you always feel this sense of power over collecting the materials,” Letter said. “You don’t want to be shoving charity in someone’s face and make it feel overwhelming and that it’s all about the donations. We really want kids to have a great time here and educate themselves.”

Items available in the “Solarpunk Simulator” virtual store will be part of the fundraiser for Kids Relief, Letter said, whether they give the players special powers in the virtual world or allow them to customize how their avatars look.

BoyWithUke, the singer-songwriter who just released his latest major-label EP “Antisocial” last month, said he is excited about being part of the initiative.

“As someone who grew up in poverty, I think this is a mission I can strongly stand behind,” said BoyWithUke, who hides his identity behind a plastic mask with LED lights. And he said he likes the idea of bringing his fans, including his more than 7 million TikTok followers, into the metaverse on Roblox because “you can be whoever you want.”

Comic Relief’s Moore said the Kids Relief campaign is the first initiative supported by the nonprofit’s Innovation and Growth Fund, which hopes to raise $10 million within three years. The group hopes new ideas supported by the fund will generate $1 billion in social impact to alleviate intergenerational poverty.

“We want to create more opportunities to have a connection with audiences that are frankly becoming more and more fractured and more and more distracted with everything that’s going on in the world,” Moore said. “We are really thinking about where NextGen audiences are gathering and how we create an experience that’s going to be organic to where they are — to be able to engage and delight and fundraise all at the same time.”

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Associated Press coverage of philanthropy and nonprofits receives support through the AP’s collaboration with The Conversation US, with funding from Lilly Endowment Inc. The AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s philanthropy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.

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Comic Relief launches metaverse fundraiser to fight poverty