GWOnline Community Feature – Rhonda a.k.a. Malibu Barbie
For this next installment of the GWOnline Community Features we had a chat with Rhonda, also known as Malibu Barbie to the Guild Wars community. Rhonda is one of the central figures of the “Pink Day in LA” events in Guild Wars 1, and we were of course thrilled to hear that she and the Gaming World Entertainment Network (GW-EN) are planning to take their good cheer and community spirit on to Guild Wars 2.
GWOnline: Could you tell us a little about the history of the Gaming World Entertainment Network and the Gamers Giving Back organization?
Rhonda: I wanted to create something unique for video gamers to break the stereotypes that we are all lazy and do nothing all day. I wanted to show what big hearts we have. So initially Gamers Giving Back was the first idea that came to mind. From there I decided to combine it with the idea of GW-EN. The combination of the two really seemed to work well together.
Follow after the jump for the full deal on charity in videogames, on-air gaffes, and more!
GWOnline: Starting at the beginning, tell us about your background in gaming.
Rhonda: I have been gaming since the dawn of time. When I was younger I was totally a SEGA girl. I gradually moved into PC games starting off with the Civilization series, moving on to the Sims, then I moved on to Phantasy Star, which led me to Guild Wars. Since then I have played Aion, RIFT, Skyrim, Dragon Age and others. I really enjoy MMOs and RPG games. I do still enjoy a good game of RTS once in a while.
GWOnline: What do you do when not keeping busy with all things GW-EN?
Rhonda: That is actually quite an amusing question. I am a full time Computer and Math Middles Years and High School teacher. Most of my coworkers think I am extremely crazy to handle both of these things at the same time, but somehow I make it work. I also enjoy playing the piano and basketball (is this where I say I enjoy long walks on the beach?)
GWOnline: Most of the Guild Wars community know you from the annual “Pink Day in LA” in Guild Wars. What were the origins of this event?
Rhonda: The event was actually created by Master Saji and his guild DRGN. They held this event in a small way since 2007 in Guild Wars. In 2010 I approached Saij, or DJ Mister Pink as I know him, about taking the event to a whole new level and really making a difference for breast cancer research and support. We actually have one listener that really encouraged me to keep up the hard work with the event, as she was diagnosed with cancer 1 month before our 1st major event in 2010 and later that year she lost her sister to breast cancer. The event really made me realize how much of close connection you can make with other online gamers. It’s almost like a huge family!
GWOnline: Do you know how much money to charity you have collected from the Guild Wars community so far?
Rhonda: Since we started doing charity events with Gamers Giving Back, between the event for Haiti, two events for Multiple Sclerosis and two for Breast Cancer Research we are looking at well over $35,000. I think this is amazing! We also participated in the Extra Life Campaign and that has raised over $1.5 million dollars in the last two years we participated for the Children’s Miracle Network!
GWOnline: What can people do to help?
Rhonda: People can do several things to help us. They can sign up to work as an on-air host, which can be casual or on a more regular basis currently in Guild Wars 1. We are starting to plan for Guild Wars 2 and are looking at having hosts for both games, so if you enjoy music and helping out a gaming community, why not check out the Volunteer section on our website!
As far as the charity events go, anything helps. Whether you donate real life or in-game prizes, donate money to the cause or simply help us hand out items in game or show up to support the cause – every little bit counts. I had a young boy donate his allowance once and write me an email about it. That right there put the biggest smile on my face.
GWOnline: Many people in the Guild Wars community may think that GW-EN is solely a guild running events, but you are also a radio channel. If I were to tune in right now, what might I hear?
Rhonda: GW-EN is anything but one guild. We are people from all over the world in a variety of guilds and alliances. That is what makes the experience unique. One moment you might tune in and hear some classic rock and maybe two hours later you hear techno. I can’t forget to mention SHARKIN which is a heavy metal based show on Fridays. Each host brings a unique perspective to their own 3 hour show, which really allows for a variety of listeners. Of course all of the DJs take requests!
GWOnline: Talking of live radios shows, do you have any stories of GW-EN on-air gaffes?
Rhonda: Well I am sure each of the hosts have their own stories, but I think the most embarrassing are those days when you forget your microphone is on and you just started eating or something and people hear the chewing on-air. I think the most embarrassing thing I did, without even realizing it, was that when spelling out my IGN (M A L I B U Barbie) to the community I would say “Malibu ‘spaced out’ Barbie”, implying that I was an airhead!
