By Harold Goldberg
Today, I’m proud to announce that the New York Videogame Critics Circle is an officially recognized non-profit organization. It’s been a long road. Just as we’ve helped many in the community along the way, many have helped us. But this is just the beginning.
It was six years ago that a good friend penned an email to Helen Pfeffer and me. Catharine Soros, now our board secretary, wrote about a school in the Bronx: “They’re having a Career Day. I just thought you guys have interesting careers and might want to talk to the kids. All of your jobs involve writing and that’s one area covered by Dreamyard.” (Helen Pfeffer, our senior editor here, is a professor who teaches writing for film and television for three colleges. I’m an author and journalist somewhat known for my work in the world of videogames.)
So it was Catharine who stirred my interest in the DreamYard Project and their DreamYard Preparatory School in the Bronx. There, I met a young student and helped him write his college essay. He liked games, so we talked for a while. He opened up about being ostracized because he was from Africa. At that point, I was moved and felt I needed to do more. But how? It took some time, but I began thinking about how the New York Videogame Critics Circle could help the school – and in some small way, the large community of New York City as well.
I made time to work with the DreamYard and with other groups who needed a hand. Three years ago, I brought in the Circle. Armed with the knowledge and intelligence of Tim Lord and educator Rudy Blanco, we began to offer scholarships, workshops and eventually, semester-long courses to DreamYard Prep students. The students also appeared at the New York Game Awards and were able to meet their videogame heroes.
It worked well and we wanted to do more. Sponsors who wanted to help liked our plan and came on board. Sony and Twitch’s help continues to be absolutely crucial. Geoff Keighley’s help is key as well as are our valued core Circle members.
DreamYard Project Co-Directors Tim Lord and Jason Duchin kindly offered to be our fiscal sponsor as we began the arduous process of applying for 501(c)3 non-profit status. Their help meant that donors could use the DreamYard’s 501(c)3 to donate funds without begin taxed for it. It also meant that we could have a sub-account at the DreamYard’s financial institution.
Beyond the DreamYard, we went to libraries, museums and older adult centers to help out. But all the time, it was an essential aid and a real relief to know the DreamYard had our backs.
So now we have a board with wide knowledge in many areas. We have far more rules, far more administrative tasks — and, primarily, more hope. We want to expand to other cities. That’s partially because, as the Lawyer’s Alliance noted before they matched us with the perfect pro bono lawyers, no one in the country is doing what we’re doing.
It’s not about coding. We’re teaching journalism, writing and narrative as pathways into the world of games and game development. We’re helping kids in high school and through college and through to their first job in games.
We now have a template that can be used by other schools in other cities and towns.
Last week, I sat with members of the Circle at the DreamYard’s annual gala. Caroline Kennedy was honored as we all learned the about the DreamYard’s multi-tiered work in the Bronx. It was inspiring in every way imaginable.
So, yes, our non-profit status is an important moment in the history of the New York Videogame Critics Circle.
But there’s so much more to do, so many more people to help. We can’t do it ourselves. Journalists. Critics. Game Publishers. Game Developers. Educators. Especially in these trying times, we very much need your help along the way.
Author/journalist Harold Goldberg is the founder of the New York Videogame Critics Circle and the New York Game Awards. Find out more here and at harold-goldberg.com.