God of War, Subnautica, and dozens more devs join up to share free games with terminally ill patients

God of War Ragnarok
(Image credit: Sony Santa Monica)

Australia's first adolescent and young adult hospice center (AYAH) was opened in Manly earlier this year, and dozens of game developers across the industry are now working together to supply it with free games for patients to play. 

This charity effort was set in motion by Jess Damerst, release manager at Subnautica studio Unknown Worlds. On July 10, she posted about meeting one of the center's nurses and learning that its gaming room has three PS5 consoles and controllers but few games. Having already shared some Subnautica codes with the center, Damerst put out a call for more game devs to pitch in, and the response has been tremendous. 

The replies to Damerst's initial tweet are filled with indie and AAA devs eager to share their games. Developers on the likes of Cloudpunk, Astroneer, God of War: Ragnarok, Jackbox Games, Moving Out, and others – great games, all – have pledged codes, and Damerst says dozens more have contributed in private.

"I've had so much outreach, it's amazing," she tells GamesRadar+. "I can't believe it. I thought, 'oh I'll just tweet this, I don't think anyone really reads Twitter anymore.' But yeah, it's been amazing. From two companies I've had like six or seven games, and then one-off games from several people. The response has also been from developers or people who will go and ask their studio to provide me some keys, or marketing managers at a publisher. I've had PR agencies who've provided keys and a couple streamers who've reached out. I've got a bunch of DMs from people, Humble Games has reached out, I've had a response from Gamers Outreach. I've been shocked at the number of people." 

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Manly, Australia's new AYAH center specializes in "15 to 24-year-old patients with life-limiting illness and offers respite care, symptom management, end-of-life care, and care coordination support in the transition from children’s to adult services," per its official website. Filling out a gaming room for patients has been a major part of the center's entertainment offerings, but the center's staff obviously have many other important things to do, so Damerst says she hopes to reduce the load on employees while making more games available to patients. 

"Initially I had contact with one person on staff there who I just sent keys for our game," she explains. "But when I saw the response I was getting, I was like, I really need to talk to them directly. So I called them and spoke to the person who'd manage the consoles and get them set up, and they were super excited. They were like, 'we've just opened, we don't have many games on the consoles,' I think they said they only have two or three games. They were really excited."

I reached out to the center directly through the Northern Sydney Local Health District (NSLHD), and a representative said they're still in the process of retrieving the game codes and figuring out the best way to approve and distribute materials. (This may sound far-fetched to Americans like me, but it's a no-cost, government-funded healthcare facility, which is partly why even philanthropy has to go through so many channels.) However, they were also quick to stress that the NSLHD "is grateful for the donations."

Cloudpunk

Cloudpunk, a cyberpunk courier game (Image credit: Ion Lands)

"It's been so many keys that I asked if I should come in and redeem them because this is gonna take a while," Damerst adds. "Three consoles, we're looking at around 25 games right now, so that's a lot of time. And they were excited about that, they said they'd give me a tour and everything, but nothing formal yet. I'm waiting for the appropriate channels. I haven't provided personal emails, so some people have sent keys to their general email. Some people have sent keys to me and I have them in a big spreadsheet and am trying to make sure they get to the right hands.

"This is the first time where I've directly been, like, the person, but I have helped with other initiatives, so I'm really aware that you can put them in awkward situations where they get a bunch of stuff but no one to manage it, so it creates overhead for them. So I'm trying to be respectful of them and what they as a center want and need. It does sound like they'll take anything. They want to make it – they call it the gaming room – really great."  

In particular, Damerst says she hopes the center can secure additional PS5 controllers, as well as games, for multiplayer sessions for group family events. The process is very much ongoing, but in the not-too-distant future, many center patients should have access to a solid library of games. 

In June, Summer Games Done Quick capped off a week of speedrunning and raised over $2.2 million for Doctors Without Borders and Médecins Sans Frontières.  

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a senior writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature, all while playing as many roguelikes as possible.