help homeless youth on spider day

Help Homeless Youth For Spider Day

Gamers pull together on a fictional holiday

You might be forgiven for not being aware of Spider Day, despite the fact that an entire town was nearly decimated by the giant spider that attacked it that day. But the date—April 17—lives in infamy, for it was on that day that 33 superheroes valiantly gave their lives to defend Heavendale—a town you haven’t heard of because it doesn’t actually exist.

The town is a creation of the Critical Bits podcast, a show that streams live “actual play” session of the role-playing game Masks, in which players take on the personas of young superheroes growing up with all the uncertainty of young people anywhere, but with a lot more superpowers.

This weekend is part of a four-day charity event Critical Bits is putting on in honor of Spider Day, to benefit Covenant House Georgia, a non-profit organization that runs shelters and other services for homeless youth.

“There are a lot of people who hate that toxic masculinity and are interested in pushing all that out and coming together to help each other”

“We had come up with a fake, in-game holiday called Spider Day about the fictional town of Heavendale,” says Joel Ruiz, who helps run Critical Bits. “After we made that joke, we realized we could make a bonus episode out of this. Then we ended up getting a few guests on, and that turned into 33 different guests on the episode, all of which were playing one character that dies in this fight. Once we had 33 people scheduled to play, I realized that the reach of this thing was going to be a lot larger, and it was a good opportunity to try to do a charity event.”

The event kicked off on Spider Day itself, and raised about $850 in its first day. New games will be streamed from 9am to midnight through this Sunday, and listeners can tune in and make a donation to Covenant House. “When picking a charity, we wanted something that was youth-facing, and also had a strong LGBTQ-plus component. Covenant House themselves don’t just take in LGBTQ youth, but being that a big portion of homeless youth are in that category, they do have a focus on it,” Ruiz told Good Turns recently. “Also, for us, being in Atlanta, because we have Hartfield-Jackson airport, this is a hub for human trafficking in America. Covenant House also has a big component of fighting and stopping human trafficking.”

Ruiz, a freelance video editor, said Covenant House had been extremely helpful ahead of the event. “It’s come together very nicely for a last-minute thing,” he said. The Critical Bits podcast, which launched only last November, will probably do more such events, up to two or three a year, if things go well with this, their first, Ruiz added.

While Ruiz has never organized an event of this scale before, he has been involved in them in the past. “It’s a pretty common occurrence for people in the gaming community to try to do this stuff for fun and raise money,” he said. “There have been a couple of articles going around talking about D&D and gaming communities being the biggest they’ve ever been right now. I’m 31, I’ve been into role-playing games since I was nine years old, it’s been a huge hobby of mine forever, so it’s just really cool to find other people with a similar hobby, especially since a lot of people in gaming can be very toxic. It’s really awful to have to deal with those people, especially in a tabletop RPG. But there are a lot of people who hate that toxic masculinity and are interested in pushing all that out and coming together to help each other. There are just a lot of people that care about the hobby and care about other people finding ways to give back.”

While not everyone interested in role-playing games can afford to donate, Ruiz says, “a lot of people have well-paying tech jobs and enjoy the hobby but don’t have ways to give back or time to do it. There’s so much toxicity in gaming, especially in online video gaming. But the gaming community itself is trying to build a more caring community.”

Here’s hoping they can. If you want to help, tune in to Critical Bits so that Spider Day will be remembered for the good that was done that day, not just for the superheroes that gave their lives to save Heavendale.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dalvenjah FoxFire

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