By Lauren K. Terry Posted December 6, 2011, 5:15 PM EST
On Saturday, December 3, the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge—that's N.E.R.D. for short—was filled with a cacophony of rolling dice, drum beats, buzz sounds, and the bleep-bloop of dozens of video games. It was all part of a night of gaming organized by Gold Pieces for Child's Play, a charity drive that raises funds to provide video games for hospitalized children. The gaming event, now in its third year, attracted more than 100 guests and exceeded its fund-raising goal of $2,500.
The drive's co-founders Annmarie Latta, Jeremy Monken, Shaun Greene, and Geoffrey Anderson attribute the event’s success, in part, to their commitment to listening to the feedback of their guests, most of whom are college students in the Cambridge and Boston areas. Based on guests' requests, organizers said they put more of a focus on board games and tabletop games this year and used more audiovisual equipment to increase the number of systems running at once. The group said it will also do a charity auction on eBay this year.
A keen awareness of their base also influenced how the co-founders used the donated venue space. Ten game areas, complete with plush gold chairs, were sectioned off for one-on-one games, while long tables were set up for multiplayer games. A private Dungeon & Dragons room was available for 45-minute games, and dozens of PS3 and XBox gaming stations operated on a first-come-first-served basis.
The most popular attraction was Wii Rock Band, which had been hooked into a wall-sized flat-screen TV for the evening. Guests lined up to strum, drum, or sing along with their favorite rock tunes. For guests who preferred standard board games, the event offered such classics as Yahtzee and Cribbage alongside newer games like Small World and Carcassonne.
When guests’ hands were free of remote controls, cards, instruments, or dice, they picked up items from Hold Fast Catering’s menu of dressed-up couch potato fare. Snacks included homemade Parmesan cheese-dusted potato chips, pulled chicken sliders, and mac and cheese.