WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Non profit organisations are often the last to reap the benefits of new technology, but new virtual fund raisers could reverse that trend.
Charity organisations normally make money through things like mail-in campaigns and volunteers pounding the streets, but that said most of them by far prefer to run events and fundraisers that add more value so it’s unsurprising that sports events like golf and tennis tournaments are a firm favourite.
However, as the world goes back into lockdown again on the one hand as a result of Covid-19, and goes virtual on the other with artists like Travis Scott attracting tens of millions of people to his virtual Fortnite gigs, more and more charities are running virtual events to raise much needed cash for their good causes.
And one company in particular, Ready Player Golf, is benefiting from the trend.
Ready Player Golf is a new virtual charity golf tournament to support Doctors Without Borders, and its first first-of-a-kind event is being put together by Esports Fundraisers and the VR/AR Association that lets people participate by hiring Oculus VR headsets and downloading a simple app.
“It’s a huge honour to have [Doctors Without Borders] participate with us. It’s a first-of-a-kind event for them as well,” said VR/ARA Vice President and event organizer, Sophia Moshasha in a recent interview. “This is something new for them that they’re very excited about as well.”
The VR sports tournament, which is set to take place later this week has been in the works for over a month and was inspired by similar events that took place in the physical world prior to the now infamous coronavirus pandemic.
“People, especially in the US, immediately know what the premise of a golf tournament is. It’s for fundraising, it’s for networking, but it’s fun and professional,” said Moshasha. “It just made sense to combine business and pleasure in this way, especially in this industry.”
The event draws together XR animation software from Tvori, VR training and education platform ENGAGE, and VR sports experience Pro Putt by Topgolf, and registration for the event closed last week with interested participants registering individually or in teams of up to four with a minimum donation of $100 per player.
Before the event starts players who weren’t familiar with the Pro Putt Oculus app were given previews of it and given time to familiarise themselves with the gameplay. After which, they’ll have a chance to meet their teammates and receive a tee-off time. As would be expected of any golf tournament, golfers are to arrive and play within five minutes of this time. Players will then play a round of nine holes, estimated to take thirty to forty-five minutes.
Following the play, there will be an awards ceremony held in a custom environment in ENGAGE. Trophies, including for Best Team Score and Tournament Champion will be awarded with “more surprises to be announced.”
If you want to see how things work because you’re interested in future events, or if you just want to watch the tournament, it will be streaming on the Ready Player Golf website linked above and on their YouTube channel.
Besides the games, the awards, and contributing funds to a good cause, what else can you expect? The name of the game is networking, so consider asking “who” you should expect.
A complete list of registrants isn’t public, but XR giants Charlie Fink and Cathy Hackl are among those who have said on social media that they will be participating.
“Honestly, just the fact that we’re getting input from some of the top people in the industry is exciting,” said Moshasha.
Further, Moshasha added that legendary actor John Rhys-Davies will be a special guest. Rhys-Davies is best known for his roles as Gimli in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, and as Sallah in the Indiana Jones films.
Moshasha expects this event to raise around $1,500, and that’s great. However, this event is also a very public proof-concept that, if successful could transform how charity events are held in the future.
“This is the first event of many others like it that we have planned, and we would love for this to be a staple kickoff for these events,” said Moshasha. “This is really going to be used as a baseline and starting point going forward.”
As a first-of-its-kind event, event organizers aren’t yet sure how much a VR sports event is worth as a fundraiser. What is the value of impressions made at such a venue? How much would companies be willing to pay to sponsor such an event? How much can they be expected to grow as they become more familiar?
That’s not to say that future events will just be bigger versions of this one. While those future events will hopefully be bigger, Moshasha expressed interest in exploring other VR sports platforms within the Oculus ecosystem.
So whether you miss this event, participate in it and enjoy yourself, or are simply just curious about it then keep your eyes open for more VR sports fundraisers coming up.