GWOnline: Video gaming traditionally being a male-dominated scene (MMOs less so though), did you have any thoughts about running an event for breast cancer awareness?
Rhonda: We want everyone in the gaming community to realize that we don’t want to just focus on the fact that its breast cancer research, we want to find a cure for all types of cancer. The awareness alone to getting yourself examined was enough motivation for this. Men too can get breast cancer and maybe discussing these issues in a game will remind anyone to get a regular physical to be on the safe side.
GWOnline: The event made quite the splash. How did it make you feel to have that many people coming together?
Rhonda: To be honest I was really overwhelmed with a variety of emotions. From excitement to tears of joy to fear of the unknown and anxiety. I just thought, “Wow! This gaming community really has the huge heart that I thought they did!” Like most people know about me already, basically was on the planning board for the next event as soon as this one started. I am always planning to make things bigger and better. One of the best and worst things about being a perfectionist I suppose.
GWOnline: ArenaNet even introduced a special pink dye vendor to the game so people could dress up for the occasion. How did you first find out about the dye?
Rhonda: I had actually sent in a few proposals several months before the event. This was one of the proposals. The Guild Wars community team let me know that something special was going to happen before the event, it was really exciting to see that one of my wishes came true and it helped the event an even bigger success. I never realized that it would impact the game as much as it did! It was really cool to see people embrace the new colour. Even the manliest of men were in pink!
GWOnline: Do you have any ideas on how videogame developers, especially MMO ones, could better facilitate charity?
Rhonda: I actually have been pushing for a variety of videogame developers to think about participating in the variety of events out there. If you have items for sale that people are paying for, why not have special promotions where $1 from the sale goes to a charity of the month? The whole idea behind Gamers Giving Back was based on the idea of gamers who pay monthly fees. If every gamer who paid fees set aside $1 a month for a charity as well that would make a huge difference in the world.
I really enjoyed seeing Trion offer an ingame title to players who participated in the Extra Life campaign this year. The staff of Trion hopped on the game and played along side the players as they gamed for the 24 hours. That was really cool, to see the video game company raise money along side the players. That shows that the company really cares about its community.
GWOnline: What advice would you give someone wanting to combine their love for video games with charity? Any special pitfalls to look out for?
Rhonda: Always be aware that not everyone is going to love your idea of trying to be nice to everyone and help everyone. Not everyone wants to have reality strike them so fierce in a videogame. A lot of people use videogames to escape reality, so don’t push the idea on people if they are not willing to participate. On a more positive note, if you are planning on doing an event like this, make sure to start planning early on and don’t do it by yourself! The gaming community is full of really helpful people that have huge hearts and are willing to help. So many vounteers have come forward since our 1st event it’s great! Whether you raise a huge amount of money or not, the reality of the events is that you are spreading awareness and creating a support system for those who have lost loved ones or those that are struggling.
GWOnline: I am sure many people are anxious to hear of your plans for Guild Wars 2. Do you have any you can share?
Rhonda: Well one thing for sure is that GW-EN will definitely be in Guild Wars 2. We are not quite sure how it will work just yet, but it is in the works. As many know, GW-EN’s staff is completely volunteer and I want my hosts to still enjoy gaming while they are giving back to the community. We are looking at staying on in Guild Wars 1 and making a transition into Guild Wars 2, where the hosts will have several months into the game before they start giving back to the players of the community. I am really excited to see how Pink Day in LA is going to work in Guild Wars 2. I can just imagine a whole area packed with Pink Asura!
GWOnline: Finally, Canthan New Year, one of Guild Wars’ major holidays, is coming up this weekend. What will GW-EN be up to?
Rhonda: Canthan New Year is my favorite event in Guild Wars. Its really how I got so involved in the community. I believe the singing of “Magic Dance” with Gaile Gray was involved somehow here, but that is a story for another time *winks*
We, along with the Cult (CrossingTyria.com), Aol and Ankh Alliances and Guildwars2live.com will be hosting Traditional Chinese 1-4 and Japanese 1-3 for the feast ! We also are bringing back our lunar collectors. People will be given missions throughout the 24 hours to bring us back items and they will be testing their “luck” for a chance of some bigger prizes. Its well worth it to head out there for it, believe me! Its something about Celestials that makes me extra….giving! I will be staying up the 24 hours, so please come keep me awake in Traditional Chinese 1. Did I mention that we will be giving away a lovable Charr Plushie and several other items on-air during the event as well? Yes we are definitely going all out this year! (Link to full details)