In the world of online gaming, Project Zomboid is iconic. For more than a decade, a small videogame development company – The Indie Stone – poured their hearts and souls into the realistic zombie outbreak simulation, challenging players to ponder what they’d do in the face of a terrifying undead apocalypse.
But behind the scenes of this popular game, another story was taking place – one of resilience, creativity, and compassion in the face of personal tragedy.
Project Zomboid Creative Director Will Porter, was one of the people who first started gathering a band of renegade developers called, ‘The Indie Stone’, back in 2011. For 10 years, this small but dedicated team worked tirelessly on their passion project – Project Zomboid. To them, it’s not just a game; it’s a labour of love, a testament to the indomitable spirit of indie gaming.
The turning point for their small-time operation came a couple of years ago when they released a new version, which sent ripples through the gaming world. The game’s community grew exponentially, with players joining from all corners of the globe.
But the surge in popularity of Project Zomboid coincided with a challenging period in the life one of the team members – Zac Congo – whose partner Vicki was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer. Throughout her long illness, Vicki and Zac’s love and moral support for each other shaped what the video game has now become.
A game with heart: The beginning of a unique fundraising idea
Sadly, Vicki passed away from her cancer. To honour her memory and help raise awareness of cervical cancer, The Indie Stone team were determined to come up with a creative fundraising plan that was relevant to their gaming community.
During her treatment, Zac and Vicki lived more than 90 minutes away from the hospital, so they spent a lot of their time staying at Cancer Council Queensland’s Charles Wanstall lodge.
“The lodge gave us a fully equipped apartment, with a bathroom and kitchen. It was our home away from home during Vicki’s treatment,” Zac said.
“The staff were friendly and kind, and there were counsellors we could speak to any time.”
“There’s no way to sugarcoat it. Vicki’s cancer was brutal. It did terrible things to her, and I frantically tried my best to look after her – it was just all so scary. Having such a place like the Cancer Council Queensland lodge to stay at with such lovely people – who understood – really helped us with the cancer experience.”
Previously, the team had run a successful fundraising campaign with a company called Makeship. It allowed players to preorder a cuddly toy based on the game’s mascot – Spiffo the Raccoon – and the response was very positive. But this time, they had a new idea – what if they attached the campaign to a charitable cause?
So, with the blessing of Zac and Vicki’s family, they decided to donate the profits from a second run of Spiffo plushies to Cancer Council Queensland.
Steadfast Spiffo, the mascot of Project Zomboid, is more than just a cute raccoon. He originally came from The Indie Stone’s previous unreleased game Paws. Spiffo is a cute, lovable character who adds a unique touch to the game’s dark and moody atmosphere. He soon became an integral part of the game’s identity, so, in collaboration with Makeship, a Spiffo plushie was designed, capturing the essence of the character.
In honour of Vicki and her battle with cancer, Spiffo became available to purchase for a month.
Spiffo was hugely successful, and The Indie Stone’s team raised more than $100,000 for Cancer Council Queensland!
Support that matters
The Spiffo fundraising campaign initiated by The Indie Stone, with the support of Makeship and the gaming community, is an incredible example of organisational fundraising.
Not only does it exemplify the strength of unity, kindness, and generosity within the team, but it also shows the incredible power of tapping into their business’ community to make a profound difference.
People like Zac and The Indie Stone’s team show the amazing scope of what is possible when great minds come together for a cause they truly care about.