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Call of Duty Endowment to host in-game charity run via ‘Warzone’

(Washington Post illustration; Call of Duty Endowment)
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Charity fundraisers often come in the form of marathons, 5Ks and walks. The Call of Duty Endowment (CODE), which raises money for veterans’ employment, is doing just that but with a twist: Participants will sprint, virtually, through the “Call of Duty: Warzone” island map Caldera instead of a real life race route.

Activision Blizzard will donate $1 to the Call of Duty Endowment for the equivalent of every 10 virtual kilometers a player runs in the game’s massive Caldera map between May 26 and June 3, capped at $1 million, to celebrate Military Appreciation Month. Users will be able to track their progress on Twitter by tweeting @CallofDuty with their Activision ID and #CODVeteruns100K.

“Charity runs are both helpful for awareness and for fundraising,” said Helene Imperiale, director of marketing for CODE. “Everyone knows about charity runs but we wanted to make it unique to our brand and do it in true Call of Duty fashion and style.”

Users who reach 25 km, 50 km and 100 km will get a bronze, epic silver and legendary gold Calling Card, respectively. A leader board of the top 100 players in terms of distance traveled will be updated in real time on the event landing page. No additional prize will be awarded to those who make the leader board.

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In the past decade, in-game events like Veteruns, store bundles and esports competitions have all been used as vehicles to raise money for charity. Between March 20 and April 3, all “Fortnite” proceeds were donated to four humanitarian relief funds to aid those affected by the war in Ukraine. Awesome Games Done Quick, in which players speed run hundreds of titles such as “Deathloop,” “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” and “Super Mario 3D Land” for charity, raised over $3 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation. And “League of Legends” players sent $6 million to Riot Games’ Social Impact Fund through the purchase of the game’s 1,000th skin.

CODE and “Warzone” have partnered before, releasing the Fearless pack, featuring distinctive item and character skins, for “Modern Warfare (2019)” and “Warzone” in 2020 and rereleasing the Defender pack this May for “Warzone Pacific” and “Modern Warfare.” The rerelease was done after the Call of Duty Endowment placed its 100,000th veteran in a job following their military service. But setting an in-game “charity run” was new for CODE. The idea originated from GUT Los Angeles, the ad agency with which Activision partners.

“We all looked at each other and thought, ‘Why didn’t we think about that before?’ So that was how it was born,” said Fernando Machado, chief marketing officer for Activision Blizzard.

Machado also brought Twitter into the conversation, hoping to use the platform to help drum up awareness and encourage engagement among players. According to Robin Wheeler, vice president of Twitter client solutions, Call of Duty is one of the top 10 most tweeted about games in the U.S. in 2022.

Activision Blizzard used Twitter’s tools and API to create a tweet that will look similar to the previous hashtag #WarzoneReport. In that Twitter activation, players could tweet at the @CallofDuty account to see their lifetime stats on “Warzone.”

Machado said developers will use a similar methodology from an old store bundle watch that tracked steps to determine how many kilometers players have run in the game.

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The time it will take to reach 100 km is dependent on the playstyle of each player. People who stay in a building and ride out the zone might have more trouble completing the challenge compared to the run-and-gun types. Developers have not revealed the actual size of the game’s Caldera map, though it is comparable to the previous Verdansk map’s in-game nine-square-kilometer playable area.

“It’s pretty close to reality, the distance that people can run during a game, and what people could run in real life. So it should take quite some time to complete 100k,” Machado said.

The charity drive is not available in “Warzone’s” popular Rebirth Island mode, however.

The demographics of gamers and service members line up, added CODE executive director Dan Goldenberg.

“These transitioning service members, they’re typically in their early 20s. I think that’s one of the reasons the cause remains so, so popular across Warzone,” Goldenberg said.

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All funds raised will be supporting CODE’s effort of placing veterans in jobs that meet their level of experience, according to Goldenberg. Penn State’s collaborative research effort, the Veterans Metrics Initiative, showed that between 2016 and 2019, 61 percent of veterans reported underemployment three years after leaving the military.

CODE selects the highest-performing veterans nonprofits to assist with grants and further its mission of helping veterans find high-quality careers. Deloitte helps identify the highest-performing nonprofits with which to partner for Activision. CODE currently works with eight partners in the U.S. and two in the United Kingdom.

“It’s not just about writing checks, it’s ensuring you have social impact that you can measure,” Goldenberg said.

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