After a stroke of luck made one Team Fortress 2 player an instant in-game celebrity, he chose to give it up in order to do some good.
There’s no shortage of things to collect in videogames, but usually all we can do with our accumulated trinkets is look at them. Occasionally though, someone will find a way to put their digital collection to good use. In Issue 282 of The Escapist, Murray Chu talks to Jonathan “WingspanTT” Tran who was able to use his very rare (digital) Team Fortress 2 Golden Wrench collectible to raise thousands of dollars for charity.
“I decided to delete the wrench pretty early,” explains Tran. “It was a few days after [another Golden Wrench owner,] Grantz had his deleted by a hacker. That’s when people realized it makes a global message when you [delete the Wrench] … I was following that story and there was so much drama. I started thinking if I did it, I could make a big ado about it.”
“After I first announced it, I had a lot of hateful responses,” he says. “I thought controversy breeds interest and that interest could be something that could be used in a more constructive manner. It seemed kind of poetic to take the divisive item and bring the community back together and use something that’s not real to make actual, real things happen for people who need it.”
It didn’t stop there. A comment on the Steam forums brought Tran’s attention to Child’s Play, a charity founded by the creators of the gaming webcomic, Penny Arcade. Every year, at Christmas time, the charity uses the money it raises to buy videogame hardware and software for sick kids in children’s hospitals all over the world. The charity would provide an even better medium for Tran’s poetry in motion. In an effort to drive more donations, Tran reached out to other Golden Wrench owners.
Tran managed to get fourteen of Team Fortress 2’s one hundred wrench-bearers to join him in deleting their gilded tools. You can read more about in Chu’s article, “All That’s Shiny is Gold.